2017 Kawasaki Versys X 300 first ride

Published: 25 May 2017

Before I rode the Versys-X 300 there were a few potential issues that I was concerned about – namely the tall 845mm seat height and the screen’s lack of adjustability. I know these may seem small points, but on a machine aimed at city commuters who will generally be new to motorcycling and carrying an A2 licence, these are quite significant factors. As it turned out these were not an issue, the narrowness of the parallel twin’s waist makes its seat feel considerably lower than 845mm and the screen is really effective, even for a six-footer like myself. But after a quick ride, a few more annoying problems raised their heads.

The Versys-X uses the same 296cc parallel twin motor as the Ninja and Z300 (although it has been made Euro4-compliant through new fuel mapping and a bigger cat), which it houses in an off-road style chassis. While attempting to give the bike some small off-road ability (unlike the rest of the Versys range) is all very commendable, I feel this decision has led to a few unwelcome compromises on what is almost a very good machine…

While the seat’s actual height isn’t an issue, the seat itself is quite firm and on a bike that Kawasaki claim can cover over 200 miles thanks to 66mpg and a 17-litre tank, this is an oversight. The rest of the bike is very comfortable with a really roomy riding position and effective screen and fairing, so it is a decision that seems a little incongruous. However that’s not the Versys’ biggest fault.

Kawasaki has given the Versys-X a three-teeth larger rear sprocket at 46-teeth with the same internal gearbox ratios compared to the Ninja 300 and that makes the motor really revvy. At 60mph the parallel twin is buzzing away at over 7000rpm, which is annoying. Thanks to the secondary balancer shaft there are no irritating vibrations as such, but it’s just not very pleasant to ride as it always feels like the motor is working really hard. And it is a shame as the rest of the bike is good.

For blasting around narrow back roads or city commuting the Versys-X is excellent. It has so many good points – the light clutch, the punchy engine, the agile handling, the luggage rack, the upright riding position, the availability of extras, its 173kg wet weight – I could go on and on. But for me it is all compromised by a poor decision on gearing and an overly hard seat, which is a massive shame and could harm its sales in what will soon be a very competitive market.

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