Who am I? I’m Ross – the new staff writer for Motor Cycle Monthly. A couple of months ago I passed my full bike test, after an 18 month stretch riding a used Yamaha XT125 on a CBT.
Why did MoreBikes want me to ride the Versys-X 300? I’m exactly the type of rider Kawasaki is targeting. I’ve just passed my test. I love riding off-road, but I want a bike that’s capable of completing longer motorway journeys in relative comfort (while having the option to hit the trails and explore, too).
Kawasaki has revamped its adventure line-up for 2017, introducing the all-new Versys-X 300 – arguably one of the most exciting new adventure bikes to make it to the market this year. Versatile, capable and confidence-inspiring, the Versys-X 300 is the latest entry-level model from Kawasaki, which hopes to help a new generation of motorcyclists get into adventure riding, by combining big bike adventure styling with small machine running costs.
The Versys-X 300 is powered by a liquid-cooled, fuel-injected 296cc parallel twin (like the Ninja 300 sportbike) and boasts 19-inch front and 17-inch rear wheels, long-travel suspension, an upright seating position and wide handlebars – which work together to help make it super easy to manoeuvre, no matter whether you’re picking your way through traffic or speeding down the motorway. Not only is it light and nimble, but with its narrow chassis and relatively low seat height, I think it could be the perfect pick for new riders. It’s also an ideal motorcycle for a variety of riding conditions; from light trails to the inner-city commute, the Versys-X 300 is a genuinely easy-to-ride motorcycle that makes adventure-style motorcycling more accessible than ever before.
I was really impressed by the power and torque pumped out by the 296cc four-stroke parallel twin engine. Like the Ninja, the Versys features Kawasaki’s dual-throttle valve system, which helps the bike crank out 39bhp at 11,500rpm reaching a ‘reported’ top speed of around 100mph (to which I can testify). Admittedly, you’ll need to work it quite hard to get up to those sort of speeds, but despite the high rpm there’s surprisingly little vibration and noise. First to third gear are all pretty close together – but in the top three gears, you’ve got a much larger rev band (from around 6000 to 11,500rpm) and an abundance of torque to play with, which again makes it perfect for adventure-style riding. The wet multi-disc, manual clutch is super light, and gear selection is a doddle too.
The suspension is really well set-up – perfect for motorways, narrow country lanes and the occasional light trail too (though I have to confess, it wasn’t particularly at ease when being pushed on some slightly more challenging trails). The brakes are excellent too, with the ABS proving more than capable on a range of surfaces (both wet and dry) – though I didn’t have to use them all that often (except on the tightest of turns), as I tended to make use of the high-revving torquey engine to slow me down.
The backbone, high-tensile steel frame offers a more relaxed and upright riding position (that I loved) – and it also makes standing pretty comfortable. It is still a small bike though, so if you’re over six foot tall (like me) you might struggle after a few hours on the road. Thankfully, the basic geometry of the frame should make it pretty straightforward to lower the pegs and add handlebar risers to make it a little more comfortable for longer journeys.
My only proper criticism is the seat – after a few hours on the road, it begins to feel like you’re sat on a plank of wood (and I found myself standing up to take the edge off). Admittedly, Kawasaki is offering a softer seat for taller riders that sits about one inch higher than the standard (which should also help to create a little more legroom for slightly taller riders).
There are three Versys-X 300 models to choose from – there’s the standard model (the one I was riding, with added handguards), an ‘Adventure’ model which adds panniers, a centre stand, hand guards, engine guards and a tank pad), and finally the ‘Urban’ which comes with a top case, hand guards, centre stand and tank pad.
In short, the all-new Versys-X 300 is a lightweight, nimble, adventure-style motorcycle that is perfect as a multi-purpose machine. It’s more than capable as a commuter, tourer or off-road machine – and although you’re going to have to work it harder than you would a larger capacity bike, it feels more than up to the job. I loved it.
296cc, four-stroke, DOHC, liquid-cooled parallel twin
29.3kW @ 11,500rpm
Front: Single 290mm petal disc. Caliper: Single balanced actuation dual piston
Rear: Single 220mm petal disc. Caliper: Dual piston
Front: 100/90-19M/C 57S
Rear: 130/80-17M/C 65S
Front: 41mm telescopic fork
Rear: Bottom-Link Uni-Trak, gas-charged shock and adjustable preload
Candy Lime Green/Metallic Graphite Grey or Metallic Graphite Grey/Flat Ebony