2018 Kawasaki Versys-X 300: Fun Adventure Touring Bike That Won’t Break the Bank [Review]

Kawasaki Versys-X 300 ABS
[Photo: Kawasaki]

OVERVIEW

The Kawasaki Versys stable of adventure bikes has something for everybody. The lineup begins with the fresh new 2018 Kawasaki Versys-X 300 ABS lightweight all-purpose performer. Further up the chain, other Versys family members include the 650 ABS, 650 LT and 1000 LT.

The Kawasaki Versys-X 300 ABS is not only easy on the eyes, but is easy on the pocketbook, starting at $5,699 with ABS, or $5,399 without. Expect to add an average of $250 for dealer prep and handling, which can vary. It is derived from the Kawasaki Ninja and is powered by a 296cc twin-cylinder motor. The bike’s design comprises a lightweight chassis, long-travel suspension, and wide handlebars. It is the ideal commuter, while also being satisfactory for long road touring adventures.

The adventure bike category consists of motorcycles that are at home in the dirt or on the road, and the Versys-X 300 ABS fills the bill as the ideal entry into the adventure field.

The Versys-X 300 ABS is loaded with features and benefits that one would normally only expect to find on larger, more expensive bikes in this category.

FEATURES

The rake is 24 degrees and the trail measures 4.3 inches. Rolling stock consists of IRC Dual Sport (multi-purpose) tires: 1000/90-19 M/C 57S in front and 13/80-17 M/C 65S in the rear, mounted on lace-spoke aluminum rims.

The brakes comprise a single hydraulic 290 mm petal cut disc on the front wheel and a rear hydraulic 220 mm single petal cut disc with a dual pot caliper.

The instrument panel includes an analog tachometer, as well as a multi-function display that includes a digital speedometer, gear position indicator, fuel range, current and average fuel consumption along with an Economical Riding Indicator and coolant temperature readout. Flashing signal indicators are also included, but the signals are not self-canceling.

DIMENSIONS

The dimensions of the Versys-X 300 are rider friendly except for the seat height, which is a lofty 32.1 inches. The handy trunk mount kicks up at the rear making it difficult to throw your leg over. It necessitates sliding over at mid-seat, where hanging a pant leg up on the mid-positioned foot rest is a possibility. Otherwise, the overall size of the bike is ideal, and it provides 7.1 inches of ground clearance.

There is a host of available factory accessories for the Versys line for longer-range rides, such as hard-detachable luggage compartments, along with protective crash bars, driving lights and hand guards.

Kawasaki Versys-X 300 ABS
[Photo: Arv Voss]

RALLY STYLING

The design of the Versys-X 300 of the bike is bold and rugged, featuring the look of a rally bike. On first impression, it looks like a bike with a larger engine. The upper cowl is indicative of Kawasaki’s athletic DNA. It’s fitted with a substantial windscreen as an added comfort feature. Air ducts placed beneath the headlight aids in the reduction of hot air build up within the cowl, and the large side cowl opening is also effective for heat dissipation from the radiator. Contributing to the bike’s adventure look, the Versys-X 300 has a lower engine guard that appears to cradle the engine.

Kawasaki Versys-X 300 ABS
[Photo: Kawasaki]

PERFORMANCE

The 2018 Kawasaki Versys-X 300 ABS is a lightweight, high revving machine that’s suited to any adventure challenge. Kawasaki tuned the fuel-injected, counterbalanced parallel twin – derived from the Ninja 300 – to operate smoothly from idle to its 12,000 rpm redline.

The 296cc, DOHC, 4-stroke, water-cooled, parallel-twin motor with 2 DFI 32mm throttle bodies and TCBI with digital advance produces 39 horsepower. It gears its motive energy to the rear wheel via a six-speed sequential manual return shift transmission that’s cable actuated, with a wet slipper clutch, assist and a positive neutral finder. Kawasaki tuned the motor to send a favorable amount of power over a wide range of riding scenarios.

The Versys X-300 motor and gearbox mounts in a rigid tubular diamond design frame with 41mm telescopic reverse forks up front with 5.1 inches of wheels travel and a bottom-link Uni-Trak swingarm rear suspension with 5.8-inches of wheel travel bringing up the rear. The subframe is incorporated into the main structure, and the rear shock mount is beefier to handle a variety of riding adventures.

THE EXPERIENCE

It’s fun to ride and forgiving, with a comfortable upright riding position and excellent balanced ride quality. However, taller riders may feel cramped with the mid-positioned foot pegs and controls. At 6’4”, I would have been happier with forward pegs and controls, but this isn’t a cruiser.

The Versys handles well at low or high speeds, and it’s minimal mass promotes confidence in maneuvering on twisting roads. Acceleration is quick and responsive along the bike’s broad torque range.

Kawasaki Versys-X 300 ABS
[Photo: Kawasaki]

VERDICT

All in all, the Kawasaki Versys-X 300 ABS makes for an affordable entry-level adventure bike. It’s capable of serving as both a fun and economical commuter and a lightweight adventure tourer.

The base price on my test 2018 Kawasaki Versys-X 300 ABS came out to $5,949, before taxes and fees. If you feel you don’t need it, eliminating ABS saves $300. Kawasaki finished this particular bike not in their traditional Bright Green, but rather in a new Passion Red Metallic with a Flat Raw Graystone finish. The other available color is Metallic Spark Black.

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SPECIFICATIONS: 2018 Kawasaki Versys-X 300 ABS

On Sale: Now
Base MSRP: $5,699 ($5,399 w/o ABS)
Price as Tested: $5,949
Engine: 296cc DOHC, 8-valve parallel-twin with 2 DFI 32mm throttle bodies and TCBI with digital advance
Drivetrain (Layout): Sealed chain final drive
Horsepower: 39 hp
Transmission: Six-speed sequential manual return shift, cable actuated, wet clutch
Suspension: Front: 41mm Telescopic forks with 5.1 inches of wheel travel

Rear: Uni-Trak swingarm with 5.8 inches of wheel travel

Brakes: Front: Hydraulic 290 mm petal cut Single Disc, ABS

Rear: Hydraulic 220 mm Single Disc with dual pot caliper, ABS

Tires: Front: IRC Dual Sport 100/90-19M/C 57S

Rear: IRC Dual Sport 13/80-17 M/C 65S

Fuel capacity: 4.5 gallons

Dimensions:

Wheelbase: 57.1 inches
Length:  85.4 inches
Width: 33.9 inches
Height:  54.7 inches
Rake: 24.0 degrees
Trail: 4.3 inches
Seat height: 32.1 inches
Curb Weight: 385.9 pounds