A successful tour by motorcycle around our very large country requires a reliable and comfortable motorcycle with modern safety features such as anti-block brakes. It also needed to be robust and sturdy to carry me (260 lb/118 kg) plus my luggage (150 lb/69 kg) safely.
In July 2010 I learned about a low-mileage 2008 model of the Kawasaki Concours 14 at Florida Sports Cycle, the Kawasaki dealer in Stuart, Florida. Upon seeing it there and doing some online research, I decided to buy it since the price was reasonable and I could resell it, if my earlier enthusiasm for motorcycling had waned. The salesman took this photo of me as I was taking delivery on July 28, 2010.
Over the next several months, I rode it extensively around south Florida and decided that my enthusiasm for motorcycling had certainly not waned. After meeting and riding with other motorcyclists who ride similar sport-touring models, I began to formulate plans for a tour around the country.
As part of the preparation, I did extensive research to learn more about the Kawasaki Concours and the possible differences between model years. Additionally I considered whether other motorcycle brands and models might be better and had the opportunity to try a 2004 BMW R1150RT motorcycle for two months. On a short day ride with friends, I rode a Honda ST1300 for a while. Although both of those are excellent touring motorcycles, the Kawasaki Concours remained my first choice.
On a Saturday in January 2011, I stopped by the dealer in Stuart and discovered a very low-mileage, dark-blue, 2010 Concours 14 in the showroom, as shown in this photo. After
returning home and doing some additional research, I decided that the technical improvements of the 2010 model over my 2008 model would justify trading up. In particular I was impressed by the capabilities of the new traction control system. Then on Tuesday I started negotiations for a trade-in. We came to an agreement and on January 27th I took delivery.
Although this new motorcycle was equipped with saddlebags as well as the Corbin seat with Smuggler storage case, my journey would require additional storage as well as several very important accessories to improve safety and navigation. Thus the next several months were busy with preparations.
These are the various modifications that I identified and implemented:
- Horns – FIAMM El Grande since the stock horns sounded much too puny
- Windshield – CeeBailey’s tall Ultra Tour Dome for better protection from rain and bugs
- Reflective decals improve nighttime visibility for other drivers
- CB radio – J&M CB2003 for communications with other group riders
- Back-Off XP brake light modulator flashes the tail light to alert following drivers
- Throttlemeister holds the throttle position and eases wrist strain
- Handlebar risers reposition the handlebars to a more comfortable height
- Sturdier luggage rack to accommodate a top case
- Givi model E460N top case
- Escort 9500ix radar detector
- Garmin Zumo 665 GPS navigation
- Electronic cruise control from MC Cruise, bought through a US dealer
- Slider kit from Projektd.com to protect fairing and saddlebags in case of tip-over
- Highway pegs for alternate foot positions (Agostini’s Connie Pegs)
- Motofizz medium camping seat bag
- BeadRider seat cover for better posterior ventilation
Initially I used an HJC SyMax-II helmet, which has a modular design in which the chin bar unlatches so that it can be raised out of the way. This is very handy when trying to chat with other people without removing the helmet. In this helmet I installed the J&M headset that connects by cable to the J&M CB radio.
For my summer trip I bought the Schuberth C3, likewise modular, which although much more expensive is more comfortable and is less noisy than the HJC. Rather than install a second J&M headset in this new helmet, I opted to go with the Sena SMH10 wireless Bluetooth communications system. Unfortunately this did not support use of the J&M CB radio at that time.
Since the Garmin Zumo 665 supports Bluetooth communications, it links well with the Sena SMH10 system for both stereo sound from the XM/Radio and bidirectional mono sound for communication through the Garmin to the cellphone.
I carried a second Sena headset and mount along in case I lost or had any problems with the first unit, or in case a friend wanted to temporarily mount it on his helmet. This allowed us to use the Sena’s intercom link of up to 1 KM for clear, full-duplex communications while we were riding together.
Fully loaded with luggage, the Concours was ready for the trip, as shown in this photo, taken along the Skyline Drive in Virginia.
Many of the accessories need to be mounted on the handlebars for good usability. The following photo shows the rider’s console with the accessories identified. The camera’s view is much lower than in actual use.
This next photo shows the console view while riding at highway speed. Nothing blocks the forward view of the road. This high location for the GPS proved to be quite practical and it also seemed safer than a lower mounting location previously tried since the eye angle between the GPS and the road ahead was significantly narrower.
Although the radar detector’s housing would seem to block the view of critical gauges, the speedometer range from 0 to 110 mph is adequate and can be easily seen. The tachometer’s reading is not important most of the time after getting accustomed to the motorcycle.
My experience over this summer certainly validated my selection of this motorcycle. It has been very reliable, reasonably comfortable, and quite fuel efficient considering my load on it. With its engine power, acceleration both off the line and when passing is very quick. The excellent brakes bring it to a rapid stop. I found handling to be very stable, although with a tendency to pull slightly to the right, regardless of road camber. In corners it feels secure and easily holds a selected line.
Fuel consumption ranged from a low of 34 mpg to a high of 58 mpg, depending on wind, speed and fuel type. Strong headwinds or tailwinds affect consumption very noticeably. Typically I get around 42-48 mpg. On the very few occasions when I was able to obtain ethanol-free 92 octane premium fuel, I noticed about 5% to 10% improvement over 91 octane E-10. When I could only obtain 87 octane regular fuel, the motorcycle ran just as smoothly as with 91 or 92, although with slightly worse fuel economy.
During travel at higher elevations, such as in the Colorado Rockies, the motorcycle ran perfectly well. However, I found it advantageous to keep the engine RPMs higher, and thus in a lower gear, than customary at low elevations, due to the reduction in power.
During my entire trip in 2011, Pirelli Angel ST were my tires of choice. The mileage I achieved with the two front tires averaged around 9,850. The rear tire’s wear was not as good, averaging only 5,950 miles over four tires. On several occasions, the rear tire would appear to have sufficient tread depth for perhaps another 1,000 miles, but would actually start showing the steel belts much sooner. This required me to scramble to locate a shop to mount the replacement tire, which sometimes had to be shipped there overnight.
After my return home, I decided to switch to the Michelin Pilot Road 3, which became my tires of choice for the trips in 2012. Although I didn’t use as many tires as in 2011, I achieved comparable mileage of around 10,000 on the front tire and between 5,000 and 8,000 on the rear tire. Due to the inconvenience getting replacement tires mounted, especially out West, I decided to change the rear tire without waiting until the tire was worn down as far. The rear tires might have lasted another 500 to 1,000 miles or even more. Although the harder compound in the center band on the Michelin tires lasted much longer than on the Pirelli tires, on occasion the remaining tread in that band had little or no remaining depth, even though the softer side bands still had significant tread depth.
On more than one occasion this year I have ridden on dirt or gravel roads with significant washboards. The traction control was very effective in minimizing rear wheel slippage so that I was able to traverse those bad sections easily without fishtailing. I have not yet encountered slippery wet or icy roads to trigger the traction control under those conditions.
For those interested, the technical specifications for my Kawasaki motorcycle are on this page.
Update on September 20, 2012:
As a result of my accident near Woodsfield, Ohio during my Autumn Tour 2012, my 2010 Kawasaki Concours 14 motorcycle was declared “totaled” by my insurance carrier. It had a total of 63,064 miles on the odometer. As soon as I’ve fully recovered from my injuries and am again able to ride, I will buy a replacement motorcycle and resume long-distance touring. During my convalescence period of over several months, I will be researching various models on the market, focusing on sport-touring and dual-sport motorcycles.
Update on November 25, 2012:
My decision on the new motorcycle has been made. I’ve ordered a 2013 Triumph Trophy SE in silver and expect to take delivery in January. This Triumph promotion photo shows it as I expect mine to appear.
Update on January 4, 2013:
In a phone call late on Thursday, the sales manager at the dealer in Stuart, Florida notified me that my new 2013 Triumph Trophy SE had arrived on the 2nd about 11 days earlier than expected. The bike was immediately serviced for delivery. Since it was already late in the day, I visited the shop for “bike night” to finalize the deal, i.e. pay for my new set of wheels. Since I also needed to arrange for insurance and they needed to get the license tag, we agreed that I would actually take delivery on Saturday afternoon. This will also give them a chance to invite other potential customers come in on Friday or Saturday to see it.
Here’s a photo that Rhett, a salesman there, took of me on my new motorcycle. Obviously I will be dressed more appropriately when I take delivery of it.
Update on January 5, 2013:
Today I took delivery of my new Triumph Trophy SE and took it for a good ride. Although I had intended to do about 200 miles, one of my MSTA riding buddies showed up at the dealership to take the new Triumph Tiger Explorer on a demo ride and then suggested we go somewhere for lunch. The weather also turned cloudy and started to rain. Thus I only managed to put 106 miles on the bike today. Tomorrow’s weather will hopefully be better for a lengthy ride. The bike is comfortable and has good performance. I think I will be quite happy with this choice, once I get my GPS and other accessories installed.
Here’s a photo one of salesmen took of me on my new bike just before I suited up and took it out for the first ride.
Update January 11, 2013
After taking delivery of my new Triumph, I was eager to put 500 miles on the odometer by Wednesday, since I had an appointment with the dealer’s service department for “First Service” as part of the break-in period. Following the service visit, I took the bike for a ride on that beautiful afternoon to Port Mayaca along the eastern shore of Lake Okeechobee. While there I took some more photos of the motorcycle. Here’s one of them:
On Thursday I visited Buck Jones in Boynton Beach for installation of my Garmin Zumo 665 GPS unit, my Escort Passport 9500ix radar detector, a new set of Hyper-Lites brake lights, and also a new pair of FIAMM El Grande horns to replace the rather meager standard horn. As much as these nice motorcycles cost these days, you might expect that a decently loud horn would be standard equipment instead of such a pathetic horn.
Update February 5, 2013
During a recent visit by my friend Larry, who lives in Orlando, Florida, I suggested that we video record my motorcycle as I rode by. With Larry as cameraman, I took my new 2013 Triumph Trophy SE motorcycle to a rural road west of town to make several passes to record how the new bike looks and sounds. On one pass I sound the replacement horns, a pair of FIAMM El Grande horns. For comparison another rider rode by on his Harley between two of my passes.
After returning home, I edited the raw video and uploaded it to YouTube. You can view it here:
Update February 8, 2013
On the MSTA forum, I was recently asked to make a ride report on my new motorcycle. I posted the following entry to the forum:
My new 2013 Triumph Trophy SE is very smooth, comfortable, peppy, nimble, and thus far, reliable, and at this moment already has 2,326 miles on the odometer since taking delivery on 1/5/13, thanks to the beautiful riding weather here in southern Florida. The fit and finish seems excellent. In particular I appreciate that the same 5mm Allen-head screws are used extensively to attach the bodywork.
After returning from Ohio following my accident just before the MPFB event last August, I learned that my Kawasaki dealer, Florida Sports Cycle in Stuart, Florida, was adding the Triumph brand. Although I had been quite satisfied with my 2010 Kawasaki Concours 14 over the 19 months that I put nearly 63K on it, I wanted any replacement bike to have factory cruise control. Before making a decision, I waited until the Kawasaki website provided information about the 2013 Concours. As soon as I realized it was essentially the 2010 model in a different shade of blue, I decided that the Triumph Trophy would be my choice, even though I’d seen the bike only in photos and videos.
Visiting the dealer as soon as feasible (and still in a wheelchair), I placed a deposit on my order for the new Trophy with the most of the “launch kit” accessories. Ordering the bike so early with the accessories apparently allowed Triumph to include mine in the production run of demo bikes for the sales reps. This saved me several hundred over adding the extras later. The total cost including Florida’s 6% sales tax and registration came to nearly $23K. A lot of money to pay for something I had only seen in photos and not yet even sat on! During the Barber Vintage Motorcycle event in October, Jim Park (a.k.a. RIDEMYST) had the opportunity to sit on a demo bike and reported his very positive impressions. Since he and I are nearly the same size physically, his opinion was important validation. During the long wait for my foot to heal and the bike to arrive, I could have changed my mind, perhaps switching to the Tiger Explorer or even back to another Concours.
The longest ride on it thus far, about a week after getting the Trophy, was about 460 miles r/t to attend a Central Florida lunch event in Floral City. This gave me the opportunity to learn how the bike handles on curvy roads and how comfortable it is on long Interstate rides. (Yes, there are many curvy roads in some areas of Florida!) The bike handling is noticeably more nimble than the Concours was. Low speed handling is also easier. This may in part be due to the bike’s lighter weight, about 50 lbs less than the Concours, although it certainly seems that the difference is greater than that. In early May I intend to ride the “real” twisty roads in north Georgia during NGC in Helen. That will give me my first opportunity for a true evaluation of the handling on such roads. I fully expect it to be very satisfactory.
The heated grips and seats work well and are certainly welcome on early morning rides in sub-60° temperatures. As with my Concours, I found the standard grips to be too small in diameter and thus installed Grip Puppies over them to add both cushioning and extra diameter to the grips. The windscreen does a good job of keeping me in an air bubble. A couple rides in the rain confirmed the magazine reports of the good protection.
With 6.9 gallons of fuel capacity, compared to 5.8 for the Concours, the range is quite good at around 300 miles, depending on riding style, wind direction, etc.
The configurable electronic display (Trip 1 and Trip 2) provides plenty of information options, such as instantaneous MPG, average speed, average MPG, miles ridden and gallons used, distance to next fill-up, elapsed trip time, trip distance, tire pressures, suspension setting and loading, status of heated seats and grips, and of course odometer.
Of all of those options, the gallons used since reset misleadingly displays in tenths of gallons. Upon filling up, it indicated that I’d consumed 5.3 gallons, but actually needed 5.8 gallons to fill the tank. This appears to be a calibration issue, as the analog speedometer consistently displays between 30 and 95 MPH about 5 MPH higher compared to my GPS. In contrast the odometer is within nearly 2% of the GPS track-log distance (456 vs 463). Although these errors might be corrected with a firmware update to the computer, they are certainly not major issues.
The cruise control is very nicely done, although it does take a bit of practice to work it. The on/off button enables/disables the CC and it stays that way even when ignition is off. Thus, once enabled, it’s only necessary to press the SET- or RESET+ toggle to activate the CC. The display flashes the set CC speed until it is reached and is likewise about 3 MPH higher than true speed. Pulling the clutch in, using a brake, or closing the throttle beyond the idle position also deactivate the CC. This last point takes a bit of practice and I found that resting my hand on the bar end weight and gripping the throttle lightly seems to be a way to avoid inadvertently deactivating the CC. Yesterday I also mounted a new ThrottleMeister for occasions when the CC isn’t suitable, as in group rides or highway traffic.
During the lengthy return trip from Floral City on a warm day, I found that the seat, although reasonably comfortable with good support, could be improved to reduce “monkey butt.” After returning home, I installed my Bead Rider cover that I had used for many, many miles over the Corbin seat on my Concours. I’ve found that it helps quite a bit, particularly when I need to squirm to change the pressure points.
In comparing the Trophy to the Concours, I would say that the performance in actual practice is very similar. Although the Concours has about 10% more power, it weighs about 10% more. On a racetrack the extra power might be significant, but I feel that the Trophy can certainly do what I need it to do, such as quickly accelerate in top gear from 50 to 80+ to pass slow vehicles on a two-lane road. In fact thus far I haven’t felt the need to even downshift. The Concours performed similarly, at least until I got into the higher elevations out West and found that downshifting one gear brought back sea level passing performance. Doubtless that will be the same for the Trophy.
This concludes my first impressions. I would be happy to answer any questions.
Update February 6, 2015
In December 2014 I learned that Broward Motorsports‘ dealership in West Palm Beach had taken on the BMW motorcycle line. After some consideration I decided to look into buying a dual-sport adventure motorcycle, such as the BMW R1200GS Adventure. This type of motorcycle is more suitable for travel on unpaved roads than my previous ones due to the higher ground clearance. Now that a BMW dealership is within 20 miles of my home, the distance to a BMW dealer was no longer an obstacle to buying a BMW.
On January 3rd I rented a 2008 R1200GS from a local motorcycle rental agency to get an impression about whether I would enjoy riding one of these motorcycles. During a trip from West Palm Beach around Lake Okeechobee of nearly 200 miles, I decided that I would visit the Broward Motorsports and speak with a salesman. The next week I did just that and put a deposit down on the Adventure model of the 2015 R1200GS with the understanding that it might be several weeks until any more arrived at the dealership. However, only a week later the salesman notified me that two new models had just arrived and were about to be uncrated and assembled. The color of one was olive, the other blue.
After seeing both of these, I selected the blue model and we set the delivery date for January 20th so that my friend Larry could assist me in taking delivery, since he would be visiting that week. All went according to plan and I took delivery that afternoon.
On the following Saturday, I joined several other MSTA members on a lunch ride to Clewiston and took my new BMW on its first lengthy trip. After lunch I continued around the Lake Okeechobee, stopping at Port Mayaca to take some photos, including these three photos of my new R1200GS Adventure:
On February 6th, I took it to the dealer for “first service” at 630 miles, including oil and filter changes. Everything was in good order.
Since taking delivery, I have been ordering accessories to set this new motorcycle up for long-distance touring. Over the next several weeks I will be busy getting it ready.
Incidentally, I decided to keep my 2013 Triumph Trophy SE for a while longer. With 72K miles on it, the dealer was not willing to give me an acceptable trade-in allowance. Now I own two motorcycles and will ride the Trophy on occasion too until I decide to sell it perhaps later this year.
Check back again for further updates…