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ADV BikesKawasaki Versys-X 300 Adventure Build

Kawasaki Versys-X 300 Adventure Build

 Our project bike gets transformed into an off-road-capable Adventure Tourer.

Published on 02.06.2019


The ergonomics on the Versys-X 300 are pretty good for long-distance traveling, other than the rock hard seat. Yet in the dirt, the narrow handlebars and non-removable rubber peg covers make it a bit awkward to ride aggressively standing up. The spindly ⅞”-diameter steel handlebars are also susceptible to bending in a fall. We went about addressing some of these issues by changing up several touch points.

Rox Speed FX Pivoting Anti-Vibe Bar Risers

Kawasaki Versys X-300 ADV Pulse Adventure Build

The handlebar height was decent on the Versys-X 300, but we wanted to raise it a bit for a more aggressive off-road riding position. These Rox risers offer several advantages for setting up ergos. Not only do they adjust for height, you can also roll the risers forward to open up the cockpit area a bit. Additionally, they come with polyurethane inserts that help soak up shock on the trail and vibrations on the highway. Even better, they allow you to convert those skinny ⅞” bars into 1-⅛” fatty bars.

Mika Metals Pro Series BBT 1-⅛” Handlebars


Kawasaki Versys X-300 ADV Pulse Adventure Build

With our fat bar riser adaptors in place, we were ready to slip on a set of sturdy 1-⅛” tapered aluminum bars. The Mika Pro Series bars are made with aerospace aluminum for maximum strength but are engineered with a little flex to reduce arm fatigue. The black anodized finish is one of the most scratch-resistant we’ve seen on a set of bars as well. They come with a cross-bar for extra strength, but are strong enough to go without it if you aren’t planning on hitting the doubles at the motocross track.

Rizoma Rally Footpegs

Kawasaki Versys X-300 ADV Pulse Adventure Build

The Italian company Rizoma may be an unfamiliar brand in the states, but they’ve been around for years overseas. We’ve been eyeing their beautifully CNC-machined aftermarket components for some time and when we saw they made off-road footpegs for the Versys-X 300, we were eager to give them a try. The Rally footpegs have a nice wide platform to give you good support while standing for hours on the pegs, and a serrated surface that keeps your feet from slipping. The pegs also feature an opened up interior which makes keeping them clean in the mud much easier. Lots of details to look at like a polished anodized finish and laser engraved branding as well.

Seat Concepts Comfort Seat

Kawasaki Versys X-300 ADV Pulse Adventure Build

To improve the highway comfort of the Versys-X 300, we installed a Seat Concepts seat foam and cover kit. The high-quality foam offers cushier seating than stock and the cover has a grippy top surface that helps you maintain body position off-road. The unique shape has a similar contour to stock at the front of the seat so the rider’s legs are not spread farther apart, but tapers out towards the mid-point to distribute rider weight over a greater area. The Comfort Seat retains roughly the same stock seat height, but the company also offers a tall version (1-¼” higher) for those with longer legs.


Long-range off-road travel requires you have durable luggage that can withstand the abuse of rough terrain. You also need good navigation tools and the ability to know where you are going at a glance. We wanted to have our Versys-X setup with everything it needs to navigate to the back of beyond, while carrying all our gear for several comfortable nights under the stars.

GIVI Gravel-T GRT709 Soft Panniers (70L)

Kawasaki Versys X-300 ADV Pulse Adventure Build

With a combined 70 liters of carrying capacity, GIVI’s new rack-mount soft panniers have plenty of space to carry your camping gear, spares, clothing and more. And with this much carrying capacity, a big top bag isn’t necessary. All the weight is carried low on the sides, keeping the center of gravity down for improved handling characteristics. The GRT709 soft panniers are constructed with durable 1200WR polyester that can take a fall.Tension straps keep contents in place, even if you aren’t using the full capacity. They also come with waterproof inner bags (IP65 rated) and utilize MOLLE fasteners for strapping on external accessories. Best of all, they feature lockable quick-release backing plates that make it easy to detach your luggage and carry it to your tent or hotel room.

GIVI PL4121 Pannier Racks

Kawasaki Versys X-300 ADV Pulse Adventure Build

The GIVI pannier racks offer a sturdy and secure mounting point for our soft panniers. The racks remove many of the typical hassles of soft bags – no need to stop and re-adjust mounting straps during rigorous rides, or worry about bags sliding out of place and burning on the hot exhaust. Constructed with strong steel tubing, they provide additional protection for the subframe, and a black powder-coat finish enhances corrosion resistance.

GIVI Gravel-T GRT707 Tool Bag (5L)

Kawasaki Versys X-300 ADV Pulse Adventure Build

With most of our gear carried down low in our panniers, we wanted to put our tools on the top rack for easy access. The GRT707 Tool Bag is the ideal size for carrying your basic tool kit, plus a spare inner tube and a rag. It keeps these items at the tip of your fingers when you need to grab a screwdriver or zip tie. The bag is also fully waterproof, so you can keep your spare layer, flashlight, or electronics dry during a failed river crossing.

Trail Tech Voyager Pro GPS

Kawasaki Versys X-300 ADV Pulse Adventure Build

Trail Tech’s new Voyager Pro GPS unit features a large 4″ color touch screen to make navigating your journey all the more easy. It lets you import GPX files, record tracks, set waypoints, and personalize maps. But what really sets it apart is the Buddy Tracking feature that lets you monitor the position of each rider in your group on the screen. If a rider is in need of help, he can turn on an emergency beacon to alert other riders in the group. We mounted our unit with a RAM Mounts 1” ball base and small double socket arm attached to the top of the console where it is easy to view tracks at a glance.


We couldn’t resist a few extras to give our Versys-X a little bling and some added functionality.

Rizoma Gas Cap

Kawasaki Versys X-300 ADV Pulse Adventure Build

The stock gas cap on the Versys-X 300 always seems to get in the way when we are trying to fill up, especially with the big rubber boots on fuel pumps here in California. Rizoma offers a replacement gas cap that is completely removable and lockable with its own key. It’s precision machined from billet aluminum with a bi-color finish – a nice detail on the Versys-X to give it a custom look.

GIVI ES4121 Sidestand Foot

Kawasaki Versys X-300 ADV Pulse Adventure Build

Whether parked on hot asphalt, sand, soft dirt, or mud, we’ve all had our bike’s tip over completely on their own. Nothing is more frustrating than unnecessary damage to your bike, and typically your helmet gets caught up in the carnage too. So instead of constantly searching for solid ground or a rock to put your kickstand down on, we wanted to avoid the hassle with a kickstand foot. Basically, it’s like a snowshoe for your kickstand that increases the surface area, keeping it from sinking down into the ground. GIVI’s Sidestand foot is solidly built with aluminum and stainless steel – an essential farkle for any off-road rider!

Kawasaki Versys-X 300 ADV Build Parts List

Aftermarket ProductPrice USD
 Ricochet Aluminum Skid Plate$241.45
 GIVI Engine Guards (TN4121)$162.00
 Doubletake Adventure Mirrors$125.00
 Acerbis X-Strong Supermoto Handguards$134.96
 Barkbusters Bar End Weights$39.95
 Rox Speed FX Pivoting Anti-Vibe Bar Risers$118.00
 Mika Metals Pro Series BBT 1-1/8″ Handlebar$109.99
 Rizoma Rally Footpegs$180.00
 Rizoma Touring Footpeg Mounts (PE755A)$42.00
 Seat Concepts Comfort Seat (Carbon Fiber Sides/Gripper Top)$194.99
 Extended Forks with DDC Valves$514.95
 Extended Monotube Shock$639.00
 Motoz Tractionator Adventure Front Tire (110/80-19)$128.99
 Motoz Tractionator Adventure Rear Tire (130/80-17)$149.99
 Akrapovic Slip-On Line (Titanium)$534.56
 Akrapovic Heat Shield$95.42
 GIVI Gravel-T Soft Panniers (GRT709)$629.10
 GIVI Pannier Racks (PL4121)$171.00
 GIVI Gravel-T Tool Bag (GRT707)$39.00
 Trail Tech Voyager Pro$599.95
 RAM Mounts Double Socket Arm (Small)$13.49
 RAM Mounts 1″ Ball Cradle Adapter$8.31
 Rizoma Gas Cap (TF011A)$201.00
 GIVI Sidestand Foot (ES4121)$46.80

Photos by Stephen Gregory

Author: Rob Dabney

Rob Dabney started a lifelong obsession with motorcycles at the age of 15 when he purchased his first bike – a 1982 Honda MB5. Through his 20’s and 30’s he competed in off-road desert races, including the Baja 250, 500 and 1000. Eventually, his proclivity for exploration led him to dual sport and adventure riding. Rob’s never-ending quest to discover what’s around the next bend has taken him on Adventures in Mexico, North Africa, Europe, and throughout the American West. As a moto journalist, he enjoys inspiring others to seek adventure across horizons both near and far.

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Author: Rob Dabney

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69 thoughts on “Kawasaki Versys-X 300 Adventure Build

  1. Fantastic job on this transformation ! For a solo rider this should take you any place you need to go . With all the protection and carrying capacity you should be safe . You can pick and choose what works for you but when the package doubles the price of the bike and breaks though the $10k barrier there is alot of competition out there .

    • Thanks for the feedback, Robert! Absolutely, you can pick and choose the upgrades that are most important to you. That’s one reason why we describe the benefits of each part – so you can decide which components offer the most value. The Versys-X is a unique bike in the market with it’s small-displacement twin-cylinder engine that lets it cruise smoothly at 80 mph on the highway with passing power to spare. It’s a great platform to build on with a lot of potential and we hope it inspires others to do their own custom Versys-X builds!

  2. I’ve had this bike since Oct 2017. Mine was the prototype bike for Cogent’s stock-height suspension upgrade. I can’t deal with another inch of seat height so your one-inch taller stuff just won’t do it for me. But the stock-height Cogent rear shock and DDC-fitted forks are fantastic and are just fine as long as you aren’t trying to ride it like a Baja racer. If you take your time, which I believe most ADVers do, the stock suspension travel is quite sufficient. But if you happen to be taller, by all means go for the taller setup.

    I agree on pretty much all your other mods for the most part… anti-vibe riser, mirrors, luggage racks (I used Happy Trails), engine guards, Ricochet skid plate, etc. For tires I used Metzeler Karoo 3’s which are amazing if a bit pricey. I have the Tractionators on my DR650 and they’re excellent.

    My only complaint is the seat — the Seat Concepts seat, while better than stock, is still garbage. I get sore after about three hours on it (compared to one hour with the stock seat). I’m going to have to have some custom work done since the only other aftermarket seat specifically for it is from Corbin and their version is an inch taller than stock.

  3. OK – am I the only one that laughed at this line? “The Italian company Rizoma may be an unfamiliar brand in the states…”
    Maybe it’s funny to me because my wife and I own Italian bikes, but who hasn’t heard of Rizoma?

    Great article and build-up of a min-adv tourer. I really like these bikes – just wish they weighed a bit less. Cogent makes GREAT stuff – and that is a pretty good price! We put their DDC and a Cogent shock on my wife’s XT 225, so I’m not really going to knock you spending almost as much as the bike costs to buy…I think the skid and suspension are the really only first “must haves” I’d tackle and I’d meet out the rest later.

    • Appreciate the kind words and glad to hear you like the build we put together. If you ride Italian sport bikes, you’ve probably heard of Rizoma. In ADV circles, they are relatively unknown in the states. Yes, Cogent does make great stuff and the cost of roughly $1,100 to upgrade the suspension (fork and shock) with an added 1″ suspension travel is well worth the investment! But with these builds, it’s all about showing the options so that others can make their own personal choices about what makes sense for how they ride. You can pick and choose, or build out the bike over time as funds allow.

  4. I can’t help but notice that you spent $4k on a bike that is $5.5k to achieve these results. If you had $9.5K to spend in the first place would you still have gone this route?

    • Hi Ray. The answer to your question is actually another question… If you want a 386lb twin-cylinder adventure bike, that comes from the factory with wire-spoke wheels, what else are you going to buy? A Honda CB500X is 430lb, comes with street-oriented suspension, is slower than the Versys-X, and it comes with cast wheels at $6,600. A V-Strom 650XT comes with wire-spoke wheels but costs $9,300 and weighs 470 lbs. There are a few sub-400lb single cylinder options that you could build in the $10k range like the KLX, CRF250L, G310GS, XR650L, or DR650. But no matter how much money you throw at those bikes, they are not going to provide the same level of comfort for long-distance highway travel as the Versys-X 300. If you are primarily riding off-road, those single-cylinder dual sport models are great options. But if you want to cross states on US Highways to get somewhere interesting like Moab, the Versys-X is a worthy platform to invest in.

      • Using the parts list and numbers provided, you spent $5119.90 on a $5499 bike, so you’re up to $10,618.90 (not counting shipping/tax). You mentioned a few alternatives but discounted them for weight and/or price. Did you weigh the X-300 *after* you added all of the aftermarket parts? I think articles such as these are more an exercise in possibilities; i think it’s ridiculous to buy this bike and make *every* modification that was mentioned. But I suppose if you’re shopping for one or two things to do to your bike, this is a good laundry list of ideas.

        • Thing is, Kurt, you would do a majority of these “upgrades” on any other bike. Panniers/racks, engine guards, tires, etc. usually do not come stock on most adv bikes.

  5. What did you have to do to make the Acerbis hand guards fit? It looks like you have some spacers between the end of the handlebar and the have guard arm. Also I’m having trouble fitting the RH inner mount in between the brake lines.


      • Hey Rob, looking to do the Acerbis hand guards with the barkbuster bar end weights on my own 300- awesome look.

        Did you guys have clearance issues with hand guards hitting the front or windshield both with and without the risers? Or no clearance problems either way?

        • Hi Ian. If I remember correctly, they may have just touched at full tilt with the risers and bars we used but didn’t cause any problems. We installed it all at once so not sure about clearance issues with different setups.

          • Rad. Taking the plunge on this solution thanks to this article and your help. Seat concepts on the way, too. Hope to do a bunch of other recommendations in the article next spring, too. Thanks so much for a fantastic/helpful post (and photos)!

            • Hey Rob- got the Acerbis guards + Barkbuster bar end weights and it looks/works great, thanks!

              I want to add the DoubleTake Mirrors but the link leads to the generic URL and they only offer mirrors listed for the Kawa KLR…I wrote Rocky Mountain ATV to ask if they’ll fit on the Versys and they were unsure.

              How did you make the mirrors fit the Versys and did you order the KLR set?

              • Hi Ian. The KLR kit should work. You can also order directly from DoubleTake ( They have a configurator there. It looks like they include the extensions but we didn’t use extensions on ours. Just the universal screw-in ball mounts.

      • Another thing to mention is you will need a longer M10 bolt for the top front engine mount if using the Givi guards and Ricochet skid plate as they share the same mount position there. The trick is Givi provides an allen type as it is accessible through a 3/4″ I.D. tube which is not conducive to a hex bolt to get a socket in there. The only one I could find was in China so I am waiting for the slow boat to show up, probably about a month out. M10x180mm 1.25 thread is what I’m hoping will work. The Givi supplied bolt is M10x160mm and is just not long enough.

  6. Did you need longer cables to fit the risers? How are vibrations? I can’t seem to find the Rizoma adapters (Revzilla says they don’t exist for the bike). Thanks.

    • The cables were just long enough, although there was some adjusting of the cables and the risers to get it all to work. Vibes are not a problem with the smooth twin engine, vibration damping risers and bar end weights on the handlebars. The Rizoma peg mounts for the Versys-X were available at Revzilla when we posted but they just confirmed they are currently out. The part number you want is PE755A. If you look around online there should be some other vendors selling them.

    • Good news Ocho. Just heard back from Revzilla and they they can get the Rizoma footpeg adapters for the Versys-X 300 now. It’s a special order that takes 4-6 weeks but they can get them. Here’s the link…

  7. Good article. Thanks for putting this together. I am about to trade my Super Tenere in for a Versys 300. I am NOT getting the “X” model, cuz my experience with anti-lock brakes off road has been that they are a liability in low traction situations. Kawasaki needs to make it so you can turn them off as needed. Thanks, Bob

  8. Thanks for the great Vx upgrading article, rob. My wife and I are getting older, and since selling my 1200 gs, and her 650 strom, we mis riding, and we have our eye on 2 versys 300’s. I definitely want tubeless wheels and tires though, since I enjoyed being able to plug repair our tubeless tires a couple times. Have you, or could you please explore a tubeless wheel upgrade for the vx? Thank you very much, Ted.

      • Thanks Rob. I remember reading your tubeless article. I got on the alpine wheel web sight a while ago, and they did not offer vx tubeless wheels, but I did not call them, which I should do. The conversion kits look interesting, but the spoked front vx wheel does not have a safety hump. (Although An Outex article claims that a lack of a safety hump does not pose a safety problem). Has anybody out there converted, or purchased tubeless wheels for the vx? If so, how has it worked. Thanks, cheers.

  9. Thanks for doing this build! And for convincing Cogent to make an extension kit, that’s going to be awesome. I have a ’17 vx that I’ve been bottoming out and dropping on the plastics for the last couple years and it’s upgrade time.

    Was there a particular reason you went with Givi’s crash bars over anyone else’s? I’ve been eyeing SW motech’s offering.

    • Glad you liked the build Chris. The GIVI crashbars have a full wrap-around design that gives more support and helps disperse the impact in a fall. They also go up a little higher to give the upper fairing more protection. Those would be the main advantages over the SW-Motech bars.

  10. i bought the same bars and hand guards only thing I didn’t do is buy the risers…. the clutch side has about 4 inches of hand bar sticking out and the throttle side has about 2 inches of the throttle sticking out pass the bar so how in the hell did they get this to fit this bike…. it sure as hell wasnt a slap on Job… I don’t even have the risers and my brake cable is to the max

    • It took some fiddling to get it to work. There was a cable routing attachment that we removed, near the steering stem on the frame, that helped free up extra space without creating any problems. You’re also not going to get it to work with the risers rolled all the way forward but we were able to get them into a neutral position. Tight at full lock, but just enough clearance to get it to work.

  11. You spent over $5000 on a bike that costs like $5500 and has under 40hp. You are in KTM 690 range at that price point. A bike that has way more hp, weighs way less and comes stock with better components. It’s just an expensive pig with lipstick at that point.

    • Except KTM690 doesn’t have wind protection, it’s quite a shaker, and will require additional $5000 to make it more or less comfortable on a long trip.

  12. Fantastic build! Lots of great ideas for my Versys and really appreciate the work to get a suspension upgrade created for this bike. Thank you!

  13. I would also like to know how did you put tubeless tires on the “tubed” wheels? Was looking into TUBliss or Mousse, but no options for the 17″ rim unfortunately 🙁

  14. a good practical build but looks ugly. How about one that looks good with good looking hard bags a little easier on the bash plate. something simple that every can afford. Soft bags are practical but ugly, leave the bars but add a riser, that you do not have to change the wiring or extend the cables. For hear in Canada heated grips and hand protection also extend the front fender so you do not get your feet soaked every time it rains or the roads are wet. I can’t figure out why they put such short front fenders on the bikes, are you not to ride in the rain.

  15. Great read, glad someone is making suspension upgrades now! Is there a reason you went for a slip on exhaust instead of a full system?

    • Hi Greg. We would have considered it if there was a significant power increase offered by a full exhaust system, but we didn’t come across anything for the Versys-X 300 at the time of this build.

  16. Has anyone out there did a shock upgrade and fork enhancement from Cogent besides the author? If so, just how much better is it? You can get a longer stroke shock and fork bits without extending the tubes and without changing the geometry from them and I’m wondering just how much better it is off road?

  17. Love your setup! I just installed the GIVI grt709 mount and racking system and unfortunately the bags touch the stock exhaust when anything is placed inside the bags. I see you have an aftermarket exhaust but do you have any tips on how I could rectify this issue?

      • Thanks for the suggestions! Yes your correct that the bottom of the bag is sitting on the exhaust. I’ve been having a look at the bike today and I think if I get a heat shield there’s such minimal clearance that the bag will be sitting on the heat shield and i’m not sure how risky this would be. In combination of this I may make an extension plate for the mounting point that’s holding the exhaust in place and I should be able to step it down by about 50mm.

        • NP. Check those mounting brackets to see if you can get some extra space first. But if not, there’s no problem with the bag sitting directly on the heat shield. We do it all the time. Good luck!

  18. just buy the swm 60 dualsport instead for 7k 600cc and srash cage bars skid plate spot lights and luggage boxes and frame top box rack and handle protectors all included andf 100% dirt bike and road bike ready from day one 51bhp and MONSTER TORQE

  19. Inspired by Rob, Total expense $1500.00. Not top of the line brands but they work for me. Haven’t done anything with the suspension.

  20. Hey, Great job Bob. I followed your build list, ( Acerbis X-Strong Supermoto Handguards) here is quite different as your picture shows. Did you changed your grip bar? I dont have the black part by the Handgurads:(

    • Thanks Kent! Those black things are Barkbuster Barend Weights. Check part #5 in the build list at the end of the story for the link. They help quell vibrations when cruising on the highway.

  21. Hi there! Love the build and have been building my own Versys after getting one and being inspired by much of this build. Quick question about the handlebars. Got the acerbis handbar + barkbuster bar end weights + Mika metals bbt bars however I am having trouble fitting the expanders into the ends of the new handlebars. Did you use anything different than what came with the Acerbis Handguard kit to get it to fit? Considering trying longer screws at this point. Thanks in advance


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