2010 Kawasaki Concours 14 - First Ride

Riding the new-and-improved Concours sport-tourer.

2010 Kawasaki Concours 14 - First Ride

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It already was a fabulous motorcycle. Bullet-train fast and luxury-car smooth, the 2008-09 Concours 14 offered open-road serenity rivaling that of big-rig tourers; yet on the backroads, that 647-pound sport-tourer managed to handle almost as well as some pure sportbikes weighing a couple of hundred pounds less.

As I learned during Kawasaki's riding press launch of the 2010 model, the new Concours 14 is even better, despite the fact that all its primary ingredients—engine, transmission, driveline, chassis—remain unchanged. The differences instead are in the support systems of this road rocket, improvements and additions that further broaden the appeal of the machine that garnered Cycle World's Best Sport-Touring Bike award in both 2008 and 2009.

Among those upgrades are a 70mm (2¾ in.) taller windscreen, still electrically adjustable; heated handgrips; a storage compartment in the left fairing panel rather than atop the tank as on previous models; 40mm higher mirrors for better rear visibility; and a completely redesigned fairing that significantly reduces the amount of engine-heated air that reaches the rider.

As before, the 14 is available in either ABS or non-ABS models. If you choose the former, you get the second-generation version of Kawasaki's sophisticated K-ACT linked anti-lock braking system as well as KRTC, the company's first-ever true traction-control system. KRTC employs cuts in intake airflow, ignition timing and fuel delivery to prevent wheelspin, while K-ACT allows the rider to choose either of two modes of linked braking performance. The front-to-rear linked effect is the same in both modes when squeezing the front-brake lever; but when you apply the rear brake, Standard Mode delivers full rear braking along with a barely detectable amount of front brake; in High Combined Mode, rear-brake activation is supplemented with significant front-brake application.

During a 130-mile loop that involved freeway riding and a fun jaunt through the twisties in the San Jacinto Mountains about 100 miles east of Los Angeles, the big Conc's engine and chassis performed just as admirably as always, with enormous, sneaky-fast power and surprisingly agile handling. Of the two braking options, Standard Mode was the more desirable for sport riding, remaining unobtrusive most of the time, even when trail-braking into corners. The High Combined Mode delivered a bit too much front brake for my tastes, though in conjunction with the anti-lock function, could prove valuable in a panic stop.

I also was able to experience the traction-control system's impressive potential by riding an outrigger-equipped Concours on a temporary "skid pad" composed of big sheets of water-covered plastic. With KRTC turned off, even thinking about opening the throttle resulted in wild slides and uncontrolled wheelspin; but with the system turned on, I could not make the rear tire spin in any gear or at any rpm, regardless of how far I opened the throttle.These significant improvements, along with a few other small ones not mentioned here, aren't likely to help the competition unseat the Concours 14 as the world's best sport-touring bike.

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