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2008 Kawasaki Concours 14: MD First Ride (Part One)

This is a brief report from the Kawasaki Concours 14 press introduction. We put 220 miles on the bike today, and we will be riding another 200 or so tomorrow. Part 2 of this first ride report will be much more extensive.

This bike is all about refined power. From the amazing shaft drive (which not only lacks the handling drawbacks of most shaft drive systems, it somehow feels better than a chain on this bike) to the buttery smooth delivery of the massive torque just above idle, I immediately knew Kawasaki had done their homework.

The mechanical nature of the new Concours intrudes just enough to interact with the rider in a playful way. Vibration is very low, and all the controls operate smoothly. The clutch pull is light for such a large engine and, once underway, the transmission also shifts better than one might expect given the amount of torque being transferred to the rear wheel. The ABS equipped model I tested (the bike will be available without ABS, as well) featured brakes that slowed the large machine with great force and consistency. The independently operated front and rear brakes are well balanced, although an ABS-like pulsing was felt through the rear brake pedal more often than expected.

The Concours 14 is a big bike. My 31 inch inseam left me on tippy toes at stops. The bike also felt wide at the foot pegs, but this sensation disappeared after some ride time.

Smooth fuel injection and throttle response together with a balanced, composed feel to the chassis, made attacking the twisties a drama free, enjoyable experience. The upright riding position and relatively high bars helped here, as well.

Have I mentioned that the Concours 14 is fast? Fast like a bullet train that gathers speed in a subtle but devastating manner.

I’ve probably said too much. I need today’s ride to sink in, and I need to ride more tomorrow. Stay tuned for part 2 of this report.