For those of you who don’t know, I bought another bike. It’s not intended to replace the R1, it’s to go along side it. For now, anyway. This isn’t something I needed, it’s something I wanted to do. You’ll likely know that one of my current hobbies and focuses is Long Distance (LD) motorcycle riding. This started when I bought the R1 and I was looking for something fun and challenging to do on it, which wasn’t racing. – I was amazed when I found the Iron Butt Association (IBA) online and read through their site and the stories of their members. It was my kind of crazy and I loved the sound of it.
The appeal was initially in the preparation and the planning, then it quickly turned to the actual doing. Our first LD ride was probably the most fun, that was in March last year.
A few months later the IBA held their two-yearly event, their Iron Butt Rally (IBR). This was spectacular to follow. It’s 11 consecutive days where the 120 or so riders plan and execute their rides against an ever changing set of Rally rules, picking up bonus points from marked locations in their Rally books, all in line with convoluted scoring rules, multipliers based on categories etc – throughout the USA and Canada. They typically ride around 1000 miles per day for 11 days, sleeping where and when they can grab a nap, but largely existing on perhaps 3 hrs of sleep on average per day. This event actually holds no appeal for me to personally want to try to enter it. But to follow the mad men and women was amazing.
Why am I mentioning this? Because it sewed a seed which then grew in my head like an ear worm. A lot of the info on the IBR was just fragments of pieces which you could find online like clips uploaded to YouTube by members of the public. One of which was of the IBR start. – seeing those amazing machines leaving the Marriott’s car park in a 120+ bike procession, each of which was so well prep’d was very impressive. I can remember thinking after watching it; wow, there’s some really serious bikes there.
There was a real mix: adventure bikes, large Japanese touring bikes, Harleys, and a sidecar outfit with three people on it – yes, they finished the IBR, amazing. Of the large Japanese touring bikes, the big chunky looking Kawasaki stood out to me. Now I’m a Yamaha fan, I have been for the last 20 years, but that chunky beast appealed more to me than the more delicate looking Yamaha FJR. To be clear, this has zero to do with practicality, it was based purely on style – I’ve always liked Clarke’s Shoes, same reason: they’re chunky and solid looking.
So, this planted the seed. Fast forward 8-9 months… I’ve done another Saddle Sore, this time with Nigel on his BMW RT1200R, a fully faired with large adjustable windscreen bike with panniers and top box. I’ve ridden with Nigel before but not for such long periods and over long distances. It just looked so much more practical and suited to the long kms… he managed to stay sheltered from the wind, his tank range was almost twice mine, his riding position wasn’t heavy on his arms or wrists… it just made sense. During that ride, I got it. I understood that there was something to be said for the alternative style of touring bikes.
I’ve never owned one of these before. The closest I’ve come would have been the Yamaha Diversion 600 which we hired once to ride down to Le Mans on. Initially I hated that bike, but by the time we were done, I had come to like it.
At the end of March this year I rode my third 1600km ride within 24 hrs. This time was the first time as an unaccompanied ride. The other major difference was the time of year and the weather. I rode through 1 degree winds over the desert road. Being alone while riding through that was hard, and this was the very first time when I truly thought that being on a better suited bike was called for.
So you put the ear worm together with the experience with Nigel, then throw in some self-pity and cold and all of a sudden – I want to buy a Concours 1400. It took me a grand total of 9 weeks to act on this.
So the Concours is a big and heavy bike. It weighs over 300kg, the R1 comparatively is ~210kg. The C14 hasn’t changed much in its 10 year long run as a 1400cc beast. Kawasaki have in their wisdom aimed to bring in a much sportier, supercharged alternative model which does not look particularly pillion friendly, the dealers here have stopped stocking the Concours on the showroom floors for the past two years. They’ll bring them into NZ only if you put money down on an order. Since this is very much a specialised bike there are few around and even fewer for sale so getting any chance to test ride one before I had made up my mind to want one was impossible.
When the right bike came up at the right price within travelling distance I had to go and check it out. It was up in Whangarei. The seller was only available at the weekend and so we had to book our meeting and then stick to it. Unfortunately the weather was terrible and so it really hampered my ability to take it for a decent test ride. Really all I could do was check that it was running in a mechanically sound manner and then take a punt.
So this is all an experiment for me, to see ‘how I take to it’. I don’t really have any preconceived ideas or expectations, apart from that I know it’s heavy. I had hoped that the large 1400cc engine would deliver heaps of low down torque, but it’s very tame and gentle.
People online regularly say, but what about that engine? It’s got a heap of power… but then I’ve been commuting and doing LD rides on an R1. 65% the weight, and with more power. It actually has more torque too.
But it’s a different bike, for different riding. And now that I’ve got one I am determined to give this a really good go. I’m starting to order the parts I want to fit to the bike to make it mine.
- The tank bag has been fitted.
- I’ve put protective vinyl on the tank and on the panniers to help prevent scuffing.
- I’ve shifted my levers to the right position for me.
- I’ve changed the final drive oil after some issues with the existing oil coming out of the breather. It was over filled.
- I’ve been tweaking the suspension settings trying to get it to just be settled, I can’t stand any hint of wallowing.
- I’ve been using rainX on the screen to try to shift some of the rain away.
- I’ve been playing with carbon wrap.
- Throttle lock and cramp buster were both must haves.
- Oil and filter change next.
- Phone and gps mounts are needed too along with wiring for charging.
- I have a Slip-On Exhaust on order- it is so very quiet right now.
So do I like it? The answer is a firm yes, I wouldn’t be spending additional money customising it if I wasn’t confident that I’d fully embrace it. What I have on my list above is all geared toward making it a really special and properly suited touring bike, for me. 🙂
South Island here we come, 2019!!! One of the biggest potential benefits is being able to take Stella on the back again. Something we’ve not enjoyed in the last 20yrs as we’ve only owned sports bikes with ridiculously small pillion seats.