An Adventure Tourer That Deserves Respect

Story by David Booth// Photos by David Booth
July 4 2023

While the Versys 1000 doesn’t have enormous horsepower, it is comfortable and quite capable of long-distance travel, and won’t break the bank.

With the horsepower race going on, it’s pretty hard for an ordinary — read: rational — adventure bike to get any love these days. Ducati’s top-of-the-line is a 170-plus horsepower V4.

KTM’s 1290 boasts almost as much power except from two fewer cylinders. Even Harley’s Pan America is a powerhouse. Hell, BMW’s GS is in the horsepower race. And what’s this I hear about Honda patenting a supercharger for its woefully-powered Africa Twin so that it can keep up with the hyper-horsepowered Joneses? What’s a lowly 118-horsepower Kawasaki Versys to do? Especially when Team Green — they of the screaming two-stroke triples, hypersonic ZZR1400s and supercharged H2s — is, itself, world-renowned for outrageous power.

The only thing to do, I suppose, is to brand the big Versys as the comfy tourer of the lot.

To that end, the only Versys being sold as a 2023 model is an LT SE, the full-boat model that is blessed with Kawasaki’s Electronic Control Suspension. It’s essentially the same semi-active suspension that blesses the supercharged H2 SX SE, and I wasn’t a fan of the way it was applied to the sort-of sports-tourer. Not because the electronically adjustable suspension was bad, but because the previous SX’s stock suspension was so damnably good. So good, in fact, that it rendered any such electronic complication superfluous and, more importantly, unnecessarily expensive.

The Versys’ suspension suffered no such excellence. So, the KECS is a welcome addition to its technology portfolio. In fact, it much improves the big LT, the damping adjustable all the way from (almost) sportbike-like firm to (likewise) almost sport-tourer cushy. You can do it automatically though the main riding mode selections — Rain, Road and Sport which also set predetermined limits for power output, throttle response and traction control — or personalize your preferences via a customizable Rider mode.

That’s what I did, marrying the most power and throttle response (from Sport mode) to the “Medium” suspension damping (the default in Road mode) for a balance between speed and comfort. Throw in an electronically adjustable rear spring preload button so that you can set the rear ride height easily to accommodate significant others and/or luggage and KECS is a true bonus.

Of course, superior suspension compliance is of little use if the rest of the motorcycle is not also comfy cozy. And, let’s face it: Very few motorcycles are completely comfortable right off the showroom floor. Either the seating position is awkward or the seat itself is a plank. Sometimes, the aerodynamics…


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