Kawasaki Concours14

2008 Kawasaki Concours 14In July of 2007 the completely brand-new “2008″ Kawasaki Concours14 (4 cylinder, 1400cc) finally became available to the public for purchase. And if your recollection suggests it’s been longer, well, you’re not actually getting senile: This bike was “announced” to the public back in 2006. (Yep, that’s an unusually looooong stretch of time for a motorcycle to be promoted by its manufacturer prior to its availability).

And as Kawasaki was purposefully desiring to create, a lot of C14 hype was built up during that interim.

So, with 12 months behind us, how has this Concours14 been received in its first year?

In simple terms, “rather well.”

The July 2008 issue of Rider magazine awarded the Kawasaki Concours14 as “Best Sport-Touring Bike” for 2008 and then went on to further award it as “Motorcycle of the Year,” making the C14 their #1 pick for all the categories of motorcycles they awarded. Here’s a short quote from Rider mag: “This stylish sport-tourer…has an impressive list of standard features that are both fun and useful, including KIPASS key fob security, a tire pressure monitoring system, electric windscreen, remote rear spring preload adjuster and large, functional, locking side cases.”

In the same month (July 2008) Cycle World magazine bestowed upon the Concours the title of “Best Sport-Tourer” of the year. And here’s a few words about the C14 from that mag: “It moves with an athletic confidence and over-powerful ease like nothing else on the road.”

I have had the opportunity to take a couple of the 2008 Concours14’s out for a spin, and I have to say, overall I agree with the assessments of Cycle World and Rider. Technically, Kawasaki has a big winner here with the Concours14 and they have pushed the sport-touring category up another notch.

Alas, is it possible to go too far in terms of power and wizardry?

Don’t get me wrong, the C14 is by all reckoning a great motorcycle. Heck, I imagine at some point there will be one parked in my garage for a much longer-term analysis. But I’m not head-over-heels about it. The thing is, although I enjoy a wide variety of motorcycle categories, I’m primarily a sport-touring rider. And because of that, you’d think this bike would automatically become my favorite (especially because among all the bikes I’ve owned, I’ve had 3 of the original 1000cc Kawasaki Concours motorcycles from their 20-year production run).

Alas, I cannot. I believe Kawasaki has pushed the C14 boundaries to the razor edge of what constitutes a “Sport-Touring” motorcycle. This bike is a VERY powerful surface-to-surface missile.

I am of the opinion that Kawasaki manufactured this rocketship with a greater emphasis on technical and marketing panache than the actual riding needs of a long-distance tourers, many of whom select their intercontinental weaponry from the sport-touring category.

From a marketing perspective, it’s pretty sexy to promote this as the fastest, most powerful, and arguably the most advanced sport-touring bike on the market at this time. And technically, the C14 does reflect the best in what our world’s motorcycle makers can envision for this motorcycle category.

Having said that, it’s also the heaviest (dry weight = 615 lbs. with ABS) of all the purpose-built sport-touring bikes, and most importantly from my perspective, it has the smallest gas tank (5.8 gal) — which is a pretty fundamental disadvantage for a long-distance, sport-touring rider, as myself.

Shoot, if you really want that much power for your sport-touring pleasure, why not just get a sport bike? The C14 is built on the foundation of the Kawasaki ZX14, and that bike is one of the two fastest, mass-produced motorcycles in our world. (The famous – or infamous – Suzuki Hayabusa is the other sport-bike champion).

More to the point, when I want to get out of town, whether for a weekend, a week, a month, or longer, I am just as interested in blasting through scenic twisties as I am about getting across a continent in relative ease. And in both regards, I want as BIG a gas tank as I can get to keep the fun factor going longer.

Bear in mind that I may be categorized as a “mature” middle-aged rider, with a lot of riding experience, so I am more interested in the basics of riding than more power and more gadgetry.

Having said that, I do find myself enjoying the flexibility of electric windshields, the added safety of ABS and something that is relatively new to the motorcycle world which is included on the C14: a tire pressure monitoring system. I’m much better than I have been in the past about regularly checking my tire pressures, but that digital read-out on the instrument cluster sure makes that task all the easier.

In short, the Kawasaki Concours14 is a fantastic motorcycle and quite an inspiring ride. However, it is more performance weighted than cross-country lighted, in comparison to the current BMW K1200GT, BMW R1200RT, Honda ST1300, or Yamaha FJR 1300. I would categorize the C14 more as a “Luxury Sport Bike” with long-distance livery, than the most practical sport-touring bike for a true long-hauling motorbike rider.

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