Can a $1000 Kawasaki Versys 650 and Honda CBR300R Be Good Track Bikes?

If you’re planning to carve racetrack corners, sportbikes are the motorcycles of choice. But you don’t have to spring for something like the Daytona 765 Moto2 to have fun. Especially if you’re just starting, buying a used bike is arguably a better decision. Not to mention a cheaper one. But there’s cheap, and then there’s cheap. And recently, the hosts of Common Tread experienced the latter by pitting two $1000 used bikes, a 2009 Kawasaki Versys 650 and 2015 Honda CBR300R, against each other.

The 2009 Kawasaki Versys 650 is a good all-around bike

A green 2009 Kawasaki Versys 650
2009 Kawasaki Versys 650 | Cycle Trader

At first glance, the 2009 Kawasaki Versys 650 looks more like an adventure or touring bike than a sportbike. It even has long-travel suspension and an upright riding position, RideApart and The Drive report. However, it’s more accurate to call the Versys—or ‘Versatile System’—a “‘Jack of all trades'” bike, Rider reports. And despite its looks, it has several genuine sportbike elements.

For one, the 2009 Kawasaki Versys 650 has the same chassis and engine as the contemporary Ninja 650, Cycle World reports. Admittedly, the 649cc liquid-cooled parallel-twin makes less peak power in the Versys, but it has more low-end torque, MCN reports. That works out to 59 hp and 46 lb-ft at the rear wheel, sent through a six-speed transmission, Motorcycle.com reports.

Plus, while the Kawasaki Versys 650 is taller than the Ninja 650, its suspension is more adjustable, Ultimate Motorcycling reports. At 454 pounds, the Versys is heavier than the Ninja. But it’s still a “quick and agile” bike with “quite satisfactory” disc brakes, Rider reports. Hence why, while it makes a good touring and commuting bike, it can handle sportbike duty, Cycle World reports.

But the 2015 Honda CBR300R is a genuine starter sportbike

The side view of a white-red-and-blue 2015 Honda CBR300R
2015 Honda CBR300R side | Honda

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The 2015 Honda CBR300R, though, is a sportbike from the start. True, it has a smaller powerplant than the Versys 650: a 286cc liquid-cooled single-cylinder engine. And on Cycle World’s dyno, it only makes 27 hp and 18 lb-ft at the rear wheel, sent through a six-speed transmission.

However, the 2015 Honda CBR300R weighs about 100 pounds less than the Kawasaki Versys 650, Motorcyclist reports. It’s also lower and narrower with a lower seat height. On the downside, its suspension isn’t as adjustable as the Versys’ setup. But, unlike the 2009 Kawasaki, Honda offered optional ABS on the 2015 CBR300R.

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Put all this together and you have what RideApart called “the best beginner sportbike.” True, you have to keep the revs up to really enjoy the Honda CBR300R, Autoweek reports. But it’s a smooth, comfortable, refined, and fun bike to ride, Cycle World and RevZilla report. Especially when the road gets twisty.

Can $1000 used examples be good track bikes?

When it was new, the 2009 Kawasaki Versys 650 cost $6899, Cycle World reports. And with ABS, the 2015 Honda CBR300R cost $4899. But Common Tread co-host Zack Courts only spent $800 on the used Versys in the video below, while co-host Ari Henning spent $1100 on the used CBR300R.

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Naturally, these bikes weren’t sparkly-clean showroom models. The used Versys 650 was missing several body panels, its windscreen, and most of its dash. It also had a partially-kinked chain, crooked handlebar, worn clutch and throttle cables, and numerous scratches. As for the CBR300R, its right side was scraped and its exhaust partially crushed. Plus, based on the misaligned wheels, it had a twisted frame. Oh, and “lopsided steering” and a clutch cable in dire need of replacement.

Still, after taping up their headlights, replacing the oil and brake fluid, and installing new tires, Henning and Courts headed to the track. There, despite their flaws, both the Kawasaki Versys 650 and the Honda CBR300R passed the tech inspection. And, while both bikes were far from perfect, in the end, both Courts and Henning had a lot of fun. They even managed to pass some people, despite the CBR300R’s tendency to wallow.

Side 3/4 views of a used black 2015 Honda CBR300R next to a used green 2009 Kawasaki Versys 650 next to a racetrack
Used 2015 Honda CBR300R next to a used 2009 Kawasaki Versys 650 side 3/4 | RevZilla via YouTube

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To be fair, neither of the hosts recommend going quite this cheap with your used track bike. Although Courts managed to deal with his CBR300R’s handling issues and misaligned wheels, he has years of experience. It’s not something a beginning track rider should attempt to tackle. But if you’re looking to get into the sport, buying used is a great way to go.

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