New Versys X-300 rated
New Kawasaki Versys-x 300 let down by a couple of annoying niggles
The mini adventure bike scene is about to take off... big time! There’s the Suzuki V-strom 250 and BMW G310 GS arriving imminently and a 390-based KTM spied testing. However, beating them to the starting gate is Kawasaki’s new offering, the Versys-x 300.
The Versys-x uses the same 296cc parallel twin motor as the Ninja and Z300 (although it has been made Euro4compliant through new fuel mapping and a bigger cat), and houses it in a pleasingly large frame. Then there’s the usual off-road-inspired parts such as long travel suspension, high bars and spoked wheels with a 17in rear and a 19in front. This is a bit of a departure from the Versys tradition of cast 17in front and rear wheels and is the reason the 300 gets an X after its name. Why the change? Kawasaki wanted to give the Versys some light off-road ability, not only to please the Far Eastern market but also to tempt UK riders who may fancy attacking the odd green lane. A decision that I feel has led to a few unwelcome compromises on what is almost a very good machine…
The specs claim the Versys has a tall 845mm seat height due to added ground clearance, but don’t let this put you off if you are short of leg, as the narrowness of the parallel twin’s waist makes it feel considerably lower. However, the seat itself is quite firm, which is a nod to off-road riding rather than road comfort and on a bike that Kawasaki claim can cover over 200 miles thanks to 66mpg and a 17-litre tank, this is an oversight. The rest of the bike is very comfortable with a really roomy rid- ing position and effective screen and fairing, so it is a strange decision. But that’s not the biggest issue.
Compared to the Ninja 300, the Versys has a three-teeth larger rear sprocket (46 teeth) with the same internal gearbox ratios. On the Versys-x this makes the bike really revvy and at 60mph the parallel twin is buzzing away at over 7000rpm. Thanks to the secondary balancer shaft there are no irritating vibrations, but it’s not very pleasant as it always feels like the motor is working really hard (I kept checking the gear indicator to see if I was in fifth and not sixth) and that is distracting and annoying. And it is a shame as the rest of the bike is really good.
For blasting around narrow back roads or city commuting the Versys-x is excellent. It has a massive 40° of turn either way on the bars, meaning you can U-turn in a single track road, the assist and slipper clutch’s action is feather-light and the suspension is nice and soft without feeling too cheap and bouncy. The A2-legal parallel twin motor is punchy enough, can top an indicated 90mph and has a lovely throttle connection while the riding position is spot on for most sizes of rider – and at 173kg the Versys is easy to manoeuvre. It even has a neat luggage rack as standard and a bit of underseat storage. It’s just such a shame that two errors in judgment have tainted the overall riding experience.
‘A couple of odd decisions have tainted the overall riding experience’
The new 300cc Versys can do a bit of everything... and most of it very well
Swirly headers ooze quality A simple yet effective dashboard
The new Versys-x is a neat-looking little adventure bike
Handy underseat storage