Kawasaki ZG1400 - $13,995
Twenty-one years since its introduction in 1986, Kawasaki has finally seen fit to reinvent the venerable Concours. Sure, it made a few refinements to the ZG1000 during those years, but the 2008 Concours here with factory ABS--is an all new motorcycle based on the street shredding Ninja ZX-14 sportbike. As such it’s got a decidedly sporty side, yet this is not just a ZX-14 with higher handlebars. The Concours 14 has been purpose-built for long-distance travel in comfort—it also just happens to have the handling, braking and cojones of Kawasaki’s largest kick-butt sportbike, nearly a liter-and-a-half in size. Kawasaki used several innovations to better suit the ZX-14’s liquid-cooled, transverse, 1,352cc in-line four to touring without robbing it of too much top-end fire. As you might expect, the bores in the four throttle bodies have been narrowed from 44mm to 40mm for increased intake velocity and better low- and midrange throttle response. Ignition, fuel injection and exhaust were all refined for smoother power delivery, and Kawasaki went a step further by adding Variable Valve Timing, or VVT, which hydraulically advances or retards the intake cam in response to engine speed and throttle position. The dual gear-driven balancers and hydraulic cam-chain tensioners from the ZX-14 were retained, all of which results in a smooth, locomotivelike powerplant that pulls hard from a 2,500-rpm crawl all the way up to its redline of 10,500 rpm. All-day comfort with a kind of always-ready-for-a-corner feel describes the Concours’ seating position. Mostly upright with just a slight amount of weight on the wrists, the comfortable seat lets you move around easily, and the windscreen can be used to increase warmth or cooling as well as take some weight off your wrists by increasing the windblast on your chest with a button push. It’s a fine ergonomic combination that is supremely comfortable (except perhaps for the heat at times) and instills confidence in attack mode. Passengers are neither too close nor too far away, and don’t slide around or bump your head, partly because it’s so easy to ride the bike smoothly.
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