Tag Archives: Adversys

Versys 650


I picked up the Versys unseen and rushed back down the A1 to East London to meet the Mrs for a movie. First impressions: clutch and gear change not as light or as slick as the TDM sold the day before. Scorpion pipe a bit on the noisy side but the OE can came with. Steering drop-in almost as intuitive as the TDM but the upright seating position was much more what I’m used to, giving an impression of agility the strung-out Yam couldn’t quite muster no matter how high the bar risers. This alone is what shows potential in the Versys. Brake felt less good than the TDM’s brilliant Blue Spots and suspension was OK, hard to tell on smooth roads. Fuelling is flawless – much better than the glitchy TDM, especially after I fitted some cans on it. I did my bathroom-scale weight test which came in at 199kg with the tank about a quarter full. Call that 212kg wet. Not so light then. Back home I did the sort of close inspection I used to do before buying a bike in the time before internet. Instead, this time I’d trusted in close and repeated scrutiny of the ebay pics and ‘decoded’ the pitch of the seller. All in all the bike looked on the money so I got stuck in.

“Now you’re gonna think that I’m completely nutz, but this thing works! No more monkey butt!” XC Rider

The optional gel seat looked well made, and so it should be, going for well over 300 quid new. But it’s the same stepped shape as the OE unit and once slotted in you’ve no room to move around. There’s talk of the OE seats being terrible but it seems OK to me. Also, I believe that gel may sound cool and techy but has been discredited as a suitable medium for seats. Gel does not compress enough; it merely deforms a little and is too dense to shed heat.


Now on their third bike, my trusty Barkbuster Storms went on without a hitch, the end-bar Barkbolts screwed straight into the bar-weight threads. We’ll see if I miss those bar weights. 
I added a couple of RAM mounts under the mirror stalks and raised the screen two inches with a bit of inelegant bodging (right). Chances are it will still be too low and I’ll need to buy something taller. I also wired in a DIN plug to run my Aerostich Kanetsu electric jacket and tyre pump. No toolkit came with the bike but at the very least I needed the C-spanner to back the over-stiff shock off one notch. A near-new one turned up on ebay for £20. Better than a hammer and chisel.


At ~2kg that Scorpion noisepipe may be only a third of the weight of the OE silencer but it makes just a little too much racket. I tried to refit the proper silencer but found the short link tube between the downpipes and the can was rust-welded to the downpipe. I dare say I could have persevered but to save 4 kgs I tried to shut the pipe up a bit.
Talking about after-market pipes, I’d not done this for years but learned while researching a set for the TDM that at the lower end of the price range, a silencer is just a can – one size and shape fits many and it’s just the link pipe between the can and the bike’s downpipe that differs from bike to bike. It makes the prices they ask all the more galling as any impression of tunability for your particular machine is a fantasy. Just choose the look you like: long, short, oval, black, round or square, and hope your bike runs well on it. Though it sounded just right – characterful but without an anti-social din – the TDM’s fuelling was worsened at in-town near-closed throttle speeds. That could easily have been tuned out with a Power Commander (more expense). Meanwhile, the Versys seems to fuel fine as it is.


The Scorpion’s baffle or ‘db killer’ screwed out easily and looking at it, I wondered what I could do to deaden the din. I contacted Scorpion but got no reply so wondered it the ‘slap’ of the exhaust pulses against the flat end of the perforated baffle might be reduced by fitting a flow-diverting cone (left). That may well work but I didn’t have one of those lying around so I settled for riveting a big washer over the end (inset, left) and hoped for the best. I think it may have worked a little but not enough so I may try the cone or a bigger washer before freeing up that seized on link pipe and refitting the OE silencer.


I’m a fan of Tutoro bump ‘n’ pump chain oilers and had one waiting in the wings. This time I knew how to fit the twin-nozzle oil feeder correctly, biting into the rear sprocket (inset, left), and found a tucked in frame rail to mount the reservoir (left). The feed tube routing is not so elegant but it seems to have survived the first tankful. With the adjuster screwed out one turn it’s feeding oil at just the right rate.

Put out a red light
On collecting the bike I noticed a red light on the dash that didn’t go out down the road. I didn’t know what it was but as the bike ran fine I wasn’t worried. At home after a bit of RTFM I realised it was an FI warning light and thought it might be some Lambda/O2 sensor playing up due to the Scorpion pipe. It turned out the Lambda was still there, attached to the downpipe. Exchanges with the seller claimed it had never happened before which seemed a tall story as it lit up on starting the bike in his yard. It’s one of the perils of buying a bike unseen. A bit of internetting on the V forums brought up owners with FI lights on due to burned-out fan motors which wasn’t the end of the world. I tried to book myself into a couple of local Kawa dealers for some diagnostic therapy, but no replies. It seems despite all your fake palms and coffee machines and ‘three-bags-full, sir’, nothing’s changed in DealerWorld. With a few exceptions, to me going to a bike shop will forever remain a last resort.


It took a lot more internetting, including getting bogged down in irrelevant, complex and expensive official, dealer-spec Kawasaki Diagnostic System (KDS) software, before I found out I could run a self-diagnosis with just a bit of wire. No bootleg KDS software, no ODB2 readers (mandatory on bikes from 2016) and no expensive visits to can’t-be-arsed dealers.

The Versys appears to have an astonishingly user-friendly system where you simply plug in a bit of wire into an unmarked female bullet connector under the seat (see above left) and then, with the engine running, ground the wire anywhere on the frame. A workshop manual may be different, but there’s nothing about any of this in the handbook. Once you ground the wire as instructed, instead of the ECU going BANG! followed by a puff of acrid smoke, the FI light on the dash flashes up a sequence: long = #10,  short = #1. Translate those flashing codes and work it out from there. The print out pictured left and the pdf version here are based on posts like this buried on various forums.
Must say I’ve never come across this before but am gratified such useful roadside self-diagnosis is even possible in this ‘contact your authorised service provider’ world. I feel quite differently about CPU-reliant machines now, as easily establishing the cause of a red FI light is a long way to fixing a problem.


In my case I got 6+7 which equals 67:  ‘Oxygen sensor heater (Europe)’ spoken in an annoying robotic voice. Don’t know what that actually means but I soon tracked it down to a missing fuse. You’d think the previous owner knew it was missing and time will tell if that 10A O2 fuse blows again, but now I know the bike runs fine with that ‘fault’, it matters less.

While the seat was off I took the chance to move some chunky space-wasting connectors and big fuses to make room for a Cycle Pump and tubeless repair kit (above right).


Before I’d fixed the FI light I went for a run down to Bexhill-on-Sea (below left) on the south coast to check out a Ladybird Book exhibition on the seafront. It was of course just an excuse for a ride but once there it was great to recall the images (above) which I’d not seen for some fifty years. What a wonderful 2D world it would be in Ladybird Land.


On the way I popped into another Kawasaki dealer in Heathfield, Sussex on the off-chance of an on-the-spot plug-in diagnosis. They were at least helpful but in the end the brief advent of spring-like weather has the sole mechanic up to his neck. While there I spotted the latest, 3rd generation Versys (above right) which came out this year. Among other things they’ve got rid of the Medusa Eye and added a simple adjustable screen.


I let the sat-nav bundle me onwards through Sussex following whatever came my way. As it was little use in the Sahara, I’m a relatively late-adopter to sat-nav but I like that you can throw yourself into unknown backroads and, providing you’re not a 40-ton lorry, know that you can easily work your way out while discovering interesting new places. A-roads lead to grubby, leaf-splattered single trackers and it was here I marvelled at the smooth fuelling but also how harsh the hitherto adequate suspension could be.
The Versys shock has no linkage or even a spring to give a progressive rate. Is all this progressive suspension business pie in the sky, then? It seems not; the progression is in  the unseen ‘two-stage damping’ which doesn’t sound so progressive. The 1000 Versys does have the usual linkage, but the 650’s direct link from swingarm to subframe means any sudden hits make quite an impact. The usual case of over-sprung and under-damped? Feels like it and no great surprise.


Even though I’ve seen the light with proper suspension on the XCountry, that was a one-off deal. But on the bright side it’s said a shock off an ‘08 Yamaha R1 is a close fit, and over the years plenty of well-heeled R1 pilots have upgraded to aftermarket items or terminally planted their pocket rockets into the scenery, so used they go from 70 quid in the UK. And a stock R1 shock is a high-spec unit, with a remote reservoir and damping adjustments in all directions.
To fit one on a Versys there’s a bit of faffing with the bushes as well as the need to get a much stiffer custom spring made up due to the lack of a progressive linkage (the Versys spring won’t fit). But providing you don’t buy a totally shagged-out R1 unit, for about 150 quid all up you get plush and fully adjustable ‘£600’ suspension on the back. I bought an ’08 removed from a new R1 for racing for £150 off ebay so at least know it won’t be shagged.
So that was a start on my Adversysing which I looked forward to riding this summer and probably taking to Morocco in November. First mpg was a rather poor 20.3kpl (57.5 UKmpg) Long before that other things that will need attention including some sort of tail rack and something for the front end: a 19-inch V-Strom Thou wheel is resting on the landing.
Then, a couple of months later I decided I really wanted a similar but lighter bike, so I flogged the Versys and got a CB500X, the more modern bike which I’d been interested in all along. Adversys project ends.


Kawasaki 650 Versys project bike

Index Page
Versys 650 – Stage 1

Next up, Kawasaki’s 650 Versys as I continue my lifelong quest of an optimal mid-weight travel bike. As you may have read, I had a short affair with a TDM 900 but, great motor though it was, it soon became clear the TDM had gone too far down roadbike road to be hauled back towards its Super Tenere and Dakar Rally origins.


The origins of the Versys are less glamourous. Also known as a KLE650, before it came the KLE500 (left, below) which in its brief final form I came close to buying. The 500’s motor was based on the sheep-in-wolf’s-clothing GPz500 or Ninja (right) which dates way back to 1987. For reasons I forget, it wasn’t a contender when it came to making my Gs500R project bike a couple of years ago. I think there was something about a dodgy top end compared to the Suzuki’s better record?

kle55But looking at KLE500s again a few weeks ago, they now rather obviously resembled what I eventually produced in the GS500R: 18/21-inch wheels; decent tank capacity and suspension travel; a bit of fairing protection and a flat seat. Plus the last model in blue with gold frame and wheels looked downright elegant compared to some of the earlier KLE’s challenging colour combos.
There’s a certain ‘honest old school hack’ appeal about a KLE500 that you don’t get with a modern electronic bike, but rosy-specs aside, carbs, tubed tyres and 21-inch front wheels are things I prefer to leave behind. Then it dawned on me that a KLE was in fact a last-gasp, emissions-choked spin on the old 500 engine, just as the paint was drying on the brand new Euro 3-compliant Versys back in Japan. So it was just another affable dinosaur with a motor necessarily strangled by all sorts of clumsily emissions claptrap prior to the whole KLE concept getting redesigned from the ground up as a 650. Recognising this, the KLE500 didn’t look so appealing any more, especially when you consider UK prices for a decent, last-model example start in the high teens and occasionally run up to nearly three grand! Of course I never actually got to ride one, but I don’t think it would have been too much of an improvement over my GS-R.

Some KLE500 builds: here •  here • here and here 

Why a Versys?
I remember taking that picture on the right at the 2012 NEC Show and thinking ‘man, that is one ugly bike: too tall, too plasticy and too darn lardy on its ill-proportioned 17-inch wheels. You’ll never catch me on one of those’. It was some way from the 99-kilo KTM Freeride which was the ‘bike de jour’ at the time. Two and a bit years later I find myself reappraising the Versys. It was an interesting lesson in how initial prejudices based on looks can be overcome once you look a bit deeper. That happens to me a lot.


Much of the V-bike’s new-found appeal came down to the used prices when compared to similar offerings like TAs, V-Stroms, the KLE500 and the newer CB500-X which I tested a few weeks back. Bide your time and you can find a good, late 1st-gen (2007-09) Versys for a little over two grand. Especially alongside a 500, that’s a whole lot more bike for the money. The main flaw is of course that, just as with the Super Tenere-to-TDM evolution, the supposedly all-dancing Versys actually became less ‘versytile’ by adopting fat 17s front and rear. IMO like Ducati’s Hyperstrada (right), it doesn’t do the bike’s aesthetic proportions any favours at all but is probably another example of me mistakenly judging a book by its cover.
With the 650s ground-up makeover came the typical 20 extra kilos, but also tubeless tyres √, efi √, what looks like a chunky subframe (above right) √, optional ABS √, easy to adjust shock √, easy-switch km/miles speedo and you’d hope a general refinement plus enough plastic to melt down into a giant Rubik’s Cube. The deeply stepped seat looked less promising (though worked well enough on my 660Z Tenere), as did the under-engine silencer’s vulnerability, even if it kept the back-end slim for saddlebags. At 19 litres, the tank has a near-ballpark capacity of 250-miles/400kms assuming 60mpg (21.2kpl) without the need to carry extra fuel, even if that weight isn’t low, as it was on my XCountry.
Pictured left are two Adversii built by a guy calling himself jdrocks on the advrider forum. He spends his winters building up V-bikes for something to do and has an admirable ‘keep it simple and costs low’ attitude, stalking craigslist for as long as it takes to snag used parts from crashed 650s, rather than hosing his rig down with a Touratech catalogue. I can relate to that.


The red one on the left is actually an ER-6n/Ninja, the road bike which the GPz became. If you’re planning to turn your 650 Versys or Ninja into a lunar rover, set a rainy weekend aside to read jd’s posts. You’ll learn that he’s unearthed benefits in adventurising a 650 Ninja over a Versys (chiefly better power from cams, compression and CPU in the otherwise identical engines). But here in the UK comparable ERs go for a bit more than a Versys. With nowhere to work and looking for a bargain, I wasn’t planning anywhere near as radical a transformation as his, so was happy to settle on a Versys.


Uncovering all this brought up another benefit of adapting a Versys into what jd calls a ‘gravel bike’:  they’ve been around since 2008 in the US where similar XT-Zs, ATs and Transalps aren’t sold and F-series BMs are pricey. Because of that, enough people have Adversys’ed their 650 Kawas. Be it simply slapping a ‘rear’ TKC on the front (blue bike, above) Advrider is awash with ideas and know-how which all saves money, frustration and time.


AdvMoto magazine were among the first to set the ball rolling, as usual spending what looked like the cost of a second bike adapting a used 2008 Versys with hand-built wheels and every accessory under the sun (left). The result was not a value for money dirt tourer, but then trying new ideas can be costly.
I did think about getting a V-Strom, but part of this whole AMH project bike game is exploring less obvious ideas without spending a fortune. There’s nothing much to prove with the much admired Suzuki and anyway, in the UK they cost more than a similar or even a younger Versys.
It only took a week of so to find one nearby for an unlikely £3000, but offered a chance to have a closer look and see how it rode. This was one of the full black versions which I find the least ugly. With chrome only present on the forks and pipe, it all blends away like a black cat in a coal cellar. All you have to do is be careful not to look that Fiat-ugly headlight in the eye. Do so and, like clocking the Medusa (right – don’t look!), you’ll turn to stone.


Another all-black V-bike (left) turned up up north where all the used bikes seem to be. I picked it up unseen one chilly Sunday morning and by the time I got home and then flogged the overpriced ‘gel seat’ that came with it, it came in at £2100 with hot grips; light-but-noisy pipe + original; hugger; 12v plug; new back tyre and 28,028 miles on the clock. On the surface all good but some rust behind the scenes. More about it in the next post.