Kawasaki simplified the choices for the Versys 1000 this year, offering the S, which has everything the SE had aside from KECS. Here is our review... Test: Jeff Ware Photography: HMC Photography

A lot of riders love the thought of owning an adventure bike more so for comfort and tourability than off road adventure. Thus, the adventure sport segment was born and aren’t we lucky. The Versys 1000 S is one that sits at the pointy end of the class…

The 2021 Kawasaki Versys 1000 S comes with all of the tech and luxury of the SE version aside from electronic suspension. At $19,999 + ORC it represents excellent value and is the only Versys 1000 option here for 2021.

Check out our review on the 2019 Kawasaki Versys 1000 SE here…

If you want to ride hard on the roads with your sportsbike mates in comfort, hitting bumps at full noise and not feeling a thing, all while knowing you can take on light dirt road with easy or eat up hundreds of highway miles on cruise control, then the Versys 1000 S is the bike for you. It does everything and it does it al well, particularly the sports riding. In fact, it is incredibly good…

It’s a big machine to wheel around or put on the centrestand but the Versys 1000 S is roomy, comfortable and well balanced once on the move. Seat height is adjustable, too, via accessory seats.

Packed with the latest generation Kawasaki electronics and rider aids, the Versys 1000 S is definitely no bare bones machine. In fact, it has just about every current techo feature on the market. With Three Mode Traction Control plus off (KTRC), Electronic Cruise Control, Bosch 6 axis IMU, Kawasaki Cornering Management Function (KCMF), Kawasaki Intelligent Brake System (KIBS), Integrated Riding Modes, Power Mode Selection, Kawasaki Quick Shifter (KQS), Assist and Slipper Clutch and LED Cornering Lights, there is a lot of technology going on behind the scenes with the Versys 1000 S…

If all of that doesn’t impress you, there is of course the smartphone connectivity via Rideology The App, which allows you to customise your Versys settings from your phone while stopped for lunch, and it updates when you fire up the bike. How cool is that? And to further boast to your mates, there is a lean angle Max Lean display on the dash. I got 47 and 46 degrees angle, not bad for a touring bike! It really has loads of cornering clearance…  and you can hit bumps mid-turn no dramas. More on that later…


Moving the Versys around, I found I had to be extra careful to keep it balanced, particularly with a full tank of fuel. It’s a very top heavy motorcycle and takes some experience and muscle to move when off the bike. Once on the move, however, that top-heaviness is only hard work at really slow speeds, as low as walking pace while lane splitting, negotiating tight roundabouts and so forth. A bit of rear brake and clutch went a long way to keeping the bike balanced and I soon got used to it…

Aside from that, the bike is easy to live with as a daily, with a smooth clutch action, vibe free mirrors (although they are small and an odd shape to try and see through), smooth but somewhat spongy gearchange operation and all-day seat comfort. It gets a bit hot around the feet, thanks to the width of the motor, but that’s a plus in winter.

The Versys 1000 S can be pushed incredibly hard on stock tyres and stock suspension settings. I rate it as the best handling in category but some margin and preferred the handing to the SE version I tested a few years ago…

Two-up the Versys 1000 S is fantastic once out on the go but getting on and off is tricky for the pillion and around town the bike becomes super top heavy, this is because the pillion sits way above the rider, in fact Heather had a clear view straight over the top of my Shoei on our ride. Two-up handling on stock settings isn’t so flash. The front-end is OK but the shock quickly becomes overwhelmed and loses rebound control. I put up with it but it is an easy job to adjust it before tackling any two-up duties.


The pillion-in-a-million found the seat comfy and supportive, the grabrails and footpegs great but just felt she was perched too high to feel safe… It is an odd set-up for a sports-touring bike and could have been much better with a level or more level seat set-up. It wasn’t a deal breaker though, we agreed we would still like one of these in the garage!

Cruising on the open highway is too easy on the Versys 1000 S. The level of protection on offer from the huge adjustable screen is mega, with the handguards making the overall ride quite luxurious. With a massive 21L tank and possible 400km-plus fuel range, the Versys 1000 S is an excellent all-day touring option and 1000km days would be a breeze.

My longest day on the bike was six hours and that was a walk in the park. The tall gearing means the inline four is underworked at highway speeds and the cruise control, although a tad clunky and slow reacting to speed change inputs, is generally good and makes life even more comfortable and enjoyable on the big beast…

The KTRC is brilliant on the Versys 1000 S and I began to fully trust it once I was pushing the limits harder on the bike while on a ride with my sportsbike riding mates. The slipper clutch helps with fast corner entry as well.

It’s the corners where the Versys 100 S really impressed me. It’s a big bike, that’s for sure, but just like most of the adventure bike and adventure sports bike class, it can be punted surprisingly hard and in this case, incredibly so. In fact, on 75 per cent of the roads I frequent, this bike would eat any sportsbike.

On one particular loop I did that had a range of smooth to open, fast flowing and also tighter, bumpy twisties, the Versys comfortably held its own with an S 1000 RR and a CBR1000RR both ridden by fast, experienced friends who were in a bit of shock as to how quickly I could ride this machine. In fact, one of my mates insisted on having a ride to try it himself and he was blown away. He had just purchased a brand new BMW S 1000 RR…

With the bike in Sport Mode for full power, a crisp throttle and the best set-up of the KTRC, KIBS and KCMF (I mucked around in Rider Mode but unless I wanted things switched off, I found the presets Rain, Road and Sport to be the best options), the Versys 1000 S is incredible in the twisties. I ended up fully trusting the electronics and firing the super torquey yet revvy inline four off corners at maximum throttle, shifting via the KQS and then burying the bike into turns hard on the very strong, great feel front brakes and taking every ounce of advantage out of the long travel 43mm forks.

Mid-turn, there is loads of ground clearance with 47-degrees no issue, and the 1000 S glides through an apex like it is on rails. There is some wallowing and bucking off turns on full throttle as the KTRC and soft suspension fight the torque and power but everything gets put down through the 180-section Bridgestone so well that the Versys launches off corners like a rocket. It is just so much fun! I was really impressed with the tyres, they have loads of feel, edge grip and work the same over a range of surfaces and temperatures. I had them balling up on the edges and had very few slides on them, any of which were quickly caught and dealt with by the electronic suit.

Being chased by this big beast in the mirrors had my sportsbike riding mates in fits of laughter. No bump of surface change seems capable of stopping the Versys! Check the smoke coming off my boot! Ha!

If the chassis is good, the engine is gold. Kawasaki really know how to get low down and mid-range grunt from an inline four and although the Versys 1000 S does flatten out up top, it still has a rev happy nature that will please inline-four riders and it allows riders to carry a large amount of overrev when needed. The punch on tap in Sport Mode is grin-inducing and aside from being silky smooth, even on initial throttle opening at high revs mid corner or around town at low revs, there are no fuelling dips or glitches anywhere when manually controlling speed. However, on cruise control at exactly 4000rpm the Versys oddly begins to hunt madly. It’s an issue I spoke to Kawasaki about but I’m not sure what the cause was or if it was a one-off with our bike…

Aprilia Q1

That 1043cc four makes a 120hp and 75ft-lbs but it feels so much more. I don’t know how Kawasaki do it but they sure are good at it. I can’t fault the motor. It’s engaging, smooth, runs at a good temperature and has more than enough go to get this huge 257kg machine going very quickly indeed…

Dirt roads are a walk in the forest on the Versys 1000 S but I would not go too hard or fast on anything rougher than well maintained dirt roads, not with 17in alloy wheels and street tyres. But you could ride all day on dirt roads and certainly faster and with much more composure than on a road only sports tourer. With the longer travel, plus suspension I found the bike more than capable at cruising speeds but it’s not for full-on adventure riding and it isn’t pretending to be either.

I tried all three of the Rider Modes multiple times and in combo with the Power Modes and in the end, even on the dirt, I used Road 80 per cent of the time in wet or dry and I used Sport the rest of the time. Rider is handy for switching off aids, particularly on the dirt roads when you must have the ability to steer with the rear wheel to survive! Overall though, Kawasaki have done a great job with their presets.

At 187cm tall, I found the Versys to be one of the most comfortable and roomy motorcycles on the market. It is a perfect fit and that is with the 840mm seat option.

In conclusion, I would highly recommend the Versys 1000 S to anyone who is after a touring bike that can trully keep up with sports and nakeds in the local hills (forget track days of course), handle dirt roads, easily do the daily commute and has everything on it ready to go straight off the showroom floor. At $19,999 + ORC it is a lot of motorcycle that is as tough as nails and should give you years of trouble free touring and scratching. You can find your local Australian Kawasaki Dealership here.

2021 Kawasaki Versys 1000 S Tech Talk

Kawasaki’s 2021 Versys 1000 S has a host of additional features included but without the option of a cheaper standard model or more expensive SE version we used to have. The highlights of the 2021 Versys 1000 S include the full colour TFT LCD screen and high end electronics package with smart phone connectivity and management via ‘Rideology The App’, plus the Highly Durable Paint that is self repairing with lighter damage.

The liquid-cooled in-line four-cylinder powerplant generates 120hp and 102Nm of torque, with the addition of Electronic Throttle Valves (RbW) allowing the inclusion of cruise control, as well as Kawasaki Traction Control (KTRC), Riding Modes and the Kawasaki Cornering Management Function (KCMF), with a Bosch IMU and four 38mm downdraft throttle-bodies.

The Integrated Riding Modes offer three presets and a Rider mode which can be manually adjusted to control the various electronic systems, with smartphone connectivity and the ‘Rideology The App’ allowing riders to make easy changes via their phone, as well as tweaking settings then pushing those settings to the bike. As mentioned cruise control is featured standard, as is the KQS or Kawasaki Quick Shift system, which allows seamless up and down shifting without the clutch.

For those not using a phone and the app, a full colour TFT LCD dash offers two display modes and a black or white background option, as well as including auto brightness, and is controlled via the quite busy switchblocks, but in a relatively user friendly manner.

TFT Full colour screen showing white background and Sport Mode.

The 43mm forks offer manual preload and rebound damping on the front, while the rear offers preload and rebound damping. Brakes are dual four-piston radial-mount calipers on the front with 310mm petal rotors, while a 250mm rear is slowed by a single-piston caliper, with both backed up by Kawasaki’s Intelligent Braking System (KIBS), which now includes cornering functionality.

There are luggage options and other accessories available from Kawasaki.

The total wet weight is 257kg, with a 840mm seat height and an option for a lower seat accessory to reduce that further to 820mm. The wheelbase is 1520mm, with a rake of 27 degrees and trail of 106mm, with suspension travel of 150/152mm front/rear. Wheels are ‘lightweight’ 17in items, clad in Bridgestone Battlax Sport Touring T31 rubber in 120/70 – ZR17 and 180/55 – ZR17 sizes.

NG Brakes

2020 Kawasaki Versys 1000 S Specifications


Price: $19,999 + ORC (Click here and enter your postcode for R/A pricing)
Warranty: Two-year, unlimited kilometre
Colours: HD Pearl Storm Grey with HD Metallic Diablo Black and Metallic Flat Spark Black.
Claimed Power: 120hp[88.2kW]@9000rpm
Claimed Torque: 102Nm[75.2lbs-ft]@7500rpm
Wet weight: 257kg
Fuel capacity: 21L

Engine: Liquid-cooled, parallel-twin, four-stroke, DOHC, 649cc, 83 x 60mm bore x stroke, 10.8:1 compression, KCMF, Bosch IMU, KTRC, Riding Modes
Clutch: Assist & Slipper Clutch Gearbox: Six-speed with positive neutral finder.

Chassis: Aluminium twin-tube frame, five-piece cast aluminium construction, steel pipe trellis sub-frame Rake: 27.0 degrees Trail: 106mm
Suspension: 43 mm inverted forks, semi adjustable, 150mm travel. Rear Horizontal Back-link, gas-charged shock, with rebound damping and remote spring preload adjustability, 155mm travel
Brakes: Kawasaki Intelligent anti-lock Brake System (KIBS aka ABS), dual 310mm front petal discs, four-piston radial-mount monobloc calipers, radial master-cylinder, 250mm rear petal rotor, single-piston caliper
Wheels & tyres: ‘Lightweight 17in wheels’, 120/70 – ZR17, 180/55 – ZR17, Bridgestone Battlax Sport Touring T31

Seat height: 840mm
Wheelbase: 1520mm
Overall length: 2270mm
Overall height: 1530mm
Overall width: 950mm
Ground clearance: 150mm

Instruments & Extras: TFT LCD screen, two display modes, black or white background options, Standard fitment on S: Kawasaki Quick Shift (KWS), LED Cornering Lights, Electronic Cruise Control, Hand Guards, Highly Durable Paint, Large windscreen, Smartphone Connectivity (syncs to Rideology the App), Luggage rack, Comfort seats, Centrestand


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