Kawasaki has announced it will be producing the Versys 1000 S for the European market. Currently, the top trim level available in Europe is the Versys 1000 SE, which includes the KECS – Kawasaki Electronic Control Suspension. The new S model will ditch the KECS in favor of traditional 43 mm Showa components at both ends, adjustable only for rebound damping and spring preload. Undoubtedly, this will also bring the price down.
When we last left the Ninja 1000 in 2017, all we could complain about was a bit of engine buzziness around 6000 rpm, a too-firm seat, and a lack of modern features, i.e., to wit, cruise control. Here it is another three years under the bridge, and for 2020, Kawasaki has blessed the latest iteration of its excellent sport-tourer with: upgraded electronics including cruise control, a smoother-running 1043 cc Inline-Four, and an improved seat that’s still just slightly on the wooden side. Suspension tweaks give the bike a more refined ride than ever – and all for only $200 more.
Nope, this is not a First Ride review. Yes, I’m annoyed too. But hey, COVID-19 is affecting everyone in different ways. I won’t whine about not getting to ride new motorcycles for X number of weeks if you folks promise not to whine about, “Where’s the Ninja 1000 SX review!” I understand your anticipation, we feel the same way over here. When our comprehensive Ninja 1000 SX data dump (basically just a giant Kawasaki press release) was published last November during EICMA 2019, Kawasaki spilled all of the beans on the new model. Last week we had a “virtual press launch” which was a lot of fun. Unfortunately, there was no new information to publish since Kawi had already released it all.
If you’re making a tire in the sport-touring category, you probably have one of the most difficult jobs in the entire tire business. Where racers want the grippiest tire they can find, longevity be damned, and the touring set seek high-mileage with modest grip, the sport-touring crowd wants the best of both worlds. Oh, and it better have good wet weather performance, too. No easy feat.
I’ve been reviewing BMW’s flat-Twin boxer powered bikes since I started testing motorcycles in the late ’80s and have burbled around on historic versions too, dating back to a beater ’64 R60/S my now ex-husband gave me to ride (quite possibly because it was less traceable then cyanide). Through it all, the boxer, with its punch-punch rhythm and unique seesaw jig always felt like an old friend, no matter the sprinkling of magic German engineering dust, or the ambition of the motorcycle BMW built around it.
What would you do if you came face to face with your own mortality? For many of us, especially in this sport, it’s a scenario we think about in the abstract; we’re either going to go out in a blaze of glory doing something we love, or Father Time will continue undefeated. We don’t think, much less expect, something like cancer to get in the way of our plans. Peter Starr was one of those people, living comfortably – some would even say successfully – thanks to motorcycles.
There are lots of motorcycles trying to get your sport-touring attention. Somewhere in that space Ducati is fighting to grab some attention, drawing upon a name from its past in hopes to lure those who may recognize it. The name, of course, is the Ducati Supersport, and though we’ve featured the bike on the MO pages before – most recently during our staff trip to Laguna Seca – we’ve only ever tested the S model Supersport, complete with Öhlins suspension and the quickshift up and down feature.
Earlier this month, Kawasaki announced an updated Ninja 650 for 2020, along with a number of street bike models returning unchanged except for new graphics. One model that was conspicuously left out was the 650’s larger sibling, the Ninja 1000. We now think we know why, as the California Air Resources Board released an executive order certifying an updated 2020 Kawasaki Ninja 1000.
When I think back to how underwhelmed I was at my first read of the upgrades announced for the 2019 Ducati Multistrada 950 S, I have to chuckle to myself. The big changes appeared to be focused on the 6-axis Bosch IMU (Inertial Measurement Unit) and all the automatic adjustments to suspension, braking, and power delivery it offered. While this was good news, it was hardly the press release that would point to the motorcycle winning the year’s Best Sport-Touring Motorcycle MOBO. But here we are.
Does Kevin Cameron still have to change tires? I mean, riding your choice of the latest bikes to Laguna Seca for World Superbike weekend, followed by a Pirelli-sponsored track day Monday, is a dream come true for any motorcycle person, but maybe you don’t want to see how the MO sausage is made. Pirelli wanted us to mount up its new Supercorsa TD (Track Day) tires ahead of time, and they drop-shipped me two sets. Two sets because when Troy couldn’t make the ride this year, I volunteered my son Ryan to ride the Ducati Supersport in his place. Ryan was, to say the least, excited.
Ah, long-term test bikes. Oh, how we love them. And then we have to give them back, creating a void in our stable. Well, that time has come for the 2019 Niken GT that Yamaha has so kindly let us hold onto for lo these many months. What have we learned, boys and girls? The Niken GT works great in any job you’d ask of a sport-tourer or a commuter motorcycle. In fact, if you ignore the funny looks from passersby and don’t look down at the wide fairing in front of you, you really can’t tell that the Niken is a leaning multi-wheeled vehicle instead of your standard two-wheeled fare. Just ignore the Doubting Thomases and embrace the Niken as a motorcycle because in every meaningful way – save one, and that’s to its advantage – it behaves exactly like a motorcycle.
Sometimes adding new features and software to an existing product works out well; sometimes it doesn’t. Ask Boeing or a Kardashian. Kawasaki’s pre-existing Versys 1000 was a nice-enough but completely nondescript motorcycle until the company decided to throw fresh gadgetry at it for 2019, to the tune of about 50% of the purchase price of the base model. Check the “LT SE+” box, and for $17,999, you’ll be getting: Kawasaki Electronic Control Suspension (KECS), new ride-by-wire fueling with cruise control and Kawasaki Quick Shifter, new electronics including KCMF and KIBS (that’s Kawi Cornering Management Function and Kawi Integrated Braking System), controlled by the new 6-axis IMU, a new TFT color instrumentation dash like the one on the H2 SX SE, new smartphone connectivity with Kawi Rideology app, sweet new self-healing painted bodywork with LED headlights and cornering lights, heated grips, a centerstand, hard luggage… suddenly the Versys is a contender.