It’s been about a year since the completely new Kawasaki Concours14 (4 cylinder, 1400cc) was released to the public for the first time — if it seems to you it’s been longer than that, it’s because it was “announced” in 2006.
So how has this Concours14 been received in its first year?
To be concise: quite well.
Rider magazine (July 2008) awarded the Kawasaki C14 as “Best Sport-Touring Bike” for 2008 and then went on to knight it as “Motorcycle of the Year,” which makes it their top choice for all the categories of bikes they awarded. Here’s what Rider mag wrote: “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.”
Cycle World (July 2008) bestowed the C14 as the “Best Sport-Tourer” of the year. Here’s what Cycle World wrote about the Concours14: “It moves with an athletic confidence and over-powerful ease like nothing else on the road.”
I have ridden three of the 2008 Concours14’s, and in brief, I like ’em and agree with Cycle World and Rider in their assessments. The C14 is a technical tour de force in the sport-touring world. Oddly enough, as I much as I like the bike, I’m not head over heels over it. Don’t get me wrong, the C14 is by all reckoning a great bike. I’ll probably get one at some point in the future. The thing is, although I appreciate all the different categories of motorbikes, since I’m primarily a sport-touring rider (and perhaps an old-fashioned one at that), you’d think I’d just gush all over this machine.
Alas, I cannot.
There is soooooo much to like about this bike, but I am of the opinion that this bike was manufactured with a greater emphasis on technical and marketing panache than downright sport-touring practicality.
It’s pretty sexy to say that this is the fastest, most powerful, and arguably the most advanced sport-touring bike on the market as of this writing. From a technical perspective, the C14 represents the culmination of the best in what our world’s motorcycle makers can envision for this category of sport-touring motorcycles.
On the other hand, it’s also the heaviest (dry weight = 615 lbs. with ABS) of all the purpose-built sport-touring bikes, and most importantly, it has the smallest gas tank (5.8 gal) — which is a rather basic feature for a “true” sport-touring rider. For a died-in-the-wool, long-time, sport-touring enthusiast, such as myself, that last point lends this bike more towards the “sport” category than the “tourer” world. That’s fine as a Kawasaki business choice, but for a rider, why not just get a sport bike? Heck, the C14 is based on the ZX14, which is one of the two fastest, mass produced sport bikes in the world. (The Suzuki Hayabusa being the other reigning sport-bike champion).
Stated differently, when I want to get away for a weekend, a week, a month, or longer, I am as interested in lacing through scenic twisties as getting across a continent in relative comfort — and I want as big a gas tank as I can get to reduce those fuel stops!
Although I understand I represent the typical demographic for a sport-touring enthusiast (I may be categorized as a “mature” middle-aged rider), I cannot speak for all such riders. But in simple terms, my personal inclinations tend towards function over pizzazz.
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.