2011 Kawasaki Versys KLE650DBF Review

The 2011 Kawasaki Versys is a funky middleweight motorcycle that carries on pretty much technically unchanged from 2010...

2011 Kawasaki Versys KLE650DBF Review
2011 Kawasaki Versys KLE650DBF

The 2011 Kawasaki Versys is a funky middleweight motorcycle that carries on pretty much technically unchanged from 2010, and yet is anything but a disappointment in terms of engine performance or handling. While we could have lived with a slightly lower riding position, the bike is now simply redesigned, but retains the original style that attracted interest in the first place.

The looks are more angular, aggressive and confident, and less likely to put anyone off the bike. While the designers were at it, they reshaped the screen to improve wind protection, doing away with an annoying resonant buzz that could occur on earlier versions of the old model. Suspension was softened on the 2009 version, and those settings have been carried through to 2011, while new footrest rubbers and a rubber-isolated rear engine mounting have been added to reduce vibration reaching the rider and passenger. The pillion has also gained a wider seat. The feel of the bike is as it looks: tall and rangy with comfortable, natural ergonomics, underlining why these kinds of bikes are becoming more and more popular as tourers, in addition to other duties.

The Versys doesn't naturally scream 'dual sport' but with wide, leverage-affording bars and an upright ride position that offers a commanding view - as good for admiring scenery as it is for seeing over car roofs in snarled-up traffic - it's just as easily managed on a decent dirt road as it is on the blacktop. It's agile enough to be flung around easily and where the going is bumpy the suspension soaks up the roughness with impressive ability - it lends the bike an exceptionally good ride quality when upright and at speed.

Powered by a 649cc, liquid-cooled, eight-valve, fuel-injected parallel-twin, Kawasaki claims it's good for 64hp at 8000rpm and 61Nm at 6800rpm. That engine is slotted into a tubular steel diamond frame, with a distinctive offset rear shock and an underslung muffler.

A generous specification of suspension is provided, with both the 43mm inverted fork and the rear shock being adjustable for preload and rebound. All adjustment is carried out with relative ease, in particular, the rear preload - adjustment is made via a remote wheel. The Tokico brakes too are a cut above average, with petal discs all round and twin dual-piston front calipers. ABS is an option.

Importantly for an all-rounder, the 19-litre tank is good for 330kms or so before it empties, thanks to real-world economy of about 21km per litre.

This new model is significantly smoother than the old; if nothing else persuades an existing Versys owner, this alone makes it worth upgrading. If you missed the Versys the first time around, it's really worth a second look. Indeed, that’s what Kawasaki gave it, so hopefully it'll now register on the radar of a lot more riders.



Smart styling

Sharp handling

Great price


Seat not all that great for pillions


Buddha's five-star rating

Scratching ***1/2

Touring ***1/2

Commuting ****1/2

Grunt factor ***1/2

Pillion comfort *



Kawasaki Versys KLE650DBF

Engine 4-stroke, parallel-twin, liquid-cooled, 2-cylinder

Capacity          649cc

Bore x stroke   83 x 60mm

Compression ratio       10.6:1

Fuel system     Fuel injection Keihin 38 mm x 2

Transmission type          6-speed

Final drive       Chain

Frame type      Diamond high-tensile steel

Front suspension         41mm inverted telescopic fork

Rear suspension          Offset laydown single shock

Front brake      Dual discs

Brake rear        Disc

Wet weight     209kg

Seat height      845mm

Fuel capacity   19L

Max power      47.7kW (64hp) at 8000rpm

Max torque      61Nm (45ft/lb) at 6800rpm

Price    $16,795*


*Manufacturer’s list price, excluding dealer and statutory costs

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