First impression on new bikes is always fascinating for me – most of the time I ride them like a sissy on their first roll-out, either upon collection from the manufacturer’s showroom or participating in a media group convoy organized by the various motorcycle brands in conjunction with the official unveiling.

This is because those bikes are new, and as part of the motorcycling media, I get to ride them before they are officially available for sale to the public. Majority of the bikes would take me about 5 minutes of warm-up riding to get used to it, with a minority taking at least from Point A to Point B to get up to speed/familiarization with.

This was indeed the case for the 2017 Kawasaki Versys X-250 (for Southeast Asia markets). At the official convoy ride, I found a lot of surprises with it from my initial first impression – the clutch is a bit on the heavy side, needing a midway release point before the Versys would move forward. The front brake lacks bite – takes a lot of braking pressure to slow it down, to the point of having to apply the rear brake simultaneously to avoid torpedoing the rider in front.

Getting up to speed is rather slow, which is a surprise too as the engine is of the same 249cc twin cylinder design used for both the Ninja 250R and Z250 Streetfighter motorcycles albeit retuned for touring rather than outright speed. Still, I didn’t expect it to be somewhat struggling to get up to speed.

These surprises were among my feedback to Kawasaki Motor Malaysia Sdn Bhd (KMSB) at the end of the convoy ride. I guess they took those feedback seriously as when I have collected the Versys X-250 for my individual review approximately 2 weeks after the convoy ride, the bike feels more flexible, with those first impression feeling gone. Clutch operation is now lighter, the acceleration has improved slightly from idle point roll out, and the use of the front brake alone is enough to slow it down without having to apply the rear unit.

There’s no modification done to the Versys X-250 in-between the convoy ride and my individual review adventure, as all of the “limitations” encountered were basically factory default settings, and the rider (or a qualified mechanic) could adjust them to suit one’s preference. KMSB had these default settings adjusted for my preference prior to collection.

Of course, riders who are accustomed to faster speeds via bigger bikes will find the performance of the Versys X-250 to be wanting at first try just like my initial impression. But throughout my individual session with it, I could ride the Versys as smoothly as any other 250cc model in Kawasaki’s existing line-up. It won’t win the fastest to 100km/h acceleration or hitting the top speed of 175km/hr range of its Ninja 250R and Z250 siblings but it can still hold its own when it matters.

Such as being faster than most traffic encountered if the Versys X-250 is being utilized as a daily comminuting bike, and those gung-ho kapchai riders. I am not suggesting new owners of the Versys X-250 of going racing with any kapchai riders encountered but its performance packs quite a punch to leave such a competition behind with ease.

As noted in my first impression review, the media had the opportunity to experience the Versys X-250 in a mild off-road terrain, which is the palm oil estate somewhere in Sungai Buaya near Rawang in the state of Selangor. The default tyres aren’t meant for that kind of terrain should the trail becomes muddy after raining. But that’s what I had encountered during that convoy’s excursion to off-road riding experience. The handling is much better if the terrain is conducted in the dry than muddy. Nevertheless, during my individual time with the Versys X-250, I managed to experience dry off-road terrain riding twice, and the bike’s just blitzed the paths easily. And its performance would be even better and faster overall if the default tyres are replaced with off-road types.

I had attempted a go with the Versys X-250 on a damp and quite sandy off-road stretch once but the whole bike got stuck in it and refused to go any further. Tried to go forward by opening the throttle more but it only managed to force the rear wheel to skid, almost bringing me down with it as the default rear tyre had no grip at all.

I decided not to push it any further, got down and reversed-push it back to a drier section of the damp stretch, and promptly rode it out of the area back to normal tarmac. Not satisfied with the outcome, I rode the Versys X-250 to another location where harder, off-road condition is available. It’s not exactly an off-road stretch but a badly-damaged section by daily plying of heavy vehicles on it, thus creating an artificial, mad-made bumpy terrain that only a 4×4, heavy trucks and motocross bikes could go thru easily.

I rode the 2017 BMW RnineT thru this stretch once – it was okay with the traction despite being a bit bumpy as the lower height of the café racer allowed it a secured grip on the terrain over a conventional naked or sportsbike. However, the Versys X-250 had no issue conquering this terrain.

The Versys X-250 used a 19-inch wheel for the front and 18-inch for the rear, which allowed it to be very stable and firm when riding it on normal tarmac. Although the acceleration can be found wanting at times, it is still capable of reaching a top speed of 168km/h. Like its cousins the Ninja 250R and the Z250 which used the similar twin-cylinder engine, the Versys X-250 is capable of very good fuel consumption when cruising at conventional tarmac. I managed to get up to 395km of mileage from its 17-litre capacity.

One of the conventional routes I had subjected the Versys X-250 to is the Ulu Yam-Batang Kali road on the way up to Goh Tong Jaya and Genting Highlands, and the bike is capable of riding up the steeper segments without much difficulties. Of course, I did that alone without any Top Box and panniers so it remains to be seen if the Versys X-250 will be struggling on a full load of stuff and accessories abound. But that’s a review for another time.

Posted by Philip Chong

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