Re-Cycling: 1986-2006 Kawasaki Concours ZG1000

Kawasaki Concours
Thirty years old, and still easy on the eyes.

You wouldn’t be alone if you argued that BMW invented sport touring, but it’s hard to deny Kawasaki brought it to the masses. In the 1980s factory sport-touring bikes were predominantly European, with most of those boasting the BMW roundel and ridden by well-heeled riders. Then, in 1986, Kawasaki dropped the ZG1000 Concours into the mix, making a sporty bike with a factory fairing and hard luggage affordable to all.

Kawasaki Concours
Rider has taken Kawasaki’s go-anywhere sport tourer almost everywhere.

For the next 20 years the Connie remained largely unchanged, which is not a bad thing if you get the formula right the first time. The 997cc, liquid-cooled, four-cylinder engine was based on the Ninja 1000R’s powerplant, and although it was toned down slightly with smaller carbs and less aggressive cams, it still packed a healthy top-end punch. Shaft drive was added to aid the bike’s long-haul mission, along with a full fairing and standard removable hard luggage. An enormous 7.5-gallon gas tank sat in the usual position, and when full made the bike perilously top heavy. The bike itself was no lightweight, either, scaling in at around 670 pounds wet. A 31-inch seat height did little to help the rider fight the sheer mass of the bike if it wanted to take a nap.

1994 Kawasaki Concours
May 1994 cover of Rider.

The Concours was born in an era of ceaseless model changes that left some riders complaining that their just-bought bikes were old hat before the new wore off. In response Kawasaki pledged not to change the Concours for five years. Despite the promise, the second-year Concours got higher bars and a less turbulent windscreen—but no one complained. In 1994 a “major” redesign took place, including a wider front wheel, two-piston front brake calipers and floating rotors, a different seat and instrument cluster, a fork that used spring preload adjusters instead of air and bright chrome mufflers, updates that make the 1994-and-later models more desirable to some riders.

Kawasaki Concours
As delivered, the Concours was a solid sport-touring performer, but some owners preferred to put the emphasis on “touring.” This one is equipped with an aftermarket windscreen, tank cover and Givi top box, making a good bike even better.

The Connie’s engine is as bulletproof as Superman’s chest, and used bikes with high miles are seldom a cause for concern. There are some weak spots, however, such as the J-box, the terminus of several vital electrical connections. If the J-box fails, the headlight or ignition can be affected. Rebuilt and upgraded units are offered, and recommended. Check the Uni-Trak rear suspension linkage for signs of wear or slop, which can cause weave at speed. The Connie’s engine doesn’t shed heat well, so make sure the coolant system is healthy, including fresh coolant and crack-free hoses, and look under the bike for signs of a weeping water pump.

Kawasaki ConcoursOtherwise, inspect a used Concours as you would any other bike. Check the oil, tires and brake pads, and ask about the last tune-up; the Connie’s engine uses screw-and-locknut valve adjustment, and how long the valves stay in spec has a lot to do with who adjusted them last time. Prices range by condition and location, but $2,500-$4,000 typically buys a pretty good example of one of the toughest and most versatile—even if not the most cutting-edge—sport-touring bikes ever made.

PROS:
Standard detachable hard cases, bulletproof engine, shaft drive, big fairing, room for a passenger. Gets you to the same place as the guy on the newer sport tourer, but for a fraction of the cost.

CONS:
Heavy, and top heavy with a full tank. Engine can be buzzy, and needs to be revved to get the most out of it. Dated handling dictates a more sedate pace than current competitors.

1986-2006 Kawasaki Concours ZG1000 Specs
Engine Type: Liquid-cooled, transverse in-line four, DOHC, 4 valves per cyl.
Displacement: 997cc
Final Drive: Shaft
Wet Weight: 670 lbs.
Fuel/Capacity: 87 PON/7.5 gals.
Seat Height: 31.0 in.

21 COMMENTS

  1. One of the best MC’s i’ve owned- 100k in 5 yrs -tires oil and brake shoes- that’s all it used.
    With all the plastic Express EZ pass couldn’t pick it up- WOO HOO more savings.

  2. Best motorcycle I’ve owned in my 48 years of riding. As of today, May 17, 2018, the odometer shows 81,400 miles, of which nearly 63,000 are mine. As a retired public school teacher, I can’t afford a newer bike; this Connie, however, suits my riding preferences AND my budget just fine. Only major failure was the junction box a year ago, which is now updated and fixed.

    • Great news,bought my first two weeks ago:2004,14000 miles,garaged,one owner,Corbin seat,tall windshield etc..I love it .updated rubber and fluids….SHP

  3. Just picked one up for a pittance. Don’t listen to all the ‘perilously top heavy’ crap. This thing is easy to move around in parking lots if you know how to feather the clutch and work the rear binder. It’s easy with the very upright bars and fairly low seat. Just don’t grab a bunch of front brake and you’ll be fine. My hunched over Blackbird (which I love) is more awkward at slow. So far, so good with the Connie. Yeah, it’s old tech. But it’s generally good tech and worry free. Handles amazing in curves given it’s girth and the motor vibes (blown out of all proportion) are far less than any v-twin cruiser. Nice howl above 6 grand. Absolutely CANNOT get anything this well equipped for less $. They are an outright steal. Get one with the farkles you want and just get touring. Soft and not ST1300 smooth, but Connie fits like a pair of old jeans. Acid washed jeans, mind, but they fit great. Who cares what the snobs may think? Ride it and enjoy.

  4. I’ve got an ’86 Beemer K100RT, an ’04 Connie and an ’07 Moto Guzzi. The Connie is my no worries, no brainer machine with nothing short of symphonic tones coming off that beautiful engine. Low speed, high speed or medium speed I love the sound of that 4! It’s comfortable (could’ve used firmer padding in the seat) and handles my 200 lb son as passenger just fine. The unilink suspension is miles better than the old Beemer (mind you I am replacing that Progressive shock). It’s really a fine, fine machine that is a great all-rounder! And those carbs and that starter flash beautifully every time. Simple technology that is reliable. I’m in!! Enjoy.

  5. rode mine for 140k. needed a water pump seal at 40k that was it. other than routine maintenance. i WISH the valves on the concours 14 that replaced it were that easy to deal with. a c-10 is the best commuter/touring workhorse made. an aftermarket shock and a set of springs and emulators will let it play to the limits of the tires and chassis while lesser riders on newer bikes try to catch up.

  6. Just bought a 2002, $1700, (I guess that’s good)🤔 have had only Yamahas before this, I’m looking forward to learning more about it…hoping for the best. 27k for milage. Love the comments..very positive.v

  7. I Have A 86 Concours. I’ve Had It Since 1992. 27yrs. I Drive Tractor Trailer For A Liveing. No Time Too Ride. But When I Do I Ride 400Miles In A Day. It’s Been A Great Bike. I Run Metzler Tires. Marathon In The Rear. A Lazzer In The Front. Good Combo

  8. Bought a 1986 zg1000 in 1998 it only had 20000 km on it. I put 477000 km when the bottom end went . I put a bit of work into it cams ignighter box and suppention. it could keep up to the sport bikes it only lacked in breaking and tire sizes / compounds . The dicisoin to replace the motor was thwarted by a crack in the frame or I would still be on it.
    Replaced it with a 03 FJR1300 in 2018 it only had 18000 km on it when I picked it up .

  9. My Dad passed away in ’09 and left a 1998 Connie sitting in the shed with 16k miles on it. Now, 10 years later, I finally pulled the bad boy out and decided it’s time I learned to ride. The looks people are giving me are hilarious. The bike looks brand new and has practically no miles on it for a bike of that age. It runs great (Thanks to my uncle who did routine maintenance every so often to make sure it doesn’t die just sitting.) The comments on this article just make me appreciate my Father’s purchase even more and gives me fond memories of his wisdom and diligence when he purchased things.

  10. Picking up a 97 Connie in a week. $1200 with 8k on it. My buddy just picked up a fjr1300 and is selling me the Connie. Can’t to ride the BRP for my first run on it!

  11. Good looking, easy to maintain and a huge bonus is the Concours Owners Group. Everything that can be done to that bike has been done to that bike and you couldn’t ask for a better group of riders, wrenchers and writers. COGers make the bike easier to own. I miss the huge fuel tank with it’s twist to reserve valve now I’m on the C-14. Put 57k on my 05, saw alot of country from the seat of that bike and enjoyed every minute of it.

  12. great bike , me and the wife have a small collection of bikes (14) ranging from Honda90/110s , hogs , Ducs( 748/750 ss)KLR s ,Triumph( Bonnie and Scrambler) ,Guzzi And BMW ( R 100t , f800st and here I am getting all GAGA over a 18 year old sport tour bike ..put on some Avon SPIRIT ST rubber to make it sure footed and I can’t get off of the damned thing ..A EXCELLENT MACHINE , just fun to ride ..big tank , great wind protection , POWER and comfort ,the bars are a bit buzzy but not bad , a bit top heavy but you get used to it quickly ..found a well cared for one with low miles 17K feels like a sexier version of my VOYAGER 12 , like meeting a ex girlfriend who has lost a lot of weight and learned how to dance ..and is happy to see you !

  13. I had one in the ’90s- traded a Trident for it- and it replaced my R100RT instantly. Far more capable of hauling a passenger, and of course much faster. Plus the handling was at least two quanta better, no weaving or pogoing. More reliable by a long shot, too. No weirdo ’60s fuses, connectors, and alternator.
    My C10 had 20K on it when I got it and over 100K when I finally caved to pressure and got a Wing to transport Herself around.
    That fairing is still the most protective I’ve ever experienced. The weather I rode through on that thing I wouldn’t try with anything else I’ve ridden. The windshield needs aftermarket help, Rifle or Madstad, and then you won’t believe how great it is inside that bubble.
    Nowadays the Wings are gone and I have a second-gen FJR1300. It’s better, yes. That FJR motor is pretty special, and the low- and medium-speed handling is much better than the Connie. Of course, the brakes and ABS and fuel injection are significant improvements, as are the modern wheel/tire sizes and options.
    I recently picked up a derelict ’99 Connie just to re-live the old days. Carbs aren’t fun when they’re dirty and neglected, and the old-fashioned tires are a limiter.
    But dang, that fairing. The FJR’s almost seems like a sportbike fairing in bad weather compared.
    And as mentioned, the Concours Owners Group support is beyond wonderful. For an involved owner, it makes a major difference.

  14. Thanks everyone for all the information I’m about to bye a 05 concours this week and look forward to riding it’s been garaged and only has 7,000 miles on it I’m picking it up for thirteen hundred bucks pretty beige color I’m going to throw a new set of rubber on it get it tuned oil change detail it up have fun this coming summer Mike Terrell Texas

  15. You won’t be disappointed Mike. Just be sure fuel petcock is working properly, and install an inline fuel filter.

    Only real negative is the gas tank. The low sections by the side panels are lower than the petcock, so water tends to sit there and rust the tank. Rust screws up the petcock, gets into the carb bowls, a float valve gets dirt in it and sticks open….you have a hydro lock risk.
    Make sure these things are good, and you have a bike that will last longer than Cher.

  16. I had two ’99 Connies. The first one lasted 115K miles before I wadded it up in the mountains one night. The second one had 50K of my miles added to the 45K of the previous owners when I decided that, as I was 70 years-old and had had five knee replacements, it was time to get a lighter bike. I moved to a 2010 Honda NT700VA (which now has 135K miles). It’s worked great, but I loved the Concours. It handled well, had great range, and I loved the sound of the air shrieking when rpm passed 6K.

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