Hard Parts - Kawasaki Concours 14

Inside the Ultimate Transcontinental Power Trip

The original Concours was Japan's first European-style sport-tourer way back in 1986. And leaving it essentially status quo for two decades gave Kawasaki plenty of time to come up with something capable of punting the other established players out of the pool. It takes more than just horsepower to put this show on the road, but factor in an alleged 156 bhp and you're looking at the new benchmark for two-wheeled rapid transit.

Power flows through a diaphragm-type slipper clutch that fits into the same footprint as the ZX-14 unit. Kawasaki added a series of coil springs to take slack out of the new shaft final drive. Like other Kawasaki shaft arrangements, there's no oil between the engine and rear gear case. The new four-link Tetra-lever swingarm arrangement isolates Uni-Trak rear suspension from engine torque as you'd expect, vectoring said forces into the frame. But there's more: It also engineers the right amount of squat into the chassis equation.

Three computers run this show-the ignition/injection module, another built into the ignition switch, plus the Smart ECU that receives data from the KI-PASS key fob and tire pressure sensors, all manufactured by Mitsubishi. A Controller Area Network (CAN) conveys digital directions among the bike's myriad systems without the customary rat's nest of hard wires. Integral diagnostics help you track down the source of most any malfunction that might arise.

The aluminum monocoque structure stretching from cast steering head to swingarm pivot is derived from the ZX-14 skeleton, which evolved from the 2000 ZX-12R. There's a new reinforcing structure above the swingarm pivot to accommodate shaft drive. This side is thicker as well, with more internal ribs to help increase lateral rigidity. Increased wall thickness in the backbone and a switch from die-cast bolt-on aluminum side plates instead of plastic add up to 20 percent more torsional rigidity. Dual balance shafts cancel vibration here as well, so the new 1352cc lump bolts in solidly, stressed-member style. Steering geometry is predictably less aggressive than the ZX-14's (26.1 deg./4.4 in. vs. 23.0 deg./3.7 in.). At 59.8 in., wheelbase is 2.3 in. longer. Kawasaki claims the whole package weighs in at 606 lbs. dry-132 lbs. heavier than a ZX-14.

Starting with the 1352cc heart of the ZX-14, Kawasaki took 45 horsepower off the top with new 40mm throttle bodies (6mm smaller) and less compression (10.7:1 vs. 12.0:1). Fear not: An elegantly simple hydraulic Variable Valve Timing (VVT) system maintains midrange power. Instructions from the engine ECU change the rate and direction of flow to the VVT actuator, which can advance or retard intake timing up to a maximum of 23.8 degrees. Maximum effect is at 4000-6000 rpm. And by optimizing cylinder filling throughout the rev range, VVT lowers emissions, as well. New atomizing injectors use 12 75-micron orifices instead of 10 at 60 microns for a better burn. There's no exhaust valve in the 4-2-1 system. No 02 sensors either. Just a pair of 200-cell catalyzers in that bazooka muffler.

Adapted from the keyless entry systems on high-end automobiles, the Kawasaki Intelligent Proximity Activation System (KI-PASS) switches vital electronic systems on or off with a key fob you keep in your pocket. Step within 5.25 feet of the bike and an RF receiver in the ignition switch tells the SMART CPU it's OK to start the bike. Walk out of range and the system shuts down in 3-4 seconds, immobilizing the bike till you come back. Drop your fob on the road and the instrument panel tells you so. The computer can learn to recognize up to six different fob signals. Two come with the bike; lose 'em both before buying a spare and you need to replace all three onboard computers, so keep a spare stashed in a safe place.