test: Kawasaki 1400 GTR-News & Reviews-Motorcycle Trader

30 Jan 2015 | umbhali: | kwamazwana on test: Kawasaki 1400 GTR-News & Reviews-Motorcycle Trader
Kawasaki Concours 14 / 1400 GTR

09 Feb 2012 | From our test archivesthe ultimate sports tourer?

amagama: Rob Blackbourn; Pix: Stuart Grant

When Kawasaki’s big shaft-drive tourer, i 1400 GTR, was first introduced in 2007 it had some pretty substantial shoes to fill for the ‘Big K’ brand. Its predecessor, i 1000 GTR, also a ‘shaftie’, had won a lot of admirers among sports-tourer riders over a model life that ran for a very impressive 19 years from its introduction in 1986.

BLURRING THE BOUNDARY

The introduction of the 1400 GTR in 2007 added a new dimension to traditional expectations about touring bike performance. While it arrived on the scene with a bunch of pukka tourer features – hard panniers, electrically-adjustable screen, shaft-drive and comfort-focussed rider and passenger accommodation – the calibre of its mechanical package suggested that the design team had been briefed to make it capable of giving sportsbikes a bit of hurry up.

Its awesome 1352cc powerplant featuring variable valve-timing, is a detuned version of the one that powers the Hayabusa-challenging, fire-breathing Ninja ZX-14. Smaller diameter throttle bodies and overall re-calibration of the engine make it more suitable for carrying two people and luggage on long trips, than for launching a big Ninja down drag strips in sub-10 second times.

The changes however, have by no means emasculated the engine; it still produces peak power of 115kW (over 150 horses in the old money…). If we were to enjoy the freedom’s of our European cousins to explore its high-speed capabilities on appropriate roads, we could check Kawasaki’s claim that the effect of ram-air on its induction system would liberate another 3.4kW (around five more horses). Clearly the 1400 is right up there in the power stakes with BMW’s magnum tourer, the K 1300 GT.

It claims around 160hp.

The chassis, again conceptually similar to that of the ZX-14, is of aluminium monocoque construction.

At the front it sports impressive 43mm inverted forks with adjustable spring-preload and rebound damping. The Tetra-lever parallel-link swingarm incorporating the driveshaft, is controlled by a Kawasaki Uni-Trak monoshock with remote hydraulic spring pre-load adjustment as well as adjustable rebound damping.

Brakes are heavy-duty kit employing radial-mount calipers for the twin front ‘petal-style’ discs.

A detail like the adjustable back-torque limiting (slipper) clutch to smooth the drive-train’s response to on/off throttle situations in traffic – as well as allowing rapid down changes without fear of rear wheel lock-up – is also impressive.

WHAT’S NEW FOR 2010?

This year’s 1400 GTR while remaining more or less unchanged in its basic architecture, has picked up a bunch of hi-tech features that Kawasaki collectively calls: ‘Advanced rider support technology’.

Traction control (KTRC):

This is Kawasaki’s first traction-control system. It’s not designed to imitate the systems we see in MotoGP now, that enable riders to use full throttle to drive out of corners on full lean without the risk of a big spit-off. This system’s job is to keep the back wheel tidy under power in low-grip conditions like wet tram lines, manhole covers and on grass or unsealed roads.

When it detects the back wheel trying to spin faster than the front for any reason it intervenes in three ways – retarding ignition timing, reducing fuel supply and reducing intake air flow. This combination of interventions is intended to give a smooth result.

Although the system is always active when you start the bike, it can be switched off.

Second generation ABS (K-ACT):

This new system combines the anti-lock function with a variable linking of front and rear brakes.

K-ACT doesn’t offer the ‘switch off’ option but is switchable between two modes that vary the proportion of front brake ‘linked-effect’ that occurs with partial application of rear brake pedal.

Interestingly, although Kawasaki tells us that the system is adapted from that fitted to its Vulcan 1700 Voyager, it explains that the 1400 GTR version uses ‘sportier’ (read: less linked-effect) settings.

To help with tight slow turns and U-turns the linked-effect doesn’t operate under 20km/h and the ABS effect cuts out altogether below 6km/h.

Selectable fuel economy assistance mode:

A selector button on the front of the LH switchblock allows this feature to be activated or switched off.

It brings into play a leaner fuel-map for the engine-management system. For it to be effective, we’re told the rider has to be gentle with the bike. Kawasaki’s version of gentle is defined as keeping engine revs under 6000rpm; using less than 30 per cent throttle opening and keeping the bike’s speed under 160km/h.

Comfort and convenience items:

In addition to these headline items the 2010 GTR features a number of more mundane, but nevertheless welcome changes aimed at making the riding experience easier and more pleasant.

Stepless hand-grip heating:

A rotary switch near the LH glove box allows riders to choose their preferred amount of grip-heating.

Screen and fairing changes:

The electrically-adjustable screen is now 70mm higher and wider at the top than last year’s version. The fairing shape and construction has been modified for better high-speed stability and also to reduce the amount of engine heat that finds its way to the rider and passenger.

The mirrors sit 40mm higher than previously to lift their field of view more above the standard-fitment panniers.

Tank-bag friendly glove box:

The self locking glove box has been moved from the top of the tank to the top of the LH fairing.

Suspension refinements:

Some subtle adjustments have also been made to the GTR’s suspension specifications. We understand that the front suspension damping has been beefed up while the rear’s performance has been made more supple with the use of a slightly lower-rate spring with higher initial preload.

Check out the US Kawasaki site for more detail about these features at: www.kawasaki.com.

Note that for the US market the 1400 GTR is called the Concours 14.

ON THE ROAD

As you mount the fully-faired, twin-panniered 1400 GTR, you’re immediately conscious that it’s a big motorcycle.

Sensors in Kawasaki’s Intelligent Proximity Activation Start System (KIPASS) detect the key fob in your jacket and disarm the immobiliser. With the fob still in your pocket, you can unlock the steering, switch the ignition on and fire up the engine.

The size and weight of the bike require a bit of concentration as you manoeuvre it out between parked cars and get set to blend with the traffic. Once you’re rolling it’s all good.

It’s ergonomically spot-on for touring, accommodating you comfortably behind a fairing and screen that give good weather protection.

All controls are well placed and easy to use. The cutch and gearshift operation are just fine.

The brakes are excellent with heaps of power and good feedback. The GTR’s partial linking and ABS suited the bike well in all riding conditions. I’m a fan of linked brakes for two-up touring. It makes good use of the extra grip at the rear that’s available due to the passenger’s weight while reducing weight transfer under hard braking.

The latest ABS systems in general (and this one) are so refined compared with ‘clunky’ earlier examples.

Around town the feel of the suspension – more firm than sumptuous – gives a clue to the bike’s ultimate potential more so than the engine’s response. Despite the variable valve-timing the big donk doesn’t do anything remarkable at traffic speeds. It feels docile, almost soft.

But once you make a break and pass through 5000rpm, it rewards you with fierce acceleration and a really pleasing snarl as the tacho needle surges toward the power peak around 9000rpm, then beyond. Now the claimed power figure becomes credible as does the wickedly fast reputation of the motorcycle.

My mention of the tachometer prompts me to praise the GTR’s continued use of analogue clocks for both tacho and speedo. They’re so easy to read at a glance in any light conditions unlike most digital speedos that can be difficult to read.

The bike’s handling is excellent. It’s extremely stable at speed and consumes sweeping bends very satisfyingly, whether solo or fully loaded.

In really tight twisties, though, the rider has to work a bit harder. The big machine needs a firm, deliberate push on the inside bar at the tip-in point before it drops obediently into its arc through the bend, which it then holds tenaciously, dealing with any bumps impressively. For strong drive out of tight bends you need to do more gear changing than you would expect with a big engine, to keep it on the boil.

This also happens at highway speeds where you need to kick it down a gear or two for really swift passes – at 100km/h in top gear she’s only pulling 3000rpm, well short of her sweet zone.

Kawasaki Concours 14 / 1400 GTR
Kawasaki Concours 14 / 1400 GTR

In re-calibrating the engine for touring purposes it’s surprising that Kawasaki didn’t go further with the process of bolstering low to mid-range grunt – even at the expense of some of its towering top-end reserves.

Fuel consumption averaged about 16km/lt. (6.25 lt/100km) for riding consisting of country backroads work plus some commuting. So the big 1400 likes a drop of juice. It would undoubtedly deliver better economy on extended highway touring. Highway travel would also allow the ‘fuel economy assistance mode’ to be used.

A highway touring range of at least 350km would seem to be realistic.

Headlight performance is tops. It’s great on low and high beams.

I was also impressed by the revisions to the screen and fairing. The screen worked well for me at minimising turbulence when adjusted to a high position.

TECH-CHECK REPORT

My overall comment is that the presence of the KTRC traction control and K-ACT brake technology was a nice ‘peace of mind’ bonus.

Once you load a touring bike and head off on a decent trip you have to deal with whatever turns up, be it nasty weather or the state of the roads in unfamiliar areas. With a full load on board it’s reassuring to have these safety systems in the background when conditions get tricky.

As it happens I didn’t need the systems to intervene on our trip, but I did provoke them here and there by way of testing. It was all good – the technology was unobtrusive and responded as required when put to the test.

I can report that the KTRC system got cranky with me and flashed its warning light aggressively at my behaviour when I got a bit of air under both wheels off a crest at speed.

Here’s a surprising omission: This purpose-designed touring bike, easily capable of 1000km days, that even features electronic tyre-pressure monitoring, isn’t equipped with electronic cruise-control. Quite odd, that.

The mirrors, although better positioned for 2010, still require the rider to deliberately look down to hand level to use them; that’s not so good in traffic. Conventional high-set mirrors give you all the information you need from a quick glance.

The panniers deserve a big tick – no leaks, plenty of capacity and they are so easy to attach or remove.


AND IN CLOSING…

the 1400 GTR is an excellent, well-equipped, high-performance touring motorcycle. It delivers a comfortable and enjoyable experience for both rider and passenger, regardless of the journey’s length.

Its use of technology is most impressive.

It’s a high-performance bike in any company. Touring-style motorcycles don’t come any faster than this.

SPEX

ENGINE

Type: Liquid-cooled, ezine-valve, DOHC, in-line four-cylinder

Capacity: 1352cc

Bore x stroke: 84 x 61mm

Compression ratio: 10.7:1

Fuel system: Digital EFI

TRANSMISSION

Type: Six-speed, constant-mesh

CHASSIS AND RUNNING GEAR

Frame type: aluminium monocoque

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