The pair rode large-capacity BMW adventure bikes and, at the time, the only alternative came from KTM. Since then, Ducati, Moto-Guzzi, Yamaha, Suzuki, Honda and now Triumph have released big-bore adventure bikes with engine capacities of more than one litre.
These are tough bikes that can take two people and a load of luggage across almost any terrain with few maintenance issues and massive dollops of grunt. The latest to throw a leg over the adventure riding craze is Kawasaki with the Versys 1000.
It adapts the layout of its 650cc Versys adventure bike but shoehorns in the 1043cc engine from the Z1000 street bike. It's the first adventure bike with an across-the-frame in-line four-cylinder engine. Kawasaki Motors Australia spokesman Rudi Baker says they hope to launch the bike here next month, but does not have pricing yet.
However, Kawasaki is one of the market leaders on price, so it is bound to undercut the others. As a guide, the Z1000 costs $16,490 and the Versys 650 is $10,990. The Versys 1000 produces 86.8kW at 9000rpm and 102Nm of torque at 7700rpm with more punch dialed in at lower revs, but sacrificing some of the top-end power from the Z1000 engine.
The fuel tank is 21 litres which, together with a miserly fuel-injected engine, makes it a serious contender for long-range touring. Surprisingly for a bargain bike, the Kwaka has a range of adjustment at the front and back to account for terrain, load and a pillion, as well as electronic rider aids such as three engine power modes, traction control and ABS.
It also has a comprehensive LCD information screen with speedo, fuel gauge, odo, clock, dual trip meters, current and average fuel consumption, remaining fuel range and ambient temperature. However, the Kwaka is not without its drawbacks.
It will come with chain drive while most of these new adventure tourers have low-maintenance shaft drive.
Another drawback is the 17-inch front wheel. Except for the Ducati Multistrada, the competitors come with 19 or 21-inch front tyres which are much more stable on the gravel. It's also no lightweight at 239kg, but it's 6kg lighter than the new Triumph Explorer.
And the seat height of 845mm may put off some customers. It's 10mm more than the Triumph but not as high as the BMW or KTM.
KAWASAKI VERSYS 1000
Price: from $17,000
Engine: 1043cc 4-cylinder, 86.8kW/96Nm
Tyres: 120/70 ZR17; 180/55ZR17
Transmission: 6-speed, wet clutch, chain drive
Suspension: 43mm inverted forks, adjustable rebound damping and spring preload; rear gas shock, adjustable rebound damping and spring preload
Brakes: semi-floating 300mm petal discs (front), 250mm petal disc (rear)
Dimensions: 2235mm (L), 900mm (W), 1430mm (H), 1520 (WB), 155 (Clearance), 845mm (seat)