Kawasaki X300 Review (Rant)

Ah Boon

Jun 18, 2013
Thailand, Malaysia, New Zealand
Current: 2007 Kawasaki ER5, 2014 Kawasaki EX300
There is a lot of criticism in this "review" but the X300 is a good effort by Kawasaki and a bike that will probably "grow on me"!!!

Reason for Purchase
My Malaysian-registered Yamaha FZ150i has clocked 54,000+km and travelled from as far South as Malacca and as far North as Luang Prabang - and most places in between. The flexibility of extending the Thai Temporary Import from 28 days to 56+ days has apparently been tanked.
I had planned on taking the Yamaha through Thailand and exploring Northern Laos this year, however, in the meantime, the Lao authorities decided to re-introduce enforcement an existing law limiting foreign bikes to 250cc +. So I decided to buy a Thai bike with a capacity greater than 250cc.
I looked at a number of bikes but the X300 attracted my interest as it is about the same weight and 80% of the power compared with my 10yo ER5 Kawasaki, a bike that I particularly like. (NO: not an ER6: A similar bike but 500cc). Also, it has an upright riding position, some weather protection (a feature I had promised myself) and seemed to have a degree of "gravel"/"dirt" road as well as highway capability. I wanted a reasonable seat and a lowish seat hight as my in-seam is 29" (approx. 74cm.)
Date & delivery
I was staying in Hat Yai so I paid a visit to the authorised Kawasaki Dealer.
A short test ride seemed to promise fulfilling my expectations so I got a price quotation of THB209,000 with a centre stand fitted (Centre stand is not standard on the "city" version but I wanted, inter alia, the ease of chain lube/adjustment). I bought the "city" version as I did not want to spend an extra THB26,500 on hand-guards, panniers, "crash" bars or additional lighting. My TGF, who didn't even know the location of the Kawasaki dealer, asked for a "finders" fee. They gave her THB10,000 cash back! (Yes! Ten Thousand. She didn't pass any back to me however!!!)
I picked the bike up on Thursday 27th July and rode it back to where I was staying. It seemed to run a little hot but I figured the reason was it was new.
Negative First Impressions
In a word: "pretentious" - but all so-called "adventure" bikes are IMHO. This one is more so because it is much taller than it needs to be for a 300cc machine. It is "top-heavy" and awkward to manoeuvre manually compared with any other bike I have owned (With the possible exception of the 1986 Honda VF1000R). Being a 76YO might be a factor, of course! (555). Also, the top-box is at chest hight so would not doubt contribute to difficulty in picking the bike up on your own after an "off"! Further, it is clear that the "marketing" department had more say in its design than any other department. At least it doesn't have a stupid "beak" under the headlight like many "adventure" bikes. It has so many unnecessary nooks and crannies cleaning is a real chore. I would have preferred the black paint job but that was only available with the "touring" model.
Also: -
1) The Owners Manual is in Thai (not unreasonable I suppose but it meant downloading an
English version and then having my laptop available at all times!)
2) On the Saturday following delivery I set off to clock some kms to start the "run-in" process but at 06:00 at a major intersection the "screen" went blank and the engine shut down!
I shuffled to the side of the road and checked everything I could, like fuses, switches, battery connection, etc. After a short while, the screen lit up and the bike started - but failed again within 50 meters. To cut to the chase: I waited 2 hours for the dealership to open (getting hotter by the minute in my riding gear). Pushed the bike to a nearby gas station and hitched a ride to the dealer - luckily only about 3 km back the way I had come. Two guys went to collect the bike and after an hour and a half of fiddling with wiring connectors, managed to "fix" the problem. I rode around close to the dealership for about 50 km until I had the confidence to go further afield. It has been OK ever since.
3) The "running-in" instructions are "weird" IMHO. Limit RPM to 4000 for the first 800km and 6000 until 1600km. I have owned 20+ (at least 15 new) motorcycles over the last 57 years and as an aircraft engineer I understand a little bit about engines. High inlet manifold pressure at low RPM and excessive heat are the primary factors that do the damage so, unless Kawasaki are concerned about high piston speed, I don't understand the RPM limitation without some other explanation. My technique is to mark 1/3 as a maximum of the total throttle opening on the twist grip and avoid sustained high RPM.

Some Unnecessary Design Features
1) Seat
Initially the seat comfort on a long ride was not great but I guess my posterior has adapted because it has become less an issue. One 645km day on a trip from Phuket to Chiang Mai proved a bit wearisome but maybe I will adapt! The seat height is good when seated on the bike but the step-up to the pillion seat makes mounting/dismounting more awkward than if the seat was the same height.
Stepped Seat copy.jpg
Stepped Seat
2) Up-swept exhaust muffler
This "bitch" applies to so many late models. There is no need for it! (Don't try to tell me it is for ground clearance! A strait-edge shows the truth.). It is a "styling" exercise.

Upswept Muffler.jpg
Upswept Muffler

3) Excessive rear wheel clearance
Another styling exercise. The distance between the rear tyre and the "mudguard" with the rear shock fully extended is 22cm. Fully compressed it would be 7cm. This is ridiculous when compared with the front tyre/guard clearance. This gives rise to ineffective control of the discharge from the rear wheel and resulting dirty apparel/gear/luggage. (Ask yourself why you see so many after-market "bum-wipes" fitted to otherwise highly exposed rear tyres?)
Rear Wheel Clearance.jpg
Excessive Rear Wheel Clearance
4) Net Effect
Modern bikes appear to be designed to capture the imagination of (mostly) young MotoGP/WSBK wannabes. The result is usually an almost non-existent pillion seat with elevated foot pegs to the extent that the GF looks uncomfortably "perched" like a "bird-on-a-wire". However, the X300 pillion seat and foot-peg height is, I am assured by my TGF, quite comfortable. The overall effect however, could've been so much better with more focus on practicality and less on style.

On the Highway
1) Gearing
The gearing not totally suitable for highway; it being generally low-geared. Taking off from the lights is a bit like driving an empty Mack truck. Multiple gearshifts in quick succession until 5th is reached. But it is probably good on dirt/off highway roads.
2) High-frequency vibration
At cruise speeds there is a high-frequency vibration that while not annoying, can be felt in the bars and the side covers. There is a high-pitched gear-box noise at 7100 RPM approx. and 94KPH. Reminiscent of a WWII 6x6 GMC (But many readers will not be able to relate to that comment I guess). Hopefully, these will disappear with some distance on the clock.
3) Windscreen
The windscreen too low for me and I am subject to a constant buffeting around helmet.

More Complaints
1) Checking of engine oil level in the sight glass. I defy any Kawasaki employee to safely check the sight glass - alone and without a centre stand. One has to almost be on hands and knees to see the sight glass hidden behind the rear brake pedal and the RH crankcase "fairing" (*). Holding the bike upright on a level surface while on your hands & knees can be challenging!
(*) I am at total loss as to the purpose of this fairing and its mate on the LH side! More from the marketing people?

Oil Sight. Glass.jpg
Obscured Oil Sight Glass

Oil Sight Glass (close-up).jpg
Up Close

2) The tail & brake light are obscured/hidden/buried if anything substantial is on the luggage rack.
3) This bike attracts undue attention! Marketing will claim that as a success but I prefer anonymity.

So: What is GOOD
1) Fuel endurance
With 17 litres of fuel and average consumption at modest cruise on the highway at 32 litres/100 km gives a theoretical range in excess of 500km. I have yet to take it to the limit but have realised well into 400+ km and that suits me just fine. Coupled with the "range indicator" ("intriguing": the need for mental arithmetic is reduced almost to zero. I like it!)
2) Engine torque range
Kawasaki have done well as the torque range is broad and very useable over a number of gear ratios. While gear changing is often necessary when power is needed, there is no need for constant/or a series of downshifts.
3) Suspension
I have the rear shock on the softer setting which gives a superior (smooth) ride. Together with the front forks, the suspension performs very well for my style of riding and could probably handle a much more aggressive effort. I have yet to try it out on a rough road/terrain but on the short stretches of gravel road I have encountered, the bike feels very stable. I find the bike particularly enjoyable in the "twisties" and while not a "motard" it is easy and enjoyable ride in the mountains.
4) Transmission
As mentioned in reviews I have read, the clutch is light. I have never felt a problem with a "heavy" clutch but in hindsight this clutch greatly reduces LH fatigue on a long ride. And I have to say Kawasaki have excelled themselves in producing a very smooth gear-change. Noticeable from day one and in marked contrast to the two other Kawasaki I have owned.
5) Centre Stand
The centre stand is another good design. It is easy to put the bike on the stand. When loaded, I prefer to mount while on the stand and it is very easy to move off the stand once mounted
6) ABS
This I could take or leave. Probably a good thing but I plan to avoid using the feature if I can!

I suspect I will come to like it more as I clock the kms. Also, I need to do some unsealed roads to better experience its capability. So far it has 3700km of mostly highway use. Hat Yai, Phuket, Chiang Mai, Chiang Rai, Doi Tung Temple (near the Myanmar border north of Chiang Rai) plus some local trips around Hat Yai and Chang Mai. It should be due the 6000km check by the time I get back to Hat Yai this weekend.

Cheers and may the Tailwind Spirit be with you!


Lone Rider

Blokes Who Can
Jan 29, 2011
4 Wheels
A big THANK YOU for the comprehensive first hand review of the Kawasaki X300. By the way, although you may be aware of the new Thai rule, you are now limited to 2 land border crossings using the "Visa on Arrival" feature. For additional crossings into Thailand you will need to apply for a visum.

Ah Boon

Jun 18, 2013
Thailand, Malaysia, New Zealand
Current: 2007 Kawasaki ER5, 2014 Kawasaki EX300
A big THANK YOU for the comprehensive first hand review of the Kawasaki X300. By the way, although you may be aware of the new Thai rule, you are now limited to 2 land border crossings using the "Visa on Arrival" feature. For additional crossings into Thailand you will need to apply for a visum.
Thank you Lone Rider for the big Thank You and for the Visa advice. This Year I have a Non-Immigrant A-O so I could have the flexibility of multi-entry. However, I notice the Thai Embassy in Wellington have updated their web-site to include the multi-entry tourist visa so that will probably be my next option (Or extend my O-A).
As for the X300: It has "fallen over" twice (my fault): The first time I was cleaning it and had parked it on what seemed to be quite firm ground. However the water softened the soil and the "next-to-useless" side stand with its "stiletto" foot-print just sank into the ground and it fell before I could rescue it. Took two of us to pick it up! (And I have since experienced problems finding firm ground where the side-stand will securely support the bike! Not good on a bike that is supposed to have some dual-purpose capability).
The second time I had stopped to put on my rain coat and leggings and when I flicked it off the centre stand, it fell over because my leggings were too restrictive and I couldn't get my foot down quick enough. It was loaded with 6kg in the top bx and about the same in a back pack strapped to the pillion seat. Again it was only with the help of a passing Thai on another bike that I was able to pick it up. (Maybe I am getting too old - but I refuse to give up!) I guess another option would be low-mounted panniers - or a bike with a lower C of G.
Anyway, cheers, beers and safe journeys.
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