I know what you are thinking, and I agree, the Triumph Street Twin and the Kawasaki Versys 650 are such different bikes, they just can’t be compared.
The Street Twin is a minimalistic modern classic meant solely for street use. The Versys, on the other hand, with its tall stance, wind protection and modern cycle parts is your entry-level sports tourer. Plus, the Twin is draped in history and the Versys in comparison, is only just starting out.
Deciding between the two – objectively – is like deciding between homemade Gajjar ka Halwa and a handsome portion of decadent dark chocolate mousse from the city’s best. These serve the exact same purpose – give you limitless happiness with every bite – only they have different recipes.
So, here’s our plan. We will ride the two bikes back-to-back in a variety of situations – commuting, touring, and then a quick ride to our favourite twisty road. Maybe then we will be able to tell you that if you have around Rs 8 lakh to spare and like parallel twins, which of the two makes better sense. Yes, we have found two points of comparison here – price and engine configuration.
First up, the daily grind. And let us be clear at the start – if you are short, say 5’ 5” or thereabouts and aren’t really looking for adventure, steer clear of the Versys. Its high seat height is bound to get you into trouble. But, if you are any taller, read on…
Between the two, the Triumph Street Twin is the easier motorcycle to ride in the city. Its low seat height makes it easy to mount, no matter what you might be wearing. Its riding position is more commuter friendly too – flat and upright bars, only slightly rearset footpegs, and a narrow tank area that further eases putting both feet firmly on the ground.
The Versys takes a little more planning. And it’s just smarter to get on the footpeg to mount the bike rather than traditionally swinging a leg over. It is also a good idea to plan your stops astride the Kawasaki, because if you weren’t six foot something, you’d be tiptoeing trying to get both feet on the ground. Flat tarmac is what one should aim for.
We also prefer the Street Twin when it comes to the actual riding in the city bit. Its engine is all about torque and if you are as lazy I am, you can simply short shift your way to fifth, and treat the bike as an automatic thereafter. It makes 80Nm of torque and that entire grunt is available from a lowly 3,200 rpm. It isn’t the most exciting way to commute, but it does get the job done.
Do the same in third gear though, and the ride is a lot more fun. Plus, the clutch and the throttle on the Triumph are light and effortless to use. There’s a hint of snatchiness to the throttle response at initial roll on and roll off, but give it sometime and it should be easy to master.
The Kawasaki isn’t short on torque either. It makes 64Nm of it. But, it comes in at 7,000rpm. Needless to say, the Versys doesn’t have that instant, peppy feel in low revs that makes the Street Twin an easy but fast motorcycle to commute on.
On the highway though, the Versys 650 is a completely different experience. It is more likable and enjoyable than the Street Twin. And the riding position feels better too. The high seating allows you can see farther ahead; the adjustable windshield offers good wind protection; and the seat is cushier, more supportive and much nicer to be on over longer rides. The Street Twin, meanwhile, especially with the Brat Tracker kit, has a thin seat that causes your behind to ache in less than an hour. And because it is a naked, the rider’s head, chest, arms and even legs have to fight the wind at anything over 130kmph. Soon enough, things begin to get tiring.
What’s more, the Versys has a flatter, more consistent and absorbent ride. It has longer travel suspension, which is also completely adjustable. Therefore, no matter how heavy or light the rider, no matter what the cruising speed, and no matter what the surface, the Versys is just more comfortable, stable and relaxed compared to the Street Twin. It is definitely the better tourer.
And there’s more. It handles and brakes better too. So, come a set of corners, and wherein one has to fight the Triumph to get it to turn-in and then hold its line around a bend, the Versys with its neutral steering just drops into the corner and stays completely true to its line. Additionally, mid-corner bumps also don’t upset it; something we can’t say about the Street Twin.
So, if you are looking for a fast, able motorcycle that can both tour and be fun on a Sunday ride to your favourite hill climb, the Kawasaki is that bike.
It might be established that the Street Twin with its low seat height, torquey engine, and light clutch and throttle response is the better commuter. And, the Versys with its wind protection, comfier seat, and sorted ride and handling, is the one to tour the world on. But, given their pricing, chances are, majority of us are only going to be able to afford one. But, which one? Time to look beyond absolute function then…
Styling wise, the Triumph Street Twin gets our vote. The minimalist styling, good attention to detail and the whole custom like design aura just draws more glances its way. It has some nice modern day touches too. It has ride-by-wire and traction control missing on the Kawasaki.
The Kawasaki Versys isn’t bare basic either. It has fully adjustable front suspension, a tachometer and built-in pannier compatibility, all of which is missing on the Street Twin. In terms of safety, as on the Triumph, there is ABS. But, the Versys has better brakes – a twin disc setup upfront for great bite and power. Also common on both bikes is instrumentation that has read out for time, trip, range and average fuel economy. Only, the Triumph’s meter looks nicer.
Finally then, since I tour as often as a Grizzly hibernates – which is to say I confuse my intercity travel on a two wheeler as serious touring – the Street Twin makes more sense for me. However, if you are a bit more adventurous, outgoing and prefer watching the sun go down over the sea or mountains or trees even rather than in a romantic flick on the television, buy the Versys.