2010 Kawasaki Versys First Ride

It's big, it's ugly but it's actually very good - says Visordown's wizened road tester

WELL, HELLO from a very wet and windy Sardinia. I’m here for the launch of the new face-lifted Kawasaki Versys. Kawasaki have chosen their location well, the rough-arse roads and broken up surfaces suit the long travel suspension and tractable, flexible 600cc four-stroke twin engine.

As a long term ER6-N user, the Versys felt familiar, even though I’d never ridden one before (think of it as an ER-6 on stilts). Kawasaki have tweaked the new Versys following a spot of customer research so it may not look all new but there are definitely some major improvements.

'It’s a fun bike to be enjoyed on a variety of roads,’ said a company spoke-speaker. I’d tend to agree although the ride back I’ve had – against the stop in sixth gear for nearly half an hour - highlighted a lack of top end power but I was battling to get back before a biblical downpour and therefore missing the point. Top indicated speed on the flat was 180kmh. Fast enough.

The Versys was in its elephant up in the mountains on left, right, right, left, left switchbacks. Just hold it one gear, let it thud-thud-thud out of the apex until it hits the limiter before the peel in point for the next tight corner. It makes for effortless, er, spirited riding.

The long, soft-travel suspension and low footpegs help here, too. The whole chassis is very communicative and coupled with the wide handlebars and upright riding position it’s very easy to muscle into submission. With all that (softer than last model) suspension travel rubbish road surfaces don’t faze it either.

Top marks for the revised screen and mirrors that give you a great view of what’s behind.

But for me the best mod Kawasaki have made is the new rear rubber engine mount. The vibes now don’t find their way through the bars and pegs like they used to on my ER6. That makes a massive difference on a long trip.

Kawasaki are punting the new Versys out at £5,995. For another £400 you can specify the ABS which saved my bacon at least once today. A full list of bolt-ons like panniers, gel seats, top boxes, heated grips, etc are being launched some time very soon.

Good work Kawasaki, the Versys really is a top all-round, every-day bike.