No one would argue that the FJR is a good sport-touring motorcycle, but there has to be a winner in these contests, and by the narrowest of margins the judges' scorecards give the Kawasaki Concours 14 the nod with a 2-1 decision. Why the Concours? Basically because where the Yamaha was good, the Concours was just that little bit better. Straight away we noticed that the seating position struck a perfect balance between the narrow BMW and the wide Yamaha. Reach to the bars felt natural, and the overall aerodynamics shielded us best from the wind. The Concours' 1352cc engine, plucked straight from the ZX-14, had us smitten with glee each time the throttle was turned. The 136.4-horsepower mill turned out 91.3 ft-lb of torque, and the fuel injection was silky smooth. That power gets to the ground via six forward gears that most of our testers found to be crisp and the best of the bunch, even with a slightly tall first gear.
Unfortunately another trait the Connie inherited from its ZX-14 cousin is unusually high steering effort, once past initial turn-in. From vertical it takes but a flicker to initiate a turn. But to lean the bike any farther requires a great deal of bar input for it to maintain a line and remain on its side. Thinking this might have been a ride-height issue, front preload was adjusted to near maximum. This helped, but the problem still remained. Oddly, this phenomenon was at its worst when braking for a corner, as the bike would start to stand up. Entering a turn under neutral throttle helped, but blasting through a turn on the gas was the only way to make the problem virtually disappear. It's possible further fiddling with the suspension could cure the issue, but as it stands the Connie's handling received demerit points from all three testers. Unfortunate, because besides that the suspension was actually the most sporty of the bunch with its firm yet compliant damping.
The Concours did win top honors for its brakes. The 310mm petal-type rotors, the smallest in this group, are mated to four-piston Nissin calipers. Like the others, our bike came with ABS. Unlike the others, the brakes are not linked. Initial bite is excellent and power is linear.
As mentioned earlier the Concours ergos were the most comfortable, and the bodywork aerodynamics provided the best pocket for the rider. It also has the most informative and user-friendly gauge cluster of the trio-the instruments are easy to read, and the trip computer even has a tire-pressure monitor.
Kawasaki Concours 14
The instruments on all three bikes are big and well lit. When adjusting different settings on the BMW like the ESA, weird symbols such as helmets and suitcases signify what position it's in. That takes some getting used to. The Yamaha's speedometer takes center stage, and the LCD display to the right is clear and concise. Kawasaki's on-board computer is also easy to read and displays a clock, a fuel gauge, an odometer, two tripmeters, gear position and even a tire-pressure monitor.
It's surprising Kawasaki hasn't equipped the Concours with heated grips-something buyers have come to expect from this segment. A few other niggles we noticed: Seat height and bars aren't adjustable, the mirrors are placed too low for the rider's line of sight and the view is partially blocked by the large saddlebag. Also, we noticed a slight engine heat stemming from the right side of the bike. Minor details, really.
Looking at the big picture, there are no losers in this test. Learn to trust the BMW and it won't let you down. If handling is more important than power, then Yamaha has just what you're looking for. In fact the FJR put up an excellent fight, giving the Concours a run for its money and even winning over one tester. But sometimes size does matter. In this case the monster engine of the Kawasaki coupled with its smooth fuel injection, perfect ergonomics and almost perfect handling seals the deal for Team Green. But only just.