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ADV Bikes2018 Kawasaki Versys-X 300: Project Bike Intro

2018 Kawasaki Versys-X 300: Project Bike Intro

Making the little Kawi parallel twin ready for the gnarly stuff.

Published on 04.19.2018

Could less really be more? We are just starting to believe that idiom, at least when it comes to the Kawasaki Versys-X 300. Small bore ADV bikes aren’t new, but twin-cylinder, 39.3 hp (claimed), 4.1 gallon tanked ADV bikes are very rare. Normally, the small “adventure” bikes start out as dual-sports and have to be heavily modified to be comfortable for riding any length of time on the tarmac. With the Versys-X 300, the long distance comfort is there in spades, we just want more off-road performance.

What We Already Like

This little Kawi is really impressive on the highway. It cruises comfortably at 80 – virtually no vibration, stable, great wind protection, and it isn’t even tapped-out. It will accelerate from 80 to 95 to pass, but that is when the needle on the tach is bouncing into the red zone at 12,000 and 13,000 rpm. In the twisties, it also shines with its low weight making it easy to flick back and forth and its high-revving engine putting out good power from the mid to top-end.

Kawasaki Versys-X 300 Long Term Build Adventure Motorcycle


We also like that it has real adventure bike range, estimated to be well over 200 miles. It has a big ol’ wind screen, a large passenger seat (read luggage space) and a luggage rack (read even more luggage space) with plenty of locations for securing straps. We had no problem strapping on all our gear with a set of Givi Gravel-T soft bags for a few days of adventure riding.

It isn’t a dirt bike by any means but it definitely isn’t a handful in the dirt either. We’ve already enjoyed the Versys on some sketchy, sidehill single track that wasn’t much wider than the mostly-street tires. We, for sure, wouldn’t take any bigger machine down that trail. Low weight, low seat height, and smooth power make it more manageable and, dare we say, fun to ride off-road, where heavier, bigger machines would slide off the trail because of their overall girth.

Kawasaki Versys-X 300 Long Term Review Adventure Motorcycle

What We Want To Change

First off, we already bolted up a skid plate from Ricochet Off-Road because the two-into-one exhaust routes directly under the frame. Secondly, we’d really like to work on the suspension. Our first gripe is how little travel there is. The fork has 5.1 inches and the shock has 5.8 inches; not really screaming, “Ride me in the gnarly stuff!” But what travel it does have isn’t that bad. The fork blows through the stroke much faster and more often than the shock does – there is a surprising amount of comfort out back. So far we haven’t found any shops that offer suspension travel increases for the Versys-X but we’ll keep looking. If anything, we might be looking at getting some better springs and valving for the fork that will optimise what little fork travel there is.

Kawasaki Verys-X 300Adventure Motorcycle

The stock tires are getting ditched for some Motoz Tractionator Adventure tires and we’ll be getting some other protection pieces to keep the Kawi from getting too banged up. The stock rubber street pegs are near useless off-road and will be replaced with some pegs with a lot more bite. The seat shape is OK, but there isn’t much padding. We are going to look for one that is a bit higher and more squishy.

Power-wise, the twin is very mild off the bottom and lacking that torquey hit that small singles have. We are going to look into how we can get more excitement and punch in the bottom-end without messing with the mid and top end power that makes this bike so good on the highway.

That’s it for now but check back to see the progress of our Kawasaki Versys-X 300 project bike. And, feel free to let us know what you would like to see on this bike by leaving a comment below.


See our little Kawi’s transformation here.

Author: Sean Klinger

With his sights set on doing what he loved for a living, Sean left college with a BA in Journalism and dirt bike in his truck. After five years at a dirt-only motorcycle magazine shooting, testing, writing, editing, and a little off-road racing, he has switched gears to bigger bikes and longer adventures. He’ll probably get lost a few times but he’ll always have fun doing it. Two wheels and adventure is all he needs. 

Author: Sean Klinger

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15 thoughts on “2018 Kawasaki Versys-X 300: Project Bike Intro

  1. I think Cogent is working on suspension improvements for the VX300. I ride mine pretty aggressively and I love it. I’ll send you pics from the NM BDR at the end of May!

  2. Awesome , I just got that skid plate. The bike is going to be a true do it all bike. Cant wait to see the finished bike. Keep us updated.

  3. I want to see more small displacement parallel twins 300-500cc. Just enough power to carry a bit of soft luggage and be realistically useful on the freeway, but most comfortable cruising on scenic 60mph roads. Decent tank size like the Versys, still can be good off road. Replacement of the aged ~650cc thumpers like the XR650 or 640 ADV.

    I mean, if Kawasaki can only make this 385 pounds wet, then 350 or lower should not be unrealistic if staying light is taken serious. XR650 and 640 ADV were around 350 pounds.

    Been saying Yamaha should do it with the FZ03 engine. KTM would hit it out of the ballpark I’m sure. Honda already has the bike (250 Rally), just needs to put in the engine

  4. Interested to see how much weight can be shed, better suspension. Make the hardcore lightweight ADV bike that this can be.

  5. It was the lack of bottom end grunt that swayed me to not buy. I had *really* wished that Kawi had done these changes to the KLR, but we’re (USA) not the main markets anymore for new machine designs. I’m keen to see what you come up with to change the engine behavior at low RPMs. That will call for either a dealer reflash, or a “piggyback” fuel controller. The ECU is likely locked.

  6. Hell yeah, just bought one, got the T-rex skid, and crash bars. Also put the tusk D-flex hand guards on. Love this little bike. Swapping out LED lights also opens up some room for electrical accessories. Can’t wait to see this finished.

  7. Talk to Cogent Dynamics for suspension work! ( My bike was the prototype for their rear shock and fork setup. They told me on the phone that they think they can give another inch of suspension travel for those with the inseam to support it.

  8. Literally thousands of Versys X-300 owners would be highly interested in what accessories you chose to hang on this bike. There are still very few choices available which is sad because the “X” has a huge following. GIVI, SW-MOTECH and R&G parts all make quality parts for the little bike but have been out of stock for months. I don’t think anyone anticipated the popularity of this bike. Please hurry with the build!!!!

  9. As a current owner of an Africa Twin and a former owner of a Honda 500x, it’s too bad that Honda hasn’t come out with a 7/8ths version of the Africa Twin using the 500x motor. At around 400lbs, It would be the perfect AVD bike IMO. That Honda 500 twin is a sweet motor and on top of being smooth and powerful, it averages 55-60 mpg’s without trying.

    • Yes, build is in progress. We recently posted about it on our instagram channel. This build is a bit different though since we are working together with a few manufacturers on some products that are not currently out on the market. That requires some trial and error and extra testing to see if it will work. We’ll do a write up about the build as soon as thorough testing is completed.

  10. Pingback: DR650 vs Rally Raid CB500x - Page 2 - Horizons Unlimited - The HUBB


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