Just completed the 24,000km service

It’s sad that I haven’t blogged since my last service. Can’t believe that in just about 5 months, I’ve managed to cover another 6,000km and play come cricket too. Here are the places I’ve been to after my previous service:

  • Nashik (via Pune) to visit the Trimbakeshwar Shiva Temple
  • Chennai (via Ongole) to spend some time with my siblings and cousin.
  • A lot of weekend rides including a special one to Mallela_Theertham waterfalls.
En Route to Nashik .jpeg
Somewhere near Nashik en route to Trimbakeshwar Jyotirlinga

Jeez, that looks like a really small list! But yeah, somewhere in between both these services, I managed to travel to northern Thailand to ride on the famous Mae Hong Son loop on a CB500X (why is this motorcycle not in India yet, Honda?). A trip that I am struggling to write about knowing that my limited vocabulary, superlatives, and adjectives will never do justice. An experience of a lifetime and I’m going back for sure!

Service time

At 21,000km,  I visited the IKM service to change my spark plugs (twin cylinders need two of them) and do the much needed throttle-body (vacuum) synchronization. Just these two things cost me a whopping ₹5,760.  Both of these  couldn’t be done during my previous service since they didn’t have the right tools and equipments. 

At 24,000km, my chain sprocket kit change was overdue. So much that my chain was jumping and front sprocket was making loud noises after my Chennai ride. I wanted to change it during my previous visit but the mechanics assured that I had enough life in the chain.

The entire kit would have cost me between ₹15k to 19K if bought in India but only ₹6,608 when I carried it back from US. Clearly reaping the benefits of having a globally popular motorcycle and working for an MNC that is kind enough to send me to US once in a while. 

Versys 650 24,000km service India.jpg
The mechanics & service levels are getting better every time I visit the IKM service center.

What else? Engine oil, air & oil filters, clutch cable since my clutch play had become very hard (note to self: take care of it from the next time). A massive service charge of ₹3,941 since IKM has moved into item based charges. Eg: a coolant level/system inspection now costs ₹850 including all the CGST, SGST, & IGST. #jesuschrist #timefordiy

Parts changed for 24,000km service .jpg
IMK checked if I wanted to take it or allow them to dispose it in an environmentally safe way.

The combined charges from service expenses of 21,000km & 24,000km visits:

KM at Service @ 24,000KM
Engine Oil ₹1,296
Oil Filter ₹730
Air Filter ₹2,020
Brake Pads NA
Break Fluids NA
Spark Plugs ₹3,000
Tires NA
Coolant NA
Throttle Synchronization ₹1,300
Clutch Cable ₹1,590
Chain Sprocket ₹6,608
Cone Set NA
Service/Labor charges ₹5,401
Shipping NA
Mics (tax) NA
Total ₹21,945

Service experience: For the first time, I rode out of the service center pretty satisfied. Everything that I had mentioned had been taken care of including changing the air fuel sensor pipe. The new chain sprocket kit feels amazing and the gears slot with a very nice  sound that I missed so much in the last few thousand kilometers.

What next?

In terms of expenses, looks like I’ll have to change the brake pads in my next service and the mechanic recommended that I also change my cone set along with changing my fork oil. Spare parts shopping list for my next US trip is getting ready. 

Upcoming rides include one to Madhya Pradesh to visit two more Jyotirlingas Omkareshwar and Mahakaleshwara temples. Maybe, a ride to Rameshwaram and the breathtaking ocean/landscape of Danushkodi. Kerala has been on the cards for a while now and mind is getting restless. Looking forward to a ride-filled 2018… 

Breakfast ride - versys 650.jpeg
Favorite pic from the breakfast rides


The 18,000km service & maintenance expenses so far

18,000km in 18 months. Even my college-going self would have been proud of such an achievement. Although, I must admit that this is no feat compared to the 17,000km that I did in the first year of owning my humble 110cc Yamaha Libero during my college days.

As a middle-aged mid-life crisis filled person that the world now sees me as, it continues to get very complicated to explain to anyone why I’m burning away money in fuel, rubber, and whatever energy is left of me on this motorcycle. Apparently, that money was better invested in a car or house.

Once in a while, I try to explain how one’s need can be unique and that’s completely fine. After a few failed attempts, I rode on hoping to find like-minded people. In due course, I did meet a lot of like-minded people, some much older than me who found happiness in doing just this. It was reassuring, to say the least. Here are some new friends I’ve made in these 18 months who have made this journey a priceless one in spite of all the expenses.

Ride to Arakku Valley
Birds of a feather flock together

According to the Versys 650 manual, every alternate 6,000km is a minor service and 12,000km a major service. Minor being top-ups of fluids, cleaning, and lubricating the necessary components like drive chain and brake pads. Major meaning changes in fluids and parts as recommended.  Just to be on the safer side, I change the engine oil every 6,000km and it increases my cost by a grand every service. I can live with that and ride in peace knowing it’s the best way to achieve 2,00,000km on my odometer.

It’s surprising how poor maintenance or riding skills of a bigger motorcycle accentuate the wearing out of parts and make the ownership experience expensive. Several stories here but not the one for today.

At 15,000km, I did my most expensive pit stop to change from the “ever-so-slippery” stock Dunlop tires to “always-sticky” stock size Metzeler Sportec M7. I shelled out more than 22K INR on these rubbers hoping to put as many kilometers on them.  Another 9K INR on replacing the brake pads. In retrospect, I could have waited until this service and maybe gone for an aftermarket brake pad set rather than the stock just to experience how much better can these brakes can get.  All this in preparation for a monsoon ride to Arakku & Lambasingi. What a fantastic ride it was!


The 18,000km was a minor service after all and I was relieved to see a bill of 5K INR including the engine oil change. This was my first proper service center experience after Orange Kawasaki (under IKM) came into operations (both my 12,000km service and 15,000km parts change were done out of their basement) and what a grand experience it was. Every other motorcycle showroom/service center in the city can bite the dust right now!

What a majestic stance even when it’s opened thread bare

While they did a fantastic job at the regular tasks (oil & oil filter change, coolant change, air filter cleaning, chain adjustment & lubrication, and even the brake cleaning), there were a couple of things they couldn’t do (spark plug change – I wanted the NGK Iridium ones & engine vacuum synchronization) that left me a touch disappointed. Although it was promised to be done soon, I don’t plan to visit them until the next service at 24,000km.

The staff was courteous as alway. Small things like a cup of coffee and being able to stand close to the motorcycle when it’s being serviced make for such a great experience and good use of my Saturday morning.

I have been trying to capture the service costs of owning the Versys and below is a table that shows how expensive/inexpensive it has been depending on how you see it.

KM 6000 12000 15000 18000
Engine Oil ₹2,300 ₹1,750 NA ₹2,200
Oil Filter ₹650 ₹700 NA ₹800
Air Filter NA ₹1,800 NA NA
Brake Pads NA NA ₹9,171 NA
Break Fluids NA NA NA Check
Spark Plugs NA NA NA NA
Tires NA NA ₹22,000 NA
Coolant NA NA NA ₹1,650
Chain Sprocket NA NA NA NA
Service ₹1,145 ₹1,145 ₹1,100 ₹2,160
Shipping NA ₹350 ₹620 NA
Mics (tax) ₹350 ₹520 ₹1,335 NA
Total ₹4,445 ₹6,265 ₹34,226 ₹6,810

Of course, there are the accessories and riding gear related expenses that I’m definitely not going to add  here. Those are personal choices and up to the individual based on their touring needs and personal safety comfort levels.

Previous services:

Long awaited & much needed service at 12,000km  (June 2017)

 SFF mess up during the service at 6,000km  (Feb 2017)

First service blues and greens at at 1,000km (Mar 2016)


A year with the Versys 650 (Mar 2017)

My first review of Versys 650 (Sept 2016)

A year with the Versys 650

I’ve managed 9000km and almost zero close calls. I’ve hit speeds higher than 150kmph with so much ease on the National Highways. Contrary to my fears,  I didn’t put the bike down for rest of the year after putting it down on the first day. I’ve done three 1000+ km rides. I even ended up riding 4 days back to back with (almost) no pain or fatigue.

The first time I saw the Versys in person. Stunning & massive

I’ve spent a lot on accessories: paddock stand,  side stand extender, handguard, LED lights, radiator guard, frame sliders, and rear tire hugger. Such a hypocrite! Although I have a pretty good soft-saddlebag, I’m still very tempted to buy the stock hard luggage bag just because it fits so beautifully. Not all accessories I bought fit seamlessly – I really wish I had gone with stock handguard & a radiator guard that would allow more air to flow. Even got myself an entire tool kit that I hope to use one day to service the Versys myself.

All accessories fitted. Slowly becoming the LT version

I’ve done 2 services ( 1.5K & 6K km) and have mixed experiences from them. There is this whole apprehension around Kawasaki moving out of its partnership with Bajaj/KTM and the concerns around lack of spare parts and service centers for a few months. Just 3 water washes in a year. Can you believe that? Chain cleaning & lubrication every 700km that I did myself. Honestly, there’s very little to worry about this motorcycle.

My first picture of the Versys. En route to Srisailam (Jyotirlinga 1)

Rides to two (Srisailam & Bhimashanker) Joytirlingas completed. Two more (Trimbakeshwar & Grishneshwar) planned. Another eight more to go after that. This was the real reason why I got a tourer. To travel around this amazing country and visit the most iconic and mystical places. I’ve got a flavor of it  and like what I’ve experienced so far.

True test: Ride to Bhimashanker (Jyotirlinga 2). It handled rains & bad roads so effortlessly.

I rode around with a messed up suspension setting for 3000km. A period where I was wondering how did I end up investing so much for a motorcycle (a question I keep getting asked every time I quote the price of the bike) and that the RE Himalayan feels like it has a better suspension and amazing value for money.  But once I got the suspension sorted back to its stock setup, all those thoughts fell through and I had enough reasons why this decision was a good one. On days I couldn’t ride or didn’t want to ride it to the office owing to city traffic, I’d be happy just watching this video.

The Versys brought with it changes in my lifestyle and opportunity to meet new people. I had to move to a better place where parking it was safe and ended up in a wonderful house with a fantastic view. Better still, it has easy access to highways. I’ve met some wonderful people along the way to ride with and new stories to hear every time we stop for a chai or for that highway breakfast.

Ride with Avi & Sunder. When weekend breakfast rides became the norm. First trail riding and it was scary as hell.

Although I did a lot of rides (some alone, some with my wife, and some with friends), the best moment of the year was when we were riding as a group somewhere near Telangana-Chhattisgarh border in a forest area with some wonderful curves. 5 superbikes riding in perfect harmony and following exactly the same line at a wonderful pace. Damn, this could have been anyone in any part of the world but hey, it’s us and we are riding in India! Such a dream come true moment. Riding a big motorcycle in my own country on some scenic roads.

By far the best ride. #kawa #triumph #kawa #triumph #kawa

Enough weekend morning rides and weekday evening spins. If I have to sum up the year I’ve spent with the Versys 650, it’s definitely a mixed bag filled with serious doubts about my ability to ride and maintain such an expensive buy. But all those apprehensions aside, every time I rode the Versys, it brought a big smile on my face. Every time I got the gear change right, it reminded me how far I’ve come in terms of my riding skills. Every time I park and admire it after a ride, the question that runs in my mind is, “where am I going next and when?” The roads have never been more inviting…

My favorite picture of the year. This one tells a story of a very memorable trip.
  • Issues with the Versys 650: None
  • Service charges: Nominal (about 3-4K INR per service)
  • Current odo reading: 9010km
  • Top speed I managed: 185km/h (was too afraid to push any further)
  • Maximum distance in a day: 600km
  • Perfect riding speeds (from 75km/h to 120km/h)
  • Ideal RPM for gear changes 3K to 3.5K

What I love the most: insanely smooth engine and a fantastic suspension that makes any road a pleasure to ride on. Oh! that amazing saddle. 

What I hate the most: the seat height. Because if it was even slightly lower, I know I would take this motorcycle virtually anywhere at any time of the year. The seat height makes me think twice before taking it into a potential high traffic zone or on challenging routes.

Coming to terms with Showa’s SFF

SFF = Separate Function Fork. One of the biggest reasons why the tag of being a ‘versatile machine’ actually makes sense for the Versys.

The stock set up: It’s true that Kawasaki has got the suspension setting spot on for the Versys 650 in India. When I went out for my first few rides, I was thrilled about how planted and supple it felt on the good and bad roads. My confidence in the suspension grew so much that I stopped caring about small pot holes and sometimes even the smaller speed breakers. The true joy of long-travel suspension and an insane stock set up. This is easily what makes Versys a special experience.  

Service time: When I gave my motorcycle for its second service (6000km), there were some issues as to whether Kawasaki or KTM should do it and finally KTM service center did it. I was 100% sure that it was the first time the mechanic was servicing a Versy 650 but wasn’t left with much choice. I had to ride to Bengaluru that weekend. Plus, what can one really mess up if it’s just about washing and topping up the lubricants?

Versys 650 2nd Service.jpg

Apparently, it can be messed up. For some reason, the mechanic had adjusted with the front and rear suspension. (God knows for what reason as it’s not a part of the service requirements). He didn’t bother to let me know. During my ride to Bengaluru something started to feel off-color.

The not so comfortable ride: It was my second ride to Bengaluru and this one seemed to hurt my shoulders and the bike wasn’t taking the bad roads too well. In fact, it was reminding me of how I felt when I was riding my R15 on the same roads a few years ago (except, that these seats were really comfortable).   On my way back, it became very obvious to me that something was wrong with the suspension. Dammit! It just killed the joy of that entire trip. Only reprieve being this beautiful picture my friend took when I was there.


Understanding the adjustable suspension: It became very apparent that I had to fix the suspension. That meant asking someone for help or trying to fix it by myself. I decided to go to Louis (the only guy at Hyderabad KTM service I trust these days) and we started going through the service manual together to figure out how to get it back to stock set up that I loved so much. What we immediately identified was that the fork spring preload  & rebound damper (tension) were set to the hardest.

After hunting around the service manual, we put it back to stock setting. It felt much better but it was still nowhere close to how it felt when I first rode it. Emotions that followed were disappointment, frustration, and finally helplessness. What seemed to be the biggest comfort had become my biggest grudge. With every passing day, the resentment kept increasing.

What I didn’t realize at that time was that I didn’t read the instructions as carefully as I should have. The rebound count is from fully clockwise position but the preload was actually from fully counterclockwise position. In my frustration or maybe excitement in getting it fixed, I counted both from clockwise position. Stupid me!

Still the same bad feeling: No amount of reading or asking around got me there. The only good thing that came out of it was that I was forced to work on the suspension even if I didn’t want to. I tried again and again but no progress whatsoever. Some days, the bike was jumping off every speed breaker and other days, it didn’t even respond to them. Sadly, the feeling of riding an exotic bike wasn’t there anymore.

A friend indeed: All this continued until a dear friend from US gave me surprise visit and was kind enough to teach me how to adjust suspensions. The same friend who once took me to Moto Guild, the place where he fixes and rebuilds his own motorcycles.

Moto Guild San Francisco.jpg

2 hours later, my friend confirmed that the suspension is closest to it’s base setting. The most amazing thing was that he was able to set it up for my weight and riding style even without riding the motorcycle. He even guessed it was a little stiff and I should play with it after every ride until I feel the suspension it just about perfect.

Riding after the manual set up:  Two weeks and several 5-10km rides and a couple of long rides later, it is almost close to the best set up it’s been and I don’t even know how many clicks/rotations in or out it was at. However, on my next long trip (about 300km), I realized that both the front and rear where just too stiff and I was still continuing to wear out faster than usual. I had learned how preload and dampening worked and what turning left or right really did to the motorcycle. But, I still wan’t getting to the same feeling as the stock no matter how many times I tried.

A day full of researching: One fine day, after reading as many articles as I could about Versys 650 suspensions including a stunning post called “The science & black magic of suspension setup“, I decided it was time to play around and this time start from the stock set up all over again.

Eureka: Then just like that, the Eureka moment. As I read the stock set up on the service manual again,  I realized the clockwise and counterclockwise blunder I had done. By now, with the number of settings I had tried, I was a pro at turning in or out. I did exactly what the manual said:

Rebound: 2 1/2 turns out from the fully clockwise position.

Preload: 6 1/2 turns in from the fully counterclockwise position.

Rear preload: 1 click from fully counterclockwise position


3000km later: I finally felt light headed and cheerful on my most recent trip. So much for an adjustable suspension. So much for well trained mechanics. So much for owning an expensive motorcycle and not having peace of mind. Sigh!

The first service blues & greens…

One of the big worries of buying a recently launched or even a higher capacity motorcycle is what really happens after it’s been purchased. It’s more like a relationship – days leading to the proposal are always more exciting than what really happens post that. No one around you actually cares from then on. They just assume a fairytale ending.

I’m continuing to have a tough time trying to keep my KTM Duke 200 running and was definitely concerned about it when buying a Kawasaki Versys 650 considering both are run by Bajaj. But hey, how can one miss an opportunity to be the psychotic rickshawalla of one’s dreams.  The sales experience was surprisingly smooth and some wonderful people through the entire process.

A service at 1000km was going to be my first experience on how things would look like in the coming years. Booked an appointment. Went in early. Waited for everyone to turn up and then the service manager took over. While I was waiting for the work to get done, I couldn’t stop drooling over the greens in the showroom. Were they trying to indicate something?


The overall experience was impressive and I wish it continues to be so. Guess it helps when you are still an exclusive customer.

Washing was clean. Oil and filter changes were swift. The final checks were thorough. I loved that they allowed me to watch the work being done and even answered some curious questions. They were full of smiles, excited, and willing to listen to my concerns. Such a joy! (Note to self: Get a paddock stand)

I was taken aback when the service manager decided to fix a broken indicator himself (remember I put it down on first day?). He ensured it was all sorted and even asked me not to bother changing it. All this, more than enough for me to feel that I could be in good hands.

When I was riding back after spending a few hours, five thousand rupees, and some good discussion , I knew it was all worth it. At least for now, the blues have gone and the green lights are in!

6000km or 6 months from here… Something tells me that the kilometers will come sooner.