Back in July, MO took its show on the road to Yosemite National Park to compare the latest crop of sport touring motorcycles, and the result wasn’t that good for the 2014 Kawasaki Concours 14 ABS. Not that it’s a bad bike. Quite the opposite. The Connie is as good as it ever was, but the sport-touring class has advanced to include niceties such as cruise control, quick shifters, and electronically adjustable suspension. So, we have a great motorcycle, powered by an ass-kicking engine derived from the ZX–14R, that is languishing in the eyes of motojournalists who are always looking for what is shiny and new in a technologically evolving class. Meanwhile, Concours fans continue to be as rabid as they ever were about the bike.

Kawasaki’s EICMA 2015 Model Year announcements let it be known that the Concours received exactly zero of the items we deemed necessary to improve its class standing. Clearly the engineers are not listening to us. Still, that snub aside, we were happy to receive an invite to the 2015 model introduction in Carlsbad, CA and were curious to sample how the 2015 Connie would compare to last year’s model.

2015 Kawasaki Concours 14 ABS action

The riding position is sporty while remaining all-day comfortable.

Let me start by saying this: I love riding in the rain. I always have. From the first day I commuted to work on my first motorcycle along Connecticut’s Merrit Parkway, I fell in love with rain riding – which was good since the wet weather continued for a week. So, I was quite unfamiliar with the sensation of not looking forward to day’s ride in the rain with the Connie. After all, I had Dainese D-Dry jacket and pants to see if they lived up to their name (short answer: absolutely). The bugaboo was that properly testing a new motorcycle in the wet is challenging. So, the Pinlock was mounted in my visor and three pairs of “waterproof” gloves were carried along for a ride organized by Kawasaki’s PR team and attended by the band of miscreants that show up at these events.

2008 Kawasaki Concours 14 Review

Because I want to torture you, let’s take a look at what makes a Concours 14 ABS what it is before we delve into the 2015 changes. Way back in 1986, Kawasaki introduced the Ninja 900-based Concours, delivering a practical combination of power and utility to the sport-touring class. The Connie’s profile remained essentially the same all the way until 2006 – the biggest alteration coming in 1994 with the change to the front end in the form of new forks, fender, brake and wheel.

2015 Kawasaki Concours 14 ABS new windshield vent

This new vent eliminates much of the windshield buffeting and back pressure.

A major overhaul came in the form of the 2008 Concours 14, which was release in mid–2007. Based around the massively powerful ZX-14 engine and much of its chassis, the Concours was made over from the sport-tourer in sensible shoes into a claimed “top-of-the-line sportbike with touring capabilities.” From the beginning the engine was more than just a tuned-for-torque ZX-14 engine. Kawasaki included niceties like variable valve timing to broaden power delivery in addition to a track-developed slipper clutch to aid in smooth downshifts. Big Green even created a new class on its website, Supersport Touring, for the C-14 and exceeded our expectations in the process.

In 2010, Kawasaki addressed both customer and media concerns about the Concours. To improve rider comfort, the flow of heat from the radiator and engine was directed further away from the rider. Furthermore, the electrically adjustable windscreen was widened and increased in height to provide better weather protection to a variety of rider sizes. Safety was also addressed in 2010 with the inclusion of the linked K-ACT ABS brake system. The KTRC traction control system kept the bike in parity with the sport-touring class trends. Then the song remained the same, varying only in color, until the announcement of the 2015 models.

2015 Kawasaki Concours 14 ABS

In the wet, the Concours proves to be a fun sport-touring mount.

Right at the outset, we need to address the elephant in the room: the continued lack of cruise control on the Concours 14 ABS. While we’ve openly griped about the lack of this key feature, and it likely was responsible for the bike’s last-place finish in this summer’s sport-touring shootout, we weren’t surprised to see a blank space where cruise control should be on the 2015 spec sheet. Simply put, it ain’t gonna happen until the next major overhaul of the Concours when it will surely get ride-by-wire throttle control. The cost to add just this one feature would be prohibitive unless it is piggybacked on to an engine revamp. When I asked Kawasaki’s reps when we could expect this type of overhaul, all they said was that, based on the history of the model, the Connie would likely get this technology a model year after the ZX–14 did. After that, silence.

2010 Kawasaki Concours 14 Review

So, what’s there to love about the 2015 Concours? How about everything we loved about the previous generation – and then some. From a functional standpoint, riders should note four changes. First, the K-ACT linked braking system was revised for a more “natural” feel which is PR-speak for “we softened the overeagerness of the front brake application by the brake pedal.” Previous models had the front brake apply rather abruptly at certain pedal pressures, and if you were already on the front brake, the combined amount of front brake power could upset the chassis. The second change was a slight lowering of first gear for easier launches. Third, the engineers altered the steering stem seal to address sluggish feeling steering. Finally, in addition to a new slip-resistant cover, the front of the seat was narrowed to allow easier access to the ground.

2015 Kawasaki Concours 14 ABS colors

The 2015 colors.

On our rainy day in the saddle, I was able to verify three of these four updates. Immediately upon throwing my leg over the saddle, I noticed that it was easier to flat foot the C-14. Although my 32-in. inseam didn’t struggle previously, paddling the big bike around the parking lot was significantly easier – a fact I verified by sampling one of the available 2014 models on our ride.

Although wet riding prohibits the ability to really test a bike’s handling, because of the premium placed on control inputs in slick situations, I was hyper-aware of the improved linked brakes. In the K-ACT’s standard setting on the old system, I would have been hesitant to drag the rear brake mid-corner because of the unpredictability of the front brake’s application. With the updated system, I frequently found myself softening my acceleration with the rear brake to no ill-effect. The more aggressive linked setting exhibited about the same intrusiveness as on last year’s model, and I, frankly, would never use it. Having this linked system in its new form makes it quite useable, and fairly quick stops can comfortably be made with only the brake pedal (which is still poor braking technique, despite the technological assist).

2015 Kawasaki Concours 14 ABS heated grips

On a wet day with the temperature hovering around 50° F, the heated grips were appreciated.

The  ratio change to its first gear, although slight, is noticeable when pulling away from a start. Functionally, the shorter gearing makes it easier to get under way. The downside is that when riding in tight first gear corners, the shift to second comes sooner.

2014 Heavyweight Sport-Touring Shootout – K1600GT Vs. Concours14 Vs. Trophy SE Vs. FJR1300ES

In the rain-shortened ride, I honestly couldn’t feel any difference in the steering effort as a result of the change in the stem seal. This will have to wait until we have the opportunity for a full test of the Concours.

2015 Kawasaki Concours 14 ABS windscreen

During the wet ride, the windscreen spent the bulk of the day at full extension for maximum weather protection.

A change that sounds small but is huge from a rider comfort perspective is the inclusion of an adjustable vent in the windscreen. Anyone who’s spent time behind a big windshield knows that they can suffer from two maladies: buffeting from the air off the top and a back pressure pushing forward towards the handlebar. The Connie’s new vent alleviates these problems. While I couldn’t find any effect of the vent in the lowest windshield setting, the reduction in noise around my helmet (I’m 5’11”) with the vent open and the windshield in its highest position was remarkable. Even in the worst of the rain, I kept the vent open because I preferred the improved air-flow. As we rode, I looked at the differing heights of the riders and the associated windshield heights, and every rider I talked to said the vent improved the calmness in the cockpit.

The other upgrades that Kawasaki noted were mostly cosmetic: silver instrument bezels, extending the exhaust’s heat shield to the muffler, a tank pad, etc. One functional change that I was not able to discern in the limited time riding at speed was the effect of the stiffer shock settings. Wet roads just don’t allow for high-g cornering.

For 2015, Kawasaki has polished the Concours 14 ABS with some appreciated functional upgrades while actually reducing the MSRP from the 2014 model. It ships in a choice of Candy Lime Green and Metallic Spark Black for $15,499. For those who want to save a little more money, the 2014 Concours price was dropped to match the 2015 model, but dealers have been given a $1,000 incentive to make last year’s model more attractive. While the Concours still doesn’t have cruise control, it still compares quite favorably to the other sport-tourers on price, making it a sizable value for the level of performance it offers.

+ Highs

  • Improved linked brakes
  • Reduced price
  • Improved cockpit comfort
– Sighs

  • Still no cruise control
  • Wet roads prevented shenanigans
  • Time for a major revamp
2015 Kawasaki Concours 14 ABS Specifications
MSRP $15,499
Engine Type 1,352cc, four-stroke, liquid-cooled, DOHC, four valves per cylinder, inline-four with variable valve timing
Bore and Stroke 84.0 x 61.0 mm
Fuel System DFI® with four 40mm throttle bodies
Ignition TCBI with Digital Advance
Transmission Six-speed
Final Drive Tetra-Lever shaft drive
Front Suspension 43mm inverted, telescopic fork with adjustable rebound damping and spring preload, 4.4 inches of travel
Rear Suspension Tetra-Lever with stepless rebound damping adjustment and remote spring preload adjuster 5.4 inches of travel
Front Brake Dual floating 310mm petal-style rotors with four-piston calipers, ABS
Rear Brake Single 270mm petal-style rotor, two-piston caliper and ABS
Front Tire 120/70 ZR17
Rear Tire 190/50 ZR17
Wheelbase 59.8 inches
Seat Height 32.1 inches
Claimed Curb Weight 690.2 lb.
Fuel Capacity 5.8 gal.
Available Colors Candy Lime Green, Metallic Spark Black
Warranty 36 Month Limited Warranty

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  • frankfan42

    The Connie is a great bike. Yeah, cruise would be nice, but there is an awful lot to like here and yeah, a throttle twist cruise lock is ok, but not the same. I have a Kawi and love it.

  • Stuki

    I personally feel Kawasaki’s dual valve setup provides the, across the board, best throttle of any setup by any make anywhere. Compared to any RbW I have sampled, it is simultaneously either 98% as smooth or smoother on-off; while having a much, much livelier, more responsive and more natural feel. I can fully understand the reluctance to throw away all that optimization, and likely go backwards for at least a few generations, just to obtain cruise control.

    Compared to twins like the RT, the lack of significant amplitude vibrations in 4cyl motors, also makes it less work to hand hold a constant throttle. As long as the road is reasonably smooth, simply resting a palm on the grip, is enough to keep the throttle steady. While on some/many/most/all? twins, the vibrations will slowly but surely let the return spring do it’s work and you have to regrip and get annoyed. Ditto for throttle locks.

    But still, with Kawi supposedly realizing the big buck market is where profits are (25-50K H2(r)….. ), they could have offered a Goldwing style, mechanical throttle, Cruise option for those willing to bear the cost. Even if it was a $2K upcharge and required a preorder.

  • GS1100GK

    I can appreciate Kawasaki’s upgrades to the current bike to “polish” it. Changing to RBW is a very large R&D expense for sure and I have no doubt it will come some day. I have an 09 C-14 ABS model that I added heated grips, much larger windscreen, top trunk, reflashed ECU to liven up the low end, and no linked brakes. Granted, the bike does not have traction control (my right wrist works just fine) or ECO mode (the ECU reflash is giving me 15% more mpg) and I have done just fine without those features.
    I was hoping for a good reason to trade for a 15 model. If Kawasaki would had offered a version of the ZX-14R 1441cc motor that may have done it. I guess I will have to keep waiting or opt for an FJR or RT now to get cruise control and electronic suspension. :(

    • http://www.mymotorrad.com/ james lagnese

      Nothing wrong with an RT. It’s a lot lighter than the C14 and has a lot more features. As much as I have been a team green fan, you get what you pay for. The C14 is a value based bike. Nothing in this article changes that.

      • Rick Vera

        The FJR is also a “value-based bike,” it’s just a much better value. Building a bike to a price point doesn’t exempt it from comparison and critique.

      • WTF

        The other side of value based is over priced. But I don’t think either apply to C14 or the RT.

  • Craig Hoffman

    Does the C14 engine even notice hills? Cruise is nice, but the lack of it is not a deal breaker for me as these are motorcycles, not cars. I like cable actuated throttles. RBW tends to be “digital” in response.

    The price drop and incentives sound pretty good. This is a lot of bike for the money.

    • dustysquito .

      Cruise control would be nice for long highway rides where you just want to give your right hand a rest for a little bit. Also, with a massive engine like that, you can quickly go way over the limit and find yourself in trouble with the LEO’s. I’ve never owned a bike with it, but I’ve had many, many long days where I would have killed for it.

      • Evans Brasfield

        I never liked cruise control until RbW became common. I was never comfortable with how the throttle grip would roll back and forth in my hand as the CC adjusted speed. With RbW that’s been negated. Also, on the FJR, the CC could be disengaged by sharply rolling off the throttle which I’ve found to be a much more intuitive way to regain control of the throttle.

        • http://www.mymotorrad.com/ james lagnese

          So Evans, you’ll have to tell why the reps from Kawasaki are so stone deaf. It’s not only the C14, but the Vulcan line as well. Kawasaki makes changes to motorcycles or doesn’t and in either case never asks what the customer wants. They are the antithesis of HD in this way. I owned a Nomad before switching to a BMW and I had been hoping for something good with the model redesigns. Anyway, I am not alone. A lot of riders in a Vulcan org I belong to have switched to something else. Victory and HD seem to top the list. The leadership in the org has had contact with Kawasaki and discussed what hasn’t worked. They don’t care. Not a whit. I just don’t understand where the ignorance comes from. In effect, they see themselves as a value based product and expect that brand loyalty doesn’t exist, so they expect customers to move on, so the turnover is acceptable. That’s crazy.

          • GhostRider25

            I don’t get that either. I tried a Connie and it was a good bike, but I hated the brakes. And it turned like a tank. I’m on a Victory Vision now. Best thing I ever did.

          • Rick Vera

            I’m glad I’m not the only one that thinks that. I know the the big conc has always been lambasted by moto-journalists for its heavy handling, but I think it’s so bad that many-o-cruisers transition better as I’m guessing that was your experience as well. Sure, the Concourse 14 can hold the corner better and leans over further, but the side-to-side transitioning… garbage. When I was considering a used FJR, I tried a new one at Wildwood during a motorcycle event, and I even that handled slowly. I hopped on the V Star 1300 and 950 right after and though those transitioned much better. Sure, it has a more relaxed rake, but I’m guessing the leverage in the wide bars more than makes up for it.

            I’ve a 950 Tourer now and I love it, but I am ready for something more sporting. I would like a sport-tourer, but I’m afraid their sporting quotient isn’t really high enough (or at least in the direction I’m concerned about, low-speed handling not high-speed sweepers). I would like a Versys 1000 LT as these adv-bikes seem to have the weight and riding triangle more in favor for that low-speed fun, but at 5’6″, I can’t mount those things. I would consider a mid-size sport-tourer, but so far I’m afraid they’re all falling short in value. I’d also consider a sport bike turn it sport-tourer, like a VFR1200F, but unless I can grab one on the cheap, that is a pricey prospect. That leaves me with cruisers again. Even though I want something sportier, I’m aware that my Star is particularly lacking in the lean-angle department, even amongst its own ilk. With that, a Moto Guzzi California or a pre-owned Vision definitely has my attention.

            How do you like your Vision?

          • Kevin Duke

            A BMW F800GT or Honda Interceptor seem like good fits for what you’re looking for.

          • Rick Vera

            Those bike’s are definitely on my shortlist, Kevin. I’m just having trouble rationalizing their price over bikes like FJR, especially with new 2013/2014 leftovers hovering around $12,000¹. There are some prices of VFR800s that best those prices by $1k², but after adding appropriate accessories, it’s still an equally expensive prospect while having less kit (drive shaft, adjustable screen, cruise, etc).

            Also, as the BMW F800GT has no similar discounts, the Bavarian motorrad becomes almost priced out of the game. Unlike the full-size sport-tourers where I can see how the R1200 & K1600 are a legitimately superior product, I don’t have the same feelings for the F800.

            So my mental stress derives from trying to rectify these two different qualities. Do I purchase the bike that’s probably more fun to ride but has less kit? Will the left hemisphere of my brain really allow me to go forward with a five-figure purchase like that? Or do I go for the more sensible and content-loaded bike at the price of it not exactly having the riding dynamics I was looking for? This is why I was waiting with bated breath for the FJ-09. I was really hoping for a 2/3rds scale FJR1300 but alas it wasn’t exactly that.

            With all that said, the bike that probably has my top mental spot is the Ninja 1000. The prices for a 2014 (first year for touring-friendly upgrades) is cheap enough to, after throwing bags on and the like, not have that “I could’ve bought an FJR” voice in the back of my mind while still (I’m hoping) provide the riding dynamic I’m looking for. Although not as posh as the Interceptor, it’ll save me from the rather pricey valve-lash adjustment one has to deal with for having those VTEC heads.

            1. http://www.cycletrader.com/Yamaha-Fjr1300-Motorcycles-in-Absecon—-New-and-Used-Motorcycles-on-CycleTrader.com/search-results?type=356953&make=Yamaha|2321194&model=Fjr1300|764862751&year=2013:2015&modelkeyword=1&zip=08205&radius=400&sort=price:asc&newsort=1

            2. http://www.cycletrader.com/Honda-Vfr800-Motorcycles-in-Absecon—-New-and-Used-Motorcycles-on-CycleTrader.com/search-results?type=356953&make=Honda|2316874&model=Vfr800|764948841&year=2014:2015&modelkeyword=1&zip=08205&radius=400&sort=price:asc&newsort=1

            3. http://www.cycletrader.com/Kawasaki-Ninja-1000-1000-Motorcycles-in-Absecon—-New-and-Used-Motorcycles-on-CycleTrader.com/search-results?type=356953&make=Kawasaki|2318344&model=Ninja+1000|764858052&trim=1000|1721&year=2014:2015&modelkeyword=1&zip=08205&radius=400&sort=price:asc&newsort=1

          • lcicenine

            BMW dealers and mechanics are few and far between.

          • GhostRider25

            Rick, many apologies for not replying! I absolutely LOVE my Vision. I have 11,000 miles on her now and it’s just a joy to ride. 600, 700 mile days are a piece of cake on this machine, and the range is fantastic. With the cruise on in top gear I am enjoying 50-51 miles per gallon, which translates to about 275 miles per tank. Weather and wind protection is outstanding and if you find yourself in the twisties you can have a lot of fun on this bike as the handling is pretty amazing for a bike of this size. Slow speed handling is just as good. It was definitely the right choice for me.

          • lcicenine

            Sorry but the Victory Vision has to be the ugliest bike on the road.

          • John B.

            Henry Ford said, “If, before the automobile was invented, we asked customers what they wanted, they would have said faster horses.” Did customers ever ask for the iPhone, iPad, Facebook, or Ebay? Innovators bring to market products consumers don’t realize they need.

          • http://www.mymotorrad.com/ james lagnese

            Kawasaki isn’t building anything transformative from a motorcycle to ????. I doubt BMW will either. That said, HD does a good job of asking people what they want and that included up and coming customers. I’ve actually done a survey for Victory and BMW. Never did one for a jap bike manufacturer and like I said, the vulcan org I belong to was never approached to ask what they would want in an updated vulcan. Never, not anecdotally, incidentally or through a survey.

  • JMDonald

    I’m sure a little extra weight somehow helps out on the freeway. I just can’t get by these bikes weighing so much. I’ve tried every rationalization I can think of.

  • Vijay Ranganathan

    With these heavy bikes, a reverse gear to back up against the unfortunate upward slopes would be nice. Still riding ST100 which weighs similar to this, I would have saved a few embarrassments asking help from strangers :) Once in Sedona, we could not find proper parking easily and without paying attention parked with a upward slope behind me. I had to take help of two strangers to pull it off the camber :) But since then I have become wise, and always look for ways to pull out before I park.

    I would care for this feature more than cruise control. Nice bike, very tempting.

  • WTF

    Kawasaki must be rushing with their cruise system as well, but it must be half baked at the moment. It does put their offerings look worse than others in the same category.
    In ’08 it looked like they were killing it with all the right specs, but it sure looks worse (IMHO) than the others… I don’t have cruise on my daily ride, but I would kill for one. Next ride has to have it, just so sweet to be able to rest the wrist on a 8+ hour ride…

  • Wade Nelson

    I ride a 2009. Your report is spot-on. Models prior to 2010 absolutely cook the ankles of riders. And I”m seriously considering an FJR as my next bike because Kawi won’t add cruise control. Or listen, apparently.

  • John B.

    I surmise business constraints prevent motorcycle journalists from comparing motorcycles based on out-the-door pricing as opposed to MSRP. In Irving (Dallas Metro), Texas you can purchase a 2014 Concours for $14,174 out-the-door, and a new 2013 Concours for $13,643 out-the-door (Google it!). Similarly, a 2014 ZX-14 costs $13,324 out-the-door. That is to say, you can buy a new Concours, a new ZX-14, and a hawaiian vacation for less than the out-the-door cost of a BMW 1600-GT. It seems one’s budget, and not cruise control or other technology, is the critical factor in this category. Does the market need another high price, high technology heavyweight sport tourer, or are consumers better off with the current Concours iteration and its amazing bang for the buck?

  • Buzz

    You’re supposed to let me know when you have an intro in Carlsbad.

    I make good bbq.

    Sean looked like Duke until he met me.

    • Evans Brasfield

      Sounds like a plan. Hopefully, it’ll be for a cruiser event since they respond better to road-holding weight!

  • Wade Nelson

    Probably the best-written review of the Connie I’ve ever read. The writer clearly knows the bike’s strong and weak points, AS WELL as what owners want — cruise control! Heat flow on the pre-2010’s would give bare legs 1st degree burns and cook ankles even in jeans in summertime. You simply have to be 5’10 or better to flatfoot this bike; I’m 5’9, I know. And it’s exceedingly top heavy making for “interesting” low-speed maneuvering. The KiPASS combo fob/key system is an expensive nightmare for owners who would prefer, in large #’s, just a simiple key. Fortunately the RAPID depreciation on this bike means 2 and 3 year olds are available for a song. There’s NOTHING like a Concours, it’s a rocketship on wheels. But perfect? No. Go visit the Concours Owners Group for more information, adoration and gripes.

  • doc

    After a 4 year hiatus from riding I am ready to jump back in. Had an Electra Glide before but now I want to try something different. My budget allows me to consider these three bikes: The C14, FJR ES and Versys 1000 LT.
    I like the C14. Bad boy of the bunch. Big headlights are a plus for the clueless cagers out there. As well as protection from the elements from the big fairing. I test sat on a ’14 and ’15 and the seat is much better on the ’15. I can easily flat foot this bike with the new style seat. I am a little concerned about the weight though. But coming from an 800+lb Harley I think I can manage it. I’ve never had CC on a bike. Can’t miss something you never had, as I see it.

    A very, very close 2nd is the FJR. I feel just a little cramped on the FJR. However I like the fit and finish and technology on the ES model. Plus the bullet proof reputation of the FJR. But no 6 speed??? Have to look into this one further.

    3rd is the Versys 1000LT. Like the price point. Looks kinda grow on you. 2 headlights and only 1 lights up on low beam? Whats up with that? Highest bike of the 3, like being in a pickup truck…lol Step up to the passenger seat may be a problem for wifey. Real comfortable seating though.

    Bottom line is wifey needs to be happy on the back of one of these bikes. If she thumbs down them all then it’s back to square one.

  • lcicenine

    I just bought a new untitled 2014 C14 in Candy Cardinal Red for $13,900.00 OTD with the rear trunk, adapter, and backrest included. I absolutely love this bike and have no regrets. I could care less about cruise control or electronic suspension. To me that’s just more electronics to go bad. A new 2016 FJR 1300ES is probably close to $20,000.00 OTD depending on the government tax theft rate in your state. For a $6,000.00 savings plus it will blow away the FJR I’ll take the Connie any day. That extra weight on the highway is also nice to have when passing a semi. I have no problem with the brakes or handling at any speed. The best parts are the candy red is beautiful in the sun plus this bike is a f’n rocket in every gear.