Equal parts sport and touring, Kawasaki’s 2020 Versys 1000 SE LT+ lives up to its “Versys” nomenclature.

2020 Kawasaki Versys 1000 SE LT+ Review MC Commute

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).

Equal parts sport and touring, Kawasaki’s 2020 Versys 1000 SE LT+ lives up to its “Versys” nomenclature.

Equal parts sport and touring, Kawasaki’s 2020 Versys 1000 SE LT+ lives up to its “Versys” nomenclature. (Adam Waheed/)

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.

The Versys 1000 is powered by Kawasaki’s tried-and-true 1,043cc inline-four. The engine has been retrofitted with exquisitely calibrated ride-by-wire throttle control. This enables multiple engine/throttle response maps and cruise control.

The Versys 1000 is powered by Kawasaki’s tried-and-true 1,043cc inline-four. The engine has been retrofitted with exquisitely calibrated ride-by-wire throttle control. This enables multiple engine/throttle response maps and cruise control. (Adam Waheed/)

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.

The Versys 1000 SE LT+ comes outfitted with a well-engineered set of color-matched hard cases. Both cases are lockable and can be easily removed from the motorcycle.

The Versys 1000 SE LT+ comes outfitted with a well-engineered set of color-matched hard cases. Both cases are lockable and can be easily removed from the motorcycle. (Adam Waheed/)

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.

The rider and passenger saddle on the Versys 1000 is plush and well-supportive. If you’re seeking a comfy touring rig, this bike is it.

The rider and passenger saddle on the Versys 1000 is plush and well-supportive. If you’re seeking a comfy touring rig, this bike is it. (Adam Waheed/)

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.

A color TFT display flanks the swept-face tachometer. The display offers crisp fonts and the settings are manipulated via handlebar-mounted switchgear. While we wish the display was touchscreen-compatible, the rider can use Kawasaki’s Rideology smartphone app to communicate with the motorcycle and make setting adjustments.

A color TFT display flanks the swept-face tachometer. The display offers crisp fonts and the settings are manipulated via handlebar-mounted switchgear. While we wish the display was touchscreen-compatible, the rider can use Kawasaki’s Rideology smartphone app to communicate with the motorcycle and make setting adjustments. (Adam Waheed/)

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.

Rider’s select from four combined engine/throttle maps (Rain, Road, Sport, and a customizable Rider map). Semi-active suspension, with electronically adjustable shock preload, and cruise control are all touring-friendly features.

Rider’s select from four combined engine/throttle maps (Rain, Road, Sport, and a customizable Rider map). Semi-active suspension, with electronically adjustable shock preload, and cruise control are all touring-friendly features. (Adam Waheed/)

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.

Kawasaki teamed up with Showa for its semi-active electronically adjustable suspension. The suspenders offer a good compromise between touring comfort and spirited-riding-friendly road holding.

Kawasaki teamed up with Showa for its semi-active electronically adjustable suspension. The suspenders offer a good compromise between touring comfort and spirited-riding-friendly road holding. (Adam Waheed/)

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.

Bridgestone’s marvelous and well-rounded Battlax T31 sport-touring tires are OE fitment on the Versys 1000.

Bridgestone’s marvelous and well-rounded Battlax T31 sport-touring tires are OE fitment on the Versys 1000. (Adam Waheed/)

2020 Kawasaki Versys 1000 SE LT+ Price and Technical Specifications

MSRP $17,999
ENGINE 1,043cc, liquid-cooled inline 4-cylinder
TRANSMISSION/FINAL DRIVE 6-speed/chain
CLAIMED TORQUE 75.2 lb.-ft. @ 7,500 rpm
FRAME Twin-spar aluminum
FRONT SUSPENSION Showa 43mm inverted fork adjustable for KECS-controlled rebound and compression damping, manual preload; 5.9-in. travel
REAR SUSPENSION Showa piggyback reservoir shock adjustable for KECS-controlled rebound and compression damping, electronic preload; 5.9-in. travel
FRONT BRAKES Dual 4-piston caliper, 310mm petal-style discs w/ non-switchable ABS
REAR BRAKE 1-piston caliper, 250mm disc w/ non-switchable ABS
RAKE/TRAIL 27.0°/4.0 in.
WHEELBASE 59.8 in.
SEAT HEIGHT 33.1 in.
FUEL CAPACITY 5.5 gal.
CLAIMED CURB WEIGHT 567 lb.
AVAILABLE Now
CONTACT kawasaki.com

The Versys 1000 is outfitted with a sophisticated lighting package. The LED headlamps are some of the best we’ve sampled during night rides, and cornering lamps help illuminate the road through turns.

The Versys 1000 is outfitted with a sophisticated lighting package. The LED headlamps are some of the best we’ve sampled during night rides, and cornering lamps help illuminate the road through turns. (Adam Waheed/)

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