One end of the line to the other, Key West to Deadhorse on a Versys

Discussion in 'Ride Reports - Epic Rides' started by XC Rider, Jun 4, 2011.

  1. mashrider

    mashrider Been here awhile

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    nice
  2. XC Rider

    XC Rider Motorcycle Vagabond

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    Actually Bob, I put those on, on top of the Acerbis handguards; I put them there really more to protect my hands from the cold and wind as I was leaving CA in early November and I figured it would probably be cold here and there on the way back to VA. While they weren't the prettiest things, they did help! :deal

    You betcha! Shy of some miraculous job landing in my lap between now and then, I'll be there!
  3. soph9

    soph9 Would Love to ride ALL the TIME

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    you ever thought about putting on fork seal protectors like the ones we used? Don't know if they work but we never had any issues with seals and our forks always looked the best on the road...:lol3

    [​IMG]
  4. XC Rider

    XC Rider Motorcycle Vagabond

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    Alright, now for what I presume is the much anticipated review of the 2009 Kawasaki Versys, and how I felt it did on this trip. As I stated at the beginning of this ride report, this is a 2009 model that I bought used from a gentleman in Kentucky, with 1500 miles on it, and bone stock (aside from the rack for a Givi top box). I spent about $800 to outfit it for this trip, not counting the tires. I wont repeat what all I did to the bike, just go to the begining of RR to see. Now for the meat and bones of this review; in my opinion, this bike performed well above my expectations. Allow me to explain. While the purpose/goal/destination of this trip was most/all of the major dirt/gravel highways of the Yukon & Alaska, there is a lot of pavement that has to be ridden in order to get there when leaving from Key West. This was very much in my mind when trying to figure out which bike to get for this trip. Some of the key factors for me in deciding which bike to get were: 1) MONEY (yes, this is a big factor, I am not factory sponsored or sponsored by anyone other than myself), 2) size/engine displacement, I really wanted to stay around a 650cc bike (I wanted to keep my options open to wander down non-paved roads from time to time and a lighter bike is always easier to handle and just more fun to ride), and 3) while I did not want anything really bigger than a 650cc, I still wanted the bike to feel peppy and powerful. With these parameters set from the begining, here was my initial list of possibilities: KLR 650, Wee Strom 650, 650 Ninja dual-sported. I have owned a KLR in the past, and while I like the bike, in the back of my mind I saw this trip as an excuse to try a different bike; that and the KLR is not known for being a "spirited" road bike. So onto the 650 Wee Strom; in the spring of 2010, while at an ADV campout in WVA, I had the opportunity to try out a friend's 650 Wee Strom. While the bike felt solid and capable, there were two things that bothered me: 1) when in the saddle, it felt as though I had a lot of bike in front of me and I couldn't see the front tire, and 2) power wise, I hate to say it, but it felt about the same as my old KLR. At this same campout is where I first saw a 2008 650 Ninja that someone had dual-sported; needless to say that this got the gears in my mind turning. I ended up buying a 2008 Ninja 650r for a steal with the intention of dual-sporting it like the one I'd seen. However, living on a sailboat in Key West was not conducive to achieving this goal. In the end, I realized that with all my tools being back in VA, and no access to a shop where I could work on the bike, the best thing for me to do was to sell the Ninja and buy a Versys. After all, I had really enjoyed riding the Ninja for the last several months, and on paper, the Versys was practically the same bike. Correct me if I'm wrong, but as I see it, the only differences are: suspension, gas tank, body panels, minor mods to the frame, and they did something to the engine/exhaust to change the power band because I got better MPG with the Ninja than the Versys. The Versys seemed to be the best solution to my problem, and while there is a lot of debate as to whether it is a dual-sport or sport touring type of bike, I'd seen what other people had done with their Versys and felt comfortable that it would stand up to the challenge. Also, all the accessories/mods that I would need to put on the bike were easy enough, bolt-on type stuff that I could do in the marina parking lot where I was living.

    So this is how I ended up with the Versys; now onto how it performed. In my opinion, the proper labeling for this bike is as a sport/sport touring type of bike. Obviously this does not mean that it can not do mild off-road stuff, all I'm saying is that to me it feels most at home on paved roads, i.e. this is where it shines! On the paved roads this bike is fun to ride, easy to throw into the corners and if you're a better rider than me, I have no doubt that you could put a knee down. All while carrying gear and equipment for a 1 to 2 month road trip. While it would definitely perform better without a load, I felt as though the load that I was carrying did not adversely affect the handling much (aside from when I left Fairbanks and had a tire strapped onto each side bag; this was starting to become a bit much/reduce the fun factor). Then when it came to non-paved stuff, I was very pleasantly surprised by the bike. It took a little getting used to, to anticipate what the bike would do in different circumstances, but once I got a good feel for it, I had no problems twisting the throttle on the dirt and gravel. The Tourance tires that I had when I first left FL did alright in the dirt, but the TKCs sure gave me a lot more confidence, which translated into me twisting the throttle more freely. Now for the suspension. Here is one of the main reasons that I saw why in my opinion this is more of a sport/sport tourer than a dual sport bike. While it performed adequately, I often found myself having to slow down for bumps and dips in the road. Another factor in this is the fact that this bike does not have what I would refer to as a real "skid plate"; it's really more of a gravel guard to protect the sump from rock damage. I would not feel at all comfortable slamming it into anything hard, be it the ground, a stump/log, or a large rock. I did bottom out both the front and rear suspension once on the trip, and I tell you, it scared me, wondering what I had damaged/broken if anything. I turned out to be quite lucky as I did not break the front fender, and the only real damage was to the left side case which popped off and slid down the pavement, and the rear mud flap that I had made also broke off. If you want to do more serious off road stuff than what I did on this trip, or if you want to be able to push this bike harder, I would highly recommend rethinking the suspension. Onto the power side of performance. I felt that the bike gave me enough power throughout every condition that I rode in. Of course more power is always welcome, but in this case I did not feel as though it was necessary. Next, the seating position. The seating position on this bike is fairly upright which is very comfortable for long distance touring. I did not put bar risers on the bike, and do not feel as though this would have made a huge difference. Would it help? Probably, but I did not regret not doing it. The windshield I put on gave me enough protection in my opinion. Of course, I don't mind feeling the wind; after all, on my first long distance road trip I rode a Harley 883 Sportster, bare bones to the wind from Virginia to Wyoming and back! The main reason why I chose the windshield that I did is because it did not interfere with the mounting of handguards. My luggage arrangement worked great, easy to access, easy to load/unload, and with my tent/sleeping bag/thermarest strapped onto the passenger pillon, I had a nice little back rest! Next, fuel consumption. Overall, I think I average around 50 miles per gallon, and this is using regular gas (87 octane). Obviously sometimes I got better, but I know that sometimes I got worse; hence why I'm sticking with 50 MPG. Next, maintenance. Maintenance for me was quite minimal. The most time consuming thing was chain maintenance; however this is going to be the case no matter which bike you use, if it is chain drive. Other than the chain, the only thing that I did was to change the oil about every 4K miles. This reminds me that I should check the air filter; I never did along the trip because a) I was not riding behind someone else for extended periods of time, and b) it's a pain in the but to get to (need to remove the gas tank). However, I never felt as though the engine was being starved for either gas or air, and therefore had no cause to check it.

    Now the big question, what would I do differently. First, with regards to maintenance, or preventative maintenance, I would have kept a closer eye on the fork seals. Ideally, if I were to do a trip like this again, with a bike that has exposed fork seals, I would put on rubber fork boots or seal skins. Did this cause me any major issue? No, but even after having cleaned out from under the seals MANY, MANY times, they still leak. I think that the only solution now is to replace them. Not a huge deal, but it could possibly be avoided with a little regular maintenance and forward thinking. Now I know! :D Second thing that I would change, THE SEAT!!!! I had read before leaving that this seat was not the most comfortable, and I did look into aftermarket seats. However, as most everyone knows, aftermarket seats are not cheap! While my wonderful piece of 1x6 helped a LOT, in retrospect, once again if I were to repeat this trip, I would go ahead and spend the $300 to $450 on a custom seat. When you spend as much time as I do in the saddle, it's a really cheap investment per mile ridden! :deal And thirdly, luggage wise, knowing what I know now, I would NOT have gone with the Givi E21 side cases, but I would have gone ahead and spent the extra money for a set of Happy Trail aluminium panniers, or something similar. The Givi E21 cases are OK, but a little flimsy when put to a crash test! :deal

    Well I think that just about covers everything. If you have questions about certain aspects or items that I did not cover, please feel free to post up your questions, and I'll answer them as best I can.

    Once again, thanks to all who have followed me on this trip, and for all the kind words of praise.
  5. XC Rider

    XC Rider Motorcycle Vagabond

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    This is EXACTLY what I was thinking of when typing my previous post, with things that I would do differently! Glad you guys thought of it at the start of your trip, I'm sure it helped. Reminds me that I need to finish up reading your RR. Been busy with all sorts of things and haven't been on ADVrider as much as I'd like to.
  6. AirDrive

    AirDrive Terminal No0b

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    "Actually Bob, I put those on, on top of the Acerbis handguards; I put them there really more to protect my hands from the cold and wind as I was leaving CA in early November and I figured it would probably be cold here and there on the way back to VA. While they weren't the prettiest things, they did help"

    Ahhh yes, as a dedicated Road Warrior, I forget that hand guards have any other purpose than blocking cold wind......I am a man of comfort first :D

    Hope you and your Dad are still planning to do the TAT.
  7. redog1

    redog1 KTM 690R

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    Excellent RR, now looking forward to "take 2 TAT". Glad you finished this ride safe.
    Ride on!
  8. airborndad

    airborndad Long timer

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    Denis when are you expecting to depart for TAT2
  9. Jeffn

    Jeffn Been here awhile

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    Hey, if you need an almost new klx400 for the ride (770 miles) and want to go green, I decided to let mine go. It's in Vero.
  10. Kankujoe

    Kankujoe Adventure Traveller

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    Thanks for posting the much anticipated review of your 2009 Versys and your previous review of the equipment you added to your bike. This information is very helpful. Reading your RR inspired me to investigate a Versys... others had been pushing me towards a V-Strom... I felt too stretched out sitting on one. I test rode the Versys & it was really fun & agile. And since you made it up to Alaska (by the time I was ready to buy a new bike). I bought one about a month ago... now, I'm equiping it for distance travel/camping, etc.

    What size Happy Trails panniers would you get (33L, 38L or larger)? In your previous equipment review you praised your top box.... Would you stay with the same size or go up or down?

    Did you use any audio during the long stretches while riding, iPod or similar? Blue tooth or headset? Any helmet recommendations?

    And again thanks for posting your ride report & photos... they have been very inspiring and enjoyable to follow.
  11. ToasterTech

    ToasterTech Working for the Man

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    Thanks Denis,


    This is my first post on ADV, I have been on for about the last 6 months and have followed your RR from near the begining. Your ride and pictures have been fabulous, I still don't know how you are able to take all the pictures you do while riding and still end up with the GPS stats that you have at the end of the day! My initial interest in the RR was that you had the same bike that I had just bought (approx at the same time period) and you had done most of the same accesories I had added (mine minus tires). I have previously riden off road for many years and the Versys was my first street motorcycle which I have put nearly 7K miles on since January 2011, yes I love this bike!!!. I totally agree with your a assesment of the bike, the seat sucks after a hour or two and the suspension is only good for the paved roads. But that is about the end of the negatives. The engine rocks, more power would always be welcome, but as you said, I have never found myself wanting more. I have more than one occasion been riding in a group of higher performance street bikes and have been waved on to pass, this bike loves the corners and so do I. Gas mileage compares with your 50 MPG ..... more mpg if I am light on the throttle but I can't really make myself do that with this bike! I am Curious on what line of work you are in that makes you confident to quit one job to go ride, knowing another job is available later on. I am self employed with a family, which means taking a trip like yours will only happen when I retire or sell my business, but a trip I really want to do!!
  12. soph9

    soph9 Would Love to ride ALL the TIME

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    Nice first post! Welcome!:clap
  13. XC Rider

    XC Rider Motorcycle Vagabond

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    Hmmm....that's a good question. The departure date keeps getting pushed back due to family issues. As of now the date is looking like the begining of the 2nd week of September. I guess the good thing about this is that maybe it'll start being a little cooler by then! However I'm left wondering why I got a plane ticket to come back to VA sooner!? :scratch

    Are you offering me a free bike!?!? :ear :D

    Actually I put a lot of work into my DRZ a week ago to get it back into tip top shape, thanks to some help from friends. You can check out why all I did and my little test ride to make sure everything was working properly and to treat myself.
    Hey, if you need an almost new klx400 for the ride (770 miles) and want to go green, I decided to let mine go. It's in Vero.[/QUOTE]"]Test Ride Report.


    Congrats on the new purchase! With regards to the HT panniers, I would have probably stayed rather small. After all the Givi side cases were 21L and gave "enough" room; a little more room is always handy, but then again the more you load down a bike, the less fun it is to ride. As far as the top box is concerned, I would probably stay with the size. For audio, I used the Ipod on my Iphone. Having been spoiled for many years by my Harley Electra Glide with a radio in the fairing, I find it rather difficult now to ride for long periods of time without music. Helmet recommendations.......oh boy, this one is touchy! :lol3 I used an Arai XD3. I think everyone can agree that Arai makes a quality product and this is what drew me to this helmet; that and the fact that it was one of the new "Dual Sport" styled helmets. I've been quite happy with it, but I will say that it is quite noisy; I've had other full face helmets that have been much quieter.

    Thanks for the kind words and be sure to post up once you get your Versys outfitted and take it out for a little trip!:deal


    First of all welcome to the madness which is ADV! Secondly it's good to hear someone else who seems to feel the same way that I do about the Versys; it reaffirms the idea that I'm not completely crazy! :lol3

    With regards to work, well I'm not afraid of work and am willing to do just about anything to keep a roof over my head, food on my table, and hopefully a little extra money that can be put aside to go play. My training is in technical theater, design and construction, and with that background and my childhood background, I'm a pretty good carpenter and metal worker/welder. But what really allows me to just quit one job to take off like I do is that I have no one depending on me (not married and I have no children). I really have no idea how hard or easy it will be to find another job, but I am a firm believer in the idea that anyone who wants to work, can find work. Grant it, it may not be exactly what they want, or pay as much as they'd like, or be located where they'd like, but such is life. Being un-attached like I am allows me to be very flexible and I have no problems relocating anywhere; of course there are certain parts of this country that I like better than others. This is a lifestyle choice that I have made for the time being; it isn't better or worse than yours or anyone else's, just different. That being said, I think that I might like married and children lifestyle too, just haven't been down that road yet. But then again I like to think that I still have many years of life ahead of me in which to experience such things. We shall see! Either way as long as you're happy, isn't that all that really matters? Human nature is such that we always want more, but when it comes down to it, I think most of us will find that we have more than enough.

    My recomendation to you is to do something like one guy I ran across on this trip was doing (Richard, from Quebec, whom I met in Glacier National park). He was on an extended motorcycle trip, on his own, but had scheduled it such that in the middle of his trip, his wife and child (or children, I can't remember if he had more than one) flew out to meet him and they rented a car and did the family thing for a few days before they flew back home and he got back on the bike to complete his tour and eventually ride back home. Now that's about as close as one can get to having his cake and getting to eat it too!
  14. Alcan Rider

    Alcan Rider Frozen Fossil Supporter

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    Now I didn't read that anywhere in his post. :huh






    :lol3:lol3:lol3
    Hi Denis,
    Really enjoyed the rr, and am anxious to see the one get started on the TAT. You and your dad should be having a great time together. Convince him to point his front tire north pretty soon, before I get too old to give him the Valdez tour. :gerg

    :wave
  15. airborndad

    airborndad Long timer

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    Hope you don't run into snow in the higher Colorado elevations
    I might be in Utah & mid Nevada late Sept

    Have a Great time !!!!!!!!!
  16. OHjim

    OHjim Long timer

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    Denis - Your link above took me to: http://www.
  17. XC Rider

    XC Rider Motorcycle Vagabond

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    That would be great; I realize that I've only seen a snipet of what Alaska, BC, and the Yukon have to offer, and look forward to returning some day. Who knows when I'll be back up that way, but when I do, I'll let you know!

    Bah, if we do, it'll just make it that much more adventurous! :deal:D


  18. JDMitchell

    JDMitchell Adventurer

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    Great RR, I really enjoyed keeping up with your progress. I am still wanting to do this trip on my Concours 14 and seeing your RR makes me really think about using what I have and making it work. Thanks for all the great pictures and commentary.
  19. Oldone

    Oldone One day at a time!

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  20. lowflyer43

    lowflyer43 Adventurer

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    Those tkc-80's look baadass on the Versys, would you let us know what size you chose to go with?:ear I may try this on mine. Awesome ride report