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BIKES: FIRST IMPRESSION – Versys-X 250 & Z900

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Kawasaki Motors Malaysia, one of the busiest bike importers in the country,  has just made the biking scene here a whole lot more interesting with the simultaneous launch of not one, but two brand new bikes into the local bike market, and they are as diverse as they come…

One of the bikes they launched is a brand new contender in a fast-growing market segment of the small adventure bike. It’s not a Motard, nor is it an off-road bike, but rather, the Versys-X 250 is a dual-purpose machine powered by a small parallel twin-cylinder 249cc engine. No, really… One of the main selling-points here is that buyers won’t need to upgrade their bike license from a B2 to a full B.

The bigger allure of course is the fact that the Versys-X (Versatile System-Xrossover) allows the rider to continue going once the roads end; to an extent of course, it’s by no means a motor-cross bike. We were able to sample this aspect first hand during the official media ride…

On paved roads, I was amazed just how smooth the parallel-twin engine was. While expecting some vibration, there wasn’t any at all, except when the bike was pushed to its top-speed of 140kmh. In normal cruising mode, the X is as quiet and compliant as you’d expect its sibling the Z250 to be. The riding position is upright and its 6-speed transmission is smooth. Power is rated at a respectable 34Ps and 21.7Nm of torque.

Handling wise, the 19-inch front and 17-inch rear wheels afford very reassuring stability both on and off the beaten path, while the large 17-litre petrol tank and claimed 28km/L fuel-consumption rating should allow for extended saddle-time between fill-ups. Despite not being shod with “knobbly” tyres, the X performed quite well off-road too. A short 8km stint through a muddy palm-oil estate didn’t seem to rattle the X at all. I’d say the X would be perfect for anyone within the 5’5″-5’8″ stature unlike me, as can be seen by how ridiculous I look on it below…

It’s also very light, tipping the scales at a mere 173kg, which bodes well for maneuverability both on- and off-road. I found where the X was lacking in outright speed, it made up for in flickability. It is exceptionally easy to ride this bike, and coupled with its comfortable riding position, it’s going to make a fine choice in the small-adventure-bike realm, with an OTR price of 23,789 w/GST.

On the complete polar opposite of the X, was the simultaneous launch and ride of the new Z900. Offering 125Ps and 100Nm of torque, the new Z900 may look diminutive in terms of size – for a 900cc bike – but never has the term ‘pocket-rocket’ ever been more apt. I distinctly recall seeing 215kmh on the digital speedometer during one short burst of the test ride, and all the while the Z felt tight, composed, reassuring, and more frighteningly, still pulling

The possible reason for the power of the Z is because on paper its engine is a 948cc in-line 4-cyl, housed in a very light (13.5kg) Trellis frame, making it more a 950cc than a 900 as its name suggests. On the road, the Z feels amazingly composed, its engine is quiet and exceptionally smooth, its ‘assist & slipper-clutch’ function makes playing with the gears quite a lot of fun, especially when instant acceleration is required.

Drop a couple of cogs from 6th, wrench the throttle open and hold on. It’s quite amazing just how much power there is on tap with the “ZeeNine”. It’s a seamless torrent of rapid acceleration, especially above 6,000rpm, the likes of which I’ve only felt with litre-class bikes and beyond. The beauty of the Zee, however, is not the oodles of power on tap, but rather how well the bike puts down this power, and how it tackles switchbacks. Despite the test-ride being devoid of the kind of roads that most Sunday rides are comprised of, I’d venture to say that in the right pair of gloved hands, this bike is going to be an absolute hoot to blast up and down the twisties.

There’s not much else to say about the Zee really, at a price around RM50k on the road, it’s a strong argument for anyone looking to upgrade from a 650cc, or anyone tired of the sportsbike scene, on bikes that require a visit to the chiropractor after every ride. On the Zee, with its upright riding position and ‘straight-bars’, you can pretty much ride all day. Its only drawback is a seat with a frightful lack of padding.

KMMSB has really done it again this time, they’ve set the bar quite high with the Versys-X 250 and Z900. The bikes are as diverse as they come, requiring two very different schools of riding acumen, but at the end of the day, the fact that two new contenders are now at hand to provide bikers across the country a more varied choice, speaks volumes for the strong commitment of Kawa M’sia to bikers nationwide. Nice one fellas! – Chris Wee.