Passing trees flicker through reflections in the deep blue paint. The horizon tilts left then right, as the road climbs, dips, and passes beyond sight around the next rocky outcropping.
Pushing through the mountain air, wind drag and lateral Gs bond me to the 2010 Kawasaki Concours 14, an inventive update of Kawasaki’s already outstanding open-class sport-touring motorcycle.
Having traveled far in search of the perfect motorcycling road, I have committed to memory many roads that come close to perfection; every one with a specific characteristic that highlights the prowess of the Concours 14.
I can imagine motorcycle riding these roads again, placing the new Concours 14 on those routes, and matching its attributes to the distinctive personality of each highway.
With the Concours 14’s immense top-end, Nevada State Route 375-The Extraterrestrial Highway-passes in a flash. Normally the realm of the Hayabusa, this highway near the infamous Area 51 reveals the Concours’ ZX-14 lineage; the sections of horizon-to-horizon straights are devoured in short time, using the horsepower of the 1352cc inline-four with variable valve timing, and ram air induction force-feeding the computer-controlled fuel injection.
At the halfway fuel stop in Rachel, the freshly designed bodywork channels engine heat away from the rider compartment, making the brief stop bearable in the desert heat.
In western Colorado, majestic U.S. Route 550-The Million Dollar Highway-puts the updated K-ACT ABS system to fine use. Brutal drops border this road without guardrails to keep stray motorcyclists on path between Silverton and Ouray. Being able to scrub speed is of utmost importance and Kawasaki’s second-generation linked ABS accommodates.
Brake bias is controlled by the K-ACT ECU and can be set into two modes-one for touring and one for sport.
In High Combined Mode, the ECU provides a high level of linking between the front and rear brake when the rear brake pedal is pressed. In Standard Mode, the linking effect is reduced.
With the rider given greater manual control over front/rear braking bias, a sportier feel results. I can ride this motorcycle as hard as I dare, and do so with complete confidence.
Touring through Death Valley National Park, there is little opportunity for performance riding; fuel costs are high, and filling stations far apart, so the powerplant’s Economy Assistance Mode is appreciated. With this feature enabled, the ECU prioritizes fuel economy by using a leaner map, resulting in as much as a 25-percent drop in fuel consumption.
All I have to do is keep the engine speed below 6000 rpm, the throttle at less than one-third open, and my speed below 80 mph-easier than it sounds.
On the Alaskan Highway, crossing the Yukon Territory late in August, I am grateful for the heated grips and adjustable windscreen given the daily rain and temperatures in the 30s. Long before the temperature display on the LCD drops that low, I adjust the stepless rotary switch on the left side of the fairing to alleviate the numbness.
The newly designed windscreen is positioned at its highest setting-almost three inches taller than before-allowing the lip along the top edge to kick the rain over eye level.
As with the two previous years’ models, the windscreen remains electronically adjustable, and the 2010 model allows the rider to choose one of four preset heights that the windscreen will be positioned when the engine is started. Also, the mirrors are now 1.5 inches higher than on the previous edition, adding wind protection for the hands, in addition to increasing the view behind.
As close to the perfect motorcycling road as I have found, Highway 31A between New Denver and Kaslo, British Columbia, uses every aspect of the Concours 14’s immaculate features.
This isolated, but well maintained, two-lane blacktop crosses high in the Kootenay Rockies under a canopy of tall conifers, waterfalls cascading down one side then passing under the road to flow down the canyon. The monocoque aluminum frame, linkage shaft drive (no-lash, no-squatting, no-lifting), and plush suspension strike a heavenly balance between pure canyon performance and unadulterated long-distance comfort.
To get to 31A requires thousands of miles of Interstate highway and days of travel. Luggage space is ample on this capable sport-touring machine. Roomy bags hold more than enough for a trip to faraway places. A tank bag panel on the front of the fuel tank was added this year to make affixing the quintessential touring accouterment simple, whether it be magnetic or not. Left of the tank bag panel is a locking storage compartment perfect for small electronics.
Once in Kaslo, I cannot miss the ride north to the frontier charm of the Windsor Hotel in Trout Lake, British Columbia-a 68-mile jaunt on dirt and gravel deep in the spine of the Rockies. While the Concours 14 is not an adventure bike, the addition of Kawasaki Traction Control (KTRC) puts a road like this well into the realm of possibility.
KTRC reduces engine output by controlling the fuel delivery, ignition timing and air flow in the throttle body, ensuring traction is maintained. Traction loss is detected and controlled using the sensors and ECU from the ABS system. This double duty saves weight, though this sharing means KTRC is only available on the ABS-equipped Concours. KTRC does not add lateral stability, but it superbly handles wheel spin that can cause loss of control.
It takes only a short stretch of road to learn all you need about the wonderfully reworked Kawasaki Concours 14. Yet, it is a motorcycle that can be riden for years without weariness setting in. The right road, the right bike. Two-wheeled magic occurs. The perfect road is found.
2010 Kawasaki Concours 14 | Motorcycle Specs
- Engine: Four-stroke, liquid-cooled, DOHC, four valve per cylinder, inline-four with VVT
- Displacement: 1,352cc
- Bore x stroke: 84.0 x 61.0mm
- Maximum torque: 102.0 lb-ft @ 6,200 rpm
- Compression ratio: 10.7:1
- Fuel Injection: Digital Fuel Injection w/ 40mm throttle bodies
- Ignition: TCBI with Digital Advance
- Transmission: Six-speed
- Final drive: Tetra-Lever shaft drive
- Rake / trail: 26.1 degrees / 4.4 in.
- Front tire: 120/70 ZR-17
- Rear tire: 190/50 ZR-17
- Front Suspension / Wheel Travel: 43mm inverted, telescopic fork with adjustable rebound damping and spring preload / 4.4 in.
- Rear Suspension / Wheel Travel: Tetra-Lever with stepless rebound damping adjustment and remote spring preload adjuster / 5.4 in.
- Brakes, front: Dual floating 310mm petal discs with four-piston calipers (optional ABS)
- Brakes, rear: Single 270mm petal disc (optional ABS)
- Fuel capacity: 5.8 gal.
- Seat height: 32.1 in.
- Wheelbase: 59.8 in.
- Overall Length: 89.4 in.
- Overall Height
- Fairing Lowered / Raised: 50.8 in. / 55.3 in.
- Overall Width at Handlebars / at Saddlebags: 30.7 in. / 39.4 in.
- Curb Weight: Concours 14 / Concours 14 ABS: 670.3 / 679.1 lbs.
- Color: Candy Neptune Blue/Flat Super Black
- MSRP: $14,599
- Warranty: 36 months
- Helmet: Icon Airframe
- Jacket: Firstgear TPG Teton
- Gloves: Tour Master Cold-Tex
- Pants: Firstgear TPG Escape
- Footwear: Firstgear Star