Rapid Transit Authority

Four Ways To Play Fast And Loose With The Space/Time Continuum

There are strange things on the road between Loope and Markleeville an hour or three shy of midnight. Us, for instance. No moon, just a few billion stars above Monitor Pass and the sort of pitch-blackness normally found inside a cow. And what looks like a brown feral bathroom rug waddling through the high beams in a set of 60-mph switchbacks. This is not touring. Not the traditional AM/FM, his and hers, rolling sedan chair, opulence uber alles American idiom, anyway. We don't have enough time, patience, polyester or even the right motorcycles for that. Thank God.

The steady infusion of go-fast technology, various manifestations of digital virtuosity and really nice hard luggage present us with four stunningly capable ways to get from pillar to post. All in (nearly) palatial comfort at the sort of speeds you never discuss at a Highway Patrol picnic. Two-wheel rapid transit has come a long way since BMW introduced off-the-rack sport-touring with the original 70-horse R100RS in 1976. We've come a long way since last year, for that matter, mostly because some deviant at Kawasaki figured the 175-horse ZX-14 was the perfect foundation for a sport-tourer. Make that rabid transit.

Our other players are ostensibly unchanged, but launching the Concours 14 into the mix demolishes what remains of a status quo. Hold on for a second while we watch twisty-road proclivities ratchet up the priority list. We shuffled the deck as well, ordering up a BMW R1200RT boxer in place of the less-graceful K1200GT four, then opting for a standard Yamaha FJR1300 instead of the automatic-clutch version that underwhelmed us in '06. Honda's ST1300 ABS returns with a fresh coat of silver paint. Is that enough to win this year? Will we make it past the suicidal deer, unmarked 20-mph corners, radar traps and flirty waitresses bearing bacon-wrapped double-bacon cheeseburgers intact to pick a winner? Yes, we did. But it took 1200 miles and a great smoldering sinkhole in the travel and entertainment budget. Let's hope you people are worth it.

Fourth Place
Honda ST1300 ABS

When ruthless efficiency isn't (quite) enough

The difference between first and fourth in this game depends entirely on how you decide to play. As a meticulously refined, seamlessly proficient mileage-disposal unit, Honda's ST1300 remains peerless. But measured against faster, lighter, stronger competition, last year's winner had a hard time hiding the fact that it hasn't seen more than a fresh coat of paint since 2003. That's the bad news.

Refined and proven over millions of miles just about anywhere there's pavement and super-unleaded, the ST is 99.44 percent free of the little annoyances that turn into huge ones at the end of a 600-mile day. Honda's airtight approach to going long may be short on personality, but those who appreciate being able to cover that distance painlessly with just one stop for fuel really couldn't care less.

The broad, flat seat adjusts to accommodate tall or short types and provides ample fidgeting room solo or two-up. Comfortably sporty accommodations tilt you forward more than the BMW or Yamaha, with a nice view of the superbly useful and intuitive data display. No toggling around to get from ambient air temp to the tripmeter...it's all right there, along with a nifty pushbutton headlight adjuster that's a bona fide blessing on tricky mountain roads after dark.

Paired with a tough, linear hydraulic clutch and cooperative five-cog gearbox, the 1261cc V-4 is the next best thing to nuclear power. Dial up as much as you need from 1800 rpm. It's pure, steady thrust that just tapers off after all 114 horses come online at 7500. With power spread evenly across 6500 rpm, shifting is mostly optional. Accompanied by that signature Outboard Motor from Hell soundtrack, the ST is smoother than all but the Concours at a quasi-legal 85 mph.

Putting 300 miles and change between fuel stops is cake even at that clip. Fidget around a bit. Check those crystal-clear rear-view mirrors for black-and-white bogeys. Ponder why Bakersfield always smells like a spent urinal puck. Wish for a bit more fresh air in the cockpit. Fiddle with the obligatory electrically adjustable windscreen to keep negative pressure from sucking you forward. Wonder how it is that a 727-lb. motorcycle hardly ever feels like one.

Except when you're trying to keep these infidels in range after dinner on some hopelessly twisted stretch of pavement while fighting off a bad case of chicken-fried reflux. The 45mm fork is allergic to anything with a square edge, and it takes a good bit of shock spring preload to keep the front wheel confidently planted at warp speed. Otherwise, everything about the ST works together like one big Light Silver Metallic symphony. Conducting it quickly enough to keep up, however, takes practice, precision and lots of hard work. Maybe a little harder work than it needs to be.

Third Place

Less is more everywhere but the price tag

If you think the RT's resident 101-horsepower, horizontally opposed anachronism is what dooms it to second-runner-up status, think again. For starters, 78 lb.-ft. of torque puts the 631-lb. package squarely in the hunt. After coining the concept 24 years ago with the '82 R80RT-50 horsepower, 500 lbs., 105 mph-Munich has a pretty solid handle on this gig. In the 40- to 90-mph sweet spot where we spend most of our riding time, Das Boot can make you wonder if four cylinders are two too many. Especially when the eight-valve, 1170cc boxer can cover 128 GPS-certified mph.

Towering over its peers like a double-decker bus among sport coupes, the RT's taller stance takes some getting used to, along with the rest of the package. Long on travel and a bit short on rebound damping, the RT's suspension allows more movement than the others in exchange for a plush ride over anything but vicious bumps. The flip side is less precision and feedback from the front contact patch than we'd like when the pace heats up. The six-speed gearbox is precise enough to erase our complaints about previous Oilhead boxers. BMW's latest Integral ABS system is excellent; it has slightly less feedback than the others, but a lot of stopping power in a hurry with none of the grabby feel of previous editions. That's a good thing, because the shifter gets busy holding the tach needle near that 7500-rpm power peak and that's what it takes to keep the others in sight. What if the pace gets really hot? Despite Honda's ST1300 spotting it nearly 100 lbs., the boxer doesn't have the horsepower or chassis composure to keep up.

Ratchet your emphasis back toward the touring end of the continuum and the RT logs more kind words than complaints. Pulling 300-plus miles out of the 7.1-gallon fuel tank is effortless. Low-frequency, long-amplitude vibes never intrude below 90 mph. The biggest fairing of the pack nets the broadest comfort envelope as well. There's no buffeting or noisy air with the windscreen unfurled. This seat is easily the best of the bunch. Factor in the optional heated seat and grips that are indescribably delicious on the way home from a Lyle Lovett show at 1:45 a.m.? The RT starts feeling like your best friend. OK, it's not the fastest. It cares. And the proof is in the little things that aren't that little after a nonstop blitz from Lake Tahoe to L.A.

Aside from swallowing more gear than the others, the BMW's 32-liter bags are genuinely waterproof and mercifully intuitive when you're obsessed with cold beer and a hot shower in yon Motel 6. Anteing up for a Navigator III GPS system ($1399) means never having to say, "Sorry, we're lost." But it also brings us to what in our book is the RT's biggest flaw: the $17,900 bottom line. Even without the optional Electronic Suspension Adjustment ($800), that's $2401 more expensive than the Honda, and fully $4101 pricier than the Kawasaki and the Yamaha. And while how much it costs is relative to how much you've got, in this group, most of us would spend the difference on those hot showers and that cold beer.

Second Place
Yamaha FJR1300

R1 heart, Jack Kerouac soul

Finishing third in a field of three last year, the FJR1300 AE was clearly a good motorcycle saddled with an awkward, computer-controlled clutch. With that good old analog lever back on the bar, the standard version could reverse that order. And you know what? It nearly did, even against Kawasaki's bigger, stronger, more sophisticated Concours 14. Handling the clutch yourself saves a cool $1800. Better still, it transforms the FJR from compromise to contender.

The most compact, athletic package of our foursome contends best in the twisty bits, but with its seat in the tall slot, the FJR serves up more than enough room to carry 6-footers through a three-hour freeway stint. Everyone liked the seat. Testers with an extra-firm mattress at home liked it better than the BMW's. Drop the saddle a notch and all but the most vertically challenged pilots are happily grounded. Ergonomics enforce the sort of upright posture that would make your fourth-grade teacher smile.

There's less calm air behind the Yamaha's adjustable windscreen than you'll find on the BMW or the Honda, but there's no vexing turbulence, either-just a little wind roar. No complaints about engine heat. Yamaha did the best job with routing cool air in and hot air around the rider, with adjustable vents on the fairing's flanks that let you fine-tune the flow. Pathological travelers moan about the 6.6-gallon fuel tank that runs low about 50 miles sooner than the Honda or BMW, but our only undisputed long-haul grievance is a twinge of the intrinsic four-cylinder buzz just north of 80 mph in fifth.

Before Kawasaki's new Concours 14, the FJR was the quickest thing in saddlebags. And though midrange thrust is no match for Honda's nuclear V-4, and shifting is a bit stiffer than on the 14-it gets smoother with mileage, but not quite smooth enough-the 1298cc Yamaha still inhales real estate quickly enough to dust everything but the Kawasaki if you spin it above 5000 rpm. That same scenario plays out when the road starts doubling back on itself every half-mile or so, but only the Yamaha's brakes and chassis are good enough to keep the 14 in range.

An intuitive sporting demeanor-more posh superbike than Spartan tourer-makes it easier to go fast without calibrating your style to its 676-pound mass. It executes orders from the bridge quickly and accurately, and always lets you know what's happening at the rubber/road interface. Steering is light and precise, though ham fists will think the brakes are touchy. Not so: A relatively gentle squeeze on the lever generates big stopping power, while Yamaha's Unified Braking System keeps the chassis balanced whether you cue the pedal or not. Stiffer suspension came online in '04, to keep the chassis under control at speed and the pegs (mostly) off the deck. The ride is decidedly sporty but nicely compliant, aside from some harshness over vicious hits.

Total all the columns and second place is pretty good for a design that's nearly four years old going up against more power and fresh technology. If Yamaha had spent the cash that went into the auto-clutch on a few engine and chassis refinements, we'd be looking at the winner here. Maybe next year?

First Place
Kawasaki Concours 14

Godzilla in saddlebags

Some things you expect from a Kawasaki. Horsepower. Acceleration. Too many points on your driver's license. But traditionally, the rest of the package can be a bit rough around the edges. Speed, evidently, is best served raw. Or at least it was. The new-for-2008 Concours 14 isn't perfect. It radiates way too much heat on hot days. And two-up accommodations are a bit tight for transcontinental travel, especially for two tall people. But after a couple thousand hard miles, it's difficult to dredge up a whole lot more to complain about. The Concours 14 delivers as much smooth sophistication as warp-level performance. Something like taking a Sovereign-class Starship to the mountains for a long weekend-except it's easier to park.

And though it's toned down from the donor ZX-14's original 176 horsepower for traveling duty, the 1352cc four is hardly domesticated. Variable intake timing, less compression and smaller throttle bodies trip peak output to 133 horses, laying down more accessible muscle between 3000 and 9200 rpm, where the whole herd shows up. That's enough to propel the 689-lb. package through the quarter-mile in a blistering 10.49 seconds at 130.9 mph-considerably quicker and faster than anything else wearing hard bags and adjustable wind protection. Captain Picard would approve. So take us out, Mr. Crusher.

Keep the magic KI-PASS fob in your pocket and you only use the ignition key to unlock the saddlebags or the gas cap. Neat. Saddle up and you sit in the Kawasaki instead of on it. The 32-inch seat height is good news for the 30-inch-inseam set. Taller types can expect to bend their knees a bit more than on the other three bikes; this is the only seat that isn't adjustable. The Editorial Hindquarters were comfortable enough between fuel stops. Ease the six-speed trans into its overdrive top cog and revs drop to 4000 rpm at 70 mph. Discernable vibration drops to the level of the average computer hard-drive; aka none. Just don't try to get more than 270 miles out of the 5.8-gallon fuel tank unless you like to push. Extended play above 6000 rpm puts a big dent in that number. It's like Steven Wright said. "You can't have everything. Where would you put it?"

Saddlebags maybe? These carry less than the BMW's and about the same as the other two bikes'. The electronic-widget quotient hardly rivals Bavarian levels, but the only things you'll really miss are the heated grips and seat on some frosty November night. Such amenities are evidently on the way to a dealer near you. Till then? The monocoque frame keeps your knees warm and this right grip will reel in a hot shower faster than most.

This thing will blitz blacktop faster than any sporty-tourer on planet Earth, especially twisty blacktop. Take some time to dial in its agreeably compliant suspension and the 14 carves like the Surgeon General. Brakes take a firmer squeeze than the others, but they'll stop just as hard, and the ABS never intrudes on hard braking without a good reason. Attention purists: The front brake has nothing to do with the rear. No link here. The Tetra-Lever shaft drive keeps engine torque from pushing the rest of the package around. There's no bothersome slack in the system, and fueling is essentially perfect. So? It's not the best long-haul package for everyone-just the quickest, fastest, best-handling one. And that's exactly what it takes to win this game.

Mitch Boehm
Off The Record

I rode the FJR home following our test ride-500 miles with only three short fuel stops-and the more I rode it the more I liked it. It's the most conventional of the four, and most like a sportbike. I thought it might not be as long-haul comfy as the Honda and BMW, but the seat didn't bother me until the eighth hour, and then the discomfort was only mild. It did buzz a bit above 5000 rpm, but I didn't really notice that on the freeway. It also offers the most front-end feedback of this group, and it's plenty fast. Best of all, it looks and feels like a motorcycle, not some bulbous, over-inflated conveyance. I appreciate that.
Age: 44 Height: 6' Weight: 225 lbs. Inseam: 32 in.

Jim Soldera
Off The Record

The Concours 14 fit me, and after a suspension change I had more fun on it in the mountains. The wide seat made my legs sore, but I'd get used to that. I need more time with the Smart Key technology, but I'd probably get accustomed to that as well.

I'm usually not a big Kawasaki fan, but all that smooth power makes this one quite easy to ride. It only needs three gears, and it loves to go fast. What's not to like? The fairing aimed engine heat at my legs. But at least the adjustable windscreen let me choose between a cooling breeze and comfort/quiet. The Connie works much better than I thought it would.
Age: 40+ Height: 5' 7" Weight: 140 lbs. Inseam: 33 in.

Honda ST1300ABS | PRICE: $15,499
Hard Parts

Triple box-section spars and a strapping cast-aluminum steering head bear most of the ST's considerable mass. Solid mounts let the engine assume load-bearing duties as well. Meticulously matched bolts sharpen chassis feel whilst helping to squelch nasty vibration.

An aluminum upper triple-clamp holds 45mm cartridge-type fork legs securely. Sadly, they offer no external adjustments. The ubiquitous remote adjuster allows a 1.2-inch range of shock spring adjustment, while a somewhat less accessible screw lets you dial in rebound damping.

Smooth? Honda's big V-4 uses a 360-degree crankshaft and contra-rotating balance shafts. Heavy-breathing 31mm intake valves share each combustion chamber with 26mm exhaust poppets. PGM-FI injectors disburse fuel through 36mm throttle bodies as per the 3-D digital map. A catalyst in each 5.4-liter muffler cuts environmentally unfriendly exhaust gases.

Honda calls the shape an Aero-Ellipse, a slick look intended to steer air efficiently around rider and passenger whilst facilitating high-speed stability. Outriggers on either side touch down first in a tip-over to save more expensive bits. Don't ask how we know.

The front brake lever triggers the outer pair of pistons in each three-piston front caliper and the three-piston rear caliper. Pushing the pedal cues the center piston in front and rear calipers, while a delay valve slows actuation up front to decrease chassis pitch. A proportioning valve optimizes front/rear brake bias to conditions.

Horsepower: 114.1 bhp @ 7500 rpm
Torque: 83.5 lb.-ft. @ 6250 rpm

Flat as its outboard-from-heck exhaust note, the Honda power curve defines efficient power. Torque in the basement? This one makes 77 lb.-ft. of the stuff way down at 3000 rpm, and thrust flows like a fire hydrant from there to 7500.

20.7 inches
26.3 inches
98.0 degrees
6.1 inches

Tech Spec
Engine Type: l-c 90-degree V-four
Valve train: DOHC, 16v

Displacement: 1261cc
Bore x stroke: 78.0 x 66.0mm

Compression: 10.8:1
Fuel system: EFI
Clutch: Wet, multi-plate

Transmission: 5-speed
Frame: Aluminum twin-spar

Front suspension: 45mm Showa cartridge fork

Rear suspension: Single Showa shock, adjustable for spring preload and rebound damping

Front brake: Dual three-piston Nissin calipers, 310mm discs

Rear brake: Single three-piston Nissin caliper, 316mm disc
Front tire: 120/70-ZR18 Bridgestone BT020

Rear tire: 170/60-ZR17 Bridgestone BT020
Rake/trail: 26.0/3.9 in.
Seat height: 31.1 in.

Wheelbase: 58.4 in.
Fuel capacity: 7.7 gal.
Weight (tank full/empty): 727/681 lbs.
Measured horsepower: 114.1 bhp @ 7500 rpm
Measured torque: 83.5 lb.-ft. @ 6250 rpm
Corrected 1/4-mile: 11.43 sec. @ 118.55 mph
Top gear roll-on, 60-80 mph: 4.52 sec
Fuel mileage (high/low/avg.): 50/32/44 mpg
Colors: Light Silver Metallic
Warranty: 36 months, unlimited mi.
Contact: American Honda
Motor Co.
1919 Torrance Blvd.
Torrance, CA 90501

ST ergos lean you forward to get the most out of a relatively small fairing. Shifting a little weight to arms and wrists makes four hours in the saddle tolerable. An excellent stock seat helps out on that count as well.

BMW R1200RT | PRICE: $17,900
Hard Parts

The RT provides the most complete wind protection with a windscreen that adjusts through an effective range of 5.5 inches. Our cockpit incorporated BMW's optional onboard computer ($275) that monitors engine oil level, among other things.

BMW's latest partly integral ABS system is more intuitive and dramatically less invasive than its ancestors. The handlebar lever actuates all three calipers, but the pedal cues only the two-piston rear unit.

The RT-spec boxer has gained about 10 bhp over the first-generation 1170cc twin via 12:1-compression pistons and by spinning 500 rpm higher. Anti-knock circuitry lets it digest lower-octane fuel when necessary.

Though the engine/suspension assembly carries most of the load, there are also two subframes bolted directly to the engine: a tube-steel main/rear space-frame, along with another welded steel structure up front, which was new on the '04 RT.

BMW's familiar Telelever handles front suspension duties, followed by an EVO Paralever rear carried over from the R1200GS, with tweaks to accommodate wider wheels and tires. Damping increases as the wheel moves through its travel.

Horsepower: 101.1 bhp @ 7500 rpm
Torque: 78.0 lb.-ft. @ 6250 rpm

Those peaks and valleys mucking up the RT's power and torque curves don't register at the seat of your pants. The bottom-heavy delivery takes care of business from 2000 rpm, but it spins all the way to 8000 when necessary.

10.4 inches
108.4 degrees
22.6 inches
20.8 inches

Tech Spec
Engine Type: a/o-c opposed-twin
Valve train: SIHC, 8v

Displacement: 1170cc
Bore x stroke: 101.0 x 73.0mm

Compression: 12.0:1
Fuel system: EFI
Clutch: Dry, single-plate

Transmission: 6-speed
Frame: Tubular steel lattice

Front suspension: Telelever with single Showa shock

Rear suspension: Single Showa shock, adjustable for spring preload and rebound damping

Front brake: Dual Brembo four-piston calipers, 320mm discs

Rear brake: Single Brembo two-piston caliper, 264mm disc

Front tire: 120/70-ZR17 Michelin Pilot Road
Rear tire: 180/55-ZR17 Michelin Pilot Road
Rake/trail: 26.6/4.3 in.
Seat height: 32.2 in.
Wheelbase: 58.4 in.
Fuel capacity: 7.1 gal.
Weight (tank full/empty): 631/588 lbs.
Measured horsepower: 101.1 bhp @ 7500 rpm
Measured torque: 78 lb.-ft. @ 6250 rpm
Corrected 1/4-mile: 11.68 sec. @ 118.88 mph
Top gear roll-on, 60-80 mph: 4.3 sec.
Fuel mileage (high/low/avg.): 53/38/46 mpg
Colors: Titan Silver Metallic
Warranty: 24 months, unlimited mi.
Contact: BMW of North America
300 Chestnut Ridge Rd.
Woodcliff Lake, NJ 07677

The RT leaves a longer reach to the tarmac, though the adjustable seat makes it accessible to a 30-inch inseam. All things considered, accommodations are the next best thing to a Gold Wing, whether you go solo or two-up.

Yamaha FJR1300 | PRICE: $13,799

The FJR engine bolts into its diamond-type aluminum-alloy skeleton sans rubber mounts, making the slant-block mill a stressed chassis member. The detachable subframe is aluminum as well. Shaft drive is integrated into the left side of the cast-aluminum swingarm

This substantial, 48mm Soqui fork offers adjustable compression damping in addition to the typical spring preload and rebound damping. A lever on the shock lets you vary spring rate for solo or two-up travel with minimal fuss.

The 1298cc wet-sump inline-four uses Yamaha's familiar space-saving engine architecture, stacking gearbox shafts to take up less space in the hollow, cast-aluminum frame. Dual gear-driven counterbalancers nix most of the vibes. It happily digests regular unleaded to save a few bucks.

Employing the most sophisticated air-management package in the business, the FJR directs cool air into the cockpit, while adjustable side vents route engine heat either at or around the rider. The adjustable windscreen got 1.6 inches taller in '04. Dual 60/55-watt multi-reflector headlights adjust via knobs in the cockpit.

Yamaha's Unified Braking System cues six of the eight pistons up front to grab the 320mm rotors that came online in '04. The pedal actuates the remaining pair of pistons up front in concert with the two-piston rear caliper and its 282mm rotor. ABS arrived in '04 as well.

Horsepower: 127.2 bhp @ 7900 rpm
Torque: 89.6 lb.-ft. @ 6800 rpm

Though it's actually a bit stronger than the Kawasaki below 4500 rpm, the Yamaha gets upstaged from there. It's stout, putting 91 percent of peak power at 5000 rpm. But it's still not enough to run with the Concours.

Tech Spec
Engine Type: l-c inline-four
Valve train: DOHC, 16v

Displacement: 1298cc
Bore x stroke: 79.0 x 66.2mm
Compression: 10.8:1
Fuel system: EFI
Clutch: Wet, multi-plate

Transmission: 5-speed
Frame: Aluminum twin-spar

Front suspension: 48mm Soqui fork, adjustable for spring preload, compression and rebound damping

Rear suspension: Single Soqui shock, adjustable for spring rate and rebound damping

Front brake: Dual four-piston Sumitomo calipers, 320mm discs
Rear brake: Single two-piston Sumitomo caliper, 282mm disc
Front tire: 120/70-ZR17 Bridgestone BT020
Rear tire: 180/55-ZR17 Bridgestone BT020
Rake/trail: 26.0/4.3 in.
Seat height: 31.5 in.

Wheelbase: 60.6 in.
Fuel capacity: 6.6 gal.
Weight (tank full/empty): 676/636 lbs.
Measured horsepower: 127.2 bhp @ 7900 rpm
Measured torque: 89.6 lb.-ft. @ 6800 rpm
Corrected 1/4-mile: 11.02 sec. @ 124.1 mph
Top gear roll-on, 60-80 mph: 3.7 sec.
Fuel mileage (high/low/avg.): 48/35/45 mpg
Colors: Black Cherry
Warranty: 12 months, unlimited mi.
Contact: Yamaha Motor Corp. USA
6555 Katella Ave.
Cypress, CA 90630

Yamaha seatiing arrangements are more upright than the ST or Concours. Bars are taller than the Honda's, but there's less legroom. The result is second to the BMW for comfort and right behind the Kawi for sporty stuff.

Kawasaki Concours 14 | PRICE: $13,799
Hard Parts

Though it's beefed up to handle all that extra mass, the Concours' aluminum monocoque is an idea carried over from the 2000 ZX-12R. Though it allows a narrower package by arcing over the engine, some maintenance chores are complicated. And when all that metal between your knees heats up, it gets hot.

No tricks here: The 43mm inverted fork is similar to what you'd find on a ZX-14, but with marginally less travel and no compression damping adjustment. Shock spring preload is adjustable via a knob on the left side of the bike, and Kawasaki's new Tetra-Lever driveline provides seamless delivery while keeping all those ponies from pushing the rear suspension around.

Kawasaki employed all manner of bright thinking to dial power from the ZX-14's 175-horse peak. Hydraulically variable intake cam timing fattens up the midrange, while downsized 40mm throttle bodies increase the velocity of inbound combustibles. Compression is down a bit as well. But this 14's 133 horses still arrive at 9200 rpm, same as its nastier brother.

Carrying on the ZX-14's George Foreman Grill motif, the Concours lays down an inimitable, aerodynamic silhouette. Designed to stay neutral at speed-Kawasaki says there's no extra downforce, even with the windscreen fully deployed-this cockpit is a bit breezy relative to the BMW or the Honda.

Essentially ZX-14 stoppers repurposed for long-distance duty, radial-mount four-pot Nissin calipers get electronic anti-lock assistance in this case. In the absence of any electronic or hydraulic connections, you decide how much help comes from the single rear disc.

Horsepower: 133 bhp @ 9200 rpm
Torque: 87 lb.-ft. @ 7700 rpm

Cranking out 80-something lb.-ft. of torque from 4500 to 8500 rpm, the Concours makes triple-digit horsepower from 6250 to 10,000. The BMW and Honda are stronger down low, but the Kawasaki trumps 'em up top.

9.2 inches
96.2 degrees
27.4 inches
20.0 inches

Tech Spec
Engine Type: l-c inline-four
Valve train: DOHC, 16v

Displacement: 1352cc
Bore x stroke: 84.0 x 61.0mm
Compression: 10.7:1
Fuel system: EFI
Clutch: Wet, multi-plate

Transmission: 6-speed
Frame: Aluminum monocoque
Front suspension: 43mm Kayaba cartridge fork, adjustable for spring preload, rebound damping

Rear suspension: Single Kayaba shock, adjustable for spring preload, rebound damping

Front brake: Dual Nissin four-piston calipers, 310mm discs
Rear brake: Single Nissin two-piston caliper, 270mm disc
Front tire: 120/70-ZR17 Bridgestone BT021
Rear tire: 190/50-ZR17 Bridgestone BT021
Rake/trail: 26.1/4.4 in.
Seat height: 32.1 in.
Wheelbase: 59.8 in.
Fuel capacity: 5.8 gal.
Weight (tank full/empty): 689/654 lbs.
Measured horsepower: 133 bhp @ 9200 rpm
Measured torque: 87 lb.-ft. @ 7700 rpm
Corrected 1/4-mile: 10.49 sec. @ 130.9 mph
Top-gear roll-on, 60-80 mph: 3.8 sec
Fuel mileage (high/low/avg.): 47/37/42 mpg
Colors: Neutron Silver
Warranty: 36 months, unlimited mi.
Contact: Kawasaki Motors Corp. USA
9950 Jeronimo Rd.
Irvine, CA 92618

Armed with the sportiest riding position of our long-distance carriers, the Kawasaki leans forward, but never feels as roomy as the Honda. Though legroom is allegedly equal to the ST and greater than the FJR's, tall riders were content.

Honda ST1300 ABS, BMW R1200RT, Yamaha FJR1300, Kawasaki Concours 14
Massively stable once it's turned, the Honda feels just plain massive till then.
The ST dash tells all with minimal toggling. Headlights are electrically adjustable.
The boxer feels tall and insensitive at speed till you're used to it. Then it's just tall.
BMW's fairing and bags are huge...and near perfect. Add a Navigator III GPS and the cockpit is, too.
The lightest four of the bunch incises twisty bits like a natural, but drags pegs a few degrees sooner.
FJR bags are short on usable space. Creative packing helps. Tiny speedo digits are hard to decipher at speed.
Fork spring preload is the key to happy carving. Too much and it stands up. Back'er down to balance the chassis and say sayonara to the other guys.