2015 Kawasaki Versys 650 ABS/650 LT Preview + Video

Kevin Duke
by Kevin Duke

Versatile middleweight gets fresh face and mechanical upgrades

Kawasaki’s Versys 650 is one of motorcycledom’s great unsung heroes, delivering incredible versatility at a reasonable price. But, let’s be honest, its homely appearance may have handicapped its sales success in spite of its all-around excellence.

For 2015, the middleweight Versys gets a major make-over, including an ensemble of new clothes that significantly ramps up its curbside appeal. Moreover, it adds greater legroom, new suspension and brakes, updated instrumentation and extra load capacity. As its name implies, the 650 ABS includes antilock braking, while the 650 LT adds detachable hard-shell saddlebags and hand guards.

The Versys finally gets more contemporary styling, with side-by-side headlights and a more angular nose. Also note the height-adjustable windscreen.

The new styling of the Versys transforms an ugly duckling into something much more swan-like, now appearing quite attractive and fully modern. The nose fairing gains contemporary side-by-side angular headlights, and it’s topped by a larger windshield that is now adjustable over a significant 2.4 inches of travel by loosening hand-twistable knobs. A larger fuel tank looks better and holds 5.5 gallons of petrol. Full up and ready to ride, the Versys is claimed to weigh 476 lbs.

The tight seat-to-footpeg distance of the old Versys has been addressed with this new edition. Pegs are moved nearly an inch (20mm) forward and 15mm lower. A new stepped seat is placed at 33.1 inches from the ground. A new rear subframe incorporates saddlebag mounts and increases passenger+luggage capacity by 66 lbs to a total of 462 lbs.

The new Versys retains a relatively long-travel suspension but uses new componentry. Up front, a 41mm Showa fork has provisions for adjusting spring preload in its left-side leg and stepless rebound adjustments in its right leg. The Kayaba monoshock out back boasts hydraulic preload adjustments to accommodate various loads, but it lacks damping adjustments.

The standard ABS brakes feature new twin-piston Nissin calipers (rather than the previous Tokicos) biting on 300mm petal-shaped rotors up front. Kawi curiously describes the Nissins as “brake block-style,” but we’re told they are not actually monoblock (one-piece) calipers, and (judging by the photos) they appear to be simple two-piece pin-slide units like their predecessors. Also new is a more-aggressive brake pad compound, said to offer stronger initial bite, and new front and rear master cylinders, perhaps (hopefully) with a higher leverage ratio. The rear gets enlarged from 220mm to a big 250mm brake rotor.

ABS is now a standard feature, with calipers switching brands from Tokico to Nissin.

The compact 649cc parallel-Twin remains largely unchanged but has received revised mapping to suit a new exhaust system that is purported to boost top-end power. To combat vibration from the inline-Twin motor, the Versys is equipped with a variety of rubber devices. In addition to the existing rubber rear engine mounts and rubber-topped footpegs, the Versys’ upper triple-clamp places the one-piece handlebar in rubber bushings.

The Versys’ rolling stock gets upgraded with ZX-6R/10R-inspired six-spoke wheels that are said to be lighter, and they are wrapped by new, Versys-specific Dunlop D222 tires. Instrumentation is updated and features a fuel gauge, range estimator, clock, twin tripmeters and ECO indicator.

Kawasaki is also offering a full range of accessories to customize the Versys to your tastes. Heated grips are optional, as is a DC power outlet, LED light bar, gel seat and a larger windshield.

Versys 650 LT

The LT version of the Versys features all the aforementioned updates and adds hand guards and color-matched saddlebags. The hard-shell bags each offer 28 liters of storage and can be detached and locked via Kawasaki’s One Key system. Additional storage is available from an optional top case which boasts 47 liters of capacity, enough to hold two full-face helmets.

The Versys 650 will be available in two colors on our shores: Candy Lime Green or Pearl Stardust White. MSRP of the 650 ABS is $7,999 while the LT is priced at $8699. We’re told to expect them in dealers this December or January.

2015 Kawasaki Versys 650 ABS / Versys 650 LT Specifications

EngineFour-stroke, liquid-cooled, DOHC, four valves per cylinder parallel twin
Bore x stroke83 x 60mm
Compression ratio10.8:1
Fuel injectionDFI® with two 38mm Keihin throttle bodies
IgnitionTCBI with electronic advance
TransmissionSix-speed with positive neutral finder
Final driveSealed chain
FrameDouble pipe diamond frame constructed from high-tensile steel
Rake / trail25 degrees / 4.3”
Front suspension41mm hydraulic telescopic fork with stepless adjustable rebound and preload / 5.9” travel
Rear suspensionSingle offset laydown shock with remote adjustable spring preload / 5.7” travel
Front tire120/70×17
Rear tire160/60×17
Front brakeDual 300mm petal rotors with two-piston calipers and ABS
Rear brakeSingle 250mm petal rotor with single-piston caliper and ABS
Overall length85.2”
Overall width33.1” for the Versys 650 ABS / 37.2” for the Versys 650LT
Overall height55.1” (windshield low) / 57.1 (windshield raised)
Seat height33.1”
Curb weight476 lb.
Fuel capacity5.5 gallons
ColorsCandy Lime Green, Pearl Stardust White
MSRP$7,999 for the Versys 650 ABS / $8,699 for the Versys 650LT
Warranty12 months
Kawasaki Protection Plus (optional)12, 24, 36, and 48-month plans are available

Follow the rest of our 2014 AIMExpo coverage for more information on new 2015 motorcycle announcements.

Kevin Duke
Kevin Duke

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2 of 6 comments
  • Vernon682 Vernon682 on Oct 15, 2014

    Versys, vstrom, nc700x, or fz-07? Standard buyers are spoiled for choice. Why the heck don't I ride yet?

  • Dustysquito . Dustysquito . on Oct 17, 2014

    I like that they ditched the really strange headlight from the last couple iterations. That's a great engine in a good frame.