Kawasaki Ver­sys-X 300

Does the baby Ver­sys hold its own?

Bike India - - CONTENTS - STORY: ANOSH KHUM­BATTA

The very first ver­sys was added to the Kawasaki lineup back in 2006 as a re­place­ment for the age­ing KLe 500, the Ja­pa­nese brand’s dual-pur­pose best­seller for over a decade. Pow­ered by Kawasaki’s proven 650-cc par­al­lel twin mill, the orig­i­nal ver­sys 650 made a healthy 60 Ps, could hit close to 200 km/h on the high­way and, with a pli­ant sus­pen­sion and gen­er­ous ground clear­ance, wasn’t shy of the rough stuff. While the old KLe was more ca­pa­ble off-road, the ver­sys al­ways had a clear on-road bias, mak­ing it more ap­peal­ing to a wider au­di­ence; one that wanted a toughlook­ing, ca­pa­ble mo­tor­cy­cle, but wasn’t nec­es­sar­ily in­ter­ested in se­ri­ous off-road­ing.

the moniker is a play on the words “ver­sa­tile” and “sys­tem”, and the ver­sys 650 has since per­son­i­fied this char­ac­ter, equally at home com­mut­ing within the city, tour­ing on the open road, or tack­ling the oc­ca­sional trail. the pop­u­lar­ity of this mo­tor­cy­cle led Kawasaki to in­tro­duce the mas­sive ver­sys 1000, an up­right sport tourer with the four­cylin­der en­gine from the Z1000; both bikes have since be­come pop­u­lar fix­tures in the com­pany’s line-up in in­dia and abroad. this year, team Green have set their sights lower and in­tro­duced the ver­sys-X 300, pow­ered by the 296-cc par­al­lel twin from the Ninja 300, and the sub­ject of this re­view.

As i ap­proached the baby ver­sys for the first time, it quickly be­came clear — with its 180-mm ground clear­ance, rugged 41mm fork, spoked wheels, 815-mm seat height and that tall screen — that this is a bike with pur­pose; hardly a baby. the wide body­work that en­sconces the head­light, front end, and ra­di­a­tor is de­signed to keep the rider shielded from the el­e­ments as well as the en­gine’s heat, while that tall, blacked-out han­dle­bar puts

Kawasaki have built a very ca­pa­ble mo­tor­cy­cle that can hold its own in a va­ri­ety of sit­u­a­tions

you in an up­right and com­mand­ing riding po­si­tion. A pair of aux­il­iary lights are sus­pended from tough-look­ing crash bars that pro­tect the fair­ing in case of a tip-over and, at the rear, the pan­nier mount­ing rails and lug­gage rack make this bike’s tour­ing in­ten­tions clear. Kawasaki pro­vide one pan­nier on the right side when you buy the bike, while the left is em­bel­lished with a sari-guard to con­form to in­dian reg­u­la­tions.

it doesn’t take more than a few mo­ments to ap­pre­ci­ate the qual­ity of the parts and fit­tings that Kawasaki have lav­ished on this mo­tor­cy­cle, re­sult­ing in a bike that feels solidly built. As i swing a leg over and straighten the bike off its side-stand, i feel the pli­ant sus­pen­sion set­tle un­der my weight in a man­ner sim­i­lar to a larger ad­ven­ture bike. With 130 mm of travel up front and 148 mm at the rear monoshock, the sus­pen­sion isn’t re­ally what you would call long-travel but, as i soon found out, it is suf­fi­cient, ex­tremely well set up and ca­pa­ble of han­dling a wide range of sur­faces and riding con­di­tions. the stepped seat is flat, roomy, and sup­port­ive with the pegs di­rectly be­low, and the com­fort­able rider tri­an­gle is typ­i­cal of what you would ex­pect of an ad­ven­ture-tourer. Un­for­tu­nately, in an ef­fort to main­tain an ap­proach­able seat height, the rider’s perch is padded quite thinly and starts feel­ing hard and plank-like after a few hours on the road.

the dash­board is the at­trac­tive unit from the Ninja 400, with a large round cen­tral tacho, small in­set dig­i­tal dis­play for en­gaged gear and clock, and a larger LCD dis­play to the right for speed, range, fuel econ­omy, odo, and trip me­ters. two small bar-type

dis­plays are smartly in­cor­po­rated for fuel level and coolant tem­per­a­ture, while to the left of the tacho is a panel for all the tell-tale lights. the tex­tured plas­tic sur­round is punc­tu­ated by an easy-to-reach 12v charg­ing socket on one side, while, on the other, we have the switch for those pow­er­ful aux­il­iary lights. the en­tire cock­pit area is user-friendly, stylish, and mod­ern, al­though the dash does not get that re­verse LCD ef­fect that we’ve seen on the Ninja 400, Z650, and Z900.

in the city, the ver­sys-X 300 was a rev­e­la­tion. the worst pot­holes, largest il­le­gal speed-break­ers and just about any­thing else Pune’s un­pre­dictable roads could throw at us did lit­tle to faze this bike, and i found my­self prac­ti­cally fly­ing over those ob­sta­cles with the throt­tle open. the re­la­tion­ship be­tween pegs and bars lends it­self per­fectly to stand­ing up and riding over rough stuff, al­though, with rub­ber in­serts for com­fort, those foot­pegs won’t of­fer the same grip lev­els as the heav­ily-toothed, ma­chined pegs you see on proper off-road bikes. in the ur­ban set­ting, this el­e­vated riding po­si­tion also gave me a clear view over most cars, al­low­ing me to eas­ily pick my way through traf­fic. throt­tle re­sponse is flaw­less, while brak­ing, courtesy the 290mm petal disc up front with two-pis­ton caliper and 220-mm petal disc at the rear, is a fuss-free af­fair.

A crowded metro is no match for this lean, green ma­chine and the ex­tremely gen­er­ous steer­ing lock en­sured that we could snake our way through sta­tion­ary cars to the front row at ev­ery red light, where we were usu­ally at the re­ceiv­ing end of sev­eral ad­mir­ing glances and en­thu­si­as­tic ques­tions.

As the traf­fic thinned out and the speed in­creased, the liq­uid­cooled 296-cc twin set­tled into a re­laxed rhythm. it seemed happy lop­ing along at 5,000 to 7,000 rpm. At these revs the en­gine feels su­per smooth and there is a no­tice­able amount of torque on tap, al­though hardly what you would ex­pect from a twin-cylin­der mo­tor­cy­cle with ad­ven­ture-tour­ing as­pi­ra­tions… then it dawns on me! this is that sweet, high-revving, short­stroke 296-cc unit from the Ninja 300. Al­though Kawasaki have

mod­i­fied the air-box and ex­haust for a lit­tle more torque early on, in ad­di­tion to re­work­ing the fi­nal drive ra­tio, this is still an over­square en­gine and, as such, it loves revs. A quick look at the spec sheet con­firms that the peak 25.7 Nm of twist comes into play at 10,000 rpm, with a max­i­mum 40 Ps com­ing on­line at 11,000 rpm. some greedy throt­tle ac­tion on empty stretches of high­way con­firms this; the pow­er­plant comes alive above 9,000 rpm and pulls whole-heart­edly to the 12,000 rpm red-line be­fore hit­ting the lim­iter at around 13,000 rpm.

Keep­ing the revs in the sweet spot and snap­ping up the next cog at just the right time to keep the surge of ac­cel­er­a­tion go­ing well into the triple dig­its was ab­so­lutely ad­dic­tive and al­most felt like chas­ing the power­band on a rev-happy two-stroke ma­chine. i was smil­ing wide in­side my hel­met as i left the city far be­hind me, the tacho nee­dle hov­er­ing close to the red and no sign of protest from that en­thu­si­as­tic en­gine as it sang away un­der­neath.

Curves are han­dled con­fi­dently and the bike doesn’t feel slug­gish to turn in, in spite of that tall front end. fast side-to-side tran­si­tions in­volve some ef­fort, but the frame and sus­pen­sion work well with the irC tyres; the bike feels sta­ble leant over and is al­ways willing to carve a set of cor­ners. Kawasaki have given their lat­est ver­sys an as­sist and slip­per clutch, en­sur­ing a light pull ev­ery time you need to call for an­other cog and keep­ing the rear wheel in con­tact with the ground un­der ag­gres­sive down­shifts as you slow for the next cor­ner, while try­ing to find the cor­rect gear for that per­fect drive out.

for the tour­ing in­clined, the ver­sys-X 300 can cruise com­fort­ably all day at 80 to 110 km/h with the en­gine spin­ning no higher than 7,000 rpm in sixth gear and ab­so­lutely no

vi­bra­tions com­ing through. how­ever, if you are cruis­ing at, say, 80 to 90 km/h in top gear and want to make a quick over­take, you will need to have a down­shift or two ready to take ad­van­tage of the peak power and and make the pass swiftly. As en­gine speeds close in on 9,000 rpm, some mi­nor vibes make their way through the han­dle­bar and seat, but it didn’t bother me too much; the en­thu­si­as­tic way this lit­tle en­gine starts pulling at high revs is enough to keep you smil­ing and not worry about things as petty as buzzy fin­ger­tips. this high-strung na­ture may ap­peal greatly to the boy racer within me, but cov­er­ing se­ri­ous dis­tances at speed, with lug­gage and, maybe, a pil­lion could get tir­ing with­out the ever-present torque of a big­ger en­gine.

Po­si­tioned as an en­try-level ad­ven­ture tourer, this test ride wouldn’t have been com­plete if we hadn’t left the tar­mac for a bit of an ad­ven­ture; the ADv-style body­work, larger 19-inch front wheel, gen­er­ous ground clear­ance and wire-spoked rims also had a hand in our de­ci­sion to hit the dirt. On some trails just out­side Pune, the ver­sys-X 300 seemed ab­so­lutely at ease and, when speeds picked up, the sus­pen­sion proved that it was up to the task. i was con­cerned about the irC road-bi­ased tyres at first, but they never gave me cause for worry and i was soon riding along at a de­cent pace, all my weight on the pegs, the rear slid­ing around in the dust. sud­den rough bits, ditches and even a cou­ple of small jumps were dis­patched ef­fort­lessly by the ca­pa­ble sus­pen­sion. i even no­ticed that there’s enough torque at idle in first gear to crawl over tricky bits or up slopes with the throt­tle closed. the rel­a­tively light 184-kilo­gram wet weight is an added ad­van­tage and in­spires con­fi­dence when riding off-road.

After spend­ing a cou­ple of days with the new ver­sys, i am of the opin­ion that Kawasaki have built a very ca­pa­ble mo­tor­cy­cle that can hold its own in a va­ri­ety of sit­u­a­tions. in stock form it is suf­fi­ciently specced for the city, high­way or some light of­froad­ing, and i’m sure i’m not the only per­son to have con­sid­ered slap­ping some off-road rub­ber on to those spoked wheels to make her even more ca­pa­ble in the dirt. if you want to go all the way, switch out the con­ven­tional mud­guard for a higher dirt­bike-style one, in­stall a tough bash-plate and me­tal foot­pegs, and you have a proper dual-sport on your hands — one that will tame all but the harsh­est ter­rain. With a lofty exshow­room price of rs 4.6 lakh we do think that Kawasaki could have po­si­tioned this ex­cel­lent mo­tor­cy­cle at a more ac­ces­si­ble price point; pay 60 grand more and you can have the Z650 in your garage, and that’s con­sid­er­ably more mo­tor­cy­cle. As things stand, the ver­sys will be out of reach for many, al­though i’m sure she would be a very at­trac­tive propo­si­tion for af­flu­ent bik­ers who al­ready own larger ma­chines, as a week­end trail toy.

Sud­den rough bits, ditches and even a cou­ple of small jumps were dis­patched ef­fort­lessly by the ca­pa­ble sus­pen­sion

PHO­TOG­RA­PHY: SAU­RABH BOTRE

Can’t stop star­ing at those snakey ex­haust head­ers

Tough-look­ing front end looks ready to take on the world

That liq­uid­cooled twin loves to be revved outSlim up­swept ex­haust fits in with the rest of the bike

Dash is mod­ern and at­trac­tive

Aux­il­iary lights re­ally do light up the night

Er­gos are spot-on, mir­rors work well

Wish the rider’s seat had a lit­tle more pad­ding

IRC road tyres stood up to the trails

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