Kawasaki doubles down with a new pair of twins–one for the real jungle and one for the paved variety.

Ah, diversity. Where would we be without it? Kawasaki embraces the concept with two 650-cc parallel twins that are as different as chalk and cheese, yet are awesome real-world mounts.

Kawasaki Versys

The earthy backpacker of this duo is a dirt bike one minute and a flickable traffic jouster the next. It’s been fortified for 2008 with suspension and brake upgrades and a host of changes from stem to stern, so this made-for-adventure machine is a true SUV–an off-road berm-buster that handles commuter congestion (and potholes) with amazing aplomb. The 651-cc mill has a balancing system for smoothness, and fuel economy (and simplicity) is enhanced with a good ol’ carburetor instead of black-box electronic fueling. Throttle response is sharp and low-end torque abundant. A long-travel suspension and standard engine guard are ideally suited for trail work, but equally welcome on beat-to-crap city roads. An upright riding position and wide, dirt bike-style handlebars work well on or off-road. Another welcome feature is the standard handguards, which not only shield your hands from tree branches in the bush, but perform the same function with car mirrors on city streets. A sleek mini fairing offers decent protection from the elements, and a huge, solid luggage rack can haul beaver pelts and your Armani briefcase. Last but not least, a 6.1-gallon fuel tank combined with the KLR’s miserly attitude toward fuel consumption means excellent range.

You’ve got to love those Kawasaki engineers. They decided to take the trick chassis of the Ninja 650R sport bike and get all urban with it, in a quest to design a street warrior that excels in a crowded cityscape. What they created is not only a smart machine, but also an entertaining ride that uses dirt-bike attributes (like a long-travel suspension similar to the KLR, but mixed with sport-bike tuning) in a fresh, unique package. The Versys–649-cc twin is compact, armed with a balancer shaft to quell vibrations, and topped with Digital Fuel Injection for sharp throttle response. And once again, an upright riding position keeps the pressure off your lower back and allows you to see over the tops of cars when battling rush-hour traffic. Quick steering geometry and excellent suspension deliver trackworthy handling on any road. A cool minimalist windscreen does a surprisingly good job keeping the wind off your chest during blasts down the interstate, while the deeply dished seat offers acceptable comfort for allday rides. Since you eventually have to throw some whoa into the giddyup, the Versys has brilliant brakes with triple petal-shaped discs that resist warping. All of this makes the Versys a ride that’s as fine-tuned to the street as the KLR is versatile.

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