2017 Kawasaki Versys-X 300 Review | On- and Off-Road Tested
Kawasaki brings a small displacement machine to its Versys adventure motorcycle lineup for 2017 with the Versys-X 300. Using a Ninja-derived parallel twin motor, the Versys-X has a sporting heart with an easily manageable power delivery that is welcoming to novice riders.
1. The adventure ergonomics make the Versys-X all-day comfortable, except for the seat. The long-travel suspension, coupled with a relaxed footpeg position and upright seating means you won’t get fatigued, even if the road gets rough. The seat is dirt-bike firm, so if you like a bit more cush for your tush and are tall enough, you may want to check Kawasaki’s accessory Ergo-Fit Extended Reach Seat (one-inch taller), or aftermarket options.
2. The windscreen takes the brunt of the windblast, so you won’t be worn out on full speed freeway rides. Even though you’re sitting fully upright and gripping wide handlebars, you won’t take on wind like a sailboat. The windblast is directed over your helmet, leaving you relaxed on the Versys-X and enjoying the ride.
3. The 296cc DOHC motor is nicely responsive and accelerates easily. A healthy twist of the throttle and quick shifting reveals a willing motor—it’s the Ninja 300 engine with a few tuning mods to make it torquier. Thanks to the small displacement, the power delivery is easily manageable for novice riders as nothing happens fast.
4. Wide bars on the Versys-X provide great leverage for sporting rides on winding roads. You don’t have to be in a knee-dragging crouch to lean the bike into turns, the agile Versys-X is fully capable of being whipped around the canyons from an upright seating position.
5. The single 290mm front disc works well for the intended use of the Versys-X. Yes, it would be nice to have a bit more power behind that right lever in high speed situations in a pinch, but the predictable engagement won’t result in a nasty bite should a newer rider over-actuate the lever. The Versys-X is light, and a single rotor up front is a reasonable choice on the small displacement bike.
6. ABS is available for $300 and makes sense if you’re not planning on riding off-road much. We would almost always opt for the optional ABS on a bike for the added peace of mind in low traction situations, but keep it mind that you can’t turn it off when you hit the dirt.
7. The IRC Trail Winner GP-210 tires are fully convincing on pavement. Whether bouncing over cracked and rippled asphalt, or holding tight to smooth tarmac while tipping into turns, the tires on the Versys-X will feel secure. The GP-210s handle moderate dirt roads well, but stay out of the sand.
8. While the 2017 Kawasaki Versys-X 300 has ADV-bike stature, its light weight takes the edge off the seat height. Shorter inseams may find the 32-inch seat height daunting at first glance, but at 386 pounds fully gassed, the Versys-X is not a handful in low-speed situations. Still, newer riders are more secure when flat-footed at stops, so this could be a deal breaker, depending on one’s inseam measurement and experience.
9. The non-adjustable hand levers have a long reach, though the featherweight clutch alleviates the issue. The Versys-X 300 has an assist and slipper clutch that gives it one of the lightest pulls in motorcycling, so even those with small hands shouldn’t have a problem.
10. The Versys-X is an excellent commuter bike, even on the freeway. While the engine revs in the 8000+ rpm range if you’re pushing 80 mph to keep up with traffic, the Versys-X can rev that high all day long. It’s a bit noisy sounding, but it’s not straining the motor. In urban traffic, your left hand will not get weary if you’re stuck in stop-and-go traffic.
11. Light-to-moderate dirt-road excursions can be tackled on the Versys-X. The bike’s suspension, ergonomics, and light weight make off-pavement forays possible. The low-end torque enables the Versys-X to confidently pick its way through lightly technical sections. While the X definitely does better off-road than you might expect, it’s still a street-focused adventure bike at heart. That exhaust system runs under the motor and is completely unprotected.
12. Add Kawasaki’s Hard Saddlebag Set and you have a light-duty sport-tourer. The $430 bags are only rated to seven pounds each, so you’ll have to pack carefully, and 17-liters isn’t a lot of room. Still, it’s an option and the Versys-X will get you wherever you want to go on a short trip. Kawasaki also offers a $100 30-liter top case, but you can’t run it at the same time as the bags.
13. Available in two color schemes, but we know which one you want. The Versys-X comes in Candy Lime Green/Metallic Graphite Gray and Metallic Graphite Gray/Flat Ebony, though it’s hard to imagine they will sell very many of the latter. Plus, the black will look dirty instantly off-road.
The 2017 Kawasaki Versys-X 300 fills the opening in the company’s adventure line up, providing a great entry-level bike. Experienced street riders looking to get started in ADV riding will be find the Versys-X a great way to learn on the dirt. It’s a motorcycle with a welcoming personality that won’t break the wallet.
Photos by Don Williams
- Helmet: Arai XD4
- Eyewear: Tag Heuer Zenith
- Jacket: Firstgear TPG Monarch
- Hydration pack: Leatt GPX Race HF 2.0
- Gloves: Alpinestars Stella SMX-1 Air
- Pants: Firstgear Women’s HT Overpants
- Boots: Sidi Trial Zero
2017 Kawasaki Versys-X 300 Specs
- Type: Parallel twin
- Displacement: 296cc
- Bore x stroke: 62.0 x 49.0mm
- Compression ratio: 10.6:1
- Fueling: EFI w/ two 32mm throttle bodies
- Valve train: DOHC
- Ignition: TCBI with Digital Advance
- Cooling: Liquid
- Transmission: 6-Speed w/ Positive Neutral Finder
- Final drive: O-Ring Chain
- Front suspension: Non-adjustable 41mm fork/5.1 inches of travel
- Rear suspension: Linkage assisted spring-preload adjustable shock; 5.8 inches of travel
- Front tire: 100/90-19; IRC Trail Winner GP-210
- Rear tire: 130/80-17: IRC Trail Winner GP-210
- Front brake: 290mm petal disc w/ two-piston caliper
- Rear brake: 220mm petal disc w/ two-piston caliper
- ABS: Optional ($300)
DIMENSIONS and CAPACITIWS
- Wheelbase: 57.1 inches
- Rake: 24.3 degrees
- Trail: 4.3 inches
- Seat height: 32.1 inches
- Ground clearance: 7.1 inches
- Fuel tank capacity: 4.5 gallons
- Curb weight: 386 pounds
2017 Kawasaki Versys-X 300 Colors:
- Candy Lime Green/Metallic Graphite Gray
- Metallic Graphite Gray/Flat Ebony
2017 Kawasaki Versys-X 300 Prices:
- $5399 (standard)
- $5699 (ABS) MSRP