Showroom Showdown: Versys-X 300 vs. CRF250 Rally vs. G310 GS

It seems 2017 is the year of the small-bore adventure motorcycle, with the Kawasaki Versys-X 300, the Honda CRF250 Rally and the BMW G310 GS all being announced. Considering there were no entry-level adventure bikes available this time last year, that’s a lot of growth in the market.

But which model is the one to buy?

We haven’t had a chance to do a head-to-head riding comparo yet, so we did the next best thing: we looked at the spec sheets, to get an idea of what to expect when the bikes are all available. Here’s what we found:

Versys-X 300
The Kawasaki Versys-X 300 has the most horsepower of the three models we’re looking at, but its power delivery isn’t as dirt-friendly.

Power

None of these machines are tire-shredding powerhouses. The G310 GS has about 34 horsepower. The CRF250 Rally, with its smaller engine, makes just over 24 horsepower. The Versys-X 300 makes a claimed 39 hp, so it’s the winner here.

When you look at torque output, it’s a slightly different story. The Versys-X 300 is reported to have the exact same gearing as the Ninja 300 sportbike it shares an engine with; as a result, it makes its power high in the rev range, delivering 27 Nm of torque. This ought to work better for street riding, but is less desirable in the dirt.

The Honda and the BMW both have single-cylinder motors, so the power is be delivered earlier in the rev range — right where you want it, if you’re off-tarmac. The CRF250 Rally delivers 22.6 Nm @ 6,750 RPM, and the G310 GS puts out 28 Nm at 7,500 RPM, making the BMW the motorcycle with the most torque.

Off-road, the G310 GS probably has the most usable power, but it’s likely a bit buzzy at freeway speeds (that was a complaint noted on the G310R launch, which uses the same motor). On the street, the Versys-X is probably superior.

Honda CRF250 Rally
The Honda CRF250 Rally, based on the CRF250L dual sport, is the lightest machine of the lot, although it’s not exactly a lightweight when compared to the 250-class dual sports that the Japanese used to sell.

Weight

The CRF250 Rally has a 157-kg curb weight. The Versys-X weighs 170 kg at the curb, and the G310 GS is listed at 169.5 kg at the curb. The Honda’s lighter weight is, of course, countered by its lower horsepower and torque.

Although none of these bikes are as light as the old 250-class duallies (XT225, DR200, etc.), the new mini adventure bikes definitely have weight savings when compared to their big-bore counterparts. But remember: the old 600-class thumpers, which hauled many an adventure rider around the world, weighed the same as the new 250s, or even less.

BMW G310 GS
The BMW G310 GS has very competitive pricing. That might work against it, if dealers decide the sales margins aren’t high enough.

Price

If BMW sticks to the Canadian pricing listed here, it’s the clear winner on pricing. The G310 GS is listed at $5,990 in Canada; Honda lists the CRF250 Rally at $6,299, and Kawasaki wants $6,399 for the Versys-X 300.

BMW’s pricing shows it’s serious about entering the entry-level market, as the G310R naked bike (basis for the G310 GS) is also priced to sell. Kawasaki may be the most expensive, but it’s only $100 more than the Honda, and you’re arguably getting more for your money—a twin-cylinder engine, in a platform that should be able to handle hard highway miles. The CRF250 Rally is a puzzler, as it’s just a CRF250L with some added bodywork that makes it ill-suited for aggressive off-road work, but also slows it down on the street, without adding any extra ponies to handle the extra weight.

Remember, these MSRPs could change over the next few months, and any of these manufacturers could decide to add a rebate offer as well.

From left to right, the Honda CRF250 Rally, the BMW G310 GS, and the Kawasaki Versys-X 300. The BMW’s cast rims aren’t suited for aggressive offroad-use, and we haven’t heard of a wire wheel option yet. The Kawasaki’s spoked rims look suited for offroad use, but it has the least suspension travel of all these bikes.

Suspension/Wheels

The Kawasaki Versys-X 300 has 130 mm of suspension travel up front, and 148 mm of travel in the rear shock. The BMW G310 GS has 180 mm of travel front and rear.  Both the Kawasaki and the BMW have 41 mm front forks, the BMW has USD forks and the Kawasaki has standard telescopic forks. Both bikes have a 19-inch front wheel and 17-inch rear wheel.

The Honda, meanwhile, has 43 mm Showa forks, upgraded from the standard CRF250L model, with 250 mm of travel up front and 265 mm of travel in back. The Honda has a 21-inch front wheel and 18-inch rear wheel.

On those specs, it sounds as if the CRF250 Rally has the best suspension of these three bikes, at least as far as off-road riding goes. However, this is something that will depend on the weight of the rider, and the terrain, as well as the suspension’s tuning; less suspension travel restricts off-road usability, but a bike with lots of travel is still no good if it’s too soft or too hard for an individual rider. We’d guess that all these bikes would benefit from some suspension tuning after purchase, depending on the buyer’s weight and intended use.

Customer interest

Of course, spec sheets don’t mean everything. The bikes that sell will be the machines that captivate buyers’ interest. From the Internet buzz we’ve seen, there are a lot of people interested in the Versys-X 300, while the Honda fanboys seem to be waiting for the CRF250 Rally to get the same engine found in the CBR300. Some are already contemplating doing their own engine swaps, as there’s no machining required, just a swap of the motor and mounts, which makes you wonder why Honda never did it in the first place.

The BMW, meanwhile, is a bit of a mystery. Nobody’s spent any real time aboard it, and a lot of longtime Beemerphiles are disgusted by the idea of a made-in-India GS, aimed at entry-level riders, as opposed to Aerostich-clad boomers. If BMW gets behind this bike with marketing, it’s hard to imagine it not building interest, but considering the low margins, dealerships might not want to sell many anyway. We’ll know more when it hits showroom floors later this season.

The Suzuki V-Strom 250 could shake things up if it arrives at our market.

Conclusions

From what we can see, the BMW G310 GS and the Versys-X 300 are probably closely matched if you’re looking for a street-friendly adventure bike that can handle a bit of non-challenging gravel riding. The Honda CRF250 Rally seems to be a much better choice for the rider who wants to ride off-road a bit more, considering its wheel sizes, lower weight, and greater suspension travel.

Pricing is almost a draw between all three models, and there’s a good chance any of these OEMs could run some sort of rebate to even things up. The BMW does have the advantage of offering a premium brand name at a very affordable price, but the made-in-India machines are an unknown quantity at this point, and not available in our market yet. So this summer, expect the sales battle be between the Honda and the Kawasaki.

Going into 2018, things could get really interesting, though. Not only should the BMW be readily available, but the Suzuki V-Strom 250 could be available here then. Judging by other models based on that made-in-China 250 cc parallel twin, the Suzuki will probably be a bit heavy, but also very competitively priced.

KTM is also reportedly working on an entry-level adventure bike, based on the Duke 390 platform. This machine will probably be priced above the other machines in this segment, but the photos seem to indicate a machine that’s aimed at more aggressive riding as well. So, if you’re on the fence between the Kawi, the Honda, or the Beemer, maybe the machine you want will be available if you can just wait one more year.

11 thoughts on “Showroom Showdown: Versys-X 300 vs. CRF250 Rally vs. G310 GS”

  1. > From what we can see, the BMW G310 GS and the Versys-X 300 are probably closely matched if you’re looking for a street-friendly adventure bike that can handle a bit of non-challenging gravel riding.

    Little Versys is not ADV at all. It’s a road bike. Shorter travel suspension than the middle brother. Versys 650 was for worse roads, not for off-road.

    In context of off-road the BMW is between CRF250L and X300. For those how don’t want to spend money on special off-road tires the BMW is the best universal bike.

  2. Like so many people we are also hoping Honda will bring out a crf 300 rally or even better a crf 500 Rally.
    The crf 250 is just not strong enough for handling lang boring distances and overtaking trucks fully loaded with luggage would be much easier wit the 281cc engine.

  3. Clarification of your comment re. the CRF250 Rally engine: According to Honda, it delivers 10% more power than the 2016 CRF250L engine thanks to enhancements which include revised PGM-FI and throttle body, new airbox and connector tube, and lighter exhaust. I wish it was a 350 or 400, but at least it’s an improvement.

    1. “What about the CSC 250?”

      From CSC’s website:

      Seat Height: 31.3 inches
      Wheelbase: 55.1 inches
      Dry Weight: 385 lbs
      Ground Clearance: 8.3 Inches
      Fuel Tank Capacity: 4.2 Gallons
      Transmission: 6 Speed
      Front Tire: 100/90R18
      Rear Tire: 130/70R17
      Top Speed: 84 MPH
      Starting: Electric
      Cooling System: Liquid
      Fuel Consumption: 65 MPG
      Displacement: 250cc
      Horsepower: 24.81hp @ 9000rpm
      Torque: 16.6 ft-lb @ 7000 rpm
      Suspension: 5.1/5.6 inches front/rear
      Price: $3895 (US)

      Likely one of the American magazines will set up a head-to-head, the results would be very interesting.
      Right, Joe Berk ? 🙂

      1. I’m surprised the CSC is producing 24.81hp. Good to see the Chinese are pulling more power out of their mills. They’ve always been behind in that category and other categories but are catching up. There’s a CSC thread on ADVRider and most owners seem pretty happy with their bikes. Once those bikes come over the border to Canada they are no longer much of a bargain with the exchange rate, taxes and shipping, sadly. You will be better of buying used.

        1. There’s a CSC RX3 Cyclone adventure bike; that’s the model being discussed, on Saltspring Island. Could be the only one in Canada? Maybe the owner will lend it to CMG for a review?

  4. That comparison photo doesn’t show a BMW G310GS. It appears to be some sort of photoshopped mockup of a R1200GS ADV and a G310R 17″ front wheel.

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