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ROAD TO SALAMINA: TESTING THE NEW VERSYS 1000

ROAD TO SALAMINA: TESTING THE NEW VERSYS 1000

Just as I was testing the KTM 1290 Super Duke I got a phone call from Kawasaki Colombia. They had a brand new Versys 1000 for us to test. Obviously we agreed. Leonardo had reviewed last model and this was an amazing opportunity to do a follow up on Kawasaki’s popular touring machine.

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The motorcycle comes in black, green black, and orange black as pictured. Unlike the US model hard side bags are not standard.

This time we took the road for Salamina, Caldas, a destination we briefly went through while our trip to «El Nevado del Ruiz». We googled for a hotel and settled for Casa de Lola García, and drew up a route with the help of friends who know the area well, as we didn’t want to go offroading on this bike.

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Medellín – Amaga – Fredonia – La Pintada – La Felisa – La Merced – Salamina for a grand total of 187 kms. Almost 25 were off road. Thanks guys!

Saturday 7 am and we are ready to go. Some clouds in the sky but no rain. We headed out with a couple more bikes towards La Pintada and then to Salamina. The first few kilometers took some getting used to, at first I wasn’t entirely comfortable as something seemed wrong with the bike. Checked the air pressure on the tires and fixed the problem as they were both under inflated.

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The roads to Salamina are some of the best in Colombia, diverse in nature with great landscapes.

If I had to compare the Versys 1000 with the former model and the pimped up version that Daniel Fernandez raced on Pikes Peak I’d say there is some improvement. First the cosmetic changes took away the tandem headlight setup for a traditional cat eye look, common to the Ninja family. The engine got a retuned for upgraded power, longer suspension travel, slipper clutch included and upgraded brakes. The suspension is fully adjustable and comfortable, although still to soft for my taste, a wide saddle and handlebars very much like an adventure bike. Powerful and silent engine, and in our test very efficient as it drank way less gas than the KTM 1190 adventure that came with me. Sadly though there is no 12 volt power socket on the bike, indispensable today as we get energy hungry on long trips, also there is no gear indicator. The motorcycle display is exactly as last years version.

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Colombia is a very colorful place. Fruits anyone?

We knew this road well as we rode it on our Duke 690 test and in the Versys it’s an absolut pleasure. We crossed the Cauca River and made our way up to La Merced. We took our time to enjoy the scenery and take pictures. It’s a great place to ride, as the twisties take through the mountains. On the road we saw a sign leading up to the Alto El Tambor, a click of the intercom to let my partner know, and we wound up taking an offroad detour. Once up there the view is amazing. There’s a little «tienda» on top where we could buy something to drink and enjoy the view and chat with the paraglider pilots who come here often. We headed back to Salamina and again some offroading. I didn’t want to go offroading but there was no choice. The motorcycled behaved better than expected but it’s clearly not designed for this. ABS is always on, low clearance and big fat street tires made the trip uncomfortable. However slowly and with patience it gets the job done. We crossed the Chamberi River, the most important river in the zone, and finally made it into Salamina.

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The view from the top made this trip an actual ride through the clouds.

Salamina is a little town in Caldas, a humanity landmark named after the greek isle of Salamina. Mining, agriculture, fishing and cattle raising are the main economical activities. Culturally rich as it host The Departamental Band Festival and the Fire Night, where there’s music and fireworks all over town. We got to the town square, asked for directions and got to the hotel.

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Comfortable, roomy, full of technology and an amazing engine that will take you almost anywhere.

The hotel is located a block and half away from the town square, in a colorful and quiet street. The hotel itself is a 140 year old house which has mostly been in the same family. Being a national landmark, the family has worked hard to preserve it in it’s full glory. The stay includes breakfast, with a fruit basket, coffee and soft drinks, also a TV, Wifi, and national phone calls. There’s a hot tub for 6, a restaurant and the whole array of tours which include horse back riding, trekking through coffee plantations and so on.

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Staff was very friendly, always reminding us of the joy in traveling to small towns in Colombia.

Clean and big rooms, with big comfortable beds. A quick shower before heading out to town. Mauricio, hotel host and manager, tells us of what we need to see in town, and also gives us more insight into the history of the hotel, which has been in service for about 4 years. The house itself remained in the family for more than 100 years, but they lost it for a while. Once they got it back, turning into a boutique hotel was the dream. «People from all over the world come here»  he says, as he points to the frenchman reading poetry in the yard.

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We highly recommend this hotel.

We head out to eat lunch, finally, so we took the a restaurant called «El Paraiso«. Trout is it’s speciality in different preparations, Hawaiian with pineapple, «Al ajillo» which means with garlic and so on.  We tried to talk about the bike, but fried arepas and micheladas made their way to our table before the main dish and that was the end of it. The trout here is fresh and delicious.

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Traditional presentation for a very tasteful dish.

We head back to town square and came across «La Galería» a bar where locals spend their hard earned money on drinks, pool and other vices. Very entertaining. We walked through the park and notice a big fountain called «La Pila»,  a fountain built by a German company, then brought by sea to Barranquilla, then by river to Honda , and then by mule all the way up here. It’s where people meet up and chat in this town. we head back to the hotel as it’s time to relax in the hot tub.

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Just look at the size of this fountain. How long did it took to bring it here?

Waking up was no easy task as the bed turned out to be as comfortable as advertised. Gloria had our breakfast set up promptly with scrambled eggs, juice, toast bread, crackers, and some fruit. A big breakfast for a long day of riding back. The route back was a little shorter however there turned out to be even more off road. Salamina – Aguadas – Pacora – Arma – La pintada – Medellín for a total of 166 kms of which 50 Kms were dirt roads.

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The story of my life, just when I didn’t want to do any off roading, I wound up crossing a river.

The dirt route to Pacora goes through the typical colombian farmer’s house or «casa campesina»  by the side of the road. Coffee plantations and seeds being dried on roofs make for a great smell. We made our way greeting everyone on the road and finally made it to Aguadas, home of the Aguada’s Hat. 

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We learned something else about Colombian culture with Don Jorge, who explained the full process that goes into making this hats.

Sombreros Pipinta is the business place of Jorge Valencia, whose factory has been selling hats for about 30 years, he tells about the process and proudly shows us the machines he has built to make these hats. He buys the hats from «campesinos» who knit the hat and then he finishes them with his machines. He then sells them to resellers who sell locally and even some who export them out of Colombia. Very nice guy with a very nice story as everyone here seems to be wearing one of this beautiful hats. Nice souvenir.

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Slowly and steady the Versys 1000 could take you everywhere.

Our last stop is in Arma, another town in Caldas.  We took this route for the scenery but also because we wanted to test the bike in different conditions, specially from the perfectly built roads in Europe this bike was «born» in. The road was a little rough and really tested the Versys. The Kawasaki came out on top however it is clear that this is not an adventure bike, but a really capable touring bike. We made our way back to Medellin in one piece with full confidence in the Versys capabilities.

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About the Bike

Not the typical go anywhere adventure bike, but it will perform amazingly on road, an take you mostly anywhere.

The Versys 1000 is a very capable motorcycle as we’ve seen in the past. Daniel Fernandez rode it in Pikes Peak, Leonardo toured a great deal of Colombia on it. This motorcycle is not a typical adventure bike but a very comfortable touring bike deeply rooted in its European origins. Rough road may not be it’s place to shine but once you get to the pavement you better hold on cause it’s sporty 118 hp will leave some of your partners behind.
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Leonardo says:

More of the same, but that’s not a bad thing.

The 2015 Versys went through some cosmetic and functional changes making it even more capable than it already was. Great refined engine, breaks and suspensions make for a noticeable change over its predecessor. A little too soft still for my taste. The slipper clutch is an absolute win.

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