A Street-Oriented Version Of The KLR

Kawasaki entered the 2017 model year with an eye toward the small-displacement adventure-bike market, and the all-new Versys-X 300 was its weapon of choice for this new front. The “X” joined the rest of the Versys adventure-bike lineup with the characteristic family flylines atop unique features all its own. Most apparent was the 296 cc engine attractive to riders looking to enter the adventure world as well as the young adults emerging as the new generation of pragmatic buyers.

Continue reading for my review of the Kawasaki Versys X-300.

  • 2017 - 2018 Kawasaki Versys-X 300
  • Year:
    2017- 2018
  • Make:
  • Model:
  • Engine:
    Parallel-Twin
  • Displacement:
    296 cc
  • Price:
    5399
  • Price:

Design

2017 - 2018 Kawasaki Versys-X 300
- image 744708
The Versys DNA shows up in the overall look with the typical stubby front fairing that comes complete with lowers that shroud the radiator and air ducts under the recessed headlamp housings.align=center

This bike is a sign that the adventure-bike segment is maturing. First there was the race to the top with ever larger displacements getting shoehorned in, and now the race to the bottom is underway to garner the entry-level crowd as well as the folks who prefer small-displacement machines. Since the entry-level riders are important for the cultivation of brand loyalty, and the multitudes of “Others” have their own reasons for keeping things small, this bike is an important step to fill out the potential of the class.

The Versys DNA shows up in the overall look with the typical stubby front fairing that comes complete with lowers that shroud the radiator and air ducts under the recessed headlamp housings. Both features control airflow to prevent heat buildup under the hood as it were, and vent it away from the rider. So far all of this is much like the larger Versys models, but the size of the fuel tank hump gives the “X” away. Don’t be fooled by the external appearance though, the tank holds a generous 4.5 gallons of fuel, evidence that Kawi didn’t design this to be the soccer-mom’s SUV equivalent of an adventure bike.

The two-up seat looked vaguely familiar to eyes accustomed to the rest of the family, but is obviously smaller as well. A high subframe and mudguard gives the rear wheel plenty of room to move over rough pavement. Although some individual pieces are obviously smaller, it doesn’t really carry an overall small-bike air that many find rather off-putting.

Chassis

2017 - 2018 Kawasaki Versys-X 300
- image 744693
Suspension is not very sophisticated and completely expected in the lower-priced bikes.

In an effort to strike a balance between strength and weight, Kawi started out with a backbone frame made of tubular-steel members and shed weight wherever it could with lightening holes and thin-walled brackets. A stressed-engine arrangement eliminates the downtubes and cradle pieces to further reduce weight. Steering geometry is toward the shorter, more agile end of the spectrum with a rake angle of 24 degrees and 4.3 inches of trail on a 57.1-inch wheelbase. While that’s great and fine for cornering and close-quarters maneuvering, those numbers coupled with the 385.9-pound curb weight point to a ride that’s going to be squirrely in a crosswind and when negotiating the pressure waves from the other traffic on the interstate.

The right-way-up front forks sport large, 41 mm fork tubes, but offers no sort of adjustments while the central-mount monoshock comes only with the obligatory preload adjustment. Not a very sophisticated suspension, but the bottom-tier bikes rarely come with better, and never without a price. Suspension travel falls within the street/rough-road range at 5.1-inches up front and 5.8-inches out back, which should be plenty for the grittiest urban areas and country roads and is in keeping with its intended purpose in life.

Laced rims mount the 19-inch front hoop and 17-inch rear, and the tires themselves come in a sporty 100/90 profile up front with a 130/80 in back. A 290 mm, petal-cut brake disc slows the front wheel, and a 220 mm disc slows the rear with a dual-pot caliper and optional ABS on both ends.

Frame: Tubular, diamond
Rake/Trail: 24°/4.3 in
Front Tire Size: 100/90-19M/C 57S
Rear Tire Size: 130/80-17M/C 65S
Front Suspension/Travel: 41mm Hydraulic Telescopic Fork/5.1 in
Rear Suspension/Travel: Bottom-Link Uni-Trak® with Adustable Preload/5.8 in
Front Brake Type: Single 290mm Petal Disc with 2-Piston Caliper
Rear Brake Type: Single 220mm Petal Disc with 2-Piston Caliper

Drivetrain

2017 - 2018 Kawasaki Versys-X 300
- image 744660
If you have off-road plans, bear in mind that there's no skidplate and your exhaust is the first thing you'll whack.

The 296 cc mill in the “X” is a variant of the mill that drives the Ninja 300 range. As with other important metrics, Kawi is keeping the exact performance numbers close to the vest, but its Ninja configuration generates around 40 horsepower and 20 pound-feet of torque so we can probably expect something similar from the “X.”

The parallel-twin mill runs a 62 mm bore with a 49 mm stroke and a medium-hot, 10.6-to-1 compression ratio. Dual over-head cams time the four-valve heads and a pair of 32 mm throttle bodies control the mixture, and they come equipped with dual throttle valves to help strike a balance between demand and capability for seamless throttle corrections. The primary butterfly valve is controlled by the rider’s throttle-grip position, but the sub-valve is actuated by the engine control module for a bit of self-correcting ability.

A six-speed gearbox churns out the power to the chain final drive and a slipper clutch provides a light pull at the lever along with anti-hop protection during aggressive downshifts.

Engine Type: 4-Stroke, Liquid-Cooled, DOHC, 4 Valve Cylinder Head, Parallel Twin
Displacement: 296 cc
Bore & Stroke: 62.0 x 49.0 mm
Compression Ratio: 10.6:1
Fuel System: DFI® w/ 32 mm Throttle Bodies (2)
Ignition: TCBI with Digital Advance
Transmission: 6-Speed with Positive Neutral Finder
Final Drive: O-Ring Chain

Price

2017 - 2018 Kawasaki Versys-X 300
- image 744691
MSRP for 2018 is a carry-over from last year and well down in the 'affordable' range.

MSRP for the 2018 Versys-X 300 is $5,399 plus an additional $300 if you go for the ABS model. For 2018, get your Versys in a choice of two-tones: Metallic Spark Black and Metallic Flat Raw Graystone or Passion Red and Metallic Flat Raw Graystone. Kawasaki covers your new ride with a 12-month warranty.

Model ID: KLE300BHF / CHF
Warranty: 12 months (optional Kawasaki Protection Plus™ 12, 24, 36 or 48 months)
Colors:
2017: Candy Lime Green /Metallic Graphite Gray, Metallic Graphite Gray/Flat Ebony
2018: Metallic Spark Black/Metallic Flat Raw Graystone, Passion Red/Metallic Flat Raw Graystone
Price: $5,399 (ABS: $5,699)

Competitor

2017 - 2018 Kawasaki Versys-X 300
- image 744726
2017 - 2018 BMW G 310 R / G 310 GS
- image 697187
In the looks department, well, it's easy to guess the country of origin for each of the rides, but at the same time they both fit within the generally accepted mold for the genre.

The low-displacement adventure bike market is getting more and more well populated all the time, and I managed to find a very good candidate in the new-in-2017, G 310 GS from BMW. In the looks department, well, it’s easy to guess the country of origin for each of the rides, but at the same time they both fit within the generally accepted mold for the genre.

Both bikes run tubular steel frames, but where the “X” uses standard forks to buoy the front end, the Beemer comes with a set of inverted, 41 mm stems that are certain to to stiffer, but like the Kawi, comes sans adjustments. Single-disc front brakes and ABS is consistent across the board so you are free to wring the maximum out of the brakes that you do have. Given that these bikes are made for entry-level, it’s not surprising to see the ABS feature well represented.

Beemer squeezed in a few extra cubes with a 313 cc thumper but claims only 34 ponies and 21 pounds of grunt versus what I suppose to be around 40 / 20 from the Versys. This is only a minor issue, and not likely to dissuade fans of the Bayerische. One thing is certain; the parallel-twin is going to shake the rider up less than the single-cylinder Beemer plant. Naturally, both benefit from fuel-injection and electronic engine management, and neither really shows any decisive advantage over the other.

He Said

“Kawi can say what it likes, but I’m not sure I would feel comfortable on the highway atop something with an engine that small. It may be fine for an urban commute, but I’m betting a long trip will wear your ass out, literally and figuratively. It would certainly tax my nerves in areas where the rest of the traffic is moving at something well North of 70 mph.”

She Said

My wife and fellow motorcycle writer, Allyn Hinton, says, "First, let me say that I do like the bike. It’s very approachable for new folks and with a small-displacement engine, it seems like it would be a good commuter. If you really look at it, the Ninja Versys-X 300 is the street-oriented version of the KLR. Where the KLR is a street-legal off-road bike, the Versys-X 300 is a street bike that has off-road capabilities, so with any adventure pairing, you decide if you want street with occasional off-road or if you want off-road with a little street.”

Specifications

Engine & Drivetrain:
Engine Type: 4-Stroke, Liquid-Cooled, DOHC, 4 Valve Cylinder Head, Parallel Twin
Displacement: 296 cc
Bore & Stroke: 62.0 x 49.0 mm
Compression Ratio: 10.6:1
Fuel System: DFI® w/ 32 mm Throttle Bodies (2)
Ignition: TCBI with Digital Advance
Transmission: 6-Speed with Positive Neutral Finder
Final Drive: O-Ring Chain
Chassis:
Rake/Trail: 24°/4.3 in
Frame: Tubular, diamond
Front Tire Size: 100/90-19M/C 57S
Rear Tire Size: 130/80-17M/C 65S
Front Suspension/Travel: 41mm Hydraulic Telescopic Fork/5.1 in
Rear Suspension/Travel: Bottom-Link Uni-Trak® with Adustable Preload/5.8 in
Front Brake Type: Single 290mm Petal Disc with 2-Piston Caliper
Rear Brake Type: Single 220mm Petal Disc with 2-Piston Caliper
Dimensions & Capacities:
Overall Length: 85.4 in
Overall Width: 33.9 in
Overall Height: 54.7 in
Ground Clearance: 7.1 in
Seat Height: 32.1 in
Curb Weight: 385.9 lb
Fuel Capacity: 4.5 gal
Wheelbase: 57.1 in
Fuel Tank Capacity: 4.5 gal.
Details:
Model ID: KLE300BHF / CHF
Warranty: 12 months (optional Kawasaki Protection Plus™ 12, 24, 36 or 48 months
Colors:
2017: Candy Lime Green /Metallic Graphite Gray, Metallic Graphite Gray/Flat Ebony
2018: Metallic Spark Black/Metallic Flat Raw Graystone, Passion Red/Metallic Flat Raw Graystone
Price: $5,399 (ABS: $5,699)

References

2017 - 2018 BMW G 310 R / G 310 GS
- image 697191

See our review of the BMW G 310 GS.

All images featured on this website are copyrighted to their respective rightful owners. No infringement is intended. Image Source: kawasaki.com,bmwmotorcycles.com

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