2015 - 2017 Kawasaki Concours 14 ABS
Take a Ninja® ZX™-14R, tune it for touring and what have you got? If you guessed a Concours 14, you get the prize. Kawasaki delivered the 2015 Concours 14 ABS with a whole slew of improvements over the prior year — some cosmetic and some for performance — and carried that over to 2017.
At the core, the Kawasaki kept the 1,352 cc engine derived from the Ninja® ZX™-14R in a chassis tuned for touring. The sport-bike DNA is quite evident in the overall styling, so whether you love it or hate it, you don’t ignore the Concours 14 ABS. Slap some new paint it on for 2016 and we’re ready to go.
Continue reading for my review of the Kawasaki Concours 14 ABS.
Top Speed:155 mph (Est.)
Low-speed maneuvering, rider comfort, safety and handling were all affected by the 2016 enhancements. A stainless bezel on the instrumentation gives it just a bit of bling, but revised ABS settings, stiffer rear suspension, reworked first gear ratio and a heat shield on the exhaust make noticeable improvements to the rider experience.
The "touring" side of this sport-tourer is evident in the rider triangle. By moving the handlebars closer to the rider than they are on the Ninja, you get a more upright and comfortable posture.
The 2015 enhancements included a two-up, almost stadium-seating-style rider saddle that is more narrow in the front to make it easier to find the ground and a flatter pillion to improve passenger comfort. The saddle also got a slip-resistant cover to keep your butt where you put it, and some fancy double stitching to give it a clean, tailored look.
If the stock seat isn’t as tour-rific as you’d like, peruse the accessories catalog for the optional touring seat. Along with a more cushy ride, the seat is made from anti-UV material that keeps the seat from becoming a butt-burner when left sitting in the sunshine. That may not mean as much to you northern folks, but those of us down here in the intense summer sun of the Deep South really appreciate it.
When standing still, a new-from-2015 exhaust shield directs heat away from your legs. In an improvement aimed at wind buffeting when underway, the Concours has an integrated, multi-position vent on the electrically-operated windscreen. The vent directs airflow around you and eliminates that low-pressure pocket behind the fairing.
The Concours 14 comes standard with color-matched quick-release hard saddlebags that lock and unlock with the ignition key as part of Kawasaki’s one-key system. To stow your gear and your bits and bobs, there is a glove box in the fairing and each saddlebag holds 22 pounds. For additional storage, hit the accessories catalog for an optional topcase. Then you can have a supersport-touring full dresser.
Frequently, big tour bikes run with big, heavy frames to support the engine, copious amounts of body panels and fairings and variable passenger and cargo loads. Even frames made from aluminum stock necessarily add to the weight of the bike, so how do you get around that?
Kawasaki says the aluminum monocoque body design holds the key. The body panels serve as stressed members, with the engine as the keystone that completes the assembly while bolstering rigidity, resulting in a lightweight but strong “frame” with just the right amount of give for comfort. Best of all, this design leaves the bike with a narrow waist, kind of the opposite of riding a barrel, so vertically-challenged riders will have an easier time wrangling the bike than the 32.1-inch seat height might suggest.
The steering head is set for 26 degrees of rake, and a 4.4-inch trail — numbers sure to uphold the factory’s claim of nimble handling and quick reversals. New for 2015, a redesigned steering stem seal allows for easier steering control at low speeds.
Kawasaki’s choice of brake systems came off the top shelf. A pair of four-pot calipers bind the dual, 310 mm, wave-cut brake rotors up front, and a single-bore caliper binds the 270 mm rear rotor. The factory used its self-named Advanced Coactive-braking Technology (K-ACT) with ABS to oversee brake operations, and that comes with some interesting features.
Yes, you get the magic that is ABS, but that technology is fairly ubiquitous nowadays and nothing special. What is special is the linked-brake feature that was revised in 2015. The ABS system comes with a "Standard" mode that provides a normal-feeling initial bite, then progressively balances the brakes as pressure is increased. The "High Combined" mode links the brakes at the slightest pressure, and this balanced braking effort is especially good for highway jaunts, with or without the variable of passenger and cargo weight. Not to be outdone, the ABS also comes with two separate rider modes with varying levels of intervention to prevent wheel slip.
A tire-pressure monitoring system (TPMS) keeps an eye on the tire pressure for you, eliminating the need to physically check your air so diligently. Thin-spoked cast rims mount the 17-inch hoops, and the front wheel comes at the end of 43 mm, usd forks with adjustable spring preload and rebound damping features.
The monoshock in back works with the Tetra-Lever linkage on the swingarm to support the rear, and it boasts a remote-mount, spring preload adjuster and stepless rebound damping for easy and precise adjustments. As part of the 2015 improvements, the rear suspension has stiffer settings for better control and carrying capability. With 4.4 inches of wheel travel in front and 5.4 inches in back, plus the adjustable parameters, this suspension should prove adequate to the stated job of extended highway travel.
They call this a sport-tourer, and it wasn’t hard to figure out where the “sport” part came from. That particular DNA was gifted to this ride from the Ninja ZX-14R, and even though it comes with more of a tour-tastic torque curve and power delivery, the Ninja roots come out in the performance.
The 1,352 cc, four-banger mill puts out some decent numbers, especially for a “tour” bike. With 100 pound-feet of torque at 6,200 rpm and 150-plus horsepower at 8,800 rpm, this mill can keep up with nearly anything on the highway under reasonable circumstances.
Kawasaki’s Variable Valve Timing (VVT), fuel injection and ram-air intake tracts contribute to this great power, and a "Fuel Economy Assistance" mode makes the engine sip fuel on long hauls. The KRTC traction control feature rounds out the electronics by intervening to prevent loss of traction due to rear-wheel slippage, a tasty feature for foul-weather riders.
A six-speed transmixxer sends power to the rear wheel down the Tetra-Lever shaft drive with anti-squatting and -lifting features, so you don’t get that dreaded and dangerous shaft behavior. A new first gear ratio, as part of the 2015 improvements, makes low-speed maneuvering easier and gives you better standing starts.
MSRP on the 2016 Concours 14 ABS is $15,499 with your choice of Metallic Moondust Gray or Metallic Spark Black. You can get the Metallic Spark Black in the 2015 MY as well, but if you want Candy Lime Green, you’ll have to hit the left-overs at the dealers since that color isn’t offered in 2016. For 2017, the Concours comes shot in Candy Imperial Blue and will run you $100 more than last year. Kawasaki covers your Concours 14 with a 36-month limited warranty with optional Kawasaki Protection Plus™ for 12, 24, or 36 months.
The Concours 14 ABS is such a supersport tourer, you might think it hard to come up with a head-to-head competitor. Okay maybe you don’t think it’s that hard, but let’s pretend anyway. Even though it’s more cruiser oriented, after seeing the Victory Stunt Team drifting, doing some chokin’-smoke burnouts and popping wheelies on those baggers weighing a full 100 pounds heavier than the Concours, I have to go with the Cross Country.
Visually, Victory and Kawasaki took different paths to achieve the same net effect; while the Concours is basically a Ninja with panniers with all the apparent DNA implied by that statement, the Cross Country embraces a more relaxed and open style with more of an apple pie flair to it. At the end of the day, both will offer some protection for long highway trips, and it comes down to preference of style.
The water-cooled, inline-four engine on the Concours puts out some impressive numbers, but the big Freedom 106/6 V-twin in the Victory muscles to the top with 106 pound-feet of torque, and you don’t have to wind it up tighter than Dick’s hatband to wring that power out of it, either — again with the preference.
Purely performance-minded people may find the Kawasaki more attractive, but riders looking for a slice of Americana will definitely prefer the look of that big "V" engine and the distinctive off-balance lope in the exhaust note. Decisions, decisions...
Kawasaki pulls out a solid win in the price-tag column. You can score a Concours in Metallic Spark Black, or in the new-in-2016 Metallic Moondust Gray for $15,499; but the Victory Cross Country in Suede Titanium Blue, Havasu Red with Clear Pearl or Suede White Frost will set you back $18,999, a significant difference for someone looking for an upgrade or first tour bike.
So there you have it; taste, taste and price are the three major categories to consider here, and neither is so much better than the other that they would entice a Japanese bike fan to jump the fence to the American style, and vice versa. Still, do you want a cruiser with bags that thinks it’s a sport bike or a sport bike with bags that thinks it’s a tourer?
My husband and fellow writer, TJ Hinton, says, “Definitely a sharp-looking bike, but I question whether engine-tuning and a couple of bags is enough to turn this thoroughbred into a creature docile enough to ever be truly comfortable for the longest hauls. It’s a Ninja with bags, though the reworked rider triangle will allow for a relaxed, upright position, a big advantage on the highway over its pure-sport siblings.”
"Before the revamp in 2015, the proportioning of the linked brakes was a little hinky. When trail-breaking into a corner and giving it a little rear brake, the bike wanted to pitch forward because some of that pressure was proportioned to the front brake — at least that’s how it felt — and it could be a bit of a surprise if you weren’t ready for it. I was glad that part of the revamp involved revising the linked ABS proportioning."
|Engine:||Four-stroke, Four-cylinder, DOHC, Four-valve, liquid-cooled|
|Maximum Power:||158 Horsepower at 8,800 rpm|
|Maximum Torque:||100 Pound-Feet at 6,200 rpm|
|Fuel System:||DFI® with four 40 mm throttle bodies|
|Ignition:||TCBI with Digital Advance|
|Final Drive:||Tetra-Lever shaft drive|
|Suspension, Front:||43 mm inverted, telescopic fork with adjustable rebound damping and spring preload, 4.4-inch travel|
|Suspension, Rear:||Tetra-Lever with stepless rebound damping adjustment and remote spring preload adjuster, 5.4-inch travel|
|Brakes, Front:||Dual floating 310 mm petal-style rotors with four-piston calipers, ABS|
|Brake, Rear:||Single 27 0mm petal-style rotor, single-piston caliper, ABS|
|Wheel, Front:||J17M/C x MT3.50|
|Wheel:||J17M/C x MT6.00|
|Tire, Front:||120/70 ZR-17|
|Tire, Rear:||190/50 ZR-17|
|Width:||With Saddlebags - 39.4 inches, Without Saddlebags - 31.1 inches|
|Height:||windscreen down - 52.9 inches, windscreen up - 57.7 inches|
|Ground Clearance:||4.9 inches|
|Minimum Turning Radius:||126 inches|
|Seat Height:||32.1 inches|
|Curb Weight:||690.2 Pounds|
|Storage Capacity:||22 Pounds per Bag|
|Fuel Capacity:||5.8 gallons|
|Warranty:||36-Month Limited Warranty with optional Kawasaki Protection Plus™ 12, 24, or 36 months|
|2015:||Candy Lime Green, Metallic Spark Black|
|2016:||Metallic Moondust Gray, Metallic Spark Black|
|2017:||Candy Imperial Blue|