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.
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.
At 59.8 inches, the wheelbase is 2.3 inches longer than the ZX-14's. The rake has been calmed down from the Ninja's quick 23 degrees to a more sedate 26.1 degrees, and the trail increased from 3.7 to 4.4 inches. Front suspension is via an adjustable male-slider 43mm fork with adjustable rebound damping and spring preload. The single rear shock setup includes a handy remote spring-preload adjuster. A four-link Tetra-Lever setup effectively prevents ride-height changes of the shaft drive as the throttle is opened or closed, and it also reduces driveline lash.
The result is a rigid chassis with good high-speed stability and predictable handling. The tradeoff is that steering response seems slow and heavy, and the bike also feels somewhat top-heavy - especially at low speed and with a full tank. You really have to "work" the bike through the twisties.
Our test machine was fitted with Sportmax Roadsmart tires, which offer plenty of grip and seem to wear reasonably well. However, we've noticed that the Concours is very sensitive to suspension settings, tire pressures, and the type of tires used. Take the time to sort out all the settings and you'll be well rewarded with improved feel and handling. When sorted, ride quality felt sporty, but not punishing, and steering effort seemed noticeably less heavy.
A bike this fast needs serious brakes. They're provided by a radial-pump front master cylinder connected to a pair of big 310mm petal rotors, grabbed by radial-mounted four-piston calipers. Separate pads for each piston improve stopping performance. Out back, a single 270mm petal disc is clamped by a two-piston opposed caliper.
Braking is powerful, fade-free and easy to modulate. Our test bike had the optional ABS, which is not linked front-to-rear. A few times, under heavy braking, it felt like the ABS on the rear wheel intervened too soon, but it's quite possible that the pavement offered less grip than it appeared to have. Otherwise the ABS system performed flawlessly and didn't feel like it was there - which is a good thing.
The Concours 14's riding position is far more relaxed than the ZX-14's, with tall handlebars reaching almost 4 inches further back and 6 inches higher. Seat height is raised 1/2 inch and the footpegs are about an inch lower and forward. The roomy saddle accommodates both rider and passenger well, and the overall ergonomics make the Connie comfortable for all-day rides. Adjustable brake and clutch levers help fit most riders' hands, and the low-mounted mirrors give a good view of the tops of the saddlebags.
In addition to the large analog speedometer and tach, the LCD digital dash includes an odometer, twin trip meters, a gas gauge, a gear-position indicator, and a clock. The display also shows instant and average fuel economy, calculated cruising range, tire-pressure, and gear position. The only problem we had with the bike was intermittent pressure readings.
Kawasaki claims 36 mpg, but we typically saw 35.4 mpg (via the onboard readout) and down to 31.6 mpg, based on actual miles and gallons pumped. With 5.8 gallons onboard, you can easily go 150 miles or more on a tank.
A welcome feature is the electrically adjustable windscreen. At low speeds, it's nice to have the screen all the way down, for cooling airflow in hot weather. With the windscreen fully up, more wind is blocked, but there's also more helmet buffeting, and the low pressure formed behind it pushes the rider forward. An optional taller windscreen is available, but we haven't had a chance to try it yet.
All Concours come standard with color-matched hard saddlebags that are easy to use, and each can hold a full-face helmet. Another handy item is the glove box mounted on the gas tank. A power outlet in the dash can be used to run a GPS, but we'd also like to see heated grips, a compact audio and communication system, and cruise control offered.
KI-PASS Locking System
A major feature is the unique Kawasaki Intelligent Proximity Activation Start System (KI-PASS), which comes with two electronic key fob transponders that are recognized by the bike's locking system. Carry one in your pocket, and if the uniquely coded KI-PASS fob is within about five feet, the ignition switch will unlock, allowing you to push and then turn the ignition key (which normally stays in the bike) to start the engine. The ignition switch has four positions: Off, On, FSS (Fuel, Seat, Storage), and Steering Lock. When it's in the FSS position, the key can be removed and used to unlock the gas tank, seat, or saddlebags.
The engine will not start if the fob is out of its range, but if the fob's battery dies, a small hidden key can be pulled out to start the bike. If the transponder fob is lost while riding, a warning light goes on above 12 mph; or if the engine is turned off, the rider has 10 seconds to restart before it disables the ignition. This system can't be bypassed by a locksmith; if you lose the fobs you have to order replacements from a dealer. As such, losing the fobs can be very inconvenient and likely expensive.
The Concours 14 is well-suited for riders who enjoy long-distance touring, yet want good riding dynamics as well. It's fast, comfortable, good looking, pulls like a locomotive, stops on a dime, holds a fair amount of cargo, and can hustle you across town or cross-country with alacrity. Although the Concours 14's price has gone up about $ 500 since it was first introduced in September 2007, it still offers a lot for its base MSRP of $ 13,499 - or $ 14,299 with ABS. The primary competition for the Concours 14 comes from Honda's ST1300, BMW's K 1300 GT, and Yamaha's FJR1300, yet the C-14 is simultaneously the most powerful and the least expensive. With its strong, reliable performance, good use of technology, and reasonable price, it's hard not to like the Concours 14.
Shad SH50 Topcase
While the Kawasaki Concours 14 has an ample luggage rack perfect for a soft tail pack, additional waterproof storage is never a bad idea. With several two-up trips looming, we called our friends at Shad, who quickly provided a solution. The SH50 topcase was a perfect color match to our Concours 14. The mounting kit base plate (sold separately) was easy to install, requiring only basic tools. Once affixed, the fit was tight and secure. Even after several thousand miles and some admittedly heavy loads, the case remained firmly in place. At 50 liters, the topcase easily swallows two full-face helmets. With that much capacity under lock and key, an extra couple of days on the road is no problem at all. Opening and closing the Shad is a breeze and removal of the case from the mounting plate is also a simple, one-button affair. The SH50 looks great, works flawlessly, and doesn't require an engineering degree to install. What more could you ask for?
Shad SH50 Topcase
Colors: standard black, numerous color options
Price: black $ 314, colors $ 369
Passenger Backrest: $ 38
Mounting Kit: $ 58.70
+ smooth, powerful engine, great brakes, capable handling
- heat on rider, heavy steering, limited options
Distributor Kawasaki Motors Corp., USA www.kawasaki.com
MSRP $ 13,499, as tested w/ABS $ 14,299
Engine liquid-cooled, DOHC, 4-valve per cylinder,
inline-four with variable valve timing
Bore and Stroke 84x61mm
Fuel System digital EFI
Power 156hp @10,500rpm, 100.3lb-ft torque @6,200rpm
Cooling liquid w/ thermostatic fan
Ignition TCBI with Digital Advance
Transmission 6-speed w/wet clutch & Tetra-Lever shaft final drive
Frame aluminum monocoque
Front Suspension 43mm inverted, telescopic fork with adjustable rebound damping and spring preload /4.4in.
Rear Suspension Tetra-Lever with adj. rebound damping adjustment and remote spring preload
adjuster /5.4in travel
Brakes Front/Rear two 310mm petal discs with 4-piston calipers/one 270mm petal disc w/2-piston caliper
Tires Front/Rear 120/70 ZR-17 / 190/50 ZR-17
Curb Weight 670.3lbs/679.1lbs ABS model
Wheelbase 59.8in (1519mm)
Seat Height 32.1in (815mm)
Fuel Capacity 5.8gal (22l)
Fuel Consumption 33.5mpg
Colors Metallic Diablo Black,Candy Diamond Red