Kawasaki’s been a force to be reckoned with in the sport touring category for a quarter of a century now. The legendary first-generation Concours debuted in early 1986 to a flabbergasted buying public and press corps, neither of which had experienced performance and long-distance functionality blended so successfully in a single motorcycle.
Today, that sort of performance/function alchemy continues in the 2011 Concours 14 ABS, a sport-oriented tourer that can pile on the highway miles with the best world-class touring rigs yet still negotiate the twists and turns of America’s backroads in fine, Ninja-inspired tradition.
After debuting in 2008 to high marks from owners and magazine editors alike, the Concours 14 underwent significant improvement last year in the areas of comfort, convenience and safety, a move that solidified its position atop the sport touring heap. New bodywork not only looked better, it increased comfort by routing more heat away from the rider and passenger. Additionally, a taller, electrically adjustable windscreen created a calmer cockpit experience with help from ducts above the instrument panel, which balanced pressure areas outside and inside the screen. Standard handgrip heaters upped the comfort quotient even more.
Updated electronics were also part of the recent Concours 14 upgrades. Not only was the bike’s K-ACT (Kawasaki Advanced Coactive-braking Technology) braking system upgraded to offer two modes of linked, anti-lock braking and higher overall performance, but a high-tech traction control system (KTRC: Kawasaki Traction Control) was added. KTRC not only reduces wheelspin on slick surfaces, offering riders more confidence-inspiring feedback, but it can be easily switched off at the rider’s discretion.
The heart of the Concours sport-touring package remains as before – an amazing and thoroughly modern 1,352cc DOHC inline-four sourced from the legendary ZX™-14 sportbike. The Concours 14 engine generates excellent low- and mid-range power, all followed by a top-end rush that would turn most open-class sportbikes green with envy. A big part of its tremendously wide power delivery is due to its variable valve timing (VVT) system, which automatically alters camshaft profiles according to rpm to boost low-end and mid-range power without sacrificing top end. Advanced fuel injection, ram-air induction and decades of experience building the world’s most potent motorcycle engines add up to a simply amazing powerplant, one that makes the Concours 14 ABS forces to be reckoned with in the performance sport-touring segment – just as the original Concours was 25 years ago.
The Concours 14’s chassis is very much up to the challenge of controlling this prodigious powerplant. Its unique monocoque frame provides massive stiffness along with excellent handling characteristics and a high degree of rider feedback. Cradling the engine from the top, the frame’s compact structure keeps the bike narrow where it needs to be and allows optimum packaging of the bike’s vital systems. The Tetra-Lever shaft drive, which routes all that power to the rear wheel, uses a four-link design to offset the lifting and squatting tendencies of lesser shaft drive systems when the throttle is opened and closed, all of which results in true sportbike handling. Plus, the Tetra-Lever system is almost completely maintenance free. No mystery, then, why the Concours 14’s powertrain has earned critical acclaim around the world for its silky smooth power delivery.
That amazingly solid foundation is augmented by a carefully sculpted and highly comfortable saddle and all the creature comforts you’d expect from a top-shelf sport-tourer, including a pair of beautifully integrated, capacious and waterproof saddlebags. Concours 14 ABS: A high-speed touring duo with unquestionable supersport DNA. They’ve got everything you need to go far – and have tons of fun doing it.
MSRP: $15,599 USD
Engine: Four-stroke, liquid-cooled, DOHC, four valves per cylinder, inline-four with VVT
Bore x stroke: 84.0 x 61.0mm
Maximum torque: 102.0 lb-ft @ 6,200 rpm
Compression ratio: 10.7:1
Fuel injection: Digital Fuel Injection w/ 40mm throttle bodies
Ignition: TCBI with Digital Advance
Final drive: Tetra-Lever shaft drive
Rake / trail: 26.1 degrees / 4.4 in.
Front tire: 120/70 ZR-17
Rear tire: 190/50 ZR-17
Front suspension / wheel travel: 43mm inverted, telescopic fork with adjustable rebound damping and spring preload / 4.4 in.
Rear suspension / wheel travel: Tetra-Lever with stepless rebound damping adjustment and remote spring preload adjuster / 5.4 in.
Front brakes: Dual floating 310mm petal discs with four-piston calipers (optional ABS)
Rear brake: Single 270mm petal disc (optional ABS)
Fuel capacity: 5.8 gal.
Seat height: 32.1 in.
Wheelbase: 59.8 in.
Overall length: 87.8 in.
Overall height windscreen lowered / raised: 50.8 in. / 57.7 in.
Overall width: 39.4 in.
Curb weight: Concours 14 ABS: 688.0 lbs.
Color: Atomic Silver / Flat Super Black
Warranty: 36 Months