Comparison test touring enduro bikes: Honda Transalp, Kawasaki Versys, Suzuki V-Strom 650


Comparison test touring enduro bikes: Honda Transalp, Kawasaki Versys, Suzuki V-Strom 650

Comparison test of travel enduro bikes: Honda Transalp, Kawasaki Versys, Suzuki V-Strom 650

Always along the wall

Travel enduro doesn’t necessarily mean BMW R 1200 GS. Touring between the rock face and the boundary wall is just as relaxed with less than 700 cm³. That’s what the Kawasaki Versys, the Suzuki V-Strom 650 and the brand new Honda want Tprove ransalp. Like a sponge, we soak up every ray of sunshine, register the fading flowers in the front gardens, keep our eyes on the lush green of the slender pine and fleshy rubber trees. It’s amazing how quickly something increases in value when it has become scarce. Just like those hours on the motorcycles that ?? without the emotional thermal suit, polar gloves and winter boots ?? allow a mental high point on the long way to the German spring. How wonderful November can be. Here, just a few stones throws south of the Alpine ridge on Lake Garda. Honda Transalp, Kawasaki Versys, Suzuki V-Strom 650 ?? these machines fit the relaxed mood.

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Comparison test touring enduro bikes: Honda Transalp, Kawasaki Versys, Suzuki V-Strom 650

Comparison test of travel enduro bikes: Honda Transalp, Kawasaki Versys, Suzuki V-Strom 650
Always along the wall


The Kawasaki Versys

Because they don’t care about the often tried and yet so superficial arguments in the fight for a place in the limelight: power and displacement. They are aware of their qualities. Especially their price. They don’t cost 8,000 euros. List price, including ABS and ancillary costs, of course. An argument that makes you think. Because the door to the 98 hp upper class of the travel enduro world such as the Honda Varadero 1000 or the Suzuki V-Strom 1000 only opens from 10,000 euros, BMW R 1200 GS or KTM 990 Adventure cost an additional 3000 euros. Not to mention the additional ballast of the big bikes of up to sixty kilograms. And ?? Hand on heart ?? at least here on these narrow streets nobody needs any more. Especially not more power.


And the proven Suzuki V-Strom 650.

When the momentum in the bends is not determined by the lean angle, but rather by respect for the Fiat Panda that might be oncoming and fill the street width. Or the grandiose view of the sugared mountains on the straights degrades the maximum acceleration values ​​to pubertal muscle play. The three of them by no means need relativization to justify their existence. Why also? Even the V-Strom, the oldest in the trio, has only been enriching Suzuki’s mid-range range since 2004. 90-degree V2 engine, aluminum bridge frame, lush fairing ?? the 650 looks massive, grown-up, makes a difference. No wonder, the chassis is identical to that of the 1000 sister, the engine is basically from the naked bike SV 650 presented in 1999. Both have proven themselves countless times. Which is also reflected in the two-time victory in the MOTORRAD Alpine Master.

Three all-rounders put to the test


From the front: The V-Strom offers the best wind protection. The Transalp and the Versys follow with a respectful distance.

Kawasaki has only been involved in medium-sized companies with the Versys for a year. The term Versys ?? an abbreviation for the English versatile, versatile ?? should keep all options open for the two-cylinder. For example that of a fun bike. This is indicated by the wide handlebars, the small pillion seat and the thoroughbred road tires with 17-inch front wheel. Or that of a travel enduro, for which the lamp cover or the case system optionally offered by the importer speak for themselves. Can a single concept achieve this balancing act? After all: The 650 parallel twin from the ER-6, which appeared in 2006, is considered stable, and in the Versys it is designed with modified camshafts, adapted engine management and an interference pipe between the manifolds for more pressure from the lower speed range. The chassis also comes from the ER-6, but is upgraded with an aluminum banana swing arm and an upside-down fork with adjustable spring preload and rebound damping.

Then the Honda Transalp. In the service for exactly twenty years, her name alone is a myth. It stands for the good old days, for adventure, fulfilled or broken childhood dreams and even eternal life? at least as far as the technology of the classic is concerned. Perhaps that is why the Honda engineers took on three scanty model upgrade measures during this time, before facelift number four finally took place with the 2008 model. 680 cm³ displacement (instead of 647), four (instead of three) valves in the cylinder head, petrol injection, a 19-inch front wheel (instead of 21 inches), 60 hp (instead of 53), ABS, but also one on 17 liters (instead of 19) signal a reduced tank volume: The Transalp developers have given a lot of thought.


Holidays on balconies. Quite different, but also with a railing.

Winding after winding, the road meanders along the rock face. There is hardly a curve that does not disappear behind the light gray rock and is hidden from view. As already mentioned, no chance to lawn? and no nerve either. Not least because of the successful seating position on the test trio. The benches offer a comfortable place, the wide handlebars lie loosely in your hand. Fits. And yet the same is not the same. You sit low on the kawa, a massive riser that curves backwards like a chopper literally stretches the handlebars towards the pilot, ensuring a decidedly upright driving position. Nevertheless, a feeling of lightness dominates. Not only because with a full tank of 211 kilograms, the Versys has 10 kilos less fat on its ribs than its two colleagues V-Strom and Transalp, but also because it is significantly slimmer around the waist. The Suzuki gives a sense of space. The wide upholstery, the large distance between the seat and the handlebars, the expansive cladding, all of this exudes the flair of a large-capacity tourer. In contrast to the Honda. The difference between the handlebar and seat height is relatively small, so the upper body is bent slightly forward. This is called an active posture. Great.

Makes you happy: From Limone to Vesio


Typical November weather on Lake Garda – longing is awakened.

Suddenly the road descends, stinging down towards the bank, the curves become more open and clear, our turns more rounded and fluid. With all due respect to the impressive landscape, let’s seize the opportunity and pull the cable a little. If all three of them could have pretended to be thick thousands in the tranquil rock labyrinth with a powerful acceleration from the low rev range and spontaneous throttle response, they are now coming out.

If you want to move ahead quickly, this displacement class cannot avoid higher speeds. The Suzuki does that most carefree. The V2 revs up like a turbine, impresses with its brilliant, almost vibration-free running culture, greedily snaps at the next higher gears to be engaged as smoothly and precisely as butter. Uff, the sporty roots of the Suzuki propellant also strike through impressively in moderate touring outfits. The trio’s highest peak power, measured at 69 HP, is immediately taken from the visually sedate V-Strom. But feeling is one side, objectivity the other. Looked at soberly, the Versys unit is the boss in the ring. Not with top performance, in which it moves with real 68 HP at eye level with the V-Strom, but certainly in terms of character. Because despite the shortest stroke in the test field, the twin is less speed-oriented. Hacks unwillingly at 2000 rpm, but clearly distances the torque curve of the V-Strom motor in the practice-relevant range between 3000 rpm and 7500 rpm. Which also affects the road. The pull-through values ​​speak clearly. From 60 to 100 km / h, the Suzuki’s Kawasaki takes at least 1.2 seconds, from 100 to 140 km / h it’s even a good three seconds. Especially since the far too long translation of the Suzuki is only of limited use as an excuse. Also the Kawasaki is ?? probably also for homologation reasons? Translated clearly too long.

A problem that the appropriately translated Honda does not have. But another one. Despite the newly installed four-valve technology, the 52-degree V-engine lags behind the competition when it comes to revving, and despite a good 30 cm³ displacement, it lacks top performance. In figures: From 7000 rpm, the performance curve of the pepped up two-cylinder flattens out, already running at 8400 rpm, i.e. 2000 tours earlier than the lively Kawa-Suzuki duo. And with a peak performance of 62 hp, at least six horses are missing from the colleagues. In practice, however, the Transalp motor inspires. Few motorcycles in this displacement class are so precisely on the gas that they give their driver this direct contact with the drive as this engine does. On top of that, the five-speed gearbox shifts excellently and the clutch can be operated with ease. Simply terrific. Nevertheless, the fact remains: Honda could have gotten more out of this engine without sacrificing its qualities.

The small travel enduros can do a lot


One thing is certain: less displacement and less power do not mean less driving pleasure.

How many bars have we already passed? Twenty, fifty, a hundred? What a sacrilege. Stop now Tre cappuccini, per piacere. Opportunity to think again about these machines. Sure, at prices below 8,000 euros you have to save. The lack of engine protection plates on the Suzuki and Kawasaki or the cheap plastic solution on the Honda are striking. Also the limited adjustment possibilities of the spring elements. Or the Honda and Suzuki silencers made from disdainful sheet steel.

And yet the successful solutions predominate. The height of the windshields on the Kawasaki and Suzuki can be adjusted, the oil level can be conveniently checked via a sight glass and both have aluminum swing arms. The filigree Versys has its blunt beak in front of the V-Strom when it comes to processing. The Transalp remains divided in this regard. Delighted on the one hand with details such as standard handguards and black spoked wheels, on the other hand, the oil has to be checked with a dipstick, and it only has a mundane steel swing arm and an extremely difficult to achieve adjustment of the spring base of the monoshock.

Il conto, per favore. Three euros ?? for everyone together. It’s not just the weather that distinguishes Italy from Germany. However, there is a lack of money for road construction here and there. In any case, the condition of the track is getting worse. No problem for the Suzuki. Fork and shock absorber easily put away every pothole, respond cleanly and also have reserves. For pillion rider use, the spring base in the rear can even be easily adjusted using a hand wheel. Exemplary. The Kawa is also unimpressed by the bumpy road. Although it tends to rely on soft springs at the front and rear and thus offers sufficient comfort, despite this coordination it can largely compensate for extreme loads with the easily adjustable spring base and the extremely wide adjustment range of the rebound damping. The Honda rider travels taut, although the Transalp has the longest suspension travel at over 170 millimeters. Which definitely has its advantages in the front. Even with tough braking maneuvers, the fork does not dip too deeply, keeping the tranny safely on course. Especially since their response behavior is okay.

The situation in the rear remains critical. Unusually enough that the shock absorber can only be adjusted in the spring base and the compression damping, the design of the non-adjustable rebound damping is, of all things, heavily wrong. Completely overdamped, the rear not only responds badly, but also collapses on successive bumps. There is no longer any question of comfort. MOTORRAD will deal with this topic in the near future.

Pillion rider? But then please with Suzi


The victory goes to the Suzuki V-Strom 650.

The choice is easy for an accompanying person. The V-Strom offers the most spacious ride, closely followed by the commode Transalp, while the Versys, with its high notches and narrow seat, is not very friendly to relationships. Which applies to luggage in the same order. The Versys even dispenses with lashing hooks at all. Their wind protection is also limited. Even when the windshield is in the highest position, the breeze still blows around your head and shoulders. It is much more protected on the Honda, safe for long-distance travel on the Suzuki.

Back with the thoughts to the here and now, for the higher purpose of every motorcycle trip: braking, bending, accelerating. And finally the youngest of the three, the Transalp, is one step ahead. The composite brake with ABS already used in Deauville and CBF 1000 is among the best on the market. Crisp pressure point, moderate actuation forces, sensitive ABS control. Hats off. The Suzuki stoppers work adequately in terms of performance, but less defined. Especially since the rear ABS regulates quite early. Braking the same characteristics and a much more spongy pressure point on top of that? in the literal sense ?? the Kawa a.
What it makes up for in the winding curve. Handy and agile, the Versys waves through the hairpin bends, as if, despite all its versatility, it wanted to commit to one purpose, namely that of a funbike with everyday qualities. Just as the Suzuki takes a clear position on its touristic concept. Just because of its wheelbase, believe it or not, which is 12.5 centimeters longer than the Versys, it circles around corners more sedate, but stoically good-natured. The Honda is positioned in between. The comparatively sporty seating position creates confidence, encourages a nimble change of direction and an advanced lean angle. Even if the triple’s flattest steering head angle of 61.9 degrees and the unusually rear-heavy weight distribution of 54 percent keep the Transalp in a wide arc.

But what is crucial: Regardless of the respective orientation of the concept, all three are in a good mood. They prove that performance and engine characteristics are good for relaxed touring even below 700 cm³ displacement. And ?? just as important ?? these motorcycles remain affordable.

Data Suzuki V-Strom 650 – data

Water-cooled two-cylinder four-stroke 90-degree V-engine, two overhead, chain-driven camshafts, four valves per cylinder, bucket tappets, wet sump lubrication, injection, Ø 39 mm, alternator 375 W, battery 12 V / 12 Ah, mechanically operated multiple discs – Oil bath clutch, six-speed gearbox, O-ring chain.

Bore x stroke 81.0 x 62.6 mm

Cubic capacity645 cm3

Compression ratio 11.5: 1
Rated output 49.0 kW (67 hp) at 8800 rpm

Max. Torque 60 Nm at 6400 rpm

landing gear
Bridge frame made of aluminum, telescopic fork, Ø 41 mm, adjustable spring base, two-arm swing arm, made of aluminum, central spring strut with lever system, adjustable spring base, double disc brake at the front, Ø 310 mm, double-piston floating caliper, rear disc brake, Ø 260, two-piston fixed caliper, ABS.
Cast aluminum wheels 2.5 x 19; 4.0 x 17
Tires 110 / 80-19; 150 / 70-17
Tires in the test Bridgestone Trailwing 101/152

mass and weight
Wheelbase 1540 mm, steering head angle 64.0 degrees, caster 110 mm, suspension travel f / r 150/150 mm, seat height * 840 mm, weight with a full tank * 221 kg, payload * 199 kg, tank capacity 22.0 liters.

Warranty two years

Service intervals every 6000 km

Colors Silver, Black, Red, Blue

Price 7,390 euros

Additional costs 135 euros

Data Honda Transalp – data

Water-cooled two-cylinder four-stroke 52-degree V-engine, two overhead, chain-driven camshafts, four valves per cylinder, rocker arm, wet sump lubrication, injection, Ø 40 mm, regulated catalytic converter, alternator 396 W, battery 12 V / 11 Ah, mechanically operated multi-disc oil bath clutch, five-speed gearbox, O-ring chain.

Bore x stroke 81.0 x 66.0 mm

Displacement 680 cm3

Compression ratio 10: 1
Rated output 44.1 kW (60 hp) at 7750 rpm

Max. Torque 60 Nm at 6000 rpm

landing gear
Single-loop frame made of steel, telescopic fork, Ø 41 mm, two-arm swing arm made of steel, central spring strut with lever system, adjustable spring base and compression damping, double disc brake at the front, Ø 256 mm, three-piston floating calipers, rear disc brake, Ø 240, single-piston floating caliper, composite brake with ABS.
Spoked Wheels 2.15 x 19; 3.50 x 17
Tires 100 / 90-19; 130 / 80-17
Bridgestone Trailwing 101/152 tires tested

mass and weight
Wheelbase 1515 mm, steering head angle 61.9 degrees, caster 106 mm, suspension travel f / r 177/173 mm, seat height * 830 mm, weight with a full tank * 221 kg, payload * 198 kg, tank capacity / reserve 17.0 / 2.4 liters.

Warranty two years

Service intervals every 6000 km

Colors: yellow, red, blue, gray metallic

Price 7090 euros

Price test motorcycle ** 7690 euros

Additional costs 170 euros

Data Kawasaki Versys data

Water-cooled two-cylinder four-stroke in-line engine, two overhead, chain-driven camshafts, four valves per cylinder, fork rocker arms, dry sump lubrication, injection, Ø 38 mm, regulated catalytic converter, alternator 344 W, battery 12 V / 14 Ah, mechanically operated multi-plate oil bath clutch, six-speed gearbox , O-ring chain.

Bore x stroke 83.0 x 60.0 mm

Cubic capacity649 cm3

Compression ratio 10.6: 1
Rated output 47.0 kW (64 hp) at 8000 rpm

Max. Torque 61 Nm at 6800 rpm

landing gear
Steel tubular frame, load-bearing motor, upside-down fork, Ø 41 mm, adjustable spring base and rebound damping, two-arm swing arm made of aluminum, spring strut, adjustable spring base and rebound damping, double disc brake at the front, Ø 300 mm, double-piston floating caliper, disc brake at the rear, Ø 220 Single piston floating caliper, ABS.
Cast aluminum wheels 3.50 x 17; 4.50 x 17
Tires 120/70 ZR 17; 160/60 ZR 17
Tires in the test Dunlop D 221 »G«

mass and weight
Wheelbase 1415 mm, steering head angle 65.0 degrees, caster 108 mm, spring travel f / r 150/145 mm, seat height * 850 mm, weight with a full tank * 211 kg, load * 178 kg, tank capacity / reserve 19.0 / 3.0 liters.

Warranty two years

Service intervals every 6000 km

Colors: orange, black, silver

Power variant 25 kW (34 PS)

Price 7585 euros

Additional costs 180 euros

Comment performance chart

The torque curve proves the strong start of the Versys from the speed basement ?? even if it has a weakness between 4500 rpm and 5800 rpm, which makes the Honda an equal opponent in this area. The greatest shortcoming of the Transalp, the lack of revving, is one of the strengths of the V-Strom. From 8000 rpm the Suzuki knows no opponents.

Comments scoring


Clear case, the Versys is convincing across the board. Above all, the full punch from the lower speed qualifies the parallel twin as a drive for a lively fun bike as well as a good travel enduro ?? which exactly fits the intended concept of the Kawasaki. The Suzuki unit has to pay tribute to the too long translation when pulling through, but the V2 inspires with pronounced revving and extremely low-vibration running. Strange that Honda only partially used the displacement advantage of the new Transalp. The 680 engine still lacks a peak power of seven horsepower and, on top of that, the competitor’s revving ability. It’s a shame because the gearbox and clutch are at or above the level of the competition.

Winner engine: Kawasaki Versys

landing gear

Three worlds collide. While the V-Strom 650 derives from the generously dimensioned 1000 V-Strom, Kawasaki goes the opposite way and designed the Versys compact. With corresponding effects. The Versys is extremely handy and lively, and the suspension can be adjusted over a relatively wide range. The Suzuki focuses on stability both on the highway and on country roads. The coordination of the comfortable spring elements, which can be quickly adapted to the additional loads of the pillion rider, is excellent. Again it is a shame that Honda torpedoed the good suspension systems of the Transalp with a completely overdamped strut.

Chassis winner: SUZUKI V-Strom 650

everyday life

Reason is one of the strengths of the Suzuki. With a large tank, good wind protection and excellent passenger comfort, the V-Strom scores in the Ratio department. Wherein the Honda ?? typical for this manufacturer ?? sets the standard in terms of driver ergonomics, but unobtrusively joins the test team for all other criteria. The Versys does not want to know much about this common sense. The draft shield is kept within limits, luggage hooks or even a luggage rack are not included in the standard trim. Unexpected: the award for the best processing of the trio goes to the Kawasaki.

Winner everyday life: Suzuki V-strom 650


There is no getting around the Honda in this discipline. The braking system, which has also been in service in the CBF 1000 and the Deauville for a long time, is also above all doubt in the Transalp. While the Suzuki is inconspicuous but effective when it comes to braking, the Versys clearly loses ground with acceptable deceleration values ​​but a spongy pressure point.

Safety winner: Honda Transalp


The Euro 3 standard also leaves its mark on the middle class. Above all, the Kawasaki sips very carefully on the fuel supply with only 3.9 liters of country road consumption. Not good: the high inspection costs of the Transalp.

Winner Cost: Kawasaki Versys

Value for money

Most motorcycles for the money are in the middle class. And the test winner also gets the bargain hunter’s trophy. The V-Strom 650 has moved to second place on the MOTORRAD best list in terms of price-performance ratio.

Price-performance winner: Suzuki V-Strom 650

Test result

1st place
Suzuki V-Strom 650 It is more than a travel enduro. Her uncomplicated manner is also convincing in everyday life. The agile engine and the easily tunable chassis anyway.

place 2
Kawasaki Versys It is clearly more of a fun bike than a travel enduro. Nevertheless: The beefy engine is good for touring, and the importer also has a case system.

place 3
Honda Transalp scandal, the freshly revamped classic as the bottom? Shouldn’t be? with a more powerful engine and a correctly tuned shock absorber.

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