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Kawasaki Versys: Lightweight Adventure Bike

By Arv Voss, September 29th, 2018

The Kawasaki Versys stable of adventure bikes has something for everybody, beginning with the fresh new Kawasaki Versys-X 300 ABS lightweight all-purpose performer. The Versys-X 300 ABS is not only easy on the eyes, it's also easy on the pocketbook, starting at $5,699 with ABS or $5,399 without.

It is derived from the Kawasaki Ninja and is powered by a 296cc twin-cylinder motor. It's really one of a kind, with its lightweight chassis, long-travel suspension, wide handlebars, low seat height, initial affordability, and economical operating expense. 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.

Essentially, the Versys-X 300 ABS (the ABS is definitely worth the extra $300) is loaded with features and benefits that one would normally only expect to find on larger, more expensive bikes in this category.

The four-stroke parallel-twin motor with two direct-fuel-injected 32mm throttle bodies and TCBI with digital advance produces a claimed 39 horsepower and 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. The final drive is a sealed chain.

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

Stopping is provided by a single hydraulic 290mm petal-cut disc, with ABS on the front wheel and a rear hydraulic 220mm single petal-cut disc with a dual-pot caliper and ABS out back.

The dimensions of the Versys-X 300 are rider-friendly, except for the seat height, which is a lofty 32.1 inches, and the handy trunk mount that kicks up at the rear making it difficult to throw one's leg over, necessitating sliding over at mid-seat, where hanging a pants 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.

The design of the Versys-X 300 is bold and rugged with the look of a rally bike. At first glance, it looks like bike with a much larger engine. The upper cowl is indicative of Kawasaki's athletic DNA and it's fitted with a substantial windscreen as an added comfort feature. Air ducts placed beneath the headlight aid in the reduction of hot air buildup within the cowl, and the large side cowl opening is also effective for heat dissipation from the radiator. Contributing to the bike's adventurous look is the lower engine guard that appears to cradle the engine.

The Kawasaki Versys-X 300 ABS is essentially a lightweight, high-revving machine that's suited to virtually any adventure challenge. It's fun to ride and forgiving with its comfortable upright riding position and excellent balanced ride quality. Taller riders may feel cramped with the mid-positioned foot pegs and controls. At 6-foot 4-inches, I would have been happier with forward pegs and controls, but then, I'm more cruiser oriented.

The Versys handles well at low or high speed, and its minimal mass promotes confidence in maneuvering through "twisties." Acceleration comes quickly and responsively, and the broad torque range is ideally suited to both low- and high-rev scenarios.

The flat rear carrier platform is level with the seat, which features a large-diameter rear grab bar for passenger comfort and security.

The healthy fuel-injected, counterbalanced parallel twin derived from the Ninja 300 operates smoothly from just above idle to the redline of 12,000 rpm. All in all, the Kawasaki Versys-X 300 ABS makes for an affordable entry-level adventure bike that is capable of serving as both a fun and economical commuter and a lightweight adventure tourer.

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