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ADV BikesSmall ADV Matchup: BMW G310GS vs Kawasaki Versys-X 300

Small ADV Matchup: BMW G310GS vs Kawasaki Versys-X 300

 Two pint-sized ADVs battle it out to see who takes top honors in the class.

Published on 05.10.2018

BMW G310GS vs Kawasaki Versys-X 300
 
We’ll start off this two-bike comparo by saying that it is a very good time to be in the market for entry-level adventure bikes. Whether you are a first-time buyer, converting from dirt or street, or looking for a smaller, lighter bike to compliment your large ADV Bike, we have two very impressive machines battling it out in this contest — BMW G310GS vs Kawasaki Versys-X 300.

Why did we pick these bikes to compare? Quite simply, they are a close match in the Small ADV Class with a similar price tag and adventure touring features like a wind screen, contoured seating, luggage rack, and good fuel range. Honda’s CRF250L Rally ticks some of these boxes but like the Yamaha WR250R and Kawasaki KLX250, it’s really more of a dual sport in stock trim. And for those Yellow fans out there, the Suzuki V-Strom 250 would fit right into this comparison, yet it is still unavailable in the US market.

So, for now (come on KTM!) we have Bavaria’s smallest adventure bike to date and small-bore twin from Japan. Our initial impressions of the G310GS and Versys-X 300 were both mostly positive, yet neither knocked it out of the park. The main benefit of comparing bikes back-to-back on the same days, in the same conditions, is that we can really feel the character of the bikes and notice things that are harder to tell when riding the bike on its own.

How They Match Up


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BMW G310GS vs Kawasaki Versys-X 300 comparo

On paper, the Versys-X 300 and G310GS are fairly evenly matched yet go about getting their numbers differently. The Versys, using a 296cc parallel-twin, has a touch more horsepower at a claimed 39.3 peak at 11,500 rpm while the BMW’s 313cc single trails slightly at a claimed 34 peak at 9,500 rpm. On the other hand, the G310GS has an edge with 20.7 ft-lbs of torque to the Versys’ 19 ft-lbs.

In the suspension department the two bikes start to diverge a little more. The virtual nod would have to go to the BMW’s upside-down fork and 7.1 inches of travel, front and rear. The Versys-X 300 boasts a modest 5.1 inches from its standard fork and 5.8 inches of rear travel. Interestingly enough, both forks are 41 mm. Yet numbers don’t tell the whole story and a little later we will get into how these two suspension setups stack up.

BMW G310GS vs Kawasaki Versys-X 300 comparo

Both bikes have rear luggage racks and enough fuel range to enable longer journeys, yet the Kawi offers 4.5 gallons to the BMW’s 2.9 gallons. The advantage in wind protection goes to the Green bike as well with a full-size windscreen. The G310GS has street-oriented cast wheels while the Kawi has wire-spoked wheels that are more durable in the dirt. Lastly, the Beemer is the lighter of the two bikes with a claimed wet weight of 374 lbs while the Kawasaki clocks in at 385.9 lbs.

Looking at all the stats, there isn’t a clear advantage, overall, to either bike. Lucky for us, we just had to go ride them both to figure out how these bikes behave in the wild.

How We Tested

The bikes were initially tested at their respective press introductions, both of which were light on the off-road sections. We got some additional time with the G310GS on some mild to moderate off road routes, then we slogged both machines up to Castaic Lake, California to ride them at the ADV Days Adventure Rally. We didn’t follow any guided tours since we had some more adventurous riding in mind that included some seriously narrow, side hill single track. Lastly we took the bikes to the super secret ADV Pulse testing grounds in the high desert, going through our off-road testing loop with stopwatch in-hand.

Ergonomics

BMW G310GS vs Kawasaki Versys-X 300 comparo

Just hopping on one bike after the other, we noticed a big difference in overall feel and ride position. The BMW G310GS has a more familiar, off-road-bike layout with wider, neutral-height bars, slightly higher seat, and wider (with the rubber removed) metal footpegs. It also has a more ‘sit on’ rather than ‘sit in’ feel. The foot controls were a little too far down so the shifter was moved up, but unfortunately the brake pedal is non-adjustable and when riding off-road, especially going down hill, it is a far reach. While it isn’t dirt-bike-slim, the BMW’s seat-to-tank transition is smooth and offers a good contact patch for your legs when standing.

BMW G310GS vs Kawasaki Versys-X 300 comparo

The ergos on the Kawasaki Versys-X 300 are very different. The lower seat height gives a definite ‘sit in’ feel to the bike. This also makes the bar feel a little high (at least for our shorter tester) when sitting. The bar is also narrow compared to the BMW making it a little more awkward to ride off-road. The seat is much firmer than the GS’s, but it wasn’t something that we complained about when riding the Kawasaki by itself. Only after we rode the Kawi, then hopped on the G310GS did we notice that the BMW’s seat was pleasantly more padded. The non-removable rubber-topped street pegs make off-road riding on the Versys a little sketchy and when standing, the shape of the tank makes it a little harder to grip the bike with your legs than the GS.

Street Test

BMW G310GS vs Kawasaki Versys-X 300 comparo

On tarmac, neither bike is a rocket but will get you out in front of traffic from stoplight to stoplight with relative ease, but the Versys-X 300 has a slight advantage. The motor comes from the Ninja 300 and just loves to scream. Keep revving and the bike will keep accelerating. On the highway, the Versys-X 300 can cruise very comfortably at 80 mph with barely any buzz. There is even more acceleration if you need to pass and throttle response from 80 to 90 is pretty good considering how small the engine is. The BMW’s highway manners aren’t as nice. It has more vibration as the revs pick up and 65 mph is where the bike is buzzing the least. It will go 80-85 mph but that is tapped out, with nothing left in reserve. The vibration at that speed isn’t teeth chattering but it is unpleasant enough to make you want to back it down a few mph and arrive at your destination a little later.

We tested the bikes in the twisties as well, which was fun on both machines. But again the Versys-X was a little more at home on the curvy pavement than the BMW. The Kawasaki is effortless to lean into a deep turn and stay planted throughout. It also transitions smoothly from one turn to the next without any unsettling or stand-up. But, with its lower ground clearance, scraping the pegs came quicker on the Versys-X . The BMW, perhaps because of its longer suspension travel, wasn’t as fluid or effortless when leaning it over. It had noticeably more brake dive under as well, making it harder to get settled into a turn. The GS also was a tick behind the pace when it came to accelerating out of tight apexes. Dropping it into third gear to make a tight turn, then trying to blast out of it, we wacked the throttle wide open and weren’t super excited about the rev rate, which is a bit slow. The Kawi, on the other hand, spools up quicker and gets to a more exciting rpm faster out of turns.

BMW G310GS vs Kawasaki Versys-X 300 comparison test

Just to be clear, there wasn’t a massive gap and we also know that these are 300s, not liter bikes. Using the appropriate frame of reference, both bikes are very fun in the twisties. Where their lower displacement leaves something to be desired, their low weight and controllable power make them fun bikes to test the limits of your street riding abilities. The BMW’s brakes felt like they had more power and feel than the Kawasaki’s but neither where sportbike-strong. Keeping the stock tires on for the whole test was a good idea when it came to the asphalt sections. The factory rubber on both machines is very street oriented and didn’t have us worrying about leaning deep into turns or grabbing a handful of front brake.


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Author: Sean Klinger
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6 thoughts on “Small ADV Matchup: BMW G310GS vs Kawasaki Versys-X 300

  1. Great review. How about a repeat with the bikes adventurized? Dual sport tires, suspension improvements, pegs, bars… rally raid style! Most of us would do those mods, so it would be a better comparison.

  2. I’m surprised I missed this one, especially since I bought a Versys-X 300 last October. I absolutely LOVE the thing. True it’s biggest disadvantage is lack of suspension travel; if you don’t try to ride it like a dirt bike, it will do just fine. I upgraded my suspension (front and rear) with Cogent parts, and it made the good stock suspension even better, but it’s still limited by travel. I tried to follow a couple of friends on DR650s one day and couldn’t because I couldn’t hit the bumps as hard as they were. But taking my time, I went everywhere they did.