Long trip on a 2007 Kawasaki Versys

I mostly use my current motorbike, a 2007 Kawasaki Versys, for commuting to and from work. This is only a few miles at 30mph, with lots of filtering so the Versys is somewhat overkill. Recently I had occasion to visit Leicester which gave me a good opportunity to assess its capabilities as a touring machine before I go and actually do any. Hopefully this won’t read too much as stream of consciousness.

The journey was about 300 miles spread over two days, mostly motorway, and I enjoyed the journey more than I would have done in a car. I’m not keen on driving since getting a bike as it feels cramped, visibility is worse, and you get stuck in traffic jams.

What worked

  • The Givi V35 hard panniers that were on the bike when I bought it were great. I don’t use them much as they hinder filtering, but they were ideal for this. Even though they were unevenly loaded (chain in one side), handling wasn’t affected but acceleration was a little reduced. No concerns about them coming off at speed either. The only water that got in (it rained on the way) was when I opened them. I bought the pannier-specific Givi V35 bags from eBay a while back as the side-opening aspect of the V35 panniers is a bit of a pain i.e. stuff falls out when you open them, but the bags made them much easier to use. As they are purpose-designed to fit the boxes, there’s barely room to fit anything around them if they are full, which is kind of the point, that they utilise the whole space. This meant that the bag in the side with the chain in was squashed. A centrally mounted bag would be best for the chain because of the weight, and as I already have a Kappa RA308 tanklock bag on the tank, a tailpack was the obvious solution. Upon my return, a QBag Dakar Rearbag was ordered from Sportsbikeshop.
  • Fuel consumption was spectacularly good. I’d always heard the Versys was capable of high mpg figures but to actually get near them was pleasing. My usual figure around town is approx. 37 mpg (Imperial). I filled up at the start of my journey and again before my return, putting the figures into my spreadsheet, which gave the spectacular 61 mpg for that leg. The return figure was 55mpg, though I didn’t fill up until after one commute. Bear in mind I was not riding particularly sedately, and had the luggage on which would likely increase drag.
  • The Held Air N Dry gloves kept my hands completely dry the whole trip. On the return journey when it was dry, I found them actually slightly too chilly when used in the vented configuration. Heated grips would have helped here, but see below…
  • I used earplugs and they reduced the fatigue from wind noise greatly. Thinking about it, when I used to drive the MX-5 with the top down on the motorway wearing them, they also helped then. Not just for bikes! I used foam rather than reusable as the stalks on the latter tend to catch on the helmet lining. I’m seriously considering buying a bike-specific pair with minimal stalks as they made that much of a difference.

What didn’t work so well

  • My heated grips are well past their best; they’ve worn down so much that the heating element is visible on one side and the rubber is leaving a residue on my glove. Consequently, I was wary of turning them on. A replacement set have been ordered.
    On the way back, I found the vibration of the bars was making my hand go numb, possibly from holding the throttle in the same position for so long, or too tightly. I’ve ordered the Gear Gremlin Cruise Control to use for long journeys in an attempt to alleviate this happening again. The Cruise Control is a clamp-on palm lever so you don’t need to grip the throttle for long distances, that generally receives rave reviews considering it only costs £6.
  • My navigational skills were not up to scratch. I tried to do it from memory, but ended up around 15 miles off course. I’m going to think about some kind of bike satnav or phone holder, but previous experience with helmet-based bluetooth satnav left a lot to be desired.
  • My Givi D405ST touring screen appears to direct wind straight onto my helmet, as ducking down reduces wind noise massively. Might be worthwhile playing with different heights to see if it makes any difference to the wind noise, or looking at alternative screens with a spoiler/lip to tip the airflow up.
  • My RST Slice textiles were adequate, but are definitely not 100% waterproof. They are also exceptionally sweaty! They were however surprisingly warm at motorway speeds without added insulation. Goretex replacements needed…
  • The Versys seat is OK for a while. It seems to be tilted forward so you slide off the cushioned part; you can wedge yourself back with your knees but it’s an unnatural position. Short of modifying or replacing the seat, there are mods mentioned on versys.co.uk that I’m going to try.
  • Tutoro chain oiler was set too open, so it had dumped all the oil within the first twenty miles of the journey. Considering their automatic version so I don’t need to keep turning it on and off and risking getting the wrong setting.

Overall, I was very pleased with the bike for long journeys, and would certainly use it for a multi-day tour.

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