2019 Kawasaki Versys 650 LT Review and Test Ride
Table of Contents
Overview of the Kawasaki Versys 650 LT
For an adventure bike that’s really not meant to be adventurous, the 2019 Kawasaki Versys 650 LT is a mid-level competitor to the likes of the BMW F650 – 800G(S), KTM 790 Adventure R, and Yamaha 700 Tenere and it doesn’t even know it.
Okay, okay… calm down.
I am well aware those aforementioned off-roaders are true soup-to-nuts examples with knobby tires, bench seats, and euphoric suspension travel, but hear me out.
The 2019 Kawasaki Versys 650 comes standard with a very adventurous up-right riding position, 6.7 inches of ground clearance, and in a pinch you can swap the more road going rubber to something with guts. In an era where adventure bikes excite even the bean counters, and the market is shifting to lightweight examples of their previously profound 1200 plus cc monsters, to stay relevant you need to adapt. I believe the Versys 650 has the potential to make Kawasaki a leading lady in the motorcycle adventure market again.
Watch my full ride and review here:
The 2019 Kawasaki Versys 650 LT Top Speed, Engine, and HP
At the heart of this wonderful machine is the 649cc parallel-twin engine that you’ve seen and read about in my Kawasaki Vulcan review (spoiler: I loved it). A combination of low and mid-range torque and high-rpm horsepower can be boiled down to a maximum torque of 47.0 lb-ft and 68bhp. Considering the weight, gear ratio, and engine configuration, you’d expect to see a top speed of 130 miles per hour.
Acceleration was zippy in the lower gears and expectedly more subdued in the higher end of the rev range. The most notable engine characteristic was the incredible and almost unsettling amount of engine braking being produced by this torque happy twin.
I’ve owned what some call the king of the twins (KTM 1290 SuperDuke R) and was shocked to find the abruptness of the engine braking on the Versys 650. Especially when compared to the same engine in the 2019 Kawasaki Vulcan S operating in a much smoother manor. Regardless of the issues off-throttle, the experience when accelerating through the gears and various engine speeds was incredibly pleasant. I can only imagine how quick the 1000cc variant of this bike is.
2019 Kawasaki Versys 650 LT Price
The 2019 LT, which I rode has a starting MSRP of $9,199. The comparable 2019 KTM 790 Adventure R has a starting MSRP of $13,499, inching ahead by a solid $4k. In my opinion, the Kawasaki Versys is a bargain for what you are getting, especially when you look at other bikes that do the same thing and are priced significantly higher. You could also look into the equally great Versys 650 base model, which starts at $8,299. The only things missing from the base model are the quick-release panniers and the hand guards, both of which I truly appreciated.
Kawasaki Versys 650 LT Specs, Transmission, Tech, and Features
Having been fortunate enough to be given an LT model by the good ol’ boys at Woods Cycle Country, I was loving the additional specs and features. Most visually obvious of the upgrades were the set of color-matched 28 liter (each) hard saddlebags featuring KQR™ mounts and an integrated mounting system that utilizes the ignition key for saddlebag unlocking and removal. The combined 56 liters of storage would make even the wildest of overpackers be able to say “Uhh maybe just one more pair of underwear”. The LT package also has additional and adjustable wind protection as well as hand guards. You can start to envision why I call this the adventure bike that just doesn’t know it yet. A six speed manual gearbox connects you to the engine and shift points are rather smooth although the clutch bikes early and often.
Something notable from my test ride was just how well the suspension hugged the road in sporty, spirited riding, but still felt plush and comforting on more relaxed straights. The front suspension consists of 41mm hydraulic telescopic forks with stepless adjustable rebound and preload while the rear uses a single offset laydown shock with remote adjustable spring preload. Great adjustability and feel considering the value-focused price.
The biggest downside to this bike was the digital technology attempt Kawasaki made to compete with the other top-notch adventure bikes. Let’s just say the lack of tech on this bike stays true to the lower price point, but wasn’t missed while riding.
The 2019 Kawasaki Versys 650 LT Seat Height, Weight, and MPG
The 2019 Kawasaki Versys 650 LT has some impressive dimensions for an adventure bike, let alone the sport touring nomenclature that Kawasaki brands it as. With 5.9/5.7 inches of travel in the front and rear and a ground clearance of 6.7 inches, you’ll be hard pressed to bottom out on even more serious trails. Unlike the full size adventure bikes, the Versys 650 comes with a 33.1 inch seat height – perfect for riders with shorter legs.
Where the Versys stands tall, it also stands heavy at a curb weight of 476.3 lb (+ Saddlebags, Handguards, & Hardware adding approx. 20 lb.) you won’t be winning any awards for lightest adventure bike. That being said, the extra weight is well hidden while riding and the incredible balance and lower center of gravity shine through. A fuel capacity of 5.5 gallons and an estimated 45 miles per gallon provide an adventure approved 247.5 miles until you’ll need to call for help.
It’s clear that I triggered a few folks in my video review by calling the Versys 650 LT an adventure bike, but look at the facts, hell look at the damn bike. It screams adventure and to be honest, I think for a motorcycle like this to survive, it has to. Sport touring is something that was previously imagined to be an outlet for the old timers and comfort-focused riders to have their cake and eat it. With modern advancements in engineering leveling the playing field and more manufacturers putting sport-born motors into trail ready bikes, the Versys has the perfect platform for success. Don’t get me wrong, the 2019 Kawasaki 650 LT is a bike I like, but that would be a bike I’d love.
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About the Duke of DC
You know, my father tells me that one of my first words was “carburetor” and after my 8th car and 5th motorcycle in my relatively short time on this earth, I’m starting to believe him. I’ve been riding motorcycles since I was 15 years old, and when I started DukeOfDC it was during a really difficult time in my life. I’m just an average Joe that loves anything on two wheels and wants to share that passion with the world. Check out my YouTube channel and follow me on Twitter.