Kawasaki valve shims are a perfect fit for the BMW K75’s valve adjustment, and the Kawasaki dealership is right down the road, so in July I stopped in to buy a few of the $5 hardened steel discs. Positioned on the left and right of the dealer’s main entrance were a couple of brand new, bright green 2014 Versys 650’s with “SALE! $4995” price cards. I sat on one and thought it felt a bit small. The upright riding position was not what I’m used to. I purchased the shims and returned home to finish the valve adjustment on the BMW.
I did a bit of research on the Versys and found that most owners loved them and found them incredibly reliable. They have quite a following in Europe as an all-arounder type bike. It was hard to find any negative Versys feedback in forums and blogs, and the YouTube reviews are glowing.
A couple of weeks later while enjoying the K75 on the roads around Capital Forest on a beautiful early afternoon, I thought to visit the Kawasaki dealer and have another look at the discounted Versys. You see, after the K75’s last valve adjustment, it was clear that the BMW engine would manage only another 5 or 10 thousand miles before requiring a top-end rebuild. The valves are actually already below spec and there is no more room to adjust them.
After the dealer answered some of my questions about the Versys, mostly maintenance related, I decided to take a test ride. The scanned my driver’s license, I signed the waiver, waited almost an hour for them to prep the new machine, and then hopped on and headed off towards the country. I made it two blocks before promptly slipping on an oil patch going around a slow-speed corner and the bike fell out from underneath me instantly. I had forgotten how slippery brand new tires are, and I wished the dealer had reminded me before handing me the keys.
The low-side fall happened in the blink of an eye. I landed unscathed on my right shoulder while the bike slid on its side for a couple of feet towards the middle of the road. I stood up swearing at my poor judgement. A passing motorist helped me lift the bike and offered help, but I was fine. I looked over the Versys for a minute and then hopped back on and rode it two blocks back to the dealership.
I wandered around the showroom floor for what seemed like hours waiting for the verdict from the service department. I silently shuffled acceptable repair values around in my head. Maybe the salesman would exclaim the fault was not mine and I could leave uncharged! Maybe I should make a run for it! Although damages were entirely cosmetic, the repair bill for parts and labor tallied-up at $2100. Ouch. The thought of a $2100 test ride made my head hurt. Financially it made more sense to buy the bike than to pay and walk away, so that’s what I did.
I returned to the dealership a week later to retrieve the Versys. The service department un-bent the brake pedal and assured me the bike was sound, albeit a bit scuffed up here and there. I took it slow out of the lot and through town, careful not to lean into the corners on those shiny Dunlops. The sky was clear and the weather perfect so I headed to my favorite local destination, Mt Rainier National Park.
On familiar country roads through Yelm, then Ashford and into the park’s west entrance the bike started to grow on me. Careful not to exceed the recommended 4000 rpm maximum during the engine’s 500-mile break-in period, I was surprised at how smooth the ride was. Kawasaki’s parallel twin engines have a reputation for vibrating, but this Versys wasn’t too bad. Up to the lodge at Paradise for a quick stop then over the pass and down the east side along Steven’s Canyon Road to WA-122. Leaving the park’s south entrance and then west towards home on US-12 I felt like the Versys’s tires had enough miles on them to experiment with handling, and I discovered that the bike enjoys turning.
After about 200 miles, with the sun setting behind me, I arrived home feeling like things were much better than I had expected. I wasn’t ready to buy a new bike this summer, emotionally or financially. But the Versys seems like a good value and I anticipate it being less needy than my K75.