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Kawasaki Makes a Motorcycle I Actually Want

New Versys 1000 SE has improved look and all the bells and whistles

I’ve never disliked Kawasaki, but I’ll admit that I’ve also never really been thrilled by its motorcycles – never thought to myself: “That bike. I need that bike in my life.” Until now.

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Don’t get me wrong, the GTR1400 I rode to EICMA two years ago was a hell of a machine; but overall my feeling was that it was just a tad heavier than it needed to be, a tad buzzier than I preferred, and a tad long in the tooth. I didn’t dislike it; I just didn’t love it. The new Versys 1000 SE that Kawasaki revealed at this year’s EICMA, however, has me very, very interested.

First off, it and the lower-spec Versys 1000 look better. Adopting the shark nose-esque fairing design that Kawasaki first used on the H2 is a subtle change from the outgoing Versys 1000 – not one that you spot right away – but definitely a change for the better. I was never a fan of the Versys’ second-generation (2015-2018) design. Most motorcycling press lamented the robot-look stacked headlight of the first-generation (2012-2015) but I thought it was cool. The second generation had a “that’ll do” feel. It felt like a design decision made on a Friday afternoon, when no one really wants to be in the office. This third generation looks more put together.

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Having seen the bike in person I can add that overall fit and finish is markedly improved – the Versys 1000 SE in particular; it doesn’t look cheap (in part because it isn’t). The dash has an old-school aesthetic until you turn the key. On the standard Versys 1000 the old-school feel remains via an LCD screen, but the SE gets an of-the-moment TFT screen (You can just feel in your soul, can’t you, that TFT screens are going to age poorly) that offers All The Information and speaks to the high level of electro-tidbits to be found on the bike.

2019 Kawasaki Versys 1000 SE

Indeed, the technowhizzbangery is the major upgrade here. The Versys 1000 SE (as well as the new Versys 1000) keeps the same 1043cc inline-four engine of the previous generation, which churns out a highly respectable 119 horsepower at 9,000 rpm. My only concern about this bike is engine-related; buzzing seems to have been a character trait of the Kawasaki bikes I’ve ridden. I’m worried that won’t have been resolved. Obviously a test ride is in high order.

Everything else, however, is, as I say, very appealing. Both the Versys 1000 and Versys 1000 SE get all LED lighting, cornering ABS, three-mode cornering traction control, assist and slipper clutch, a 12v plug in the dash, and an adjustable windscreen that looks like it will actually work (*cough* looking at you, Tracer 900 *cough*).

2019 Kawasaki Versys 1000 SE

The SE steps things up with that aforementioned TFT screen, which, of course, has smartphone connectivity (another feature I suspect will not age well). Apparently you can set the suspension via a phone app because, you know, it’s entirely necessary that you be able to change your bike’s set-up when not anywhere near the bike. The alternative take on this, of course, is that Russian hackers will also be able to change your bike’s set-up. The feature that made me whoop out loud, however, is the addition of cruise control. The absence of this feature was one of my primary gripes about the GTR1400 so I’m delighted to see it added here.

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You also get cornering lights, an electronic suspension, a quick shifter, and four riding modes (Sport, Road, Rain, and one you can set yourself). UK prices have not yet been released, but the US version, which comes with luggage and extra letters in its name (Versys 1000 SE LT+) will set you back roughly $18,000, which is around £13,700. That’s a lot of dough, but it is, to be fair, in line with the competition.

The 2019 Kawasaki Versys 1000 SE: great for quick jaunts to Morocco.