Before the ink was even dry on our long-term evaluation of the 2009 Kawasaki Concours 14, Team Green surprised us with a roll out of the new and improved C14 on the mountain curves and desert straights around Palm Springs, California.
While we were mostly impressed with last year's tester, a few grumbles did ensue. Perhaps our most blatant complaints had to do with the prodigious heat that emanated from the big, inline four. According to Kawasaki Product Manager Karl Edmondson, we weren't alone. He explained that focus groups of 2008-2009 C14 owners also addressed this hot topic, and it was agreed that changes needed to be made for 2010.
Though not a drastic departure from the previous look, the function of the bodywork has changed. Redesigned side outlets and wider side fairs were created through the use of CFD (Computational Fluid Dynamics) to allow hot air to escape more quickly and vent further away from the pilot. A stylish seal was also added, closing the broiling, shin-level gap present on earlier models.
A welcome loss of heat in one area is accompanied by a pleasant gain in another. The Concours 14 now comes with heated grips standard. The controller, mounted conveniently in the side fairing, allows the rider easy, stepless warmth adjustments. And as our ride wound higher toward the mountain town of Idyllwild and the new onboard thermometer readout plunged into the upper 30s, the grips became a fast favorite.
Another appreciated addition in these chilly conditions was the 70mm taller windscreen. Not only did it help keep the cold air at bay, it is also works in conjunction with additional fairing air passages to reduce buffeting.
Another grouse we had was the heavy-handed nature of the Concours' handling. This too has been addressed with the addition of longer lasting Bridgestone BT021U tires. Our hosts claimed that this was the only major change to the handling, but it's a big one. Thanks to this new rubber, the once sluggish C14 now feels almost sprightly.
Perhaps the most impressive addition is the optional Kawasaki Advanced Coactive-Braking Technology (K-ACT) ABS and Kawasaki Traction Control (KTRC) combination. Available as an optional package deal only, these systems greatly enhance this powerful machine's controllability and safety. To illustrate their effectiveness, we were given access to an "outrigger" equipped C14 and a super-slick, wetted skid pad. With the KTRC turned off, all but the most judicious throttle inputs sent the C sideways. Once engaged, the bike tracked steady and true despite the near ice-like surface. The K-ACT ABS, adjustable to either a "sport" or "touring" bias, also performed impressively as well. For only $ 700 more than the standard C14, this set-up is well worth the extra outlay.
We've heard that "the customer is always right." In the case of the second generation Concours 14, Kawasaki has proven that axiom correct. Owners spoke, the company listened, and what was arguably the finest sport-touring bike on the market is now even better.