Kawasaki enter the super-tourer class with their blistering GTR1400. Well-appointed and refined, this top-end tourer also comes with a strong helping of brutish Kawasaki performance.
In this molly-coddled, nappy-wearing world Kawasaki stick out like a sore thumb. The marque has always been about power and speed and despite ever-increasing legislation they stick to their guns. For this, they are to be saluted. Sometimes they make rather heavy bikes, sometimes they haven't gone round corners very well, but Kawasaki's always make lots of horsepower and go extremely fast. And that is, after all, what motorcycles are supposed to do.
So when they launched their new GTR1400 super-tourer in the rain-lashed Alsace region near the French/Swiss border, they came out with all guns blazing. At the press conference there was no cocking about with dreamy images or girly voice-over, instead we were treated to a pounding re-hashed edit of 'Eye of the Tiger' and video images of the GTR kicking the shit out of corners. ZZR1400 power and Kawasaki's ethos of maximum speed had just invaded the previously peaceful world of sports-touring. Goodness gracious, I nearly spilt my tea.
It's a hell of a thing, this bike. It looks damn imposing just sat there: muscular lines, bulging bodywork, built-in panniers (that don't leak) with speed strakes down the side, massive shotgun exhaust pointing way out the back. The shaft-drive castings are a work of art, the build quality is extremely high and with plenty of stainless steel and solid anodizing, it's a sensation confirmed when you sit on the bike for the first time. It feels solid. Kawasaki have really done their homework on this one, and the whole bike exudes an air of purpose and excellence. The GTR's a bit aloof actually, the new bully on the block making the FJR1300 and Pan European look a bit weedy by comparison. Is it intimidating? No, but it's a whole lot of motorbike and it commands a certain respect.
You're talking 300kgs when fuelled-up and ready to go, but the weight is hidden well. A few journos toppled off at a standstill (foot slips out on gravel, down you go) or pulling U-turns (over the C of G, down you go), but once underway the GTR is completely manageable. For about 70% of the riding time during the launch the roads were deluged with water and for really fast riding on some of the awful German routes we crossed into, you were aware of the weight as the front and rear tyres skipped and slipped on overbanding. In the dry and with zealous use, the brakes would get extremely hot and start to fade as the mass of the Kawasaki bore down on the front end, but this was only after real heavy-handed riding and the two instances when the GTR's weight made its presence felt. The rest of the time, it simply wasn't an issue. However, I wouldn't like to be under 5'7" and at the controls. A couple of the shorter-legged riders squeaked quietly when performing low-speed manoeuvres.
Before you go anywhere, first you've got to start the thing. The GTR uses a new electronic key-fob system called KIPASS, which does away with a conventional ignition key. Instead you've got a round switch on the headstock that turns the bike's ignition on and off, and an easily-lost immobilizer fob without which the bike won't start. It works, but I'm not really sure why it's there. The fob also houses a key for the fuel tank and panniers (as does the base of the round switch) but I dunno. It just seems to be solving a problem that doesn't exist. Anyway, we're riding towards Salzburg on a mix of A-roads and busy motorways: how does the GTR feel? Smooth, really smooth and unstoppably powerful with a quiet, civilized manner.
The mirrors are extremely effective, being an under-the-elbows effort a la Pan European, and your legs are nestled against the side of the tank in moulded cut-outs between the frame and the fairing. I'm seriously bloody comfortable. There's an electric screen in front of me which I set at 2/3rds for most of the time. In the heavy rain it's great as I can raise it to maximum, duck down behind, pop my visor and peer through the gap between the top of the screen and the edge of my visor. On the Autobahns there's a slight weave with the screen set high, so I drop it down to minimum and tuck down low. The weave disappears and a top speed of 160mph comes up on the easily-read analogue clocks. Electric screens have been around forever, ignored by most but they do work in this instance. A larger screen is available for the GTR at £130, and serious mile-munchers will probably want to invest.
Continue for the Visordown verdict of the Kawasaki 1400GTR
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