Long-term: 2009 Kawasaki Concours 14

Text: Ken Freund • Photography: Christa Neuhauser

Back in the Nov/Dec 2007 issue, senior editor Chris Myers wrote Civil Warrior, a first look at Kawasaki's new 2008 Concours 14, based on his initial impressions at the bike's press intro. Lately we've revisited this sole model of Kawi's sport-touring lineup—this time a 2009 Concours, or Connie, long-term test bike—learning even more about the big mile-burner.

Drivetrain

Originally sourced from the ZX-14, Concours' potent 1352cc, liquid-cooled, DOHC 16-valve, inline four is an excellent powerplant that holds up well to hard riding. Rated at 156 crankshaft horsepower at 10,500 rpm and 100.3 lb-ft of torque at 6,200 revs, Kawi's Connie boasts the highest power output in its class.

Variable valve timing adds flexibility and broadens the powerband by changing the effective cam profile to increase low- and mid-range torque without sacrificing a lot of top-end. Dual secondary balancers cancel vibrations effectively for a smooth ride. Automatic idle-speed control eliminates the cold-start lever and works perfectly for quick starts and excellent drivability during warm-up. You can lug the engine down to a crawl or redline it. Either way the EFI's 40mm throttle bodies and dual throttle valves deliver smooth, glitch-free throttle response and stunning acceleration.

When we rode the C-14 in summer conditions, we found extended idling does get the temperature gauge up there, but the thermostatically controlled fan keeps things in check. Insulation between fairing and engine helps keep heat off the rider, but with such a large, powerful engine, there's a lot of heat to dissipate. As a result, heat finds its way back from the large louvered air outlets, and particularly at lower speeds the ride can become quite uncomfortable. A few times we found ourselves lowering the windscreen and standing on the pegs to get out into the wind to cool off. To be fair though, we've also done this on the competing sport-tourers.

The hydraulically actuated clutch is operated by a radial-pump master cylinder that delivers excellent control during engagement. A back-torque-limiter eliminates wheel hop on rapid downshifts by allowing the clutch to slip, rather than skidding the tire. Gear changes are silky smooth with the six-speed gearbox and the well-spaced ratios work great with the engine's powerband.

Chassis & Handling

Kawasaki beefed up the C-14's frame to handle the stress of loaded saddlebags and two-up riding, giving it 20% more torsional rigidity than the ZX-14's. Rather than use steel, Kawasaki spent the extra yen to develop a rigid aluminum monocoque chassis, with a massive steering-head casting and sturdy box sections. In addition, the solid-mounted engine is used as a stressed member to further stiffen the chassis.

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For the complete article of the riding impression(s) and technical specifications, please purchase the January/February 2010 back issue.