Versys 1000: 5 questions to the engineers

We put five questions to the team behind Kawasaki's new all-roads tourer

Posted: 8 December 2011
by Ben Cope

At the launch of Kawasaki's Versys 1000, I sat down with the bike's engineers to ask them a few questions about its development route; why it's got four cylinders instead of two, the reasons for traction control and the potential options that didn't make it to the bike.

1. Does it need traction control?

When we set about developing the Versys 1000, we decided we need to have a bike that was comfortable, easy to ride and safe. A bike that would get you home when you were tired or on a long journey. We've done this in many ways but the addition of traction control means that when you're riding on an unfamiliar road or when the weather's bad, you can be relaxed with the knowledge that Kawasaki's KTRC system is working on your behalf.

2. Did you consider developing a parallel twin?

We did! The original Versys 650 uses a parallel twin and everyone seems to love that engine and its power delivery, so we did think about developing a 1,000cc twin, however when we thought about what a twin-cylinder engine's best characteristcs were, we realised it was torque and the ability to drive in almost any gear. So we set about tuning the existing 1,043cc four-cylinder engine for more torque, as much as possible! We wanted to get the best characteristic of the twin but also have the smoothness of a four.

3. Why is the Versys 1000 on off-road style tyres, why not just use road rubber?

We want the Versys 1000 to be versatile and also look versatile. We know it's not going to go off-road, but we have no doubt it'll be used on dirty roads and broken roads, so we chose the 17" wheels and Pirelli Scorpion tyres as they offer good grip on the road, but have an all-road look. Of course, you could always put sticky tyres on should you wish!

4. If you're after a decent tank range, why is it 1,043cc, why not 900?

We wanted a 200+ mile range, which you can get by using a larger tank or making the engine more fuel efficient. We chose both of those options, so the Versys 1000 has a 21-litre tank but we also revised the fuelling, altered the map, changed the cam-timing and altered the gear ratios and now we think the bike is 16% more fuel efficient than the Z1000SX. Sure, a lower capacity engine would be even more fuel efficient but it wouldn't deliver the torque of the larger engine. If you're riding carefully, you should see 250-miles from the tank.

5. How come it doesn't have electronically adjustable suspension?

Ah yes, well, we would like to use this as we appreciate this type of bike is going to be used on different roads, with passengers, luggage etc but electronic suspension is expensive, very expensive. We had to keep the price down, but maybe we'll see it on the next version.

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Kawasaki engineers replied: "We know it's not going to go off-road, but we have no doubt it'll be used on dirty roads and broken roads, so we chose the 17" wheels and Pirelli Scorpion tyres as they offer good grip on the road, but have an all-road look. Of course, you could always put sticky tyres on should you wish!"

Translation: It's a bike for posers. If you want a serious, large displacement, adventure touring bike, BMW and Yamaha would be happy to sell you one. But if you're the kind of guy who wants to go to the convenience store dressed up like your final destination is somewhere in Namibia, the Versys 1000 is the bike for you.

Posted: 08/12/2011 at 15:27

Fred, I respectfully disagree with your "It's a bike for posers" comment.

I've been looking for a new bike replacement for my Buell Ulysses for about a year. I have considered a GS, Super Tenere, Multistrada, and Tiger. Based upon a combination of factors such as my type of riding, cost, and decent dealers (location and service) I was leaning toward the Tenere. But when I saw the new Versys 1000 video I knew it was the bike that I wanted. Comfortable, fast, sporty, reliable, good price, and not too complicated. I don't plan on off-road riding beyond a seldom short ride on dirt and gravel roads so the 19" front tires on "real adventure bikes" is a detraction from sporty street riding and an occasional track day.

Being a Kaw fan. My first new bike was a Kawasaki KZ650 and my other bike is a '06 Ninja 650 sealed the deal in my mind.

My biggest problem with the Versys 1000 is they don't sell it in the U.S. so I just will have to live with the Uly for another year, a definite first world problem.

Posted: 08/12/2011 at 19:36

John, while I appreciate the tone of your reply, you needn't "respectably disagree." You can tell me I've got my head up my butt, don't know anything about motorcycles, etc. This is the Internet after all. ;-)

I hate pretentious "styling" exercises created in an effort to mislead, and Kawasaki is guilty of this way too often. We had the original tube-framed Z1000 and Z750 that each had the aluminum-look, plastic frame covers styled to make them look like they had box-section aluminum frames. Now they have a bike styled to look like it's competing with a BWM R1200GS, complete with adventure touring tires that compromise street performance in exchange for being off-road capable, when the designers admit that it's never going to go off-road.

The Ulysses is a capable adventure touring bike with suspension travel, weight, and size that's suited to that role (disclosure: I own two Buells: XB12Ss and 1125CR). I would not consider selling a Ulysses to get the Versys 1000, but to each his own.

Given that you really don't intend to go off-road (any road bike can be ridden on dirt or gravel roads), t sounds to me like you'd be much better served by the Kawasaki Ninja 1000, which would give you good ergos along with better wind protection and better on-road performance than the Versys 1000.

Posted: 09/12/2011 at 15:15

I take my Versys 650 off road, why not the 1000?

Posted: 14/12/2011 at 19:21

A lot of people who want this style of bike don't want to go offroad, They just want a roomy comfortable upright bike with suspension that doesn't get flustered when you hit a B road pothole. Thus the versys, v-strom etc etc I find the 19 inch front on my vstrom a PITA as nearly all good road rubber is unavailable. Best I've found so far is Avon Distanzia.

Posted: 17/12/2011 at 15:43

I would buy it if they sold it in the U.S. for sure. I don't know why kawi thinks Americans aren't into dual purpose bikes. Maybe it isn't the best on/off road bike but I bet this thing eats highway miles as well, if not better, than a GS that costs twice as much. Personally, I don't hear a lot of poseurs riding these types of bikes bragging at local bike bars about all the continents they have visited but I do see a ton of fake @ss ewan mcgregor wannabe's with more money than brains riding around on GS's. Then again, who really cares? If you own a bike ride it and shut up and don't worry about what everyone else does with their bike.

Posted: 07/02/2012 at 00:31

"If you own a bike ride it and shut up and don't worry about what everyone else does with their bike."

--Well put. I am looking for a more modern companion to my W650 and the upright riding position is attractive to me. I don't have the money for a BMW or a Tiger, and the Versys 650 is just a bit smaller than I am looking for (although I love the parallel twin). Hopefully the 1000 will sell well in Canada and they'll roll it out south of the border next year. I haven't ruled out the v-strom or super tenere, but I would prefer a Kawasaki.

Posted: 24/03/2012 at 15:01

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