Thursday, September 13, 2018

Barbara Gordon: My Kawasaki Versys 300X

I am still very much motorcycle obsessed. I have my eye on fall riding. I am even thinking hard about how deep into winter I can stay on two wheels. I just don't enjoy driving a car as much as I used to.
Several months ago I set my sights on a Kawasaki KLR 650. I wanted a dual sport/ adventure bike. I like the height of the style. I also enjoy being able to go off-road with more certainty than you get on a street bike and still be street legal.
Dad started shopping for adventure bikes based on my interest. I had moved away from the KLR and started considering a VStrom or a Versys in the 650 weight class. In his shopping, Dad decided that these bikes were too big. They aren't comfortable to mount flat-footed (more on this later.), and they really have much bigger engines that are needed for around town adventure or commuting.
Dad discovered the Kawasaki Versys 300X. Picture the frame and size of the Versys 650 with the engine from a Ninja 300. All the adventure posture with Ninja speed sounded pretty good to me. He bought a matching pair complete with saddle bags on August 5. I have only ridden Sharon Carter one time since then.  Let me see if I can relate why!
Kawasaki Versys 300X
Honda CBR250R
296 cc 4-Stroke, Liquid-Cooled, DOHC, 4 Valve Cylinder Head, Parallel Twin
249.5cc 4-stroke, single cylinder DOCH 4 valve per cylinder
TCBI with Digital Advance
Electronic fuel injection PGM-F
62.0 x 49.0 mm
76.0 mm x55.0 mm
TCBI with Digital Advance
6-Speed with Positive Neutral Finder
wet multiplate clutch, constant mesh 6-speed, chain drive
Front: 100/90-19M/C 57S Rear: 130/80-17M/C 65S
Front: 110/70-17M/C Rear 140/70-17M/C
Rake, Trail
24°/4.3 in
25 degrees
Wheel Base
57.1 inch
54 in
Seat Height
32.1 in
31 in
Wet Weight
385.9 lbs
355 lbs
39.3 hp @ 11,500 rpm
23.7 hp @ 9900 RPM 21.9 hp @ 8500 hp
Fuel Capacity
4.5 U.S. Gallons
3.4 U.S. Gallons

Barbara is taller. She is heavier. She also puts out more. Who doesn't love that? The fact sheet above is great, but a picture is worth 1000 words. Let's look at Sharon and Barbara side by side. 

The Nelson Rigg tail bag on Barbara Gordon fits either bike, but on the Versys, there is a nice luggage rack that it straps on to. This leaves a seat available for a passenger while still carrying an impressive amount of gear.
The Versys comes set up and ready to bolt on Kawasaki's saddlebags. I don't love the look of the hard plastic boxes, but I adore their function. I regularly carry a plastic rain suit, a net, a few bungees, a waterproof cover for my backpack, and a spare pair of gloves whenever I ride. This all easily fits in one saddle bag.
 Given that my other passion is comic books it is no surprise that I will point out how well my weekly pull list will fit in the other bag. I carry a 13-inch laptop sleeve in there to pad them and keep them cherry. It is also great for a spare pair of shoes, my water bottle, or my shoulder bag.
Without all that, on Sharon Carter, I am always carrying a large backpack. That tends to get in the way of a passenger just as neatly as strapping a tail bag to the passenger seat. Ultimately, Sharon Carter is an either or bike. You can either carry a passenger or you can carry gear. I like doing both.
As for comfort, I will say right out front the leather seat on the Honda is easier on my butt. Kawasaki doesn't like my rear end. I haven't really figured out the difference. I know the Honda feels more padded. I can ride a lot longer before I feel it in the glutes.
Position wise the Versys totally wins. With me height the pegs on the Honda put me at an extended squat. The Kawasaki is an upright seated position. It is also extremely comfortable to stand on the pegs. I have done this at 5 mph and 80 mph. It is stable and comfortable anywhere between those speeds. Kawasaki obviously designed it that way for off road riding when you should be up on the pegs.
Speed wise the Versys is faster by about 15 mph. I can push it to 100+, but in there is almost never a reason to do this. The Honda has a pushed top end (with my weight) of about 90. I feel the torque in the Honda a little more up to 70. The Versys has the nice top end the Ninja is famous for. She will accelerate happily to red line in every gear with no complaints.
I don't ride her that way often because if you ride with good sense you can actually get remarkable fuel economy out of the Versys 300X. I have averaged as high as 70 mpg. Granted I kept the bike under 6000 rpm which is a bit of a dull ride. I am happy to sacrifice a little bit of mileage for a fun ride and still get between the high 50s to low 60s.
 The slim front end and tall ride does lead to a bit of wobble. It is pronounced enough that I tend to get out from behind big trucks quickly. It isn't going to take me to the ground, but I notice it a lot more than I do riding the Honda.  I will say that the longer windscreen does protect me quite a bit more than I expected it to.
I do plan to add engine guards to the fairings and front of the bike. Rather than protecting the plastic, this is intended for me to mount some nice running lights and a camera. I really want to start recording my adventures. Anyone who wants to donate a few Go Pros holler at me!
I also want to add an aftermarket skid plate to the bottom of the engine. I will also be looking into some sort of protection for those front facing pipes. I like gravel roads. I have no real interest in dinging my pipes all to hell. The exhaust on this bike is in a great, quiet place and I would like to keep it that way.

This was a great day. Motorcycle Dad!
I am very, very happy with the Versys 300 X. It seems to be the perfect mix of performance and function for my needs. Until I can find a more padded seat or grow a thicker ass I don't want to ride it more than about an hour and a half at a stretch. It is the perfect ride to get me back and forth to work and to my hikes. I highly recommend it.
Dad and I on Cades Cove Loop Road. Twinsies!

Riding up Rich Mountain. 

We doubled back from a trip to the car. Notice my alarmed face at the picture getting captured. Damn it!
Breaking in Whitneigh to the Dragon. 

After seeing the tan lines from this there was anything but peace.

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