Kawasaki Concours 14
Can electronics defy gravity, along with various other key physical laws? Do VVT, KTRC, K-ACT, KIPASS, ABS and a host of other technologies with less catchy acronyms add up to sport-touring nirvana? That, boys and girls, is Kawasaki’s $15,599 question ($14,599 if you can live without ABS and traction control). The answer, as you might expect from a motorcycle with enough onboard electronics to embarrass a desktop computer, is more complicated.
You can either focus on riding the Pacific Coast Highway or slow down and soak up some of
Introduced to an admiring sporty-touring public in 2007 as heir to a rapid-transit dynasty that began in 1986 with the Concours 1000, the Concours 14 was good enough to win our last long-distance comparison. But it wasn’t perfect. It was huge, and radiated enough engine heat to roast a chicken in hot weather. The adjustable windscreen invited excess turbulence into the cockpit, and fuel mileage was deplorable. Kawasaki’s engineers took copious notes, addressing all that in a strategically revised 2010 version with new bodywork, a taller electrically adjustable windscreen, heated hand grips, a faster, more compact K-ACT ABS system, switchable KTRC traction control, plus ECO Mode fuel mapping you can switch on when miles per gallon are more important than miles per hour. Then they firmed up the fork with extra oil and levered on new Bridgestone BT021U radials to sharpen the handling. Aside from a fresh coat of aptly named Atomic Silver paint and $300 added to the asking price, our 2011 model is unchanged from last year.
Kawasaki ironed out one of the Concours 14’s biggest wrinkles with a new fairing that extr
Getting those acronyms on the road starts with Kawasaki’s Intelligent Proximity Activation System, a.k.a. The FOB: bane of neo-luddites, technophobes and various unnamed Motorcyclist staffers. With said FOB in your pocket, just push the ignition switch, hit the starter and you’re off. In the FSS position (fuel, seat and saddlebags), it slips out to reveal an actual key that unlocks everything else. It’s simple until somebody rides off on another bike with the FOB in his pocket, or tries to store it in the self-locking fairing compartment. Then it’s "What about FOB?/Where’s FOB?/FOB’s yer uncle" for the next 200 miles.
Lucky for us, most of the bike’s other innovations are more intuitive. Once the FOB’s presence is confirmed, the 14’s size dominates most second impressions. Topped off with 5.8 gallons of 90-octane unleaded, you’re straddling a 690-lb. vessel that measures 7.5 feet from stem to stern and more than 3 feet across her beam. Broad bars and a roomy, upright riding position make navigating city traffic easier, but she’s a bit of a handful until you adjust to those dimensions.
Everything comes together by the second or third stoplight. Kawasaki’s VVT arrangement uses oil pressure to shift intake timing, boosting power across the bottom half of the tach. The payoff is a 1352cc torque pump that’s open for business at 1100 rpm. The first 4000 rpm serve up more than enough punch around town, or anywhere else unless you’re late for something. The second 4000 produce enough to handle just about anything else, leaving the 10,500-rpm redline for occasional weekend visits. The second-generation fairing dispenses with excess engine heat before it can roast anybody. With that sort of broadband propulsion on call, the shift lever doesn’t see a lot of action once you’re up to speed.
The electrically adjustable windscreen is wider at the top and 70mm taller than what came
A multifunction LCD above the analog speedo and tach can tell you everything from tire pre
That upper orange button tells the K-ACT system whether you want more front brake from the
Inhale 150 miles of California’s 101 freeway in a couple of hours and you won’t surrender the FOB any time soon. Vibration is blissfully absent below 5000 rpm. Thumb the windscreen up and down until it’s punching a comfortable hole in the oncoming 37-degree air. That’s what the dash display says anyway. Rear-view mirrors frame a clear picture of where you’ve been while steering that air around your hands. Bump up the heated grips another notch and cue up fuel range without taking a hand off the bars. Holding down the mode-select button shifts the EFI system to ECO mode: a leaner fuel map that just turned 36 mpg into 42 as long as you’re under 6000 rpm and 30 percent throttle. It’s like carrying 20 percent more fuel without the extra weight.
Extra weight is something the C14 can live without. Pack those bags with 40 lbs. of gear and it should behave like a 1972 Oldsmobile Vista Cruiser in the twisty bits: badly. But fear not: Correct suspension adjustment becomes more critical, and even when it’s dialed-in the ride gets harsh on rough roads. Reined in to double-digit speeds, the Concours acquits itself remarkably well. That upright riding position feels more natural on the freeway, but broad bars keep steering acceptably light and precise. The dual-mode linked brakes are harder to master. At a moderate pace, a two-finger squeeze on the lever slows things down and settles the suspension with a whiff of rear brake. When that’s not enough, a toe on the pedal factors in too much front brake too quickly, even with K-ACT in the less invasive Low Combined mode.
That’s the only real annoyance, and there are more important things after 10 hours on the road. Like a motorcycle that’s good enough at everything to make you pocket the FOB and do it again the next day.