2012 Kawasaki Versys 1000

By Marissa Baecker

The term Versys is the combined word made from ‘versatile’ and ‘system’ and that is what Kawasaki intended the Versys 1000 to be.  Perhaps a new category of motorcycle is being birthed with the ‘crossover’ – a combination of enduro, sport, touring, adventure etc. A model in a class of it’s own that can’t seem to decide where or what it wants to be. As for me, I too am in the no man’s land trying to decide whether or not I like it.

A new introduction in 2012, the 1000 is the sibling of the 650 giving the bike that extra bit of power for rapidly changing terrain, pulling out of hairpin turns and making the ascent over high mountain passes.

Similar to other manufacturers, the Versys 1000 offers dual power and traction control with three settings (a feature that is also available with the 2012 Ninja ZX-14R), similar to it’s competitors from Ducati, BMW, etc. By changing the various power modes and matching them with a traction control option, riders can experience being part of MotoGP while enjoying a track day and advancing their sport riding techniques on non-slippery surfaces or load up some optional panniers and a top case at dawn, set the traction control in mode 3 and go develop their skills on unstable surfaces.

The combination of engine speed, full or milder throttle response, matched with the appropriate torque and riders have eight combinations to choose from.

KYB 43mm inverted front forks are the next generation and lighter than the conventional predecessors. Paired with a longer travel suspension in the rear is what will offer the rider a less than conventional landscape.

ABS brakes are standard and should be on a bike that has this many options. Dual semi-floating 300mm petal disc with dual opposed 4-piston caliper brakes in the front and single 250mm petal disc single-piston caliper brakes in the rear.

Intrigued yet? I was.

Motorcycle manufacturers have a tendency to draw riders in with cleverly crafted designs and pair them with a eye catching colour with a fancy name. The Versys 1000 boasts Metallic Magnesium Gray as its colour but it looked like some type of army camo colour to me and not particularly attractive but then again, we are ‘buy a bike/car not a colour.’ A statement used frequently in the automotive industry but if the colour doesn’t grab, how likely are you drop your hard earned dollars? If you spend the money, you want what you want

As I sat in the 33.3” saddle, the ride appeared to be a standard sport ride with a slightly longer reach to the bars perhaps making room for the additional few litres of fuel offered in the 21 litres (4.6 gal. slightly larger than average) tank. Curb weight 239 kg (526.7 lbs.).

An average wheelbase and 120/70 and 180/55 tires was not especially out of the ordinary either yet when I pulled away and began riding, I felt off-balance. As I rode down the highway, something just wasn’t quite right.

I continued riding rather cautiously; apprehensive that at any given moment, something was going to wrong but with a brand new bike how could that be possible? A flood of ‘what-if’s’ filled my head and as much as I awaited the arrival of impending doom – nothing happened.

What was the problem? The truth was simple. Nothing. There was nothing technically wrong with the bike yet for the first time, I felt unnatural riding it.

An hour into my ride, my apprehensive anticipation subsided and I ventured into more challenging road. A mountain (well ok, maybe a large hill in my area), with switch back curves and I still didn’t feel confident or ‘one with the bike’.

The power during the ride was consistent and the gauges provided plenty of information with a digital display offering speed, trip, fuel consumption, fuel levels and paired with an analogue tach whose redline starts at 10,000 rpm, you have room to explore the six-speed transmission.

When I returned the bike, I was asked what I thought and I didn’t have an answer. “I honestly don’t know,” was my polite reply.

I canvassed other journalists and while no one thing stood out in our on-line discussions, the popular topic was the engine – a four stroke, DOHC, 4-valves per cylinder, In-Line Four with 1043cc.

Comparable category bikes from the competition more often than not offer twin engines. Triumph models offer in-line three cylinder engines but the Kawasaki (perhaps why they market it as a versatile system) is an in-line four cylinder – not typical.

It is quite possible that my present skill level did not afford me the opportunity to fully appreciate the design of this bike. After all, Kawaski is the only manufacturer that has made a super sport bike that I absolutely love and can actually fit with the ZX6R, but at the same time, I have ridden many manufacturer’s models and this is the first time I had this type of experience.

MSRP 13,499 with a one year warranty and extended warranty options.


  1. Kryton

    What a useless review. You shouldn’t even be reviewing this bike, based on your own admission that your skill level isn’t up to it, because apart from quoting a bunch of figures freely available, you haven’t actually said anything useful about the Versys.

    Why not mention the bikes plus points, great fuel economy, ideal for a two up touring motorcycle. Seat comfort, again top of the class, not just for the rider but pillion as well. The ability to carry loads up to 220kg!! Traction control that works, taken from the ZZR 1400 if i’m not mistaken. Reduced power mode that helps riders in the wet by reducing the throttle response. Three stage traction control thrown in. Great lights for night time riding. At real world speeds, excellent handling, although admittedly the front feels a bit vague on the twisties but only at 100mph+ speeds.

    These are the things you need to mention. Compare it to a Triumph Tiger 1050 or similar as this is it’s direct competitor. Please don’t highlight your inadequacies, but concentrate on giving us an informed insight into the bike, not just a collection of random comments strung together by someone clearly out of their depth.

    • motorcygal

      Hello John, the purpose of MotorcyGal is getting out there and trying it – riding for the average rider as opposed to the expert. You are the stereotypical man that women riders face every day. Just because we don’t rattle off infinite mechanics knowledge of the top of our heads, or revel in riding at speeds high enough to end our lives, you take aim and think we are not as capable as you.

      There is nothing inaccurate about my review. I wouldn’t comment about riding at night as where I live, there is far too much wildlife and riding at night isn’t worth the risk. Not only that, if I were to ride at night I would do it on my own bike and not a press model. Your points may have some validity but I would suggest working on your presentation as this one just makes you sound like a pompous ass.

      That is my opinion. This is my motorcycle blog. If you want an opinion more like yours, save your insults and go find one – there are many out there.

      Next time, try sharing your knowledge with the rest of the readers, instead of taking aim. The point is to gather more knowledge. After all, we are all riders.

      • BD

        I agree with Kryton’s comments – a useless review.
        I’m an average rider and I pulled more info from his comments that your whole article. You wrote a poor article to start with, so don’t get all P-Oed with him about your inadequacies to put together a competent review – if you don’t want people’s comments then disable them.

        He said its Vague at speeds over 100mph – I know I’m not going to go that fast through twisties so that’s all the info I need – he didn’t tell you to go that fast, he gave me info I might need if I was looking to buy the bike. And that, by the way, was the only item in his whole comment relating to rider skill – all the rest was info about the bike.

        • motorcygal

          I welcome all comments BD and won’t disable them. I am not getting ‘P-Oed’ at all. I welcome constructive criticism and encourage readers to post their opinions in a constructive way that everyone can learn from. I learn something new every day. Mr. Kryton has shared some valuable information since this post which is great for all riders.

  2. motorcygal

    Hey Nathalie

    Nice to see you out enjoying the world on your new ride! My favourite Kawasaki is the ZX-6R – love that bike! Would like to get my hands on a 1000 but until then, . . . .



Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *