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what did i do now?
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Motorcycles: '00 ZX9R, '06 DL1000
Location: Sacramento, CA
Posts: 177

2008 Concours14 Ride Impressions
« on: July 02, 2007, 09:08:07 pm »

Or it could be called the "Luckiest SOB on earth gets to drink the cool aid, and likes it" post

By some crazy alignment of the moon or Saturn, I was invited this past weekend to Northern California, where Kawasaki was having their official press release for the much anticipated, and speculated on Concours14. First impression is, the bike to me is gorgeous! Pictures don't bring across the elegance and aggressive stance the bikes exudes when parked. There's a sporty demeaner about the bike. As if a sportbike has grownup and tossed aside the need to be in the gym everyday, just to be able to fit into the same pants it wore in the 8th grade, and traded up a to a more relaxed life, yet can still run with the young bucks in a pickup game of football.

Climb aboard, and of course all the controls are where they are supposed to be for those of us that have been raised on a steady diet of motorcycles from Japan. At a standstill you can tell it's a big bike, yet not as big as pictures make it out to be. And yes while stationary it's heavy, but so are all the other bikes in this class. I have a 32" inseam and had no problem putting both feet on the ground, but shorter riders may not feel as comfortable paddling around in a parking lot.

KIPASS - I think it's cool. So there Just don't lose your key fobs, my mole at the dealer says it would cost $3500 to replace the fobs along with the new ECU that would have to be shipped to make your new fobs work. Be responsible.
Starting the bike, I immediately noticed how smooth the engine runs. It's quiet, free of vibration with a little whir that reminds me of the sound a gear driven VFR makes. Cool. Levers have a wide range of adjustment, I think I counted 7 positions for the brake lever, but I forgot already. Gauges are clear and legible, no surprise there either.

Motoring off, clutch feel and throttle adjustments at low speeds were a doddle, and the bike sheds it's weight immediately past a walking pace. So low speed maneuvering isn't a problem. Pulling onto the freeway, gear changes are like butter. I've never ridden a bike in 20yrs of riding that has as smooth of a gearchange as this. During my ride, a couple of times I actually took a peek at the gear indicator just to make sure I had gotten the next gear, that's how smooth it is.

Power. Smooth power. From the basement, it's just a creamy surge up to the top of the revcounter. VVT? Never noticed it, as it should be. Just a beautiful wide midrange from about 3500 rpm up. On the freeway, sixth gear has the motor idling away at 3500 rpm at an indicated 75mph. 4000 rpm saw 85 mph. And if you like the slow lane, 3000 rpm showed 65mph. I'm inventing a new word, it's "swooshability". That's what it feels like. Swooshing down the highway is effortless, and the engine is so smooth ..there's that word again Note to top gear roll-on addicts, notice the extremely tall gearing in top gear? If you're toodling along at 50mph, revs down around 2000rpm, NO engine is going to snap your head back if you whack the throttle open to the stop at that point. Example, my 400hp, 400ft/lbs torque GTO has enough grunt and thrust to make things interesting in any gear except, what? ..6th gear. At 80mph my GTO is only turning 2000 rpm. Floor it and it's a gentle, though unrelenting increase in speed. Same principle, 200+ gearing does not make for stellar roll-on numbers, however the better cruising fuel mileage and unstressed engine speeds are the benefit on a long ride.

I played with the electric windshield while on the freeway. I stand about 6'1 - 6'2 depending on which 7-Eleven I'm in, and I found the windblast on the lowest setting to hit me directly in the chest, with my head traveling through clean undisturbed air. Coming from a sportbike background this is not a problem for me. Putting the windscreen to it's most fully attentive position did introduce some turbulence around my helmet that I wasn't too comfortable with. Now, I was told that other editors mentioned the same thing, and that a 3" taller windscreen will be available later as a factory accessory. So I'm sure down the road, folks will be trying those out and their feedback will get posted around the internet. I did however find a happy place. Starting from the lowest position, I incrementally raised the windscreen until some wind pressure was taken off my chest, and at the same time the air over my helmet just took a slightly softer path around my helmet. I left it there for the rest of ride and the windscreen does stay in the last position you had it when shutting off the bike

As for the riding position, it's upright with an ever-so-slight forward lean. Certainly all day comfortable for me. Our freeway journey lasted about 20minutes until our exit which took us to one of my favorite stretches of road that I've been visiting since the mid-eighties. Stewarts Point or Skaggs Springs Rd as it's also known. I must be dreaming, someone pinch me

Reports I heard while back at the pressfleet were, some of the more less agressive editors were coming back, saying that the suspension was too firm for their liking. This I commented on as being good news. At 230lbs, and someone that doesn't particularily spend much time in one corner, this is what I really wanted to hear. Finally, a big ground eating sport-touring bike, with factory suspension that would not get all weak-kneed when the rider decides the recess bell has gone off! I would like to say, the suspension is firm, and that's the way I like it. After feeling the tire's and bike's balance out, I gradually up the pace through Skagg's sweepers. Direction changes were effortless and front end feedback was solid allowing me to maintain a reasonably prudent pace. Throttle pickup while cracking on the gas was smooth, with virtually no driveline lash and a smooth application of power could be dialed in to the rear tire. I also found the feedback from the throttle to the rear tire to be intuitive and confidence inspiring.

While briefly stopped, I came to the realization that, I had forgotten I was riding a shaft driven motorcycle! Never once while motoring through the canyon did I feel like the bike was being driven by a shaft. I've only ridden two shaft driven bikes in my life, they were both BMW's and they were both someone else's. And both times I new they were shaft driven. Rear suspension action on the C14 was firm, yet controlled and fluid. Front forks felt torsionally rigid and damping action, again firm yet controlled for when the pace gets escalated.

Heading back down the hill, I was rewarded to get a strong impression of the brakes. Excellent! Especially since they have to dissipate the energy that can be generated by this 650+ pound, 155hp touring ICBM. I found initial application only requires a light touch, but with increased pressure comes a steady increase in braking. Great feel and modulation while trail-braking into some downhill sweepers, and the brakes didn't show any signs crying uncle while I was chasing down a GSX-R something pilot. Ground clearance will be more than adequate for 95% of riders. Though some more aggressive riders might want to toss the 1 1/2 inch hero blobs at the bottom of the pegs ..happy hunting.

Once back on the freeway, I played a little with the rider information system. The tire pressure monitoring system displays real time pressures. So you can have fun checking your cold tire pressures when it's 60 degrees in the morning, and actually watch the pressures rise as the tires warm as well as when ambient air temperatures rises through the day. Perfect for the trackday junkies ..someone let me know if you actually try that. I didn't spend too much time with the instant fuel economy setting. As the gradient of the road constantly changes, it's always changing, but it was fun to watch the steady state mileage run up to 52mpg while drafting a big Suburban at 80mph. Without SUV assistance, it seemed to hover around 40-45 mpg, again depending on road gradient and how steady you are with the throttle. Obviously, using the motors prodigious power output will negatively effect your green quotient.

In summary, I'll start with the not so perfect:
Windshield - if your tall and want to ride in perfect undisturbed air, you will need a taller windscreen. But, remember this bike was designed a Sport-touring bike first.

Engine heat - I didn't mention it earlier because I want to make something clear. Your sensitivity will determine how much heat you can stand. This is a fully-faired motorcycle with a 1400cc high-performance engine. They produce heat. As far as I can tell, it's no better, no worse than other liter bikes I've had that had full fairings. If you are heat sensitive, I might suggest a non-faired bike with a smaller engine

For me that's it. Personally I feel this bike was built for me. Finally a maufacturer has commited to building a bike that's all day comfortable, extremely refined during the boring parts, yet comes alive and grows fangs and feels better the harder it's ridden. So, yes I drank the cool-aid and I'll take another round please.

A big thank you Kawasaki for inviting me and for allowing me to share the experience with you.


184 Posts
Thanks Mark, guys like you are making me feel better about ordering mine without laying eyes on one. Please continue when you can!
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