The unchallenged Kawasaki Versys 650 goes against the new kids on the block- Suzuki V-Strom 650 XT and SWM Superdual T in this mid-weight ADV shootout
In the country’s ever-growing love for motorcycles, the ADVs are the favorite lot. These tall, rugged beasts can handle any terrain with ease, and in a country like ours, perfect to give you the thrill of riding. From the Royal Enfield Himalayan and BMW G 310 GS to the big cats, Triumph Tiger range and even the BMW R 1250 GS, all have been the muse of rookies and pros, But what about the middle-weight segment? The class that was ruled by Kawasaki Versys 650, unrivalled, now has some new players, the Suzuki V-Strom 650 XT and the SWM Superdual T. We pit these ADVs against each other to see which motorcycle is worth your moolah.
It’s history lesson time. Signore Sirloin Vergani Vimercale Milano (reads as SV.VM) had been selling enduro and motocross machines in the ‘70s–‘80s in Europe before going bankrupt. A former Husqvarna engineer revived the brand in 2014 with financial backing from the Chinese Shineray Group and showcased not one, but six street bikes at the 2014 EICMA. One of them was the Superdual. Essentially the old Husqvarna TE630 enduro bike but now Euro IV compliant and with FI, the Superdual has been brought to India by Kinetic under its Motoroyale umbrella. After a short ride in Varese, the Superdual impressed the Editor enough. But all that was considering a price tag of Rs 5-5.5 lakh. At Rs 7.3 lakh, however, it won’t make even a dent in its class. Even though it isn’t a bad machine.
In fact, the Superdual T is the closest thing possible to a dual sport in the country today. It’s tall as a tree, has minimal body panels and a slender oddly shaped seat. The pillion seat is almost non-existent and those upswept exhausts on either side of the pillion seat are too close to the thighs for comfort.
“It’s tall as a tree, has minimal body panels and a slender oddly shaped seat”
The cluster feels like a petrol pump’s readout. The windscreen too offers little or no protection and the switchgear feels very aftermarket. Certainly doesn’t feel premium like the other two. Even the windscreen and the rear panel shakes constantly. And that tall stance? There is no doubt that the 898mm saddle would put off a lot of customers, especially people who are looking at getting into ADVs.
Although an ADV, the riding posture is closer to a supermoto, which means standing on the pegs feels awkward. More so because the handlebar isn’t wide enough and is too close to the rider. The 600cc, single-cylinder, the liquid-cooled motor is the largest single pot in the country today. It makes a respectable 54bhp and 55Nm; nothing earth shattering but it gets the job done. Getting the job done however is only a part of the story. Where the Superdual excels is in its offer of raw sensorial experience. So you get no traction control, or even ride-by-wire (no riding modes then). What you get is ABS that can be completely switched off at the rear. All you need is that toggle on the left that looks like an extra indicator switch. The result is excellent off-road riding with practically zero intervention. Exactly like we love it.
“The power delivery is extremely linear, which makes it easy to ride. In fact, so good is the delivery that you’ll mistake it for a V-twin or even a triple”
What we don’t like however is its tendency to stall unless you give it a handful of gas at slow speeds. U-turns in particular. But get it moving and you’ll be surprised with its flat torque curve. The power delivery is extremely linear, which makes it easy to ride. In fact, so good is the delivery that you’ll mistake it for a V-twin or even a triple. The clutch action too is light and the gears slot into position without hiccups. All of this is definitely helpful when riding off-road. All this while, the throaty, KTM-like exhaust note keeps you engrossed and raring to go. Obviously, being a single, there are vibes everywhere but nothing alarming.
The SWM in effect behaves like a trail bike that has been adapted for the road. And the story continues when you put it into corners on the tarmac. The long travel suspension, 220mm at the rear and 210mm up front, is set up soft and offers a cushy ride. The Superdual will not inspire confidence into corners. However, what shines is the chassis when you take it off road. There is so much feedback from the chassis, that you tend to push your own limits off-road. Even the 21-19-inch wheel config does its bit in this regard. So do the Metzeler Tourance tyres, that are the same as on the Tiger 800 XR and the G 310 GS. Off-road is where the package really shines; of the three here, the SWM is the most rugged. It loves to be pushed hard.
If you are serious about off-roading, the Superdual is one of the best machines out there in the market today. It’s also lighter than the other two by almost 30kg and with its agile and playful nature, you won’t really go wrong. You can sail through any kind of terrain and can go to places, the others wouldn’t even dare to. Having ridden it for over two days, I can tell you that the bike has its own charm but I couldn’t really decipher that stupid sticker.
Until now, the Versys 650 had the entire playground to itself and the slew of updates have kept it going well so far. The one we tested was the 2019 variant that comes with a new color scheme and some new decals to go with it. But why would you fix something that isn’t broken? And that’s why, Kawasaki has been playing it safe, both with the pricing and the package.
A lot has been spoken about how it draws inspiration from its elder siblings. What I’d like to mention is that the Versys has a massive road presence. With a large tank shroud and that frog-like fascia, it looks fresh even today. What adds to it is the premium fit and finish. Everything feels so good to touch and hold; the switchgear, the bar ends, even the pillion grab rail, that you’ll be sold even without riding it. Not just that, Kawasaki has sourced top drawer components, be it the Showa USDs at the front and a remote adjustable monoshock at the rear. Also, a notable mention is the fully adjustable USDs, which none of the others offer.
“Kawasaki has sourced top drawer components, be it the Showa USDs at the front and a remote adjustable monoshock at the rear”
The Versys comes with a tried and tested 649cc, liquid-cooled, parallel-twin motor that does duty on the Vulcan S, Ninja 650 and the Z650. When I rode the Vulcan a few months ago, I couldn’t really make sense out of it, which includes its power delivery. However, the engine fits the Versys to the T. The power figures stand at 68bhp and 64Nm, respectable for a machine that weighs a massive 216kg. Like every Kawasaki twin-cylinder, the engine is peaky with most of the torque being developed in the mid as well as the top end. As long as you are above 4,000rpm, it does not require a downshift. It isn’t as friendly as the SWM or even the Suzuki when it comes to the delivery and the clutch is heavy too. Although the vibes are minimal and the upright riding position helps as well. The seat is cushier than I would have liked but that can be easily fixed. Versys is the only ADV here that comes with regular 17 inchers at both ends. Kawasaki clearly knows the intent and has shod it with road biased Dunlops which are sub-standard when taken off-road. And this Kwacker does not like to be taken off the tarmac really. For its weight, it is not one of the friendliest and you do feel it on trails. Add to that a meagre 150mm and 145mm suspension travel at the front and rear, respectively. However, for my physique, I felt that the Versys was the most comfortable to ride while standing. But what the road-biased nature means is that the Versys is the most sporty of the lot here. I know, sporty is not the correct word here thanks to the Kwacker’s cushy setup, but in this company it does stand out. It is stable in corners and tips in with the least effort of the trio. If you have an affinity for long rides, the Versys should be your first choice. Unfortunately, it falls short of being defined as a true ADV due to its limited off-road potential.
Ever since my colleagues rode the V-Strom they’d been raving about it. I always believed that Suzuki makes the best road bikes and having spent some time in the saddle, I too agree with them.
The V-Strom is massive. Its wheelbase is longer than even the Tiger 1200, it has that authentic Angry Bird beak and even comes in a shade of yellow! The yellow shade even gets golden spoked collared rims (Google it) that really do stand out. Obviously, it ain’t as brutish as the Tiger or as beautiful as the Multistrada but one thing it doesn’t lack is character. The XT variant that Suzuki has brought to India gets knuckle guards and protective casing for the engine. The chain too gets a V-Strom badged casing and all this together makes the Suzuki look uber cool.
However, it isn’t all about good looks. You get a lot of gadgets including traction control and ABS, and one of the best clusters of the three. Let’s not discount the V-twin motor that makes the most power of the trio at 70bhp. Though it cannot match the twist generated to the Versys, it churns out a respectable figure of 62Nm. And with the off road friendly wheel setup of 19-17 inches, shod with Bridgestone Battlax Adventure A40 rubber, specifically developed for the V-Strom, you cannot really go wrong. Like most of the Suzuki’s aspects, even the tyres are setup at a 50:50 bias for road and off road. Not just that, the V-Strom also comes with adjustable rear monoshock and twin forks with 150mm of travel. That may not sound like a lot when compared to the SWM, but is par for the course.
On the move, you’ll quickly realise that the motor has been tuned to develop power in the midrange. Even the gear ratios have been set up with the same idea in mind. To give you an example, whilst on our photoshoot, I could take one of the corners in the third cog, while on the Versys, it always had to be done in the second gear, else I wouldn’t be able to exit the corner with maximum speed. The V-Strom is properly easygoing and thus will be very friendly towards first time ADV buyers. It can easily cruise in the sixth cog at 100kmph at about 4,000rpm. Being mid oriented, it begins to lose grunt post 8,500rpm but you are already doing unsolicited speeds by then.
“The tapering of the tank allows you to hold it well when standing although I would have liked the bar to be both taller and wider”
The ride is brilliant too and the V-Strom with its long wheelbase can tackle potholes and undulations with ease and you don’t really have to stop for anything. It isn’t as corner friendly as the Versys and takes a bit of effort to tip into a corner with its 26-degree rake, but once there, you can rest assured that you are in safe hands. This precise nature helps it tackle terrain easily as well. The tapering of the tank allows you to hold it well when standing although I would have liked the bar to be both taller and wider. The kerb weight of 216kg means she is not the most friendly to maneuver but the engine and the overall chassis setup boosts your confidence. The second cog is all you’ll need to slide the rear or even climb a hillock. If the pictures are anything to go by, you can see how much fun can be had on the V-Strom especially in the hands of someone like Mad Mandke, as we all call him. And then there’s the pricing. At Rs7.46 lakh, the V-Strom 650 XT is the most expensive of the lot, but the price is well accounted for. The Suzuki offers you the best of both worlds and that my friend is what truly defines an ADV.
We weren’t prepared for this but the test proved to be as simple as calling a spade, erm… a spade. All the three ADVs here know their roles well, just like The Three Musketeers. The SWM Super Dual T is for those who are into serious off-roading and want to traverse the length and breadth of the country. But not by roads. The Superdual is consistent with its off-road capabilities and puts a smile on your face. And when you know that you basically own a Husqvarna, it could also prove to be a great conversation starter. People would know that you are the adventurous nomad who has always chosen a different path in life. But for all this, would you be willing to shell out more than 7.3 lakh rupees? That’s a tough call. Unless you’re Indiana Jones!
The Versys 650 on the other hand really won my heart in this test. People asked me what I would pick if I were to go cross country riding without really taking the hardcore off-roading bits? My money would be spent on the Kwacker. It is a genuinely well-built machine that feels as solid as a tank and with a well-known reliability attribute of Kawasaki, you really won’t go wrong. Add to it the sticker price of Rs 6.69 lakh and the Versys 650 makes a strong case for itself. But what if I wanted the best of both worlds?
Obviously, the Suzuki V-Strom 650 XT is the choice. It can take you where you want to go, road or no road. And that’s not it, it can also be a lot of fun while doing so. It looks good, comes with a lot of goodies, is comfortable and offers the most bang for your buck. Come on, what were you expecting? All hail Suzuki!