One bike to tame them all! Introducing the 'Black Panther' - My Kawasaki Versys 650
Will request the moderators to update the links for major updates, from Page 2 onwards.
Anecdotes - Let's start on a lighter note.
1. Falling in love again. A birthday gift story...
"How about VW Ameo?" No. Too much money for what it brings, after exchanging our car.
"How about Vitara Brezza/ Baleno / Ciaz? " No. All of them share the same engine as ours'
Two days of silence followed. "I wanted to help you purchase something special, and you are not helping me out" she said. Ah! Good old silence. Bliss that only married men can relate to! This birthday of mine was going to be peaceful.
"How about I buy you that Superbike you keep talking about? Benelli or something?"
That moment, we discovered our platinum day of love. :D
2. Namakarana -
"Whats this Versys? Kawasaki doesn't even have a good logo. Why not Benelli GT? Why not Triumph Tiger?" (Incase, you didn't notice the pattern - Benelli has a lion logo, whereas the Tiger obviously has cat connections. Yep, she loves cats.)
I knew how to answer this question. Afterall, I've watched the 'Powerdrift' video review of the Versys 650 a million times, I could recite the whole thing by-heart! A 21 liter tank, Showa seperate function forks, adjustable shocks with a remote preload adjuster, ergonomics which have been custom designed for the long haul and more importantly - its got ABS as standard. You would never ever on a motorcycle trip around the world, wish that your motorcycle was bigger and heavier (as the GT), and with dual purpose tyres - the Versys could very well eat into the market of the much more expensive Tiger 800.
And then i sent her a pic, in whatsapp.
"Oh! This looks like a black panther. Cat family. Good". :D
Later many of our friends have argued that it looks more like "Toothless", "Street Hawk", Alien etc. But for her, it is, and forever will be - Black Panther.
3. Convincing parents thanks to Triumph Bangalore. Yes, Triumph!
"Bike for 8 lakhs? Upgrade the car instead. Get an SUV this time" I had used all the tricks in the book to convince father, but all of it was falling on deaf ears. Infact, his arguments were starting to dissuade the ladies who were initially on my side. Thankfully, the phone rang and the conversation was interrupted.
"Sir, calling from Triumph Bangalore. Earlier you had expressed your interest in the Street Twin". I told him how I had decided to go for the Versys, and I expected him to ask to re-consider the Twin. Got a googly instead. "Sir, in that case - why don't you look at the Tiger XR. Our finance partner has some special offers running for it, and we have offers on accessories as part of the three year celebrations of Triumph in India".
And the arguments resumed, only this time it was "Whaaat? Bike for 14 lakhs? What's wrong with the 8L Versys? Why can't you get that iself?"
4. Birth of a biker -
It was a hot and humid afternoon and I was sweating like a pig under the heavy riding gear while the signal seemed to be taking an eternity from red to green. To make matters worse, a couple of bikers on either side seemed quite interested to stare at the details and have loud conversations regarding the bike and the riding gear with their helmetless pillion.
I pretended to look elsewhere, in an attempt to appear busy. A young couple seemed to have a silent quarrel by the road side, unaware of the crowd around them. May be there is a college near-by. And then i noticed him, a young lad, probably from the same college (or not, who knows!) walking slowly on the footpath with his eyes fixed on the V. As his body moved forward slowly, his head turned even more so his eyes could take in more details of the V.
And then it happened. He barged (thankfully not head first) into a light pole!
As I waved to him out of instinct, he shook off the dumbness of the scene with an innocent grin and quickly disappeared from sight. I hope you get your own big bike soon buddy and get to experience such moments that bring about a confusing pallete of emotions, ranging from pride of ownership to humility to thankfullness to god in being able to live out a dream.
5. The feeling is mutual.
A cold and foggy morning that day, and yet - I was itching to start the ride. Afterall, it would be my first ride with a biking group and the VBR gang assembled there was already more than a dozen member strong and we were waiting for the late comers. All sort of bikes, big and small were assembling nearby - and after greeting the fellow riders, I was trying to kill time by playing an old game - of guessing the bike from just the DRL shapes emerging out of the fog in the distance.
This was different though. These came in pairs and they hugged the road. No superbike this one, but a full blown supercar emerged out of the fog. A Lamborghini nonetheless.
Believe I even forgot to close my mouth shut and while I was trying to take in the sights and sounds of the monster, it slowly rolled past us. And much to my amusement - a kid sitting at the passengers seat was staring back at us and saying to the driver -
Ah! That feeling! Priceless.
Have a few more interesting experiences to share, but those will come in relevant sections.
Initial Impressions - Pros and Cons.
This is not intended to be a review. A review, first and foremost requires a reviewer, and I certainly don't have the experience to back me up, though I will in all honesty try to be as fair and detailed as possible. Afterall, the only other big capacity motorcycle I've ever ridden (barring test rides) is the Ninja 650 belonging to a close friend and BHP'ian. I've even been wondering if it was even worthwhile to pen down my own thread for the bike - as moderator 'mobike008' has already done a brilliant job at it.
So why pen down my experience? Who am I doing this for?
Well, first or foremost - I do it for myself. As selfish as that might seem, I've always loved stories of biking dreams coming true (who doesn't?) and now that my wish to own a big motorcycle has been granted as well, the flurry of emotions is just too strong not to be shared.
Secondly, I do it for the bike itself that has become a part of the family. A new born kid for now, but will soon grow up fast and I'll need a diary to log our photos, experiences, long rides, falls (hopefully not) and what not! As with every relationship - the perspective would change over time, the feelings and even the memories may fade away - or atleast the finer details of it will. And a diary (or an ownership report as we call it) to relive these moments can make for a an excellent companion to a warm cup of coffee on a cold winter morning.
And in the process, if at all this thread inspires you to live your own motorcycle dream, then i pen this thread down for you - fellow rider. So someday we can share our riding experiences as well, just like I hope to share rides with the ones that have inspired me.
Lastly (but certainly not the least for the fear of a divorce, or worse!) - the lady had a loaded gun pointed right at me, to inspire me to introduce the Black Panther to a wider audience. You see - its a Panther, not an alien, not 'toothless' the dragon, and certainly not 'street hawk'. Inspired by cat family. Get it? No?
All photograph rights to the original owner.
If you reached till here - yes, we are still discussing about the Kawasaki Versys 650. And here's my intial take on it -
+ SUV-like! Way taller than most cars and bikes, upright and comfortable seating.
+ Excellent suspension manners. Comfortable and yet - confidence inspiring.
+ Torquey midrange performance and superb highway munching ability. 6000 rpm, 125 kmph, ECO indicator on - you get the drift.
+ Essentials come standard. ABS, 21L fuel tank, long travel adjustable suspension, adjustable windscreen, comfortable and pillion friendly seating.
+ No tandoori legs!
+ Looks. IMHO, the best looker in this 'looks dont matter' class of vehicles.
- Omnipresent risk of dropping the bike at parking speeds. Its tall, and its heavy!
- Gearshift is a bit clunky. Also has a slight nervousness at low rpms that urges you to get a move on, or shift.
- Not a hardcore adventure machine on those stock Dunlop tyres! Bit tricky in the wet too.
- Stock horn and headlamps are as commmuter-ish as is the sound from the parallel twin engine.
- OE accessories are not even offered as costly extras. No colour options either!
- Dealership experience is average as compared to other premium motorcycle brands.
Disclaimer - The vehicle has run only about 3226 kms in about 1 month and 18 days at the time of publishing this initial report.
Why the Versys 650? My biking history.
The Versys 650 -
So why the Versys 650?
Time for the black and white flashback scenes. Sorry, can't help it.
For every kid, his dad is a superhero. Well, I swear I saw mine fly!
Before time began, there was the Kawasaki Bajaj KB 100. I remember not where it came from, too young for all that, just a faint memory that it belonged to a relative and he had volunteered to teach my father the basics of motorcycling.
Alleppey, Kerala. The Venice of the east. The land of beautiful lakes and backwaters, sand that feels like pure refined sugar and lots of greenery everywhere. Even the fences between houses were made of just planting a typical variety of shrub. Whats the significance? Well, we called this place our hometown, and its where those riding lessons ended with the bike crashing in through this plant-wall and my father flying over it and landing on the soft sand a few meters ahead. Motorcyling as a topic never came up for discussions ever again. :D
Till I turned 18, back in 2006, and got my driving licence. After a lot of pleading, they finally got me the best motorcycle I could point my finger at back then - the Bajaj Pulsar 180 DTSi. It was the best motorcycle in the market, as far as I was concerned back then. The Hero Honda Karizma never excited me as much, the CBZ was getting old in the tooth, but there was an affair running with my close friend's Avenger 180 DTSi which I could use any time I wanted. Probably the only one bike I would have considered, if I were allowed to go back in time and buy a bike once again.
Later that year...
A long stretch of straight road. A rare thing in Kerala. But this was a trap, for an interceptor would be waiting for us. We were doing a 100, when I heard the CBR roar to life, downshift to second and then disappear. Dang! Downshifted to second, when we were doing full throttle in fifth! So, that's a superbike! We caught up with him later, enjoying the company of Kerala traffic police.
And so it happened. My first encounter with the species of superbikes, when the XBHP GIR ride came to the small city of Trivandrum. (Below pics courtesy - XBHP)
As is evident by now, I dont fit into any of the three main classifications of superbike buyers. Not the rich kid, not the hardcore motorcylist, and certainly not the one going through a midlife crisis. Ok, perhaps - closer to the third than the other two, but yeah - I really wanted to get back on two wheels to add some spice back into life. :D
PS - Special thanks to BHP'ian and close friend 'rbp' who let me ride his Ninja 650, the only big capacity motorcycle I've ridden. That totally changed my perspective about fast bikes, as the stability these bikes offers at speeds were unimaginable to the novice biker in me!
Why the Versys 650? Competition Check.
The pioneers had it easy. If you had 3 lakhs, you could buy the Ninja 300, the Ninja 650 if you had 6 lakhs and so it went. But now, we have such a wide range of options available at a similar budget, that it was too confusing for a newbie to make a correct decision. We decided to take it slow, fixed a maximum stretched budget of 10 lakhs (including accessories) and analyzed each one for its own merits. Meanwhile, I would try to figure out the kind of superbike that would keep me happy!
In others words, I had to discover myself, the kind of biker I am.
Harley Davidson Street 750
If the showroom experience alone was enough to sell motorcycles, this baby Harley would have been parked in my garage. From just a casual walk in, they converted it into a good 2 hour experience at the showroom - with a good test ride included as well.
The bike in itself, was faultless, or atleast appeared so during the TD ride at city speeds. I had kept notes that I should watchout for the infamous brakes - but forgot that within a few seconds of the ride. What caught me off-guard was the torque, and now I knew why they called it a locomotive! Every small input to the accelerator was met with a ferocious response from the engine, and coupled to the Vance&Hines exhaust on the TD bike - they are sure to scare the hell out of a newbie rider.
And the newbie rider I was, I couldn't find fault with it. But there were a few obvious deal breakers - the size being the primary concern. It could very well be mistaken for the Avenger, a size too small for my frame. What really announced itself as a 'super'bike was the aftermarket exhaust, and this wouldn't be allowed in the apartment for sure, without the neighbours complaining twice a day, whenever i exit and enter the premises. The Street was kept sidelined as a backup option incase I dont like the others, more so because it was certainly the cheapest option available at just 5.9 lakhs on road, and I always loved the Avenger.
But then, more research led me to notice the kind of struggle Street owners were going through against the HD management. And that was the final nail in the coffin for the Street.
+ Torque, and loads of it from low rpms.
+ Very good build quality and finish.
+ Excellent showroom experience.
- S sized for my XL sized frame.
- Stock exhaust was muted and too soft, while aftermarket ones where too loud.
- No pedigree. Harley world never really accepted this liquid cooled, baby Harley.
Deal breaker: Size, and the Harley attitude against the braking issues faced by Street 750 owners.
Benelli started the real purchase discussions, as mentioned in the opening post. The Italian heritage was always an attraction for me, but better half also took a liking to their logo. That said, I certainly don't care if its Italian or Chinese, but by god, this baby can sing! It's an inline4 and the IXIL exhaust on the TD bike made it the best sounding machine in this class.
It does sound faster than it goes, atleast in the city rpms. And thats not a bad thing. For a newbie, it felt very well mannered inside the city limits and yet - could make the lungs gasp for breath when the open roads presented itself. However, throttle response is a bit twitchy, with a jerk on and off idle. This did manage to scare the better half during the short TD ride as my pillion, and I'm thankful to Benelli for it - as the 'i' scared her enough to declare that she would also be investing in a good set of riding gear for herself.
All was not well though! I remember the 600i as a fantastic value for money proposition when it launched. But the price tag had crept upto 7 lakhs now, with the ABS option thrown in. And at this price, I couldn't dismiss some of the issues with the quality and the finish of the bikes, the Hero Honda Hunk like looks included. Still, was a great option, till I read more on the greedy DSK service practices and smaller issues with brake pad wear, radiator coolant drain leading to engine overheat etc in another forum. 4 months / 4000 kms service interval was certainly going to make it costly to maintain over the longer term - money which could rather be invested upfront in getting a better bike.
+ Exhaust note! Cheapest inline4 option.
+ Very well mannered ride. Feels like a natural upgrade option.
+ Good showroom experience.
- Looks like a slightly bigger Hunk, specially with my XL sized frame!
- Doesn't exude the quality at this price point.
- Throttle is a bit twitchy, and the pillion does feel nervous.
Deal Breaker: Size, and the 4 months / 4000 kms service interval, courtesy DSK.
Benelli 600 GT
"This is my kind of bike"
The bike was outrightly reject initially due to the lack of an ABS option. But, there was a rumour that the ABS option would be available by 2017 Jan, and hence waiting for it might not have been a bad choice. Afterall, this was the first bike that made me feel like its the one! Switching saddle from the 600i to the GT, I felt instantly at home. It made less music than the 'i', but I didn't care as long as I could listen to it. And in comfort, for the GT had a much more relaxed and ergonomic seating position. It felt like I could do this for hours and hours together, with a big smile on my face, and without a care about the world and whats wrong with it.
This is the bike that made me realize my inclination towards tourers (And now it made better sense why I always loved the Avenger). I would have surely picked it over the 600i, if not for the lack of ABS. GT was perfect for me in every other sense, it didn't even have the twitchy throttle response so evident on the naked. It would have perfect in the garage, if not for the Versys 650. Versys just felt better in most areas, except for the small fact that this baby could sing. Muted voice, but a singer nevertheless.
+ Listen to the inline4 drone in comfort.
+ Very comfortable long distance machine. Felt at home on it!
+ Features - 27L tank, good options for luggage, projector headlamps.
- Price. 7.3L, and ABS was going to be 7.7ish when launched.
- Looks. Lacks the Italian design flair IMO.
Deal Breaker: ABS, price (expected, with ABS) and the 4 months / 4000 kms service interval, courtesy DSK.
Speaking of Italian flair, none could do it better than Ducati. And it would have been sacrilege not to check out what they offered.
The showroom is located inside the best mall of Bangalore, UB City. They get a lot of casual walk-ins every day and I would have totally forgiven them had they not given us the necessary attention. But, to their credit, the showroom experience was great, the second best we had experienced during this hunt. Even a good TD was offered, just that we had to make a booking for it and visit them on another day.
The bike in itself was great, but with a major deal breaker for me - the size, yet again. To make it simple, I made it look like a Honda Navi, with me astride. Case closed.
+ Great showroom experience. The brand speaks for itself.
+ Good every day superbike for city use. Very light and flickable.
+ Felt like a horse ready to gallop. Good useable torque and power.
- Heat and more heat. The only bike which fried my legs. The pain is real!
- Hard and small, unsupportive seats. Forget pillions and long rides.
Deal Breaker: More than one friend commented that it looks like a Honda Navi with me astride. :D
Triumph Street Twin
Perhaps this is what the Scrambler should have been? Or may be not, but all things said and done - I loved the new Street Twin.
This, coming from a guy who never really took a fancy to the retro Boneville range. The Street Twin felt like a modern classic, one which I could have lived with till it became a true classic. A perfect mix of modern and retro. But that said, not yet. I'm pretty sure though - that a few years down the line - a more mature biker in me would eventually settle down for a similar bike as the one to keep forever.
+ Looks. Beautiful, and yet - doesn't attract negetive attention. Love the finish and attention to detail.
+ Almost perfect allrounder for the city, as well as highway usage.
+ Triumph offers a good dealer + service experience, from what I've heard.
- Price was on the higher side.
- Perhaps too discreet for a "super"bike. Would defenitely need to explain every friend and relative why it costs so much!
Deal breaker: Not yet. Couple of years down the line, perhaps!
Honda CBR 650F
To keep things short and simple - this one appealled the least.
The price tag of 8.5 lakhs could have been ignored to make it more appealling to the head, but the dealership totally blew the sales experience as well. Firstly, we had to visit a few Honda showrooms to finally find out which one sold the premium bikes. Upon visiting this 'premium' showroom - we could only find Activas and the likes displayed in the showroom. The 650 was parked in the basement, one dim unlit corner of it, along with a bunch of other smaller capacity CBRs.
It didn't look all that different from the CBR 150, the colour scheme included. Wife was quick to use her power to veto, and she had to use it only once during this shopping spree.
+ Inline4 engined, faired middle weight in a touring biased setup.
+ Honda offers very reasonable service rates, also free services.
- Looks very similar to the much cheaper siblings, even colour schemes not on offer.
- Reviews were rather dull as well. Even Powerdrift known for their wax coated stuff failed resorted to a different approach. Didn't seem to offer the spark i was seeking.
Deal breaker: Price, and the similarity in even colour schemes with the CBR150.
Triumph Street Triple
One of the first big bikes that I tested, I absolutely can't find a fault with it, except for the lack of space and the cramped feel. But that said, this one was not considered for a purchase due to the detuning fiasco. On top of that, owners reported stalling issues as well, which bordered on life threatening dangerous. No thanks, Triumph.
Deal breaker: Detuning fiasco and the stalling issues reported by owners.
"Please book the Z800 for me"
And so I returned home, happily, with the booking receipt in my wallet. A one night stand, for I cancelled it the next day.
Nothing wrong with the Z, for it appealled both to the head and the heart. It had a good inline4 engine, made so much financial sense as compared to the other inline4 machines like the CBR650 and the Benelli 600i, looked like a transformer, sang like an opera artist and just had an air of premiumness around it - any which way you look or think. However, by this time - I had realized that I was a different kind of biker. The Versys kind. Z was made for breakfast rides, whereas I was hoping to munch miles. Infact, it would'nt be too far from the truth if I mention that the Z was the perfect girlfriend I could drool at, while the Versys was the perfect marriage material. The Z was the only one that made me wonder - Can i manage her?
+ Looks like a transformer.
+ Sounds like you've arrived in life.
+ Lot of horsepower for the money. VFM.
- Riding stance is too sporty.
- No wind protection.
- Outgoing. Replacement (Z900) has already been revealed.
Deal breaker: Not a long distance companion.
Here's how all these bikes fare in terms of price -
Booking, PDI and Delivery Experience.
The bike was booked on the 6th of November 2016, at the Kawasaki exclusive showroom, Indira Nagar, Bangalore. The dealership experience can be described as being above average, like dealing with one of the best performing offices, the ones that dont take bribe and do things on time - but the attitude makes you wonder if they are on par when compared to the likes of Harley, Triumph or Ducati. That said, I would recommend the dealership without any worries and they are far ahead of the other Jap players namely Suzuki, Yamaha and Honda.
On Road Price -
Bike was ready for PDI a month later, on the 7th of December 2016. Turned out to be more of a formality because the unboxing was already done and was refused access to their yard (Not a company policy for sure, as others outside of Bangalore have done it), and I was too excited to follow the checklist and all. Minor inspection did not reveal any flaws with two of the bikes they had received and I just picked one. Full payment was done immediately post this and the delivery date was fixed as the 11th of December 2016.
First glance. Note the infamous "Avi's BBQ grill" saree guard. :D
Delivery experience was pretty straight forward. The dealership also gifted us with a Kawasaki keychain, a Kawasaki coffee mug and a box of chocolates. Procedures and features were explained in detail and soon we were ready to hit the road.
Now that we are done with the mandatory parts of the thread, let me introduce the 'black panther' in detail, starting with the looks.
Motorcycles with adventure pretensions are not going to be everyone's cup of tea. You either learn to live with it, or just plain hate it. That said, I feel the Versys 650 is the best looking motorcycle among this weird looking class of vehicles that clearly prioritises function over form, and by class - I am considering vehicles like the Benelli 600GT and the Triumph Tiger XR series (Even the MultiStrada and BMW GS in the looks department). Infact, the Versys twins were the weirdest of them all till the 2015 refresh tried to inject some Kawasaki design DNA to these bikes as well.
And they started with the headlamp design. The beaky front end gets the trademark Kawasaki twin headlamp design, aggressive and sporty enough to lend the bike a good road presence when viewed from the front, made even more aggressive by the slats of the downforce cowling design.
Being a sports tourer with adventure pretensions, it also offers an adjustable windscreen, which has a very functional range of 60mm. For my height, I prefer the windshield at its tallest setting, which helps in shielding even at triple digit speeds, except at the very top of the helmet. Is an upgrade mandatory? I dont think so- yet, for it does remind me I'm still on a motorcycle and not the closed cage of a car. The tall windscreen also adds to the road presence - making the bike look very tall and intimidating from this angle. But no, it can't block the sun. :D
The front 3/4th view can be described as pleasant looking, or handsome even! The 'Barkbusters Storm' handguards were added aftermarket.
Bajaj offers the Kawasaki Versys 650 in India, only in black. The side fairings are finished in charcoal matte grey, while the tank is finished in glossy black. The monotony of the black elephant scheme is broken only by the suspension spring which is the sole trademark green shade seen on this Kawasaki.
The 21L tank and the fairings are bulky, but handsomely sculpted so it doesn't look out of place.
Personally, I'm not a fan of the quality of stickers used on the Versys. Doesn't feel like it would last the distance.
Versys continues with the tall and initimidating looks towards the rear profile as well, but clearly there is more mass towards the front.
Rear end is visually narrower than the front and sleek, though the pillion seat is not compromised.
Ending with sleek LED tail lamps that are plain colourless when the bike is off!
Electronics, Features, Instrumentation & Ergonomics.
Electronics, Features & Instrumentation
Versys 650 does not come with the optional LT package in India, and the base variant offers only limited electronics and gizmos. Starting with two weak points in terms of functionality - The twin 55W headlamps offer rather weak illumination for a bike capable of speeds well above the triple digit mark, and the horn which could very well have been plucked off a scooter like the Activa. These were a real struggle during my long trip, specially since it was a rainy day. Keeping highway speeds was proving difficult due to the ineffective lights, but the helmet visor was getting all foggy if ridden too slow either! An upgrade is mandatory for both these items.
And then we have the instrumentation console, which looks rather basic, but is functional IMO. It does include some essentials like two trip meters, instantaneous fuel efficiency display, average fuel efficiency display, cruising range display, economy riding indicator and a digital clock as well - which makes it pretty much as functional as the one in my car. There is also an EDR to record Vehicle Speed, engine rpm and throttle opening in the event of an accident. However, the meters look too simple and defenitly lack the pizazz required for a bike at this price range. Kawasaki earns some brownie points though for leaving space and OE connectors for a gear position indicator and a charger sockets, and proceeds to loose those points by not offering these accessories in the Indian market.
The biggest feature has to be the standard ABS, specially so - since the Ninja 650 as well as the ER6N never got it, so does the competition from Benelli.
There is no Traction Control, Wheelie Control, Power modes etc. With just 69 bhp of peak power, it is not too intimidating to require all these modes, but incase you like being stupid, then you are pretty much on your own. And speaking of which, you are pretty much on your own when it comes to figuring out the instrumentation at night - as none of the buttons are backlit. Perhaps something Kawasaki could learn from Bajaj?
Headlamps, though look good, an upgrade is a necessity. :Frustrati
Instrument Console is plain looking, but is quite functional.
The Key - A very regular affair.
Switchgear looks straight forward and has a very good quality feel to it.
Showa Seperate function forks.
Left side controls the Spring Preload Adjuster which can be adjusted with an allen wrench - clockwise to increase preload and stiffen the suspension and vice versa.
Right side controls the rebound damping force adjuster which can be adjusted with a screw driver.
Footpegs exude quality and are designed to take the weight off the rider when standing.
Ergonomics - Rider and Pillion
The Ergonomics of the Versys is just so commuter'ish that it wouldn't be too far off to describe it as a big Splendor riding position. 22 hours in the saddle for one day, and I was still fresh to get up early next day morning with only a light stiffness on one of the shoulders to complain about! I guess that speaks all about the comfort that the bike offers, especially the ergonomics.
And the same comfort continues for the pillion as well, unlike most other big capacity motorcycles. Infact, the Versys might just be too comfortable, because on our first long drive on N.I.C.E expressway in Bangalore - I casually tapped my pillion to see if she was ok and she had just started to doze off. The experience was "car like" in her own words, with a comfortable upright sitting posture and a properly sorted suspension, that she was getting sleep! This has got me thinking of installing a top box with a back rest to avoid any untoward accidents while on the move.
Special mention about the saddle height. You need to be tall. Period.
I'm 5'11" and near 6' with my trusty pair of woodlands. But the bike makes sure it makes me humble in many situations! For example, with the rain liner over the riding pants - I can't swing my leg over the pillion seat and had to climb the footpegs to mount the horse. Speaking of horses, that's exactly how the pillion needs to climb! Foot on the pegs, hand on the rider's shoulder, climb on the pegs, swing leg over the seat, stand on both pegs and sit. Voila. Consider your exercise done for the day! :uncontrol
Power, Transmission & Performance
Power, Transmission & Performance
Coming to the heart of the matter - the 649cc, 2 cylinder, parallel twin engine on the Versys 650 produces a peak power output of 69PS @8500rpm, and a peak torque output of 64Nm @7000rpm.
And that does not sound like a big figure in the world of big capacity motorcycles, and it isn't. Probably the reason for it is the low compression ratio of 10.8:1 that pretty much keeps the bike healthy with normal fuel requirements. That said, what is impressive is the way the power is laid out in a very linear manner, starting lower down in the rev range. There is a clear difference compared to the inline4 competition and even its stablemate, the Ninja 650, and this engine charecter makes the Versys a very easy bike to use in a varying range of conditions from city traffic to highway cruising.
Kawasaki recommends a run-in period of 1600 kms. During the first 800 kms, you need to refrain from exceeding 4000rpm and this means you are limited to around 80 kmph. Still a very good useable city tool and enough to get ahead of all the regular traffic around. Alas, there is a slight hesitation at lower speeds that hints that you need to get a move on - but not a major weakness as you don't really tend to notice this during the run-in period unexposed to the real potential of the bike.
At 6000 rpm, and still within the run in period, you are limited to around 125 kmph in 6th gear. 150 kmph comes around 7000 rpm, at which point you are still riding the peak torque band, with 1.5k rpm left till the peak power band (Around 180kmph by then) and another 3k rpm to go till the red line. An excellent daily use tool for both city use and the highways. Funny enough - at a crusing speed of 125 kmph, the ECO indicator is still on. :D Coupled to a 21L tank, it is a very useful highway cruiser for the Indian roads. Don't believe me? On my return leg from Trivandrum to Bangalore, I just took two small breaks. One at Madurai BPCL bunk after a distance of around 326 kms, and the second one at Dharmapuri BPCL COCO bunk after another 260 kms. The next stop was only at my home 256 kms after!
(Picture courtesy - IronH4WK)
It's a caaaaaaaaaaar!
I've had only short bursts above 7000 rpm, and hence refraining to comment more on the full blown performance of the bike. As per the feedback from the other owners, it looks to be way faster than I would ever need it to be.
All the reviews praised about the rubber mounted engine of the Versys being vibe-free, and I'm glad to report that I'm happy with the NVH package on offer. There is the slight occassional buzz on the footpegs and the seats specially around the 4000 rpm mark, but that would be nitpicking - for it does a very good job cutting out the vibes from this parallel twin motor.
Now, coming to the two disappointments -
The gearbox is a 6 speed with the universal 1 down and 5 up pattern, and I find it a bit clunky and not just the first gear. First gear does give a very loud thud, but is not a major irritant as such. What is irritating for me though, is that the shifts doesn't give a solid reassuring feel at times, and tends to be a bit notchy when taking it slow. Things have improved after the first service and I hope they improve further as other owners have noted.
And finally - the major disappointment, which is the exhaust sound. A parallel twin engine can't be made to sound too sexy - but thankfully Kawasaki has made it silent. On a highway cruise at 100kmph, with the earplugs on - you would need to stop breathing to hear any sort of exhaust note, wind noise being a lot more prominent. If you are looking to show-off using the exhaust note, pick some other bike. Period. That said, I dont mean to say that the Versys doesn't attract attention. It does so, a lot, thanks to its size, rather than the sound.
re: One bike to tame them all! Introducing the 'Black Panther' - My Kawasaki Versys 650
Ride, Handling & Braking
Versys 650 comes shod with Dunlop's D222 120/70 R17 front and 160/60 R17 rear tyres. Suspension duties are handled by Showa seperate function forks upront, and a single KYB shock which comes with a remote preload adjuster for the rear. Ground clearance is a good 170mm, seat height is a hefty 840mm and you are perched so high off the ground that you meet SUV drivers at eye level. Naturally, you wouldn't have high expectations for the ride and handling package of this machine. But the Versys proves you wrong. Infact, very wrong!
The ride is terrific even with the base setup provided by Kawasaki. Not only does it feel extremely stable for triple digit crusing on expressways, but it also dismisses most of the bad road conditions with authority and feels ever so naturally tuned for the Indian 2 lane highways as well. Once the tarmac ends (as is quite so natural in rural India), there is a possibility of damaging the alloy wheels by riding too hard, since the bike feels quite so natural in these conditions.
The bike comes with Showa Seperate Function Forks which do a brilliant job of sorting the suspension duties. Left side controls the Spring Preload Adjuster which can be adjusted with an allen wrench - clockwise to increase preload and stiffen the suspension and vice versa. Right side controls the rebound damping force adjuster which can be adjusted with a screw driver. Rear comes with only preload adjustment, however the remote adjuster makes it a simple one hand operation. I doubt I would require any of these though - as I am yet to find any faults with the terrific base setup provided by Kawasaki. Get this - the nose dive is minimal for a suspension that provides such a good ride package. Now that's quite something!
The bike can surely help you munch miles and how! The morning after the 1600 kms ride, I woke up before the 8 hours alarm went off, and only had a slight stiffness on the right shoulder to remind of the rain soaked 23.5 hours spent on the saddle the previous day! That too, for a person who had acute back pains two days before leading to the ride. Speechless.
Then comes another big surprise - the handling. The ride height and the suspension makes you believe it's an SUV bike (as was my first impression) and a very unlikely candidate for taking to the corners, but the bike dismisses all your fears in the first couple of corners itself. The Versys naturally leans into corners, which in itself was a big surprise as the sportier cousin its based on, the Ninja 650, needs to be cajoled into corners. And speaking of the Ninja, which feels a lot lighter (than the 5kg difference would suggest) off idle, but once the speeds set in, it's the Versys that is surprisingly far more agile of the two. And once into a corner, the excellent suspension makes sure the road imperfections are dealt with, and you concentrate on taking the planned line out of it.
Tagged as an adventure oriented sports tourer, the Versys can handle a little bit of offroading as well. The footpegs are designed to take the weight of the rider, and once the road conditions worsen - you just stand up and let the suspension sort things out for itself. Funnily enough - you are at level eye with bus drivers while doing this, so would suggest not to do this with a lot of people around. :D For my height, there is a slight forward lean while standing up on the pegs, but this felt natural for a novice like me, as I had a grip on tank with the knees as well.
However, one major limitation when it comes to hardcore off-road usage are the street tyres, and the alloy wheels! An upgrade is mandatory for it to be a dual sport motorcycle. On my photoshoot ride with fellow member KarthikK, I almost got stuck on loose riverbed soil - mostly due to my stupidity of not having inspected the conditions properly on foot before taking it on the bike. However, we could get out of it by employing small techniques like avoiding uncessary revs and burning of clutch, and putting pebbles under the rear tyres for traction.
For a bike capable of such speeds, braking is very important as well and the Versys 650 features 300mm dual floating petal discs with Nissin callipers upront and a 210mm single disc with Nissin calipers on the rear. With standard ABS as well, the braking package has been faultless till date, but the rear does feel a bit wooden and the ABS tends to kick in early, if used too much.
Major negatives? The stock tyres feel decent in most road situations, except in the rains when it feel like losing grip at highway speeds, forcing you to slow down for corners. Also an upgrade is a must if the bike is to be used off-road.
Tagged as an adventure oriented sports tourer, the Versys can handle a little bit of offroading as well.
The footpegs are designed to take the weight of the rider, and once the road conditions worsen - you just stand up and let the suspension sort things out for itself.
Funnily enough - you are at level eye with bus drivers while doing this. lol:
One major limitation when it comes to hardcore off-road usage are the street tyres, and the alloy wheels! On my photoshoot ride with fellow member KarthikK, I almost got stuck...
... on loose, wet, riverbed soil
Standard dual channel ABS with 300mm dual floating petal discs with Nissin callipers upront and ...
... a 210mm single disc with Nissin calipers on the rear.
Versatility - One bike to tame them all!
Ok, so the name "Versys" comes from versatile systems, and this would be a rather cliche'd post. But then again, to be quite frank, this was a topic I had decided not to type earlier on, but added as a last minute decision. Because of those long hours spent on the saddle the other day, where I had a lot of time to think and narrow down the versatility of the bike as the one true factor that has impressed me the most during the small ownership period.
It ain't no beauty queen like a Ducati Panigale, but the sheer size and the aggressive Kawasaki front end gives it a good road presence and street cred. The bike does announce your arrival (in life), even in this discreet black colour scheme. Be prepared to face stares, answer questions, smile for school kids waving out from their buses, face crowds around the bike at parking lots etc etc associated with a big bike ownership. Infact, I doubt if I can take any more of it - god bless you with more will power, dear Ducati owner!
Cruising down the highway at a very healthy pace, silence for company (except for the racket inside the helmet!), comfortable seating position and a well damped suspension - I didn't miss the good old Avenger, nor the Harley Street 750. May be a cruiser could have done the job better, but the Versys was proving to be pure bliss, making sure I wont repent not going in for a cruiser experience. In fact, on the long stretch from Madurai to Tirunelveli which is almost dead straight most of the time and extremely windy as well, I wouldn't have traded the V in for a proper cruiser experience - for it was cutting through the air at a good pace shielding me from the windblast and also had huge reserve power left untapped for overtaking moves.
Speaking of power - I do not miss the adrenaline rush of a more sportier naked like the ER6N or the 600i. Versys is a genuine 200 kmph motorcycle if given the stick, and the power comes in a very linear fashion. As the reviews have correctly pointed out, the front wheel is truly wheelie happy, if need be! Sixth gear is capable of doing a comfortable 60 - 180 kmph (or more!). I feel it is all the bike that I would need, and wouldn't end up being too out of place riding amidst a gang of proper superbikes.
Once the four lane highways ended (On my ride to Trivandrum), the two lanes highway from Kanyakumari district to Trivandrum was marked with patchy sessions and road diversions due to construction work. V proved itself mettle again, and the bad roads were dismissed with authority. The no-road sections were of no concern either, for I had to just stand up, ride the footpegs and let the bike sort out the road imperfections by itself. No, you can't abuse it like you would have done with a Himalayan, for the fear of dropping it and damaging something expensive - but with better tyres and some practise to manage all that weight - it can surely take you places, remote places, in comfort. I had the Himalayan in mind for a purchase not so long ago, and I certainly don't miss it - except when being forced to park in a crowded parking lot!
I don't miss it for commuting though, as the Versys does a fine job inside the city. There are two aspects I dont like when it comes to city commutes, the slight jerkiness at low rpms and the notchy gearshifts. But then, there are many other aspects I love! The tall SUV like seating helps you spot gaps earlier than most others do, afterall you are sitting eye level with Fortuner drivers. And once you decide to take it, the linear power delivery and the agile steering geometry helps you getting there without thinking about the mechanicals. And no heat! Absolutely nothing! Nada...
The biggest surprise came from the way it darts into corners, with a surprisingly light and agile feel, belying the actual weight of this behemoth. Sure it can't challenge a Daytona around a series of bends, but you won't be disapppointed with the handling either - to make you repent about not going in for a machine like the Ninja 650 or the 650F instead! An upgrade to better stickier rubber can only improve the handling capabilities even further. Perhaps, a track day can help understand the limitations of the machine better. :D
What it doesn't deliver, as mentioned earlier, is the inline4 / triple aural pleasure. What you get instead is silence! I'm not sure what I like more, for I do miss a proper soundtrack at city speeds, but on the highways - the silence was pure bliss.
Overall, a Versys is a bike that makes you forget, and not only about the competition. Most bikers generally consider many things before a ride - weather, traffic, heat, road conditions etc. With the Versys, you just need the riding gear and a back pack with essentials like the Chain lube - the rest can be sorted out as it comes - no matter how far the destination is! Or wait, who needs a destination either!
The famous "master ring" dialogue from the lord of the ring says "One ring to rule them all". One bike to tame them all seems more apt for the Versys, as it may not rule at any one specialist opponent, but the "jack of all trades and master of none" nature can certainly tame it. :thumbs up
Sibling Rivalry - v/s Ninja 650.
Altogether, a brilliant ride and handling package that can handle quite a bit of offroading conditions as well - but this was mostly expected after going through all the Indian and international reviews of the bike. The biggest surprise for me though, came because of the differences the bike had as compared to the Ninja 650.
Both these bikes feel totally different in nature, and one would need to be hardpressed for the details when comparing the two as being derivates of the same platform. The differences however are vastly more evident, the list below was compiled with the help of Ninja 650 owner and BHP'ian rbp -
1. Versys has a big Splendor riding position compared to the sporty Ninja 650.
2. More refined engine.
3. Little more low end response, at the cost of a little bit of top end whack.
4. Gearbox is tuned shorter.
5. Feels way heavier at parking speeds than the 5kg difference would suggest.
6. Despite the weight disadvantage, is far more agile of the two around corners.
7. Adjustable suspension with a compliant base setup.
8. Better brakes and standard ABS.
9. Better wind protection.
10. Higher ground clearance.
11. N650 is more stable on fast straights and long winding corners due to heavy steering and forward biased stance.
12. N650 catches more attention, thanks to the trademark green.
That said, the 2017 Ninja 650 that has already been revealed will certainly move the game forward. Way forward, but it also becomes even more sportier than earlier, making the differences with the Versys even more apparent.
First Service @ 884 kms.
Accessories & Riding Gear
Hepco Becker Engine Guard -
Radiator Guard ordered via Ali Express -
Rear Spools ordered from Redline+
Barkbusters Storm hand guards -
Handguards are not just for looks, as in the Dukes. But they have a very functional metal spine as well -
A simple, cheap, portable and yet effective jack for raising the rear wheel, designed by a VBR rider -
3M PPF for the tank ...
... and the headlamps!
1. Horn Upgrade
2. LED auxillary lights
3. Saddlebag support and saddlebags.
4. Hard top case.
Riding Gear Safety
Talk of shopping, they say that shopping for gear is just as fun as shopping for the bike. Well, may have been so for wifey, but for me it was just as confusing as any other shopping experience ever. The list is still not complete, but the below items have been purchased.
1. Break-in ride with the N650 around north Bangalore.
The day after taking delivery, I took the help of BHP'ian rbp to fix a route to break-in the bike. The initial 250 odd kilometers would be crucial and hence we decided on a good variety of village roads around Doddaballapur and Tumkur highways for the run-in, and to help matters further - he decided to join as well.
2. Versys Bangalore Riders meet and breakfast ride.
A working day for me, and hence I couldn't join the full ride till Dandiganahalli dam. I did join till the breakfast point though! Afterall, it was my first ride with a biking group - and such a large gathering of Vs looked majestic indeed.
3. Breakfast ride with Versys Bangalore Riders to Maddur.
A quick ride without much prior planning with four other Versys riders to Vaishali restaurant.
4. Photoshoot ride with BHP'ian KarthikK and his beemer to Markonahalli Dam.
Called up BHP'ian KarthikK for help to decide on a nice location to click some pictures of the bike, and he decided to join along as well thanks to holiday week shutdown in office for him. Sharing my favourite click of the day, his beautiful beemer shot at location.
5. Morning ride with the N650 to Dandiganahalli Dam.
Wanted to ride to this place ever since the VBR group posted pictures and had discussed the no road conditions leading up to the dam. rbp joined as well, and altogether was a very fun ride. Nice village roads, a small ghat section and quite a lot of no-road to off road situations.
6. Team Bhp Breakfast Meet @ Chikballapur Kamat Upachar.
A huge gathering of around 25 cars and 2 bikes, the second being IronH4WK's Ninja 650.
Unofficial saddle sore. Bangalore -> Trivandrum -> Bangalore. 1603 kms in 23 hours 32 mins.
Unofficial saddle sore. Bangalore -> Trivandrum -> Bangalore. 1603 kms in 23 hours 32 mins.
Taking a seperate post for this ride, as it would always be special. Long rides need to be planned properly, considering factors like road conditions, weather, health, timings, fuel stops etc. I wish I could have done all that! Infact, I would have done all that - If i knew I would finally get to ride that day. Instead, all the preperation I could manage was to get my backpack from the cupboard, throw in the chain cleaner and lube, the rain liners, a couple of microfiber clothes, one small bottle of Colin to clean the helmet visor and the jack to help raise the rear wheel to help lube the chain. Not to forget, a quick check on the weather app that revealed nothing but bad news - KA, TN and KL had rain and thunderstorm forecast for the entire weekend. Went to sleep, still not sure whether to ride!
Sounds like a very disorganised manner to start a ride? Fact is - I wanted to ride to Trivandrum ever since we got the bike, so I could share the happiness with parents as well. We had initially chalked a plan to ride for an extended weekend, till the question of wife taking leaves was ruled out. That left me with a spare day of pre-approved leave on a Friday that could be used for a long ride. May be Trivandrum? Trick was, I needed to get back home for the weekend again.
Planning stage was still in progress and home minister approvals were being requested for, when disaster struck - hurt my back while trying to lift a heavy item the previous weekend. Struggled in office the next Monday, took a day off to rest the next day. While Wednesday and Thursday were working days, the pain was still there, questioning my sanity in planning such a long ride. Well, sanity lost the battle by Thursday evening as I had the backpack ready on an impulse decision. Applied some pain relief spray for the sore back, and decided to call it a day by 11:30PM, to try and wake up by 3:30 AM and decide on the ride.
Woke up with a dream, only to realize that the clock was only showing 1:43 AM. Tried to get back lost sleep, but in vain. Finally decided not to waste time and by 2:22 AM, the journey started. The plan was to turn around - whenever
1. I feel too tired to carry on,
2. Back pain starts affecting the ride.
3. Takes too much time, as this was my first ever long drive, so I was unsure of myself, and needed to be back home by weekend.
What happened during the next 24 hours, totally exceeded my expectations. Summarized as below -
I guess I can call it an unofficial saddle sore. Will think about an official one later, since this ride was more about family than anything else! And to explore the versatility of the machine, and it didn't let me down - no matter how unprepared, untrained and ignorant I was! :D
Didn't click many pictures due to the rainy conditions. Sharing a couple of pics I have -
Odometer reading before the start of the ride.
Near Kavalkinaru, Kanyakumari District, Tamil Nadu
Parked with our Xcent that parents use in Trivandrum, Kerala.
Odometer after the ride.
Trip meter shows 1603.3 kms covered in 23 hours and 31 mins.
Hopefully, will be back with more updates soon... Till then, THANK YOU for reading.
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