Kawasaki Concours 14 launch

Words: Bertrand Gahel Photos: Kawasaki
Words: Bertrand Gahel Photos: Kawasaki
Words: Bertrand Gahel Photos: Kawasaki
Words: Bertrand Gahel Photos: Kawasaki

Because the market counts so few motorcycles that can be really called sport-tourers and because Kawasaki has been introducing some really impressive models lately, the news of the Akashi manufacturer finally replacing its two decades-old Concours with a ZX-14 based machine definitely caught the motorcycling world’s attention.

Taking on the likes of Honda’s venerable ST1300, Yamaha’s acclaimed FJR1300 or BMW’s luxurious K1200GT is by no means an easy feat, but after a couple of days in the saddle of Kawasaki’s all-new 2008 Concours 14, I can vouch for the fact that the class now counts one more option, and a truly impressive one at that.

The most interesting thing about the new Concours is that it’s a sport-tourer with a very sporty twist, a fact that makes it unique amongst this elite group. Kawasaki presents it like a sport-tourer for the aging, er… maturing, sportbike rider, and in practice, that’s exactly what it is.

Victory Vision

Check this out: beefy, adjustable upside-down forks; super-trick Tertra-Lever rear suspension (also adjustable); sportbike-style, non-linked petal-disks front and rear; sportbike-spec brake master-cylinders, calipers, wheels and tires; ZX-14 based monocoque chassis and engine; and last but not least, there’s even a slipper clutch – something not all full-on sportbikes even have yet!

Some high tech stuff is also part of the package, like a live tire-pressure function on the ZX-14-style instrumentation, and a recognition system that allows you to literally never have to carry a key. An electrically adjustable windshield and spacious, easy-to-use saddlebags are standard, while ABS is offered as an option. Although that may change in the future, for now heated grips and seat aren’t available.

Victory Vision
Despite its relative heft, the Concours is quite agile.

What this all translates into on the road is a motorcycle as much capable of comfortably covering long distances as it is of aggressively dissecting a canyon road. In a normal touring environment composed of mostly straight roads and long sweepers, the Concours 14 offers a sporty, upright and compact — but not cramped — riding position.

Its 156 hp, variable valve timing-equipped engine is without a doubt one of the smoothest inline-fours ever produced, if not the smoothest. While one shouldn’t expect a ZX-14-like level of performance — the Concours is quite a bit heavier (with a dry weight of 275 kgs) and produces about 35 less horsepower — acceleration is still plenty strong enough to entertain even the most experienced rider.

Lots of torque is available right from idle and the Concours will not only cleanly, but also strongly pull in all gears from as low as 1,500 rpm. The overdrive 6th gear is a blessing on the highway, dropping revs and making for a relaxed, velvet-like ride.

Victory Vision

Heading into the twisty stuff will reveal a face of the Concours 14 that’s unique to the class: the thing really does have sportbike DNA.

Riders used to sports machinery will definitely feel at home as the new Concours generally behaves like a regular sportbike, only heavier and with a much more tolerable riding position. This also means you need to make a little effort to understand how to adjust suspension. Get that part right and you’ll discover a sport-touring motorcycle with the capacity to slice through a twisty piece of pavement with amazing grace and efficiency.

Kawasaki’s Tetra-Lever rear suspension has a lot to do with that fact since it absolutely erases any indication that the final drive is by shaft. It is nothing less than motorcycling’s best shaft drive.

Although the new Concours 14 is an early release 2008 model, it is currently available in dealerships. You can get it in any colour as long as it’s Neutron Silver. Price is $17,799.00, or $19,099.00 for the ABS model.

From the CMG NMBG

The ZG1100 Concours is a rare example of a manufacturer keeping its word. When the Connie was first introduced Kawasaki promised it would leave the bike basically unchanged for at least five years so that owners wouldn’t be subject to instant obsolescence.

Five years became 10, then 15, then 20. There have certainly been upgrades over the years, but the basic 997 cc shaft-driven machine and its bodywork haven’t changed noticeably in two decades.

For 2008 (yes, it’s officially a 2008 model), however, the Concours is finally retired in favour of the … Concours! Concours 14, that is, a sport-touring brute based loosely on the wild ‘n’ wooly ZX-14.

Victory Vision
Trick swing arm design.

The 1,352 cc engine is retuned for massive torque spread across the rev range, and dual balancers smooth it out for comfort and extended maintenance. Fuel injection and even variable valve timing (which works by advancing/retarding the intake cam through a range of 23.8 degrees) are also part of the package, as is ram air.

The motor is a stressed member with the frame, which is monocoque design made from aluminium box sections. An all new shaft drive is fitted, which uses two universal joints and parallel links to reduce torque loading, as is an electrically adjustable windscreen, and hard luggage. On the slow-down side, it has the same massive petal brake rotors (with radially mounted calipers and individual brake pads) as the ZX-14, complete with optional ABS.

Victory Vision
Fancy tire pressure checks.

Instruments include all the usual items plus a gear position indicator and even tire pressure sensors  (which also warns the rider – via the dash – of any sudden drop in pressure). Oh and there’s something that Kawasaki call KIPASS, which is a keyless system which senses when an electronic fob is close by to release the ignition switch. That fob being carried by the rider of course …

MSRP is $17,799.00 with an additional $1,300.00 for the ABS. Colour is Neutron Silver, there’s a hefty 36 month warranty and it should be available in dealerships any day now.

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