The digital display on my Kawasaki Versys 1000 clicked past 11,000 miles on my way to work last week and it occurred to me just how much my biking habits have changed over the years.
Eleven years ago I was doing the same journey on a Honda CBR600RR that had been fettled by the Ten Kate Honda World Superbike team in Holland. I would have been wearing one-piece leathers and lost hours of my life drooling over aftermarket exhausts, Power Commanders and which trackdays to go on. Fast forward to 2016 and I’ve spent more time evaluating the internal capacity of different top-boxes.
So my biking needs have evolved over the years. Now I get my kicks competing off-road in the All Terrain Rally Challenge and riding trials, both of which I’ve been able to loosely combine with my last two long-term test bikes - the BMW R1200GS Adventure and KTM 1190 Adventure R. But this year with the Versys it’s been different because the Kawasaki has no off-road pedigree and is strictly designed for road use.
Further analysis of the long-term test bikes I’ve been fortunate enough to run over the past decade-and-a-bit shows the Versys is very much the odd one out. Every other bike could be easily pigeon-holed. From the glut of sportsbikes including the 600RR, Yamaha R6, Aprilia RSV Mille, Suzuki GSX-R1000 and Yamaha R1 to big adventure bikes including the GS and 1190 through to a BMW F800GS, Yamaha Super Tenere and KTM 990 Adventure, they’ve all been easy to categorise.
The Versys is just a bike, and a very good bike at that. From day one it’s put a wry smile on my face. It may not be the bike to smash personal-best lap times around a track or be able to take me over the Italian Alps off road, but what it is trying to be is an excellent road bike – and it succeeds.
With 120bhp on tap it’s fast when you want it to be. It’s spacious, comfortable and gives good weather protection. It has good road presence and having been sat onboard for each and every one of the bike’s 11,000 miles, it’s been a good place to be.
I’d be lying if I said the Versys sets my heart racing when it comes to its looks and performance, but I’m enjoying my year of ego-free biking and have grown to like and unconditionally trust the big Kawasaki.