Kawasaki 650 Versys

can you see the skull on that headlight? got the light just right...

the versatile Versys

great little all-rounder

After all the raving about Kawasaki's 650 Versys I just had to have a spin on the thing.

I went around to Holeshot Motorcycles on a Yamaha 1100 Drag Star Classic, which is a very long, low slung, 300 kg, V-twin cruiser with wide, bull-horn handlebars. I'm telling you this because climbing off the Classic cruiser, onto the short, high, 190 kg, parallel-twin, narrow-bars Versys was so different - like from sitting in the Yamaha, with arms out-stretched, catching the wind full on, to sitting on top of the much lighter Kawasaki with arms closer and slight wind protection from the small screen.

First thing that was very obvious was the manoeuvrability of the 650, weaving past hundreds of Christmas shoppers at the East Rand Mall was a breeze, then out and onto the highway heading towards Witbank the Versys pulled strong all the way up to 190 kph, with more in reserve (traffic wouldn't allow higher speeds, and besides, with the new traffic fines and the fuzz impounding excessively speeding vehicles, I backed off to 130). Turning around at Twatwa (sounds like two gun shots, and judging from all the black taxis driving past while I was taking these photos - also realised that I was a prime target for becoming another mugging/shooting statistic, I got back on the 650 and hit the road back to Holeshot). On the way back I concentrated on all the other aspects of the Versys, great feel, comfortable, stable and an all round great little machine.

After my short but enjoyable jaunt, I would say that the Versys is a perfect commuter, but even more than that, the 650 can be quick, with indicated speeds of over 200 kph.

Off the mark it's easy to pop the front wheel into the air, although roll-on acceleration isn't fantastic, but then it is only a 650 parallel-twin.

Brakes are great, with twin discs and twin-pot binders on the front wheel and the usual single disc on the rear.

The Versys has a six-speed gearbox, which I found difficult in selecting neutral (maybe I was too used to the Drag Star's smooth gearbox, which I'd just gotten off).

Kawasaki have a winner here, with three variants of the strong 650 motor: The naked ER 650N (N for Naked), the ER 650F (F for Fairing) and top of the line, the ER650 Versys.

From touring to commuting and back-road scratching the Versys makes riding fun, while for long distance riding and touring the Versys will happily sit at 160 kph all day.
If you want an all-rounder that's easy to ride, then, as the name suggests, the versatile Versys ticks all the boxes. If you have specific demands, you may prefer one of the other models, but as an all-rounder the Versys takes the honours. It's easy to ride, fun at low speeds, handles well, has the strongest engine in it's class and is simply the best overall package.

And for R64,500 you can't go wrong (10 grand cheaper than a 650 BM).



Engine type

Liquid-cooled, 4-stroke Parallel Twin


649 cm

Bore x stroke

83 x 60 mm

Compression ratio


Valve/Induction system

DOHC, 8 valves

Maximum power

47 kW {64 PS} / 8,000 rpm

Maximum torque

61 Nm {6.2 kgfm} / 6,800 rpm

Fuel supply/Carburettor

Fuel injection: 38 mm x 2 (Keihin)






6-speed, return

Frame type

Diamond, high-tensile steel


25/108 mm

Suspension, front

41 mm inverted telescopic fork with stepless (right-side) adjustable rebound damping and adjustable preload

Suspension, rear

Offset laydown single-shock with 13-way adjustable rebound damping and 7-way adjustable preload

Wheel travel, front

150 mm

Wheel travel, rear

145 mm

Tyre, front

120/70ZR17M/C (58W)

Tyre, rear

160/60ZR17M/C (69W)

Brakes, front

Dual semi-floating 300 mm petal discs

Brakes, rear

Single 220 mm petal disc

Steering angle, left / right

35 / 35

Dimensions (L x W x H)

2,125 mm x 840 mm x 1,315 mm


1,415 mm

Seat height

840 mm

Fuel capacity

19 litres

Dry weight

181 kg

Thanks to Alex De Rapper (the Boss) of Holeshot Motorcycles for letting me ride the Versys

A truly great little bike, everything just feels right, like the "Toyota" of bikes.



Shop 5, K90 Centre, Northrand Road, Boksburg

Tel: 011 823 5830/1