Kawasaki Versys-X 300 Review
|I'm 41 years old, have ridden many years and already own a selection of bikes, but following a knee injury I was facing a year out unless I could find a bike with less weight. After 15 months and 8,000 miles these are my thoughts on the boy.||
|✓||Big bike dimensions, comfy, light, screen, mirrors, economy|
|×||Side stand, seat, factory luggage, tyres, not the best looking adventure bike|
My wee boy Lypen, a 2017 Kawasaki Versys-X 300 Adventure.... after 15 months and 8,000 miles these are my thoughts on the boy
I'm 41 years old, have ridden many years and already own a selection of bikes, but following a knee injury Dec 16 I was facing a year out unless I could find a bike with less weight and less knee bend than my current steed. The website www.cycle-ergo.com was the best thing ever saving me hours of fruitless attempts, and it led me to consider one of the new 300cc bikes being launched that year - BMW G310GS, or the Versys 300, so I set about trying to find one.... BMW hadn't given a date, whilst the Kawasaki was meant to have landed in January (this was March) and there weren't even demo bikes in the country. The waiting was frustrating but when I got the text to tell me there was finally a Versys 300 in my local dealer I went straight down and saw it straight out the crate.
First impressions - yes, ok, it looks like a Versys (:ugly!), but it also looks reassuringly like a big bike, with big bike dimensions. A proper seat, and pillion seat, nice screen, good mirrors, nice tall seat height - there really weren't many clues it was only 300cc. I sat on it and it really was light as a feather, and true to cycle-ergo's word, the knee bend was really very comfortable for someone with dodgy knees, and it took me about 2 minutes to decide to buy it. I went for the Adventure options - ABS, hard (plastic) panniers, centre stand, tank pad, engine bars and hand guards, and I also added the optional extra of the 12v socket. £5,999 OTR. I've since added the Kawasaki top box which just barely fits a medium sized Shoei lid, but it's been a useful addition.
The manual states running in period is @ 4000rpm ... sorry, but clearly the person who wrote that has not ridden this bike - it's not a great thumping engine that can do a decent speed at 4000rpm, it's a - frankly wheezy - 300cc that is going about 20mph at 4000rpm! So, I ignored that, but did want to take it as easy as possible, so I just decided to try to remain smooth and try to avoid the upper rev range. Which by the way is 15,000, with a the red zone at 12,000.
So what do I make of the riding? Well, the comfort is there - the riding position is brilliant- tall, comfortable, the screen is frankly excellent (I'm 5'7" with a 31" inseam) and the mirrors are stable and well positioned. The seat is like a plank (I initially thought it was because I hadn't ridden for a while, but no, the seat is hard as a rock!). The engine really does feel gutless. My basis for comparison is a 19 year old DR350 which is a punchy single and frankly a hoot to ride. The Kawasaki is a parallel twin, and clearly has been set up for new riders, or fuel economy, or perhaps both. After it's first service (600 miles) it seemed to liven up a wee bit, so perhaps it was marginally restricted, but it's still very tame. The gearing is also very odd - very short 1-3 (6 gears total) so round town you are constantly changing through the gears. It has a GPI which I've never had before, but it's been a big help whilst I get used to this new riding experience. I don't know what it's posted top speed is, but 81mph is 10,000rpm in 6th and at that speed it is still all very confidence inspiring - rides true, no wobble, weave or shake, so that's pretty decent performance for a wee 300 really. I've had it closer to 90mph for extended periods on the German autobahns and it still felt solid, so I'm really impressed with that. The brakes took a long time to bed in, but after about 4,000 miles they've been good. The tyres it came out the factory with are not exactly confidence inspiring. On first glance they look like a Metzeler Tourance or some such so I wasn't too fussed, and in the dry there was no real issue, but first ride in the wet and they showed their true colours. I changed them for Metzeler Tourance Nexts before our 2nd tour together which fit my style of riding.
The tank is 17l and the fuel economy is basically as stated! I have managed 220 miles until the filler light flashed (there is also a fuel gauge) and even then he only took 14.5L! That day had been conservative riding, so I thought it might be unusual, but then on the one day I had a motorway slog and sat around 75/80 mph for 3 hours I still managed 180 miles until the light showed, and then it only took 13l, so I am very much impressed! Don't get me wrong, I'd happily trade some of that fuel efficiency for a bit more poke, but, well....
So have I found any cons? Well, apart from the general gutlessness, and the plank for a seat the only other con is the side stand. It is far more stand than it is side - even to the degree that in some petrol stations I have struggled to get enough lean to get off! I had owned my big bike 5 years before I had a side stand fail, but this one I had had 5 weeks, and I'm still not sure what happened - I was just stepping off and it went over underneath me. But, the engine bars and hard case did their job - the only damage was a bit of a scuff on each, and the gear change lever was a bit bent, but nothing of note. The only other thing is the factory cases - they are REALLY flimsy, they are an odd shape, and because it's really easy to get things in the way of the lock the key gets bent easily. There are other options out there that offer a far more useable and robust product which I would recommend over the Versys option. I was also disappointed with the factory chain and sprockets - they were really cheap. I tried to get them changed at 4,000 miles but because they are special order I didn't have time before our next tour, so they are being changed out now at 8,000 miles for a DiD/ AFAM set. The handguards are also just single attachment, so don't offer as much protection as some of the aftermarket options, but they've been fine for what I need them for.
I've taken this bike to Holland, Germany, Hungary, Slovakia, Poland, Ukaine and the Czech Republic, so I can guarantee it can handle big miles! This bike does inspire confidence - never once did I go into a bend too hot, or feel like I was out of my depth. U turns are easy, as are car parks. Hill starts with luggage takes a bit of work, and the unpaved/ forest roads I've done were really hard work with the gearing, but I've watched some videos of other folk in the US and Phillippines and I think in the right hands this bike might be quite capable on easy dirt too. As with any small engined bike your riding takes a bit more thought and a bit more planning - overtakes etc, you can't just be lazy and rely on a smooth fast roll on to get you through, but I actually really enjoy that about riding it.
My plan was always that the Versys would be a short term solution to an injury problem, but I'm really starting to enjoy the ease that comes with riding a small bike, so I think I'll keep it a bit longer.
I had the 600 mile dealer service, then the first annual service was done at about 3,750 miles. I'm just back from our second tour and I've put it in for what should have been it's 7,500 mile service, but it got a bit hammered on the forest raods in Ukraine Carpathians, so talking to the dealer I opted for the 15,000 mile service @ £500. The bike has a 2 year guarantee, so I want to keep the warranty valid. Servicing is not cheap - valve clearances every 7,500 miles(!) but I think they're banking on most owners not covering big miles. Tyres were special order as they are odd sizes, as was the chain and sprockets, with a 14T on the front. I've opted for a 15T which should help with the odd gearing. (You can't change the size of the rear as it messes up the engine management.) There has been a recall on the rear light fitting as it disintegrated, but otherwise all seems to work well.
- Big bike dimensions
- Fuel economy
- Relatively cheap to buy and insure
- Wind protection
- Perfectly capable
- SOOOOOO lightweight
- Comfortable riding position
- Useful gear position indicator
- Factory top box is pretty good
- Excellent mirrors
- Excellent turning circle
- Good clocks and lights
- The really basic gearing (a pro for new riders!)
- Flimsy side cases (other brands are now available)
- Side stand is too upright (most people cut them down and/or add a larger footplate)
- Seat like a plank
- Factory tyres aren't great
- Factory chain and sprockets aren't great
- New bike so not many after market options, like the Bagster tank cover or a Haynes manual
- Pipa U, 2018
Capacity: 296 cc
Power: 39 bhp
Seat Height: 845 mm
Wet Weight: 170 kg
Range: 220 miles