If your perception of an adventure touring bike spawns thoughts of a tall and heavy handful when ridden off-road, or you perceive sub-300cc road bikes as cramped, nervous handlers lacking the lungs and legs for the long haul, then open your mind to the all-new 2017 Kawasaki Versys-X 300. While conceived as an affordable entry-level platform, the comfort, convenience, and versatility of this new addition to Kawasaki's Versys family is certain to appeal to novice and seasoned riders alike.

Having recently spent two days aboard the Versys-X 300 touring rural southern Utah, taking in the geographic spectacle of Goblin Valley State Park, Capital Reef National Park, Bryce Canyon, and the Dixie National Forest, my personal view of adventure touring has been broadened. Upon arrival to our final destination in Cedar City, I felt enthused and plenty fit for more travel.

2017 kawasaki versys-x 300 static group
The 2017 Versys-X 300 ($5,399) and Versys-X 300 ABS ($5,699) are available at a Kawasaki dealer near you. Color options include Candy Lime Green/Metallic Graphite Gray and Metallic Graphite Gray/Flat Ebony.Kevin Wing

Making use of the fuel-efficient eight-valve, liquid-cooled 296cc, six-speed parallel twin akin to its Ninja 300, Kawasaki has tuned the airbox shape, intake funnels, and exhaust for greater midrange power that's better suited to the Versys platform. The dual throttle valve fuel injection system provides crisp response with a very linear delivery from low rpm to the rev limiter that cuts in at 12,750 rpm. The slipper/assist clutch has light lever effort, albeit with slightly grabby engagement action. I was never caught out pulling away from stops thanks to the predictable throttle pickup and short ratio bottom cog, too.

This rigid-mount, counterbalanced engine runs ultra-smooth below 6500 rpm (55 mph in top gear) with only mild vibes felt through the grips beyond that. Humming along at 9500 rpm (80 mph indicated) for miles on end didn’t cause numbness in my hands even when temps dropped below freezing at higher elevation, and the bar-mount mirrors remained nearly as clear as the crisp mountain air.

2017 kawasaki versys-x 300 front cowling
The Versys-X 300's windscreen offers good coverage and clear optics.Courtesy of Kawasaki

The early morning hours provided a true testament to the coverage of the fairing and tall windscreen. While hands and shins felt the chill, my torso experienced no discomfort. While present, wind buffet at helmet height was easily tolerable as well. Multiple swaps between the standard seat and the one-inch taller ERGO-FIT accessory saddle left me somewhat conflicted. While I appreciated the additional wind coverage when seated lower in the bike on the standard seat, the padding is very firm and thin in achieving a relatively low 32.1-inch seat height. While also firm, the added thickness of the Ergo saddle agreed with my posterior and also felt a bit more natural and less of a squat when alternating between standing and sitting while riding off-road.

Although we only did a limited amount of light-duty gravel travel, the Versys-X 300 dusted some doubt by exhibiting a planted feel and impressive stability. This despite the road-centric bias of the original equipment IRC Trail Winner GP-210 tires. With its 19-inch front and 17-inch rear wire spoke wheel combo supporting a selection of dirt worthy rubber, we suspect adventurous owners may be compelled to explore the bike’s single track potential.

2017 kawasaki versys-x 300 off-road action
Fancy a bit of off-pavement exploration? The Versys-X 300 provides an affordable jumping off point.Kevin Wing

The 41mm Showa conventional fork offers 5.1 inches of travel, while the preload-adjustable Uni-Trak shock setup delivers 5.7 inches at the rear. Both ends felt well calibrated for rough pavement and provided ample support and damping control for a fair degree of spirited cornering. An area I found lacking (on dry pavement) was brakes, comprised of a single disc up front. Meanwhile, I rode an ABS model and was surprised by how hard I had to squeeze on the lever to invoke anti-lock. Considering this bike’s inviting passenger accommodation and/or added load capacity of the accessory pannier and top box, one could benefit from having more stopping power at hand.

In the end, Kawasaki has delivered a bike that’s destined to become a top-seller in its line. The Versys-X 300 has a lot to offer with its standout combination of build quality, versatility, and comfort within its price category.

2017 kawasaki versys-x 300 road action
Riding through picturesque Southern Utah is an adventure unto itself. Doing so aboard a 296cc parallel-twin made it all the better.Kevin Wing
2017 kawasaki versys-x 300 with rider
This trio of Golbins in the backdrop are just a small fraction of the countless formations scattered throughout the valley. The agile, easy handling Versys-X 300 made the best of the distracted riding.Kevin Wing
2017 kawasaki versys-x 300 studio 3/4 view
2017 Kawasaki Versys-X 300 (Candy Lime Green/Metallic Graphite Gray)Courtesy of Kawasaki
2017 kawasaki versys-x 300 studio side view
2017 Kawasaki Versys-X 300 (Metallic Graphite Gray/Flat Ebony)Courtesy of Kawasaki
2017 kawasaki versys-x 300 overhead view
2017 Kawasaki Versys-X 300 (Candy Lime Green/Metallic Graphite Gray)Courtesy of Kawasaki
2017 kawasaki versys-x 300 front wheel
A Nissin pin-slide caliper pinches a 290mm petal disc. The front IRC Trail Winner tire is 100/90x19 in size.Courtesy of Kawasaki
2017 kawasaki versys-x 300 fog lamps
The accessory Engine Guard ($214.95) is made from 22mm steel tubing and facilitates mounting the ($399.95) LED Auxiliary Light Set.Courtesy of Kawasaki
2017 kawasaki versys-x 300 instruments
Instrument pod showcases the large analog tachometer. Multifunction LCD features include: speedometer, gear-position indicator, odometer, dual trip meters, remaining range, current fuel consumption, average fuel consumption, coolant temperature, fuel gauge, clock, and Kawasaki's Economical Riding Indicator.Courtesy of Kawasaki
2017 kawasaki versys-x 300 hand guard
As ambient temps dipped into the high twenties I would have gladly paid the ($109.95) for the accessory plastic Hand Guard Shells.Courtesy of Kawasaki
2017 kawasaki versys-x 300 centerstand
Ease maintenance and cleaning with this center stand ($289.95), said to be very easy to mount.Courtesy of Kawasaki
2017 kawasaki versys-x 300 seat
The ERGO-FIT extended reach seat ($219.95) is one-inch taller than stock, has a higher padded lip where it meets the fuel tank, and comes fully assembled.Courtesy of Kawasaki
2017 kawasaki versys-x 300 with saddlebags
A 17-Liter Hard Saddlebag Set ($429.95) and color-matched 30 Liter Top Case ($99.95) feature the Kawasaki One Key System matched with the ignition key.Courtesy of Kawasaki
2017 kawasaki versys-x 300 desert scenery
Goblin Valley State Park is a must see in these parts.Kevin Wing