What’s the best way to review a bike in the Sports Touring segment? How about a 1,500 km round trip from Sydney up into the alpine region of Kosciuszko National Park? Well that’s exactly what I did on the new 2021 Kawasaki Versys 1000 S.
I tested the bike around congested urban streets, monotonous motorways and twisty mountain passes – pulling together a thorough review to let you know what I thought of the 2021 Kawasaki Versys 1000 S.
As the third generation of Kawasaki’s Sports Tourer, the 2021 Versys 1000 S represents their latest attempt to tackle the highly-competitive Sport Touring segment – and arguably their best.
Powered by a 1,043 cc in-line 4-cylinder engine, the Versys 1000 S pushes out a respectable 118 hp (88.2 kW) and 102 Nm of torque. Supported by an exceptional 6-speed gearbox and up and down quick shifter, the Versys 1000 S is a spritely number, well suited for the sporty touring it was designed for.
The Versys 1000 S sits in the middle of their global line-up for 2021. Better equipped than the standard Versys 1000 – and only lacking the semi-active suspension of the SE model – the S represents the best ‘bang for buck’ in the range; potentially explaining why it’s the only model Kawasaki Australia have decided to range for 2021.
The Versys 1000 S provides plenty of punch.
The inline 4 is just a peach of an engine, with oodles of power to get you up and moving quickly. Thankfully it’s also capable of sustaining that power right through the rev range; ensuring you don’t run out of puff as you really start to push its limits. The quick shifter also works well – especially higher in the gearbox – which I felt really improved transition into corners and faster acceleration out of them.
For a bike that carries its weight up high, cornering is exceptional at speed, with the Versys 1000 S capable of taking corners at speeds more akin to a stand alone sports bike. The gearbox is also worth a mention as it’s very good. Clean with an audible ‘click’ as you move up and down the box, both the multi-disc clutch and 6-speed gearbox work seamlessly together.
It’s not all beer and skittles however, as the front end can feel very light on occasion, especially at higher speeds. This led to a wallowy – and occasionally sketchy feeling – that is a little disconcerting when you’re pushing hard through corners.
Overall the Versys 1000 S is exceptionally comfortable – whether you’re commuting through traffic during the week or pushing hard through the twisties at the weekend. It’s only the latter where you’ll start to push the limits of the suspension on the Versys 1000 S. With more of a bias for comfort over sport, the front-end feels soft when cornering hard. Unlike the SE model, the S is only equipped with pre-load adjustability with no option to adjust for compression and rebound damping. This in my opinion puts the Versys S behind its competitors – at least in the Australian market where the SE is no longer an option.
The soft suspension also means that the Versys 1000 S has a tendency to dive under heavy braking. This led me to use the rear to trail brake into corners – rather than loading up the front end – leading to slower than usual corner entry speeds.
On the subject of braking, both the front and rear are highly capable. With plenty of feel through the lever, I was never left feeling short of stopping power.
Styling is sharp and angular – fitting the mold of most other Sports/Adventure Tourers on the market. Highly symmetrical, the 2021 Versys 1000 S is perfect for my OCD. The frontend looks like an angry transformer, as does the rear, with plenty of clean lines running the length of the bike.
With a black, red and grey colour-scheme, it’s a break from the usual Kawasaki Green, and in my opinion looks fantastic. With a light metallic fleck through the paintwork, the Versys 1000 S looks just as good up close as it does from a distance.
On the subject of paintwork, the 2021 Versys 1000 S is equipped with Kawasaki’s new ‘Highly Durable Paint’. This clever feature consists of a special coat that allows scratches to effectively repair themselves, in theory enabling the paint to maintain its finish. Kawasaki explain the process as:
“Soft and hard segments in the coat work together like a chemical spring, creating a trampoline effect that absorbs impacts. The Highly Durable Matte Paint is highly wear-resistant, enabling the paint’s beautiful matte finish to be maintained for a long time. In some cases, it can take more than one week for recovery, and the paint will not recover in the case of scratches caused by a coin or key, or zip fasteners.”
With LED lights allround, a new combined full-colour TFT and analogue instrument cluster, and the optional clean mount pannier system, the 2021 Versys 1000 S is a good looking motorcycle.
- An immediately familiar bike – feels like you’ve been riding it for years right off the hop
- Close to 400 km of range from one tank
- Quick-shifter works very well
- Top-heavy and a bit of a handful at low speed
- At speed, the front-end can feel very light – especially through corners
- Throttle response time is a little sloppy
So after more than 1500 kilometres on the bike, what did I think?
In short – Kawasaki’s 2021 Versys 1000 S does what is says on the tin. A highly capable sports touring machine, the bike is a great option if you’re shopping this segment.
The 1000 cc inline 4 is buttery smooth and provides exceptional punch through the entire rev range. Coupled with a good quick-shifter and quality 6-speed gearbox, the Versys 1000 S is a lot of fun. However the soft suspension and tendency for the front-end to drift on occasion through corners is a black mark on an otherwise highly capable bike. Whilst not a deal breaker, it is something that I feel needs to be addressed.
I believe that the benchmark of a sports tourer is to be capable at both disciplines, without showing too much of a bias towards one or the other. This is a benchmark that the 2021 Versys 1000 S comfortably meets. It’s a bike that’s equally at home on cruise at highway speeds, as it is at pace through tight corners and mountain passes.
Since its release in 2012, Kawasaki have arguably struggled to find the right balance for the Versys 1000. From a confused, adventure styled bike of dubious attractiveness, to a far more refined and dialed in sports tourer, this latest iteration of the Versys 1000 S is in my opinion the best yet.
2021 Kawasaki Versys 1000 S Specs/Features:
- Engine displacement: 1043cc
- Power: 118 hp (88.2 kW) at 9000 RPM
- Torque: 102 Nm at 7500 RPM
- Engine type: In-line 4-cylinder, liquid- cooled, DOHC 16-valve
- Clutch: wet, multi-disc
- Gearbox: 6-speed with Positive Neutral finder
- Final drive: chain
- Fork: 43 mm inverted fork with KECS-controlled compression and rebound damping, manual spring preload adjustability, and top-out springs
- Suspension: Horizontal Back-link, gas-charged shock, with rebound damping and remote spring preload adjustability
- Front brake: Dual semi-floating 310 mm petal discs, Dual radial-mount, opposed 4-pistons
- Rear brake: Single 250 mm petal disc, single-bore pin-slide, aluminium piston
- Weight: 257 kg (wet)
- ABS: standard
- Switchable traction control, on and off
- 4 rider modes: Rain, Road, Sport and Rider
- Fuel tank capacity: 21 litres
- Full LED lighting, with cornering lights
- Electronic Cruise Control
- Bluetooth connectivity
- Rideology the App for smartphone
- Price as tested: $21,833.00 AUD (ride away – based on postcode 2000)
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