What’s not to like, really? Kawasaki’s “versatile system” Versys sisters – X 300, 650 and 1000 – are all just that, versatile bikes for all seasons. But now that there’s a lot more competition in the adventurish sporty roadbike segment than there used to be, the Versys 1000 felt like it needed to keep up with the Joneses.
The big GS gets all the love and 27% of BMW’s sales, but when the BMW people asked which one I’d like to ride home after the Palm Springs roll-out party for the new 1250 boxers two months ago, we picked the RT. It only makes up about 10% of BMW’s numbers, but the RT never expects you to ride it through a sand wash.
Yamaha says sport-touring is its most booming segment lately – responsible for more than 70% of its sales. And the Tracer 900 GT (new in the US market) makes up 64% of that. It also says that since introducing the Niken three-wheeler last spring, and having given test rides to over 5,000 riders, even the skeptical have been convinced; now everybody realizes the benefit of having two front contact patches.
This was a pretty easy pick. The newly domesticated version of the mighty supercharged Kawasaki makes enough power in stock form – 171 on our dyno – to provide even the sickest speedfreak a full dose, but it does so in a sneaky, gentlemanly way: That air-cooled supercharger means the 998 cc Four only needs 10,000 rpm to produce all that power, and it’s making 89 lb-ft. of torque at only 8600 rpm. Suddenly the world is flying into your faceshield at an alarming rate, with no vibratory or auditory warning. Holy Kawasaki! That’s what we call efficiency, of which another byproduct is the SE’s ability to squeeze 40+ mpg from a gallon of gas, which gives it 200-mile range.
There I was last Wednesday night in Stevenson, Washington, on the northern bank of the mighty Columbia River via the excellent hospitality of Yamaha for the launch of the new Tracer 900 GT. I was slurping a fine glass of the local vino when I overheard Greg the Rider magazine guy talking about riding home to SoCal on the new bike, via the Cascades and other places.
BMW introduced a new “Adventure Sport” concept model at the Concorso d’Eleganza Villa d’Este previewing a new mid-sized sport-touring model. The eventual production version of the BMW Concept 9Cento would, essentially, be a smaller version of the S1000XR with the frame and engine of the F850GS.
To be honest, I didn’t pay any more attention when Yamaha announced it would actually produce the Niken than I do to the unicorns that occasionally wander into the back yard as I’m semi-dozing on the patio after a nightcap. Fanciful creatures of the imagination. But I snapped to fully woke when the invite came in over the email transom to come to Austria and ride the thing. What, it actually exists? Sure, why not?
We already performed a complete road test with amazing video on Kawasaki’s amazing new H2 SX SE a while ago. But why let that stop us from revisiting the highest-ranked bike I ever raved about, with a 97.5% approval rating, and with the first engine I ever gave a perfect 20?
It’s funny how time’s arrow flies. Seems like only yesterday we were in a chill and rainy Milano for the big international motorcycle exposition, drooling over the showstopping new Ninja H2 SX SE with Sean Alexander and Brent J., knocking out non-award-winning videos and wondering what Kawasaki could possibly be thinking to produce such an outrageous motorcycle? Shirley it will be way expensive and unobtainable like the other H2s?
When Kawasaki introduced the Ninja H2 and H2R, it raised the bar for high performance motorcycle exotica with its supercharged 998cc engine. As impressed as we were by the H2, one superlative we would not use to describe it was “practical.” Kawasaki hopes to change that with the 2018 Ninja H2 SX, a supercharged sport-tourer that sacrifices some of the H2’s high performance aspirations for better everyday usability.