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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.