Review: 2017 Kawasaki Versys-X 300 (LAMS)
Kawasaki's Versys-X 300 offers incredible value and performance in a LAMS adventure/tour styled package. Here's our test. Review by Kris Hodgson, Images by Heather Ware
Kawasaki’s Versys-X 300 is an unassuming machine in many ways, and one that I’ve been keen to test for a while, with great styling, everything you’d want in a LAMS/smaller capacity machine and enough performance to have some fun.
Powered by the parallel-twin powerplant that was first found in the Ninja 300 and subsequently revised for the Z300, it’s now found in the Versys-X as well – albeit further revised, but more on that later.
Kawasaki have been careful with how they present the Versys-X, stating it’s a touring machine with ‘adventure’ styling, so as not to oversell the bike’s adventure capabilities, which is fair enough. This isn’t an off-road motorcycle, what it is, is an exceptional all-rounder with some strong dual terrain qualities.
Styling is cool if you ask me, especially in the Candy Lime Green colour scheme – I mean it is a Kawasaki after all – with great finish quality and sporty fairings. A digital display and analogue tacho provide all the information you’d need, including gear indicator, with easily visible indicator lights so you don’t get caught out.
Overall ergonomics are good, it’s a comfortable upright seating position, with a natural reach to the ‘bars, and easy grippable tank, which holds a generous 17L. The clutch lever is super light, while neither brake offers a heap of bite. The gear change lever is a bit high for me, with a long throw from first to second, but you could adjust it a tooth down – I just got used to it.
The screen also offers reasonable wind protection, although audible wind buffeting is noticeable on the freeway at 110km/h. The large, tall surface area of the bike also makes it more susceptible to side-on wind gusts on the freeway, which is also something to be mindful of on the freeway.
Spoked wheels are a nice touch, and while the exhaust is non-descript, you’re often banging around in high enough revs that I’d give it a pass. If you add a straight through slip-on you’ll probably deafen yourself and end up the least popular person in your street.
The side-stand keeps the bike nice and upright, making for easy parking and not having to wrestle the bike off (or onto the stand), while a rear rack and grab rails ensure luggage mounting and strapping extra items down won’t be a problem. I’d add a topbox that can hold a helmet and a jacket and it’s the ideal commuter/everyday ride.
A seat height of 815mm is higher than the latest LAMS Ninja and Z650 sporty offerings, but still considerably lower than the KLR650, and at around 180cm on the leggy side I never once felt like the bike was unwieldy, or had trouble getting my feet down.
Obviously I’m not a fresh LAMS rider who’s just done the basic course, so if that’s you, jump on one of these bikes and see how you feel. The Versys-X is probably the most forgiving of these taller adventure-sport/touring style bikes that I’ve tested – and the lightest feeling. Just keep in mind it will be a little more challenging to learn on than say a Z250 or Z300.
The turning circle is also nice and tight, with the steering stops ensuring it’s very unlikely you’ll drop the bike or get into too much trouble in these situations.
Talking of the seat… it may be OK for short distance commuting, but for hour or longer rides, like my regular commute which includes 50km of freeway, it becomes exceptionally uncomfortable. I’m not sure if it’s the shape, or whether they’ve kept the amount of padding down for a low seat height, but it is not ideal for longer rides.
Brakes are dual piston calipers front and rear, with a 290mm front wave rotor and 220mm rear item, and both are backed up by ABS. Braking performance is somewhere between good and adequate, and I did notice the beginnings of brake at times, which entailed going flat out down a section of road to brake heavily at a turning point and repeating the process multiple times. For regular riding I can’t see it being an issue though.
I didn’t ever find the ABS activated on the road, while it only came in a few time off-road, once when I was braking into some unexpectedly deep sand while starting to U-turn at low speed. On it came, keeping the front from locking and on I went. The standards tyres undoubtedly helped here too, offering strong performance on and off the road, although it was mainly dry for the two-week testing period.
The tyres themselves are an IRC offering, called the Trail Winner GP-210F, and are accurately called one of their dual-purpose tyres. I can’t see how they would handle really wet conditions, but if it’s anything like their general performance I’d be impressed.
Suspension is 41mm front forks, of the non-adjustable variety, with a Bottom-Link Uni-Trak shock including five-way adjustable preload, with the chassis a steel tubular diamond frame and rectangular box-section swingarm. The engine is a stressed member, and the overall suspension and chassis performance is a real strong point.
While Kawasaki claim the suspension is long travel, the travel is 130mm front and 140mm rear, offering a superb mix of sporty capabilities, with the ability to swallow up our typically terrible road surfaces, not to mention handling unsealed sections with ease. Offering a suspension package that just works well, on any machine that doesn’t offer full adjustability, is the holy grail, and Kawasaki seem to have got it spot on here.
Ground clearance is 180mm, so this will be the main constraint when riding serious off road, however for fire trails or getting over gutters and speed bumps the suspension is just really well set-up out of the box.
I took it over my regular fire-trail test patch, which includes sections of heavily broken sandstone surface and really uneven surface with loose rocks, and am happy to report even with my basic off road abilities it was easy as you could want.
Now power, delivery and fueling are all big items no matter what price bracket you’re looking at, and the parallel twin in the Versys-X really delivers. Power is claimed at just under 40hp, which realistically isn’t that far off the big 600s, and at 175kg on the road fully fueled (with 17L weighing you down) this is a light machine.
Shorter gearing does make first a very short gear, but you can actually take off from second in most situations. Not recommended for new riders, but once you’re happy with take-offs it reduces the frantic upshifting on take-off.
Second is capable of 70km/h too, although I often found myself cruising along in fifth at 60, or sixth at 70-plus. At 120km/h indicated I seem to recalled 9000rpm in sixth. I figure that’d be more like 113km/h real speed, and the Versys-X is comfortable there, with plenty more to give. It’s just obviously revvy.
Fueling is smooth, on and off the throttle, and a slipper clutch is a very appreciated piece of kit, allowing for aggressive downshifting, without unsettling the bike.
Aggressively smash through the gears and you’ve got the speed to well and truly stay ahead of the traffic, and the engine will pull smoothly from 50km/h in sixth. Overtaking is never an issue, whether you’re commuting or on the highway, even on the steepest of inclines.
Plus fuel economy was exceptional, I was filling up with about 200km on the clock and putting 10L in. The fuel gauge was telling me it was lower, while the dash was still indicating a 150-180km range at that point, so 300km on a tank seems incredibly do-able.
Overall I rate the Kawasaki Versys-X 300 extremely highly. For $6,399 plus on roads, the value is just exceptional. It does everything well, is super fun to ride, is confidence inspiring and can handle that occasional unsealed/off-road stuff with infinitely more grace than the sportier offerings.
If you like this style of bike, but have found the tall seat heights and weight too intimidating on other models, then this may well be the machine for you.
The seat is hard, the brakes are basic, but overall I would have one in my garage in an instant as a run-around and commuter. Well done Kawasaki!
2017 Kawasaki Versys-X 300 Tech Talk
The Versys-X is built around the liquid-cooled DOHC eight-valve parallel twin, with a balancer keeping vibrations to a minimum and compression 10.6:1. Pistons feature hard alumite coating, sleeveless aluminium die-cast clunders include plated bores, with an open-deck design for heat dissipation and weight savings.
Dual throttle valves help control air intake, offering linear throttle response and power delivery in conjunction with Keihin throttle-bodies, with an optimised airbox for low to mid-range torque.
A light clutch lever action is thanks to an assist and slipper clutch, which ensures the Versys-X has one of the lightest clutch pulls I’ve ever felt, along with smooth and controllable engine braking, even when aggressively downshifting.
The bike is also Euro4 compliant, and features a two-into-one exhaust system with single muffler, including a catalytic converter.
The chassis is a new high tensile steel type backbone frame, designed specifically for this application, and featuring lightening holes, reinforced shock mounts, and a slim rear sub-frame. The engine is a stressed member.
Forks are 41mm items, with 130mm of travel and no adjustability, while a Bottom-Link Uni-Trak monoshock system is preload adjustable. Kawasaki designed the rake (24.6 degrees) and swingarm length to balance road handling and stability with unsealed road manners.
Brakes comprise of 290mm front and 220mm rear petal rotors, both with dual-piston calipers, and includes Bosch 10M ABS as standard fitment. Wheels are 19in front and 17in rear, spoked items with aluminium rims, IRC tyres are the Trail Winner GP-210Fs and offer a dual-purpose option, ideal for mainly road duties with some unsealed road duties.
A digital dash and analogue tachometer provide information, including gear indicator, with a standard rear rack and grab rails, single-piece double seat with a height of 815mm, and a tall screen, ideal for touring. The Versys-X 300 is $6,399 plus on road costs.
2017 Kawasaki Versys-X 300 Specifications
Colours: Candy Lime Green/Metallic Graphite Gray, Metallic Graphite Gray/Flat Ebony
Warranty: 24 Months, Unlimited Kilometres
Max Power: 29kW@11,000rpm
Max Torque: 26Nm@10,000rpm
Wet weight: 175kg
Engine: Liquid cooled, parallel twin cylinder, 296cc, 62 x 49mm bore x stroke, 10.6:1, DOHC 8 valve, dual 32mm Keihin with dual throttle valves, Ignition Digital
Transmission: 6-speed with Positive Neutral finder
Clutch: Wet multi-disc, Slip & Assist
Fuel capacity: 17L
Chassis: Steel tubular diamond backbone
Suspension – 41mm telescopic forks, 130mm travel, Bottom-Link UniI-Trak with five-way adjustable preload, 140mm travel
Brakes: Front 290mm petal disc, Balanced Actuation dual-piston caliper, single 220mm rear petal rotor, twin piston caliper, Bosch 10M ABS
Tyres: IRC Trail Winner GP-210F, 100/90-19 (57S), 130/80-17 (65S)
Wheelbase 1,450 mm
Ground Clearance 180 mm
Seat height 815 mm