2016 was a big year for Kawasaki, as evidenced by its vast display at the 2016 Progressive International Motorcycle Show at the Javits Center in New York City. “Kawasaki added 10 new models and updated five more,” Kawasaki’s public relations and events professional Kevin Allen told Digital Trends. This year marks the 50th anniversary of the Japanese brand’s arrival in the U.S. and it’s safe to say that its goal is to offer motorcycles than ever, suited to any taste or level.
The little Versys that could
A presentation by Allen and media relations supervisor Brad Puetz highlighted new models and changes to the existing model line. The 2017 Versys-X 300 joins the lineup of small adventure bikes from the likes of Suzuki and BMW. While it maintains longer suspension travel than the Ninja 300, Allen remarked that the Versys-X 300 still has that “Ninja power” that keeps Kawasaki sportbike fans happy. With its 296cc engine, the Versys-X 300 is the smallest displacement model adventure-tourer in the lineup. Its low seat height, light weight, and upright seating position make it ideal for new riders. The front fairing, chin spoiler, and windshield give protection from the elements as well as from the debris you may encounter in your off-highway adventures.
The baby Versys also sports a 4.5-gallon fuel tank, luggage racks, and a 19-inch front wheel and 17-inch rear wheel (both having aluminium rims with steel spokes), showing that this bike could take you off the beaten path. A six-speed sequential transmission and slipper clutch round out the package, and the Versys-300 is available with or without Anti-lock Brake System (ABS). The manufacturer’s suggested retail price is to be announced.
Catch more Zs
The Z lineup has seen some new additions to the family, with the introduction of the diminutive but hysterically fun Z125 Pro (check out our full review here), which adds Kawasaki Racing Team (KRT) paint and graphics for the coming year. The Z650 takes the streetfighter concept and adds everyday usability and performance. And its sharp styling is not just for looks, as Puetz clarified: “Everything you see is quite functional.” Minimal bodywork lowers the weight while also reining in the price.
The new 650cc engine is tuned for the street with a steady torque curve. The steel trellis frame uses the engine as a stress member, tightening the package and reducing weight. Upright handlebars are placed forward for an aggressive riding position, while the grips are designed for a more natural hold. A low seat narrows toward the front to make it easier to place your feet on the ground.
The Z650 comes in at $6,999 and you can add ABS for another $400. If you want more power, you can bump up to the all-new 2017 Z900 with its “supernaked styling” for $8,399 or $8,799 with ABS.
The Ninja 650 has long been hailed as an excellent all-around motorcycle that is as comfortable on city streets as it is on the track or sweeping canyon roads. For 2017, the mid-sized sportbike has been updated to improve upon its versatile nature. Kawasaki took what it learned from designing its monstrous H2 and applied it to the 650’s steel-trellis frame, adding strength while shedding a whopping 40 lbs. A new swingarm and rear suspension also cut down weight while improving the feel between rider and road.
Seat height has been lowered and the newly designed adjustable windscreen adds more protection. A new assist and slipper clutch will be appreciated by veteran riders, and will also help bring new riders into a segment that might previously have appeared intimidating. Nissin brake calipers offer better bite and feel, and even the wheels have lost some weight.
The Ninja 650 starts at $7,399 for base models and $7,799 if you want ABS, and $7,999 if you want the ABS KRT edition. The bigger Ninja 1000 ABS, featuring Bosch electronics and LED headlamps among other enhancements, comes in at $12,199.