Kawasaki Concours - Long-term Evaluation

Text: Chris Myers • Photography: Christian Neuhauser

Since its introduction in 1986, the largely unchanged Kawasaki Concours has inspired a loyal, some would say fanatical, following. The Concours Owners Group (COG) is well represented from coast to coast and beyond. This crew motors out of the woodwork for practically every motorcycle show and consistently show themselves to be some of the "ridin'-est" sons of guns around. What is it about this landmark sport tourer that keeps them rolling off the showroom floor year after year?

After nearly 20 years of burning up every type of road imaginable, dirt included, thank you, the Kawasaki Concours is still proving its worth and instigating grins everywhere. Very few models manage to stay around as long as the Concours, even fewer with a comparable minimum of updates. To say the original 19-year-old design has stood the test of time is undeniable. The bikes still sell and roll up the miles with the best of them. And a machine graced with precious few changes over the years can have its advantages. Parts are easy to find, the sheer number of riders willing to share their knowledge is certainly invaluable, and the reach of the COG is near limitless. At the same time, a bike rarely updated will invariably begin to show its age.

Chassis and Brakes
The Concours chassis has aged particularly well. Solid, predictable handling is one aspect of this machine that always has and still does shine. The rigid high tensile steel frame makes for easy riding whether loping along through the country or aggressively carving up mountain roads. Mated with the preload adjustable 41mm forks and the air/rebound adjustable rear shock, the ride can be easily dialed in to suit most any rider's needs. I've ridden this bike on every type of road imaginable and the Concours has yet to throw a curveball my way. Even a fair spell on a dirt road in Missouri didn't upset the applecart. At one point I looked down and realized I was going 60mph. Now that's a display of confidence. I'll bet they could have seen the dust cloud in St. Louis.

The brakes, on the other hand, need work. The rear disc brake works just fine, it's the front setup that has drawn my wrath since day one. Despite being adjusted all the way out, a stout squeeze will practically bring the lever to the bar. Pumping the lever seems to improve the feel a bit, but who has time for that? A Kawasaki rep at Americade assured us that nothing was wrong with the brake, the line was just flexing. That's fine and maybe a set of braided steel brake lines would cure the problem. But seeing how this is not our bike to modify, we've just had to live with it. As popular as the Concours is, I can't come up with a reason why Kawasaki won't spring for a better feeling front brake. It's not that the brakes don't work; they could just work a whole lot better.

Engine and Transmission
The 997cc DOHC, liquid-cooled, inline four that powers the Concours has an impressive pedigree. Based on the ZX1000 Ninja motor, there's no doubt that the Concours has spent the last 19 years putting the 'sport' in sport touring. Despite the fact that it has been toned down for said touring purposes, there's still power a-plenty. Toned down does not mean tuned out. The Concours can certainly get the job done when it comes to dispatching pesky slowpokes. Power begins right off idle and pulls in a predictable, tractable fashion all the way to redline. The distinctive, rather untamed moan emanating from the somewhat stubby mufflers brings back joyous memories of those '80s-era superbikes. For as long as the Concours has been around, rest assured that reliability is not an issue. Like the chassis, the motor offers no surprises, just consistency.

The rear wheel spins by way of a drive shaft. The extra smoothness so derived may compromise a few ponies, but the chain-maintenance blues are one less headache to face. Despite being from an era when drive shafts meant strange behavior under acceleration, the Concours exhibits little, if any, of these characteristics. This is especially impressive when considering the torquey characteristic of the motor. Whether out on the interstate or carving up a mountain road, this motor is right at home.

The transmission works just fine with only one minor hitch. No matter what, I can rarely go from first to second without catching neutral. Maybe there's some kind of trick there in how much boot to give that first shift. I have no problem admitting to sloppy shifting, but this doesn't seem to happen on any other bike. Aside from that little anomaly, I have no other complaints about the gearbox. Mention of the clutch is completely an afterthought and that's a good thing. Despite many hard miles the Concours has traveled at low and high speeds, usually bearing rather heavy loads, the clutch has never factored in as an issue. No news is good news.

Accessories and Arrangements
You know, you'd think as long as the Concours has been around that Kawasaki could have done something about the center stand. Getting this bike on the center stand especially when packed for touring, is almost an exercise in futility. The process requires timing, grace, and concentration, coupled with brute force. Heaven help you if the surface is slippery or it's been raining. Okay, I feel better now. Back to the good stuff, and there is plenty.

The fairing offers excellent wind protection and comes in real handy on those chilly morning rides. In fact, on warm summer days, you almost need to stand up on the pegs to catch the breeze. The saddlebags are well integrated into the design and seem to add to its air of sophistication. Removing the bags is a breeze, but getting them back on takes a bit of work. We've just left ours on. Thus far, wet gear has not been a problem as the bags have proven to be completely waterproof. They easily swallow up enough gear for one person to be on the road for a week or more with no need to visit the Laundromat while at it.

My first encounter with the seat led me to believe I was going to hate it. I haven't given it a thought since. Proof that first impressions are not always accurate. If I had to gripe, I'd say it could be a little firmer, but that's a reach. Other cool little features such as the hidden mini-luggage rack, the convenient bungee hooks, and the very functional passenger grab bars add to the bike's appeal. Locking compartments in the fairing come in handy for stowing smaller items. And it's here that I can say that the Concours has been putting the 'touring' in sport touring for 19 years.

Conclusion
The Kawasaki Concours has long been known as one of the best bargains in motorcycling. With a MSRP of $ 8299, that claim is hard to argue. This is a comfortable and capable touring machine that has the new owner riding off into the sunset for $ 2500 to $ 5000 less than its closest competition. That translates into an awful lot of nice riding gear. All-day comfort, an impressive list of stock features, a very user-friendly engine, and handling that inspires confidence on any road are but a few of the many appealing traits that define this grand dame of touring. The old girl may be showing a touch of gray, but she still has the gams to go in today's riding world. With a few minor upgrades, front brakes topping the list, the Concours could easily remain an unshakable fixture on the charts.

And so - To Whom it Concerns at Kawasaki: The Concours has been so good to you. How about providing the few little tweaks she needs to stay on top of her game?

TECHNICAL SPECS:

Kawasaki ZG 1000 Concours

Retail Price $ 8.499
Warranty 3 year unlimited mileage
Maintenance Schedule 500/6000/every 6500 miles (800/10,000/every 10,500km)
Importer/Distributor Kawasaki Motors Corp., USA 9950 Jeronimo Road Irvine, CA 92618 phone (949) 770-0400
www.kawasaki.com

Engine
Type four cylinder, inline, four stroke
Cooling liquid cooled
Valve Arrangement DOHC, 4 valves per cylinder
Bore & Stroke 74.0 x 58.0mm
Displacement 997cc
Compression Ratio 10.2:1
Carburetion Keihin CVK 32x4
Exhaust Emission Control catalytic converter

Transmission
Gearbox 6-speed
Clutch wet, multi-plate
Final Drive shaft drive

Chassis
Frame high tensile steel diamond
Wheelbase 1554.5mm (61.2in)
Rake (horizontal/vertical)61.5°/28.5°
Trail 123mm (4.84in)
Front Suspension telescopic fork
Stanchion Diameter 41mm (1.61in)
Adjustments adjustable preload
Travel 139.7mm (5.5in)
Rear Suspension single shock
Adjustments air adjustable with adjustable rebound
Travel 139.7mm (5.5in)

Wheels & Tires
Type five spoke
Front 3.00 x 18
Rear 3.50 x 16
Front Tire 120/70-VR18
Rear Tire 150/80-VR16

Brakes
Front Brake 2 discs, 2 piston calipers
Diameter 300mm (11.8in)
Rear Brake single disc, single piston calipers
Diameter 280mm (11in)
Combining no

Dimensions & Capacities
Seat Height 787mm (31in)
Dry Weight 270kg (595lbs)
Fuel Capacity 28.4 liters (7.5gal)

Performance
Claimed Horsepower (measured at crank)n/a
Torque n/a
Top Speed n/a
Acceleration n/a
Fuel Consumption 38mpg
Fuel Range 285mls

EquipmentFull fairing with 2 locking bins, locking/removable hard luggage, cool air ventilation ducts, triple density foam saddle, analog speedo and tach, digital clock.

RoadRUNNER Test Diagram

Engine 3/5

Chassis 3/5

Brakes 3/5

Comfort 4/5

Luggage w/accessories 4/5

Equipment 4/5

Design 3/5

Bike for the buck 3/5