The Kawasaki Concours has a couple of things in common with the Yamaha Vmax, it's been around essentially unchanged almost forever (introduced in 1986) and it has a very dedicated following of owners who absolutely love it. This year, though, Kawasaki finally decided to bring the bike into the 21st century and they are introducing the Concours 14 and Concours 14 ABS as 2008 models that will show up in dealers early in 2007. They just happened to have a superb platform as a starting point, the new ZX14, which was modified a bit for touring duty to produce what should be one lightning quick cross country machine.
It's no secret that a lot of the hypersport machines like the venerable ZX11 and the Suzuki Hayabusa, were and still are purchased for long distance road use. If you've never put any miles on one of these machines, you can't appreciate how well suited for touring duty they really are. But anyone who wants to do that needs to add decent bags of some sort, a better windshield and a few other odds and ends to tweak the machine to better serve the owner's intentions. Kawasaki did all of the work up front with the new Concours 14 and I can see it swinging a few purchasers away from the big Z as well as pulling a lot of old Concours owners back into the dealers.
The Concours has shaft drive, an electrically adjustable windshield plus different aerodynamics than the ZX14, designed to protect a rider and passenger from the wind as opposed to maximizing top speed. There are heated grips, an accessory power outlet and of course, detachable hard bags. But the really sweet part is the engine, which is the big ZX14 engine in a slightly different state of tune but certainly a helluva lot more engine than any other touring rig you'll run across.
If Kawasaki is true to form, what you see here is probably the Concours you'll see for many years to come and I can't argue with their reasoning, I don't see any reason they would want to change it again any time soon. I like this.
Kawasaki Press release and more photos below:
Supersport performance with long-distance touring comfort
The new Concours 14 and Concours 14 ABS combine breathtaking engine performance, impeccable handling and a comfortable riding position with clean, convenient shaft drive, locking hard luggage, an electrically adjustable windscreen and a host of other features to create the most impressive long-distance, high-speed machine on the market today.
An aluminum monocoque chassis, radial-mount brake calipers, inverted fork, and ram air induction are all features riders expect to find on top-of-the-line supersport machines. However, instead of riding a high-strung racetrack missile, they can enjoy these high-performance features on Kawasaki's new Concours 14 sport touring motorcycles. They are the first representatives of an entirely new genre of high-performance motorcycle: the Transcontinental Supersport.
Because it's a Kawasaki, the Concours 14 is naturally designed to do much more than just take a rider from point A to point B. Thanks to its sporting heritage, the new Concours 14 is not only an awe-inspiring road burner, it can also carve up mountain roads like a true supersport bike. For those riders who cross state lines the way others cross town, this machine offers more excitement than anything else in its category.
The Concours 14 may be a physically impressive machine, but as soon as riders flip the side stand up, they'll be astonished at the bike's lightweight feel. The confidence-enhancing ABS brake system (Concours 14 ABS) features radial-mount front calipers operated by a radial-pump master cylinder, for the superb control and powerful, reliable braking performance that continent-crossing sport riders expect. Belying its tourer-like appearance, the Concours 14's phenomenally responsive handling characteristics make the other bikes in its category seem like transports by comparison. This provides the Concours 14 rider with a feeling of complete control for spirited, confident journeys.
In addition to an incredible level of sporting performance, the new Concours 14 has the functional touches of a Grand Touring machine. Features include KI-PASS (Kawasaki's Intelligent Proximity Activation Start System), the first smart key ignition system in its class, and an accessory power outlet located near the cockpit for powering portable electronics, grip heaters and other accessories. There's also an electrically adjustable windscreen, shaft drive and detachable, locking side cases, so the Concours 14 is always ready for a high-speed ride to the local hangout or that favorite spot... fifteen hundred miles away.
The Concours 14 is much more than a sportbike with tacked-on touring features; it's an integrated high-speed touring system. Wind protection for rider and passenger is based on a supersport-style design philosophy, aerodynamically curving wind around the riders to reduce buffeting that occurs when wind curls around screens that simply block the wind. Additionally, maintenance chores on long-distance trips are minimized thanks to quiet and reliable shaft drive. Featuring a special four-link design, the Tetra-Lever shaft drive system significantly reduces driveline lash during sport riding and helps ensure smooth acceleration when exploiting the engine's incredible power output. In fact, power delivery to the rear wheel is so smooth and so direct that it gives the same natural ride quality as a chain.
The Concours 14's touring prowess doesn't stop there. The included hard luggage features a slim, integrated design which mounts the cases closer to the machine's centerline for excellent mass centralization. Sensors in the front and rear wheels monitor tire pressure and display this information on the instrument panel, giving riders peace of mind during two-up high-speed riding or when carving up a mountain road.
With all the equipment needed for safe and exciting long-distance riding mated to a decidedly supersport core, the new Concours 14 amplifies all the best riding features that motorcycling has to offer. Motorcyclists carry a driver's license, but Concours 14 riders should bring their passports, too.