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2008 Kawasaki Concours 14 - First Look
By Ken Hutchison

The venerable Kawasaki Concours has definitely paid its dues through years of servitude at the hands of the hard riding on the frugal end of the sport-touring demographic. Over the past two decades it has been a staple on dealership showroom floors as the sole option for riders who desired an economical sport-tourer. The bike had experienced only minor refinements and the appearance, other than updated color schemes, had not really changed during the course of its 21-year history, which was reflected in its sub-$10,000 MSRP. Concours owners of the world have embraced this affordable ugly duckling and millions of good-time miles have rolled beneath its wheels. However, the time has come for this ageless wonder to conform to the winds of change, so without further adieu: Feast your eyes upon the latest contender for sport-touring supremacy, the 2008 Kawasaki Concours 14.

Kawasaki has coined the new bike the Transcontinental Supersport. Hopefully you have a good radar detector.

Based on the almighty ZX-14 motor and its monocoque chassis, there's no doubt the Concours has the heart of a contender and should be ready to make a serious impact on this class right out of the gate. Although the potent fuel-injected 1352cc powerplant and 6-speed transmission of the new C14 are going to command the most attention from riders on the sporting side of the sport-touring equation, there are a host of other high-end components incorporated into this design and one of the more trick bits is the low-maintenance shaftdrive system that will appeal to the touring set as well. The C14 utilizes an all-new Tetra-Lever Shaft drive featuring a four-link design, which is claimed to offer the same ride quality associated with a chain drive. The new Concours sports an entire host of high-end components, including choice state-of-the-art goodies that will make any technophile giddy.

The riding experience is a key selling point of any bike that is designed with transcontinental travel in mind - a statement posed more than once in the Concours 14 literature. Leading the charge is a sleek looking set of bodywork which starts up front with a pair of large cat-eye headlamps and ram-air intake ducts below each one. An electrically adjustable windscreen capped off the bodywork changes and provides on-the-fly regulation of the airflow so the rider can choose a setting of their choice. The shape of the front cowling is based on a Supersport philosophy of aerodynamics which directs air flow around the rider rather than merely blocking the wind as is the case with typical windscreen designs. The theory is great, hopefully it will pan out once it's put to the test in the upcoming riding season.

Another one of our favorite measuring sticks of the quality of the rider accommodations is the amount of data offered up by the instrument panel. In addition to the standard fare of speedo and tach, (which we assume are analog face) an LCD display provides odometer, dual trip meters, fuel gauge, gear position indicator, estimated fuel mileage (and probably a few more that were not included in the release) a clock and a tire pressure system that monitors tire pressure through sensors in each wheel. The instrumentation utilizes a CAN (Controller Area Network) interface to reduce the number of necessary wire connections while increasing the amount of available data to be transmitted. An accessory power outlet allows for easy use of various sport-touring accessories including your fuzz-buster.

The feature we found particularly interesting is that it will be equipped with KI-PASS (Kawasaki Intelligent Proximity Activation Start System), or "Smart" key ignition system (similar to the system featured in the 2007 H-D lineup), a first for a bike in this class that is becoming increasingly popular with high-end automobiles as a form of theft deterrent.

Following the lines of the bike back from the cockpit the stylized bodywork includes an indentation in the side cowling just behind the scalloped venting that should help keep the rider's legs protected from the elements. The seat looks comfortable enough, but they all do in photos, so we won't make too many assumptions at this point. Passenger comfort is nice to take into account so the stepped seat appears to have potential. The faux fuel tank bodywork conceals the massive monocoque frame which wraps over the motor. The fuel cell is actually just beneath it and fuel capacity was not revealed.

Integrated hard luggage is always a key selling point for the sport-touring set and in the case of the C14 they really appear to have been well thought out during the design phase as opposed to a mere afterthought. The scalloped panniers are lockable but there were no official dimensions provided at this time. A glove box is built into the fuel tank cover for additional storage of various sundries. The rear luggage rack provides another potential location for additional necessities.

Already there is a definite theme brewing with the new Concours. It looks fast and ready to take on any road, straight, twisty, short or long so the final pieces of the puzzle which need to be addressed are the suspension and braking systems. Braking components are as good as any sportbike on the market today. The C14 features 4-piston radial-mount calipers work with a pair of Kawasaki's signature petal-style disc brake rotors. A radial-pump master cylinder completes the radial theory of deceleration. An ABS-equipped Concours 14 version will also be available.

Suspension duties will be taken care of by an inverted fork at the front and the new Tetra-Lever system on the rear. Unfortunately there is no information regarding the adjustability of either at this time.

After testing the all-new 2006 ZX-14 the rumors started surfacing of a sport-touring machine based on the extremely smooth and wonderfully easy to ride platform. No one at Kawasaki would give us a straight answer, but the sly grins and veil of secrecy tipped their hand. Assuming the Concours retains the rider-friendly characteristics of the ZX-14, which we found conducive to tackling touring duties, and, presuming that the performance window of the big Ninja carries over in any way to the C14, you're looking at what could be one of the better ST machines ever made. This has all the makings of a great comparison between the winner of our upcoming Sport Touring Shootout which has the defending class champion Yamaha FJR1300 versus the all-new BMW K1200GT and will be going live on our site in October 2006.

The Concours 14 ABS will be available in two color combinations: Neutron Silver or Metallic Black Diablo but the standard version will only be offered in Neutron Silver.

Pricing and availability are not set in concrete, but the bike is projected to be released sometime after March and before June of 2007 as an early release 2008 model. Expect pricing to fall somewhere between the $13,500 FJR1300 and the $18,000 K1200GT. For the sake of the current cost-conscious Concours owners let's hope it's closer to ten than twenty.

Source: Motorcycle-USA
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