When it comes to motorcycle sport-touring no other bike brand offers the wide array of motorcycling options as Kawasaki. And for those seeking an upright sport-touring rig that strikes an optimum balance between the two segments look no further than Kawasaki’s 2020 Versys 1000 SE LT+ ($17,999).
Last updated for the 2019 model year, the Versys 1000 SE LT wears more edgy-looking bodywork that’s slathered in a newly developed and scratch-resistant paint. Sophisticated LED lighting package with cornering headlamps brighten dark, moonless roads. More creature comforts come in the form of heated handgrips and a manually, tool-less adjustable windscreen. The plush, well-supportive saddle for rider and passenger and upright handlebar makes it easy to drain the 5.5-gallon fuel tank.
A set of well-engineered easy-to-put-on, easy-to-take-off color-matched hard cases are capable of swallowing nearly 15 gallons of cargo. We loaded them with a 100 or so Matchbox toy cars that we dropped off at the Children’s Hospital of Orange County. The Southern California hospital specializes in pediatric care, and treats more than 100,000 sick kiddos each year.
Its tried-and-true 1,043cc inline-four has been retro-fitted with ride-by-wire throttle connectivity that facilitates selectable engine/throttle response maps (Rain, Road, Sport, and a customizable Rider setting). The setup also allows for ultra-precise cruise control. An up-and-downshift-compatible electronic quickshifter makes for fast gearshifts, and is especially helpful when downshifting at lean.
These improvements go a long way to making this engine feel more modern than it is (remember, its architecture is based off the old Ninja ZX-9R). Still, with around 105 hp the Versys 1000 likes to boogie and delivers an especially raucous engine/airbox note inside the cockpit. As always, this powertrain can feel buzzy at higher rpm, but it’s easy to overlook considering how playful the engine is with especially well-sorted throttle response.
The Versys 1000 SE LT+ now includes semi-active suspension that automatically adjusts damping settings based on road conditions and rider control input. The damping settings are linked to each riding mode. Furthermore, the rider can further tune the suspension to their liking via the Rider map. Handlebar-mounted switch gear offers great tactile function and the color display offers crisp fonts with a logical menu layout.
With nearly 6 inches of suspension travel fore and aft, the Versys 1000 glides over the rough tarmac yet offers a pleasing degree of road holding during more spirited riding maneuvers. Triple-disc hydraulic brakes with cornering ABS functionality keep speed in check and helps mitigate loss of control when riding through turns. Lean-angle-sensitive and three-way-adjustable traction control helps ensure the Bridgestone Battlax T31 sport-touring rubber doesn’t excessively slip.
With an MSRP that’s nearly $5,000 more than the old Versys 1000, this 2020 SE LT+ edition certainly can’t be deemed cheap. However, for a rider seeking a regal touring experience that skates the fine line between sport and touring duties, the Versys 1000 SE LT+ delivers.
2020 Kawasaki Versys 1000 SE LT+ Price and Technical Specifications
1,043cc, liquid-cooled inline 4-cylinder
75.2 lb.-ft. @ 7,500 rpm
Showa 43mm inverted fork adjustable for KECS-controlled rebound and compression damping, manual preload; 5.9-in. travel
Showa piggyback reservoir shock adjustable for KECS-controlled rebound and compression damping, electronic preload; 5.9-in. travel