2017 Kawasaki Versys-X 300
Kawasaki enters the 2017 model year with an eye toward the small-displacement adventure-bike market, and the all-new Versys-X 300 is its weapon of choice for this new front. The “X” joins the rest of the Versys adventure-bike lineup with the characteristic family flylines atop unique features all its own.
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.
Continue reading for my first look at the Kawasaki Versys X-300.
The Versys DNA shows up in the overall panache 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.
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.
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.
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.
Seat height and wheelbase length are yet to be announced, as are other metrics such as rake and trail, so there is still a bit of mystery with this ride. I’ll be posting up those vital numbers as they become available, which I expect to be in January of 2017 along with the pricing information.
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.
Price is as yet listed as TBA; January 2017.
The low-displacement adventure bike market isn’t exactly what you would call well populated at this time, but I did manage to find a very good candidate in the new-for-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 the actual difference is likely to be smaller once the official numbers are known. 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.
“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.”
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. After reading through the Kawasaki documentation and before I looked at the bike, I wasn’t sure what to expect. Kawasaki calls it a "multi-purpose adventure touring on-road" bike. An adventure bike usually implies off-road and on-road use even if the bike is oriented more one way than the other. A touring bike should have storage, though I realize that is more of an American definition of touring. I see hand guards, panniers, and an engine guard offered as options or accessories, but so far, no mention of knobbies. It’s an on-road bike with adventure styling, just not adventure worthiness. Maybe as we get closer to the release date, things will become more clear."
|Engine Type:||4-Stroke, Liquid-Cooled, DOHC, 4 Valve Cylinder Head, Parallel Twin|
|Bore & Stroke:||62.0 x 49.0 mm|
|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|
|Front Wheel Travel:||TBA|
|Rear Wheel Travel:||TBA|
|Front Tire Size:||100/90-19|
|Rear Tire Size:||130/80-17|
|Front Suspension:||41mm Hydraulic Telescopic Fork|
|Rear Suspension:||Bottom-Link Uni-Trak® with Adustable Preload|
|Front Brake Type:||Single 290mm Petal Disc with 2-Piston Caliper|
|Rear Brake Type:||Single 220mm Petal Disc with 2-Piston Caliper|
|Fuel Tank Capacity:||4.5 gal.|
|Model ID:||KLE300BHF / CHF|
|Kawasaki Protection Plus™:||12, 24, 36 or 48 months|
|Colors:||Candy Lime Green /Metallic Graphite Gray, Metallic Graphite Gray/Flat Ebony|