2015 Kawasaki Concours 14 ABS – Road Test Review

2015 Kawasaki Concours 14 ABS
Kawasaki has given the Concours 14 ABS a minor update for 2015, and its available in Candy Lime Green for the first time.

Photography by Kevin Wing

Borrowed from the French, concours (pronounced kawn-koor; the “s” is silent) refers to an assemblage of things or a contest, such as a concours d’elegance, where motorcycles that have been painstakingly preserved or restored are judged on their appearance and historical fidelity. Since 1986, Concours has also been the name of Kawasaki’s “supersport” tourer. The original ZG1000, produced for 21 years with few changes, was based on the Ninja 1000 and made ready for the long haul with a retuned engine, shaft drive, a tall windscreen, upright seating and saddlebags. The supersport ante was raised for 2008 with the Concours 14, which was based on the mighty Ninja ZX-14—a bike so powerful that it had to be electronically limited to 186 mph to avoid running afoul of European bureaucrats. It hewed to a similar sport-touring formula as the ZG1000 with added modern touches such as variable valve timing, available ABS, an electric windscreen, a tire-pressure monitoring system and KIPASS fob security.

Often described as a velvet hammer, the Concours 14's 1,352cc in-line four makes big horsepower and delivers it with finesse.
Often described as a velvet hammer, the Concours 14’s 1,352cc in-line four makes big horsepower and delivers it with finesse.

We were impressed by the Concours ZG1000 (dig up the April 1986 issue of Rider to read our first road test), and even more so by the Concours 14, selecting it as our 2008 Motorcycle of the Year. The Connie’s liquid-cooled, DOHC, 16-valve 1,352cc in-line four is capable of neck-snapping acceleration, sending 144 horsepower and 95 lb-ft of torque to the rear wheel on Jett Tuning’s dyno (2013 model), yet all that giddy up is delivered with the utmost smoothness and civility. Throttle response is crisp and direct, power increases linearly with no hiccups; driveline lash is minimal and dual balancers muffle unwanted vibration. The engine is mated to a slick-shifting 6-speed transmission and a Tetra-Lever shaft drive that eliminates jacking, with everything held in place by a lightweight, rigid aluminum monocoque frame. Factor in Herculean brakes, taut suspension, cavernous saddlebags and comfortable two-up seating, and the result is one of the greatest sport tourers ever made.

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New adjustable windscreen vent has two open positions or it can be closed. When open, helmet buffeting is eliminated.
New adjustable windscreen vent has two open positions or it can be closed. When open, helmet buffeting is eliminated.

Now entering its third generation, Kawasaki’s strategy with the Concours 14, as it was with the venerable ZG1000, has been one of refinement rather than reinvention. A major update for 2010 brought improved engine heat management, wind protection, handling and comfort, as well as optional Kawasaki Traction Control (KTRC) and Kawasaki Coactive-braking Technology (K-ACT) ABS to enhance safety, but the basic platform stayed the same. Changes for 2015 are relatively minor, aimed primarily at further improving comfort and low-speed handling. There’s a new seat, an adjustable vent on the windscreen, a new exhaust heat shield and a low-friction steering stem seal. The fully linked K-ACT ABS has been revised, the first gear ratio is slightly lower and the initial rear spring preload setting is stiffer. Beyond the new Candy Lime Green color (in addition to Metallic Spark Black), cosmetic changes are limited to stainless steel bezels around the analog gauges, double-stitch detailing on the seat and a resin tank pad.

Seat is narrower in front, has a more supportive shape and has a longer, wider passenger area.
Seat is narrower in front, has a more supportive shape and has a longer, wider passenger area.

Unlike other open-class sport tourers, the Concours 14 still uses traditional throttle cables rather than a throttle-by-wire system. Which means there are no engine or riding modes, and no electronic cruise control. In our last sport-touring comparison, the Concours was the only bike without cruise control (Rider, May 2013), and, according to comments by some of our Facebook fans, that’s a deal breaker. When asked why cruise control hasn’t been adopted, Kawasaki reps cited cost as an issue. Admittedly, the Concours 14 offers a lot of bang for the buck; MSRP for the updated 2015 model is $15,499, which is $700 less than last year’s model and substantially less than most of its competitors.

Throwing my leg over the saddle and running my eyes over the instruments triggers a flood of memories from the thousands of miles I’ve logged on the C14 during road tests, comparison tests and a weeklong, two-up tour test with my wife. Of the hundreds of motorcycles I’ve ridden over the years, the Concours 14 remains one of my all-time favorites thanks to its special blend of peg-scraping performance and chase-the-horizon comfort. My long arms reach the grips with ease, putting a slight bend in my back, reminding me that the Concours, like the Yamaha FJR1300, has a sportier riding position than the European competition. The seat’s sharp edges, which used to dig into my thighs on long rides, are now gone. Seat height is unchanged at 32.1 inches, but the saddle is narrower in front for an easier reach to the ground, it has a more supportive shape and its new cover material is slip-resistant. The passenger seating area is longer and wider, too. A new accessory touring seat ($534.95) provides extra long-haul comfort and has a special cover that resists heat absorption on hot, sunny days.

The Concours 14 ABS has standard heated grips, a tire-pressure monitoring system and a electronic fob for keyless starts.
The Concours 14 ABS has standard heated grips, a tire-pressure monitoring system and a electronic fob for keyless starts.

A much-needed winter storm blew in during the first day of this road test, and before the tires got any heat into them, raindrops began to splatter onto the windscreen. On went the heated grips and up went the windscreen; luckily I was dressed for the occasion, covered in Gore-Tex from the neck down. Opening and adjusting the windscreen’s new three-position vent (two open, one closed) is tricky while riding, but once open it eliminates the low-pressure area behind the screen and creates smooth airflow around the rider. Bye-bye helmet buffeting, a long-standing Concours complaint. The influx of fresh air is a mixed blessing on cold (and wet) days but provides welcome relief otherwise. The windscreen is the same size and shape as before, and is retrofittable to earlier models. Even at full height I can see well over the top, and it isn’t particularly wide. Wind protection gets a passing grade, but not high marks.

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Tipping the scales at 690 pounds fully fueled (claimed), the Concours is a big, heavy motorcycle, and it feels substantial from the saddle, especially around town and in parking lots. Low-speed, tight-corner handling has always been on the sluggish side, in part because narrow handlebars limit steering leverage. The new steering stem seal helps, but only so much can be done without more substantial chassis alterations. Low-speed handling also benefits from revisions to the K-ACT ABS, which has a new ABS module and revised master cylinders. The fully linked system has two modes. In Standard Mode (recommended for solo and sport riding), the linked effect is lower during initial lever stroke for more natural feel. In High Combined Mode (recommended for touring and two-up riding), the linked effect is more pronounced, which helps the system distribute braking force front and rear to maintain chassis stability. During low-speed maneuvers such as U-turns, applying the rear brake for stability also engages the front right caliper, which can work against the rider’s intentions. The front and rear brakes are still fully linked in both modes, but now, in Standard Mode, the linked effect on the front caliper is lower when the rear pedal is applied, making the system feel more intuitive.

Although low-speed handling requires some muscle, the Concours 14 ABS is stable and predictable at speed.
Although low-speed handling requires some muscle, the Concours 14 ABS is stable and predictable at speed.

Kawasaki has whittled away a few more rough edges on the Concours 14, but it has stopped short of a complete overhaul. Depending on your point of view, that may or may not be a good thing. While other manufacturers have gone whole hog with riding modes, electronic suspension and other gadgetry that have pushed sticker prices ever higher, Kawasaki has resisted the temptation. Even though the basic platform hasn’t changed since 2008, the Concours continues to hold its own among sport tourers as the king of horsepower, the king of luggage capacity and the king of value. Long live the king!

2015 Kawasaki Concours 14 ABS Specs
Base Price: $15,499
Warranty: 3 yrs., unltd. miles
Website: kawasaki.com

Engine
Type: Liquid-cooled, transverse in-line four
Displacement: 1,352cc
Bore x Stroke: 84.0 x 61.0mm
Compression Ratio: 10.7:1
Valve Train: DOHC, 4 valves per cyl. w/ Variable Valve Timing
Valve Insp. Interval: 15,000 miles/24,000 kilometers
Fuel Delivery: Digital EFI w/ ram air & 40mm throttle bodies x 4
Lubrication System: Wet sump, 5.0-qt. cap.
Transmission: 6-speed, hydraulically actuated wet clutch
Final Drive: Shaft, 2.036:1

Electrical
Ignition: TCBI w/ digital advance
Charging Output: 581 watts max.
Battery: 12V 14AH

The 2015 Kawasaki Concours 14 ABS is available in Metallic Spark Black or Candy Lime Green.
The 2015 Kawasaki Concours 14 ABS is available in Metallic Spark Black or Candy Lime Green.

Chassis
Frame: Aluminum monocoque w/ engine as stressed member & cast aluminum Tetra-Lever swingarm
Wheelbase: 59.8 in.
Rake/Trail: 26.1 degrees/4.4 in.
Seat Height: 32.1 in.
Suspension, Front: 43mm male slider, adj. for spring preload & rebound damping, 4.4-in. travel
Rear: Single shock, adj. for spring preload (remote) & rebound damping, 5.4-in. travel
Brakes, Front: Dual floating petal discs w/ radial-mounted opposed 4-piston calipers & K-ACT linked ABS
Rear: Single petal disc w/ opposed 2-piston caliper & K-ACT linked ABS
Wheels, Front: Cast, 3.50 x 17 in.
Rear: Cast, 6.00 x 17 in.
Tires, Front: 120/70-ZR17
Rear: 190/50-ZR17
Wet Weight: 690 lbs. (claimed)
Load Capacity: TK lbs.
GVWR: 1,172 lbs.

Performance
Fuel Capacity: 5.8 gals., last 1.1 gal. warning light on
MPG: 90 PON min. (low/avg/high) (coming soon)
Estimated Range: (coming soon)
Indicated RPM at 60 MPH: 2,750

23 COMMENTS

  1. I had a 2008 and still have a 2009 and I also had a FJR.
    These C14’s are great bikes and it’s true they are a little heavy handed compared to the FJR in the parking lot but anything above a crawl and it far out handles the FJR on the hwy. It’s much more stable and not easily blown around and the c14 has the much needed overdrive that the FJR has yet to add, also It’s engine and transmission is smoother.
    I do not like the key fob and never will, just give me a damn key.
    The Kawasaki Concours 14 is a wonderful bike!

  2. Love the Concours 14. I had one (gone in crash) and may want to buy another one soon. I saw the lime green and fits perfect to be more visible at night. Still no cruise control? I just don’t understand that, this is the only sport touring bike without CC.

  3. I use a throttle lock, it works good enough for me.
    Ride modes: If your talking about performance modes, I’ve had that feature on bikes and always leave them in the highest performance position.
    What i don’t understand is the frickin key fob? If you have to have something to operate the bike why not a key? It’s not like it unlocks the bags because it doesn’t.
    It’s costly and inconvenient and you can no longer hide a key just in case you loose one.
    If you loose a fob it’s 250 for a replacement that has to be programed by the dealer and if you loose both fobs it’s 1500 for a new control unit.
    This is why I sold my 2008 but it’s such a nice bike I had to buy another one.

    • First, it has two rude modes, normal and Econ, Econ cuts horsepower and increases fuel mileage, also helps in keeping the fron wheel in contact with the roadway. Second, spare key comes with the bike, I just purchased a 2014, in Oct 2015, $10,748 try that the the others. Sorry, back to the second key, made to fit in a large wallet, no need for alarm, with out key fob or second key, no start and too heavy to pickup and carry away. Fob my be $250, second key is less than half and you can have as many as six extras. Also talk around using a Ford Truck Transponder key will clone a transponder unit, cut plain Kawasaki key, hide both on bike for less than $25, home free, almost. I own and ride three motorcycles, this is becoming my favorite, over a Honda ST, and VTX1800. Ride a BMW and spend this much on extras, and maintenance, Not me I’d rather Ride than Work. Ride On, Safe Trips, Ron

    • Randy don’t worry about the comment Walter made. Just by his remark you can tell he isn’t mature enough to make a proper comment.

  4. I own a 2013 and love it. I can agree about the lack of cruise control, but a throttle lock or aftermarket cruise are both easy fixes. I love the key fob, not sure what the big deal is there. I guess to each their own. But riding modes?!?!? Really? Added tech for added problems, and makes the bike more expensive to buy. All I need is a properly setup suspension and I’m happy. If you want riding modes, go buy a BMW. Then you can spend $5k to $10k more to purchase it and enjoy playing with the novelty of the riding modes when it’s not in the shop being repaired.

  5. Key FOB:
    Like you said ” Added tech for added problems, and makes the bike more expensive to buy.”
    The bike still needs all the features of a key. You have to turn the “key” to unlock the steering, turn the key to select the ign. features, you need a key for the bags.
    It has not one redeeming feature I use, it just makes no sense at all.
    It is the original dumb fob!

  6. I was excited when I got the latest issue yesterday and saw the revamped Concours, in spite of the hideous color. Read as far as still no cruise control. Are they kidding? I am buying a sport tourer this year, one with cruise control. Kawasaki needs to realize it is the 21st century.

  7. I own a 2011 and so far I am happy with it. But it is dissapointing that KAWA has not added the real updates that we all want, they need to raise the bar because their competitors are winning. Will see what 2016 brings

  8. Have my third BMW. Presently riding 2005 K1200 LT. Before that ’04 R1200 RT. What everyone is saying about shop time on BMW’s is true. Cruise, riding modes and all the other goodies on my “travel barge” are great but I cannot now afford a new BMW. Seriously looking at a 2015 Concours because it does not have all those electronics to put it in the shop. Love my BMW but it is always something. Right now $800 for a new radio. Want to get back to a more basic motorcycle. The Concours cost what I paid for that ’04 RT.

  9. Back on Dec 2014 I said I would by another C14. I did, 167K mi so far.
    I don’t like linked brakes.
    I want cruise control.
    I don’t care about the FOB and the riding modes.

  10. At 690 lb, it is heavier than my ’82 Gold WIng Interstate was. Since it is a sport touring bike, it would be nice to know how much luggage space is there.

  11. Chris,
    The factory saddle bags are fairly roomy compared to others I’ve used. I added a Advanced Sport Touring luggage rack with GIVI mounts and then added a GIVI e55 Top case. With all 3 cases, I have consistently carried $80-$100 worth of groceries home on the bike. I also added helmet locks under the luggage rack so I don’t have to waste storage space with helmets when I stop somewhere. I hope that helps you.

  12. I bought a 2008 C14 for my cousin when he comes to visit me in Calgary, amazing bike and wow, so fast. I personally just bought a 2010 BMW R1200RT for the cruise control, among other things. Being 54 and with many accumulated sports injuries to wrists and elbows I really needed CC for the long boring roads to get to the fun twisty roads. The throttle lock and cramp buster just does not do the trick in the mountains, so I actually need CC in order to ride far. To each their own. The Connie certainly makes me feel 24 when I ride it, but I find myself always quickly exceeding 200 kph, the bike can eliminate all semblance of self control for me and anyone else I know who has ever riden one. The devil made me do it, officer!! The RT can go fast, but is just a bit more civilized, better for this middle aged guy with no self control.

  13. Kawasaki concourse special edition mid year with Factory Cruise control, Paint Job. This is 30 years of its PRODUCTION make it “SPECIAL”

  14. Bought a new old stock concours 2013 in 2014 for 4000.00 off sticker price. Traded in my 2005 ZG100 concours and and my 2010 Vulcan 900. I like the uncomplicated EFI choices. Standard full power or ECO mode. Drive mostly in ECO, saving full power if I feel like responding to a race challenge. I average over 48 MPG but get over 50 MPG on long trips. Added 2 inch risers and a saddleman seat and a GIVI pizza box. Also added a throttlemeister throttle lock and switchblade pegs for the wife.Our annual rides to New Orleans for the Jazz Festival are much more comfortable. With the 1100 mile GVW and the 690 from the bike, add 200 for me and 150 for the wife in our full gear an we still have over 100 pounds for luggage. The ABS is a definite save your ass feature that I love. I average more than 18,000 miles a year on a bike and think the comfort and safety of this bike can not be beat in this price range.

  15. Okay just to put things in perspective. I own and have rode for a year a Vulcan 2000 which is a 2000cc bike that weighs 840 lbs before I get on it. I can flick it around when riding and you would be surprised how well it manuevers once you get use to it. Yes it is heavy in the parking lot but using friction points and the rear brake makes it manuverable even there.

    Considering this what is a real expectation for manuvering the 2015 Kawasaki Concours®14 ABS motorcycle.

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