Since Kawasaki first brought the Versys 1000 to market in 2012, the bike has seen a few changes. With the 2019 SE LT+ model, the Japanese manufacturer is upping the ante across the board, offering improved performance, new suspension, more aggressive styling, and loads of high-tech wizardry.
Electronic throttle valves replace the mechanical units of previous models, allowing for ride-by-wire technology and the addition of cruise control. Kawasaki also piles on a host of rider aids, bringing the Versys into the modern world. With that said, let the acronyms begin!
A compact Bosch Inertial Measurement Unit (IMU) works with the Kawasaki Cornering Management Function (KCMF) to assist the rider in keeping their line in corners by monitoring engine and chassis. Effectively, the KCMF oversees the bike’s traction control (Kawasaki Traction Control, or KTRC) as well as pitch and corner braking control (Kawasaki Intelligent anti-lock Brake System, or KIBS), stepping in when and where necessary. That means you’re less likely to lose traction in a corner under acceleration or braking.
The Kawasaki Quick Shifter (KQS) allows for clutchless shifting up or down, a feature I found quite handy along a stretch of AZ 89A that boasts of 127 curves in 12 miles on its way to the old mining town of Jerome, AZ.
With Showa 43mm cartridge forks upfront and a Showa Balance Free Rear Cushion-lite rear shock, the Kawasaki Electronically Controlled Suspension (KECS) constantly monitors and adjusts damping according to road conditions. While I cannot verify the manufacturer’s claims that the system operates 500 times faster than rival systems, I can say that the ride is quite smooth, even in sport mode. Speaking of which . . .
Let’s Talk About Modes
This new Versys has four riding modes: Sport, Road, Rain, and Rider, the latter being customizable. Admittedly, I am not the most aggressive rider, but I did notice that in Sport mode I was able to take on corners quite comfortably and with an increasing amount of confidence as the ride progressed. On open highway, the Road setting, along with the bike’s upright riding position and taller windscreen, means eating up miles of superslab is no problem. Moving between the different modes is quite straightforward using either the bike’s handlebar-mounted controls or your smartphone and Kawasaki’s new “Rideology” app. The new app allows you not only to change riding modes, but also to adjust other settings and check a riding log (lean angle, route, top speed, etc.).
Good Looks and Seeing Well
Along with updated styling, the bike also gets a new TFT display, all LED lighting including cornering lights, and Kawasaki’s own Highly Durable Paint. Frequently referred to as “self-healing,” the special matte-finished coating on the bike’s fuel tank, cowls, and side panels allows light scratches to repair themselves (sunlight is required).
With a large analog tachometer and TFT display that can be switched between two modes (Touring and Sport), the bike’s instrumentation offers a wealth of data but is in no way confusing or overwhelming. LED cornering lights are built into the fairing and are activated by lean angle.
The SE LT+ comes standard with 28-liter saddlebags; the bike can also accommodate a KGA topcase. There is a one-key system for ignition, fuel, and saddlebags.
Over two days of twisty canyon roads, highways, and stop-and-go city traffic, this third-generation Versys definitely lived up the manufacturer’s “take on any road, any time” tagline. Of course, all these updates and high-tech come at a price. The $ 17,999 price tag is notably $ 5,000 more than the bike’s predecessor and puts the Versys into direct competition with some well-loved European models, but the Versys is well worth a look for those in the market for a modern, well sorted sport touring bike.