It has been a long time since I ride a dual purpose motorcycle – those that could go off-road as well as conventional tarmac duty. So when the opportunity came to ride Kawasaki’s latest Versys X-250 courtesy of Kawasaki Motors (Malaysia) Sdn Bhd (KMSB), there’s no way to decline that invitation.

The Versys X-250 is basically a touring bike, not an adventure type. But it can be utilized for the occasional off-road adventure, as long as the trails are not too extreme. Anything extreme, the rider would have to switch the default tyres on the bike to a proper dual-purpose variant, or else risk dropping the Versys X-250 to the ground or worse, get stuck in the mud and couldn’t go any further deep inside the off-road trails.

The Versys X-250 official media test ride is just one of two motorcycles KMSB have prepared for us, the other bike being the new Z900, in its standard and Special Edition (SE) variant. You can read about the Z900’s First Ride impression here:

My turn for trying the Versys X-250 is set for the afternoon session, with chances of rain being very likely. And it was. The morning session was with the new Z900 where the weather was filled with blue sky and sunshine. In fact, the first hour of the Versys test ride, we managed to avoid the rain as we were moving away from the dark clouds to another district where the weather won’t affect us for another 90 minutes or so.

The first hour was spent on getting to know the Versys better via its acceleration, handling and top speed, which were conducted at Latar highway from our flag-off point in Templar’s Park Golf Resort. Acceleration-wise, it’s a surprise to find the Versys X-250 to be somewhat reluctant to move forward upon the release of the clutch, as compared to its siblings, the Ninja 250/Z250, of which the trio share the same engine configuration – a 249cc parallel twin but with different tuning.

After getting used to the slower-than-expected acceleration, the Versys doesn’t feel like a slouch after all. In fact, at Latar, I was able to eke out a top speed of 163km/hr on the straights while remaining upright. Other media members in my entourage told me they managed to reach 168km/hr crouching behind the windshield (seriously???). Oh well. The next half hour was cruising to the off-road trail segment which was held in an existing oil palm estate popular with regular off-road bikers. It began to drizzle while we were halfway to our off-road destination.

Thankfully, the rain had stopped not long after we reached the entrance to the off-road trail segment but the “damage” had already begun – the dry trail had become muddy, and it would be exciting to see if the Versys X-250 could take our entourage out of the estate with ease. That wasn’t to be.

Personally, I don’t have a lot of off-road riding experience but I do know that “you don’t use the clutch often” in this kind of environment. Many riders regularly fried their bikes’ clutch as they used it too often when faced with uneven surface inside the trail road. The trick to ride such a segment with ease lies with engaging the bike in low-gear, either 2nd or 3rd and just open/close the throttle as when it seems fit, with the engine braking of the Versys X-250 taking care of any braking moment. Technically-speaking, do not use both the clutch and brakes regularly, just let the bike goes as it is while you control the throttle timing.

Before long, just was the case during the initial stage of the Z650/Ninja 650 First Impression Media Test Ride, I found myself pulling away from the rest of the entourage, while keeping the lead pacer/off-road expert in my sight. We had to stop briefly a couple of times inside the trail to wait for the rest to catch up. I was surprised to see the Versys X-250 could be so fast and efficient in keeping up with the lead pacer, who rode an actual moto-cross bike in leading us thru the estate.

I wasn’t sure if he was surprised to see me being the only rider able to keep up with him inside the estate as I got the visor in my full face helmet fogged slightly. The lazy side of me as a rider prefers to manage the Versys X-250 in that kind of situation while sitting comfortably in the seat but as the pacer regularly stands up on the foot-pegs of his moto-cross bike while negotiating the corners, I had to do the same although I don’t see any advantage to be gained from that as we weren’t exactly doing superfast riding.

Suspension-wise, I could feel some of the uneven surface hard from the front end but the rear absorber did its job very well as it wasn’t bumpy at all when sitting on the bike instead of standing on the foot-pegs.

Approximately 2/3 of our entourage found the “excitement” too daunting as the muddy sections proved to be a hassle, and dropped their Versys in the attempt to ride up a muddy stretch. I couldn’t clear the same segment either, as the rear wheel was unable to grip and the bike slipped and went sideway on me. But it didn’t hit the ground as I was able to prevent it from doing so due to my height. I gently put the Versys down, moved out from the bike’s position, and with the help of an off-road marshal, got the bike upright again and cleared the segment. The remaining 1/3 was smarter, they pushed their Versys up that muddy stretch instead of riding up, which spared them the hassle of experiencing a drop.

All the Versys X-250 used in that entourage had entered the trail segment nice and clean, albeit with water droplets all over them thanks to the earlier drizzle. But all of us emerged from the off-road estate with the bikes mostly covered in mud!

On the way back to the Resort, it’s highway all the way in a damp tarmac but the Versys X-250 did it all the way back to base without sliding nor skidding even when some heavy braking was involved due to temperamental motorists that refused to give way to our entourage despite being signalled by the escorting traffic police to do so.

Due to the excitement encountered in the off-road segment, KMSB officials told us each group doing the Versys X-250 ride concluded their respective round much later than those doing the Z900 ride. The rides were conducted over 2 days, with 2 separate groups per day. One group did the Z900, with the other doing the Versys X-250, and switched over for the afternoon session for the 2-day event.

VERDICT: An affordable ad lightweight touring motorcycle that can be considered for a lot of riders planning to get one but do not have the budget for a higher capacity type like the Versys 650 or rival makes in same class. Also great for bikers not possessing a Full B license as only a B2-type is needed to ride one.

Posted by Philip Chong

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