Sunday, April 11, 2010

Concours 1400 Test Ride

(March 2007) THE ROAD FROM INTERSTATE 80 to Wharton’s Market in Foresthill is a paradise for anyone on a two-wheeler. Nice pavement. Well engineered curves. Passing lanes to get around trucks, trailers, RVs, and blue-haired octogenarians in Park Avenues. And when one dares take eyes off the road, grand views of both the North Fork and the Middle Fork of the American.

So when at 1:00, I am suited up destined to kill some hours at work, and my neighbor Fritz is suited up, throttling his new KZ 1400 Concours, and I ask, “Where you going?”

I hadn’t planned on this little forty miler. The elevation gain meant the temperature would drop from about 65 degrees to the low fifties. And I was in my summer jacket. Nor was my tank completely full. But since I had invited myself along, I didn’t feel right about holding Fritz up for a jacket change or topping off the tank of the RT.

FRITZ’S FAVORITE ONE-HOUR RIDE is a good one. Back roads to Auburn. Through Tuscan type farms and orchards. Up the bluffs on Auburn Folsom Road to the county seat, then down into the middle fork canyon along a route of tight turns and steep cliffs. No room for error. Not a good place to be captivated by the sleek rear end or triangular exhaust of the Concours.

From the river bottom at Confluence, the old Foresthill Road replicates the curves and topography of the earlier leg to the bottom. Once atop the ridge, the new Foresthill Road has those marvelous sweeping turns that lull the rider into thinking God must own a sport bike.

IT IS COOLER – much cooler – by the time we reach the market. I impose on Fritz to stop for a coffee and, although I wouldn’t admit it outside of this journal, I have a mocha that works well at thawing both my fingers and my innards. We sip these caffeine bombs outside and view the canyon, point out roads we either had ridden or hoped to ride. As it is time to leave, Fritz points to his Kawasaki Rocket Ship and says: “You wanna ride it down to the Chevron at I-80?”

I think of several questions that might also evoke an instantaneous and emphatic response. Some samples: Wanna visit Baghdad? (No.) Could you take care of my new DB-9 for the week? (Yes!) Care to kiss my grandmother? (Not really.) How would you feel about a starlit beach, a nice bottle of Padron Silver and, say, Jennifer Lopez? (Decline to state.)

THE CONCOURS HAS A KEY you keep in your pocket. If you’re close enough, you mess with the ignition switch and the thing hums to life. The brakes are not integrated but the front one has a “right now” quality that insists upon stopping at the merest suggestion. A little heat pours off the engine at ankle level, which turns out to be a good thing on this 53-degree afternoon. The power delivery reminds one of Peggy Fleming. Smooth. Graceful. Elegant. But with a touch of William “the Refrigerator” Perry: it’ll move through anything.

I slip out of Wharton’s parking lot, waiting a long time before distant traffic clears. Fritz struggles with the RT, only because he isn’t fitted to it. I keep the seat high and Fritz has a short inseam. The 35 mph sign prompts me to glance at the speedo and throttle back shifting from fourth to third, and thinking about that lever on the right hand bar. Once out of downtown Foresthill, the traffic engineers allow fifty-five. I wonder how quickly I can get there.

Damned quick.

I’m in fourth gear, tacking at 2250, speed indicating 68 and I’m wondering why this thing needs two more gears in the box. A roofer’s truck is in front of me, but a passing lane is approaching. At the first indication that he’s going to be a gentleman, I crack the twister and pull out. A glance in the rear view mirror finds the Ford one-ton slipping behind me and Fritz, on my beloved RT, about three-quarters of an inch high. The speedo is enjoys a lingering, 92 mph kiss.

I think about the area CHP officer. And deer. And throttle back

The road is engineered so that I can take the curves quickly and there is room for fudging if necessary, but fudging is not needed. Though when paddling this thing through the parking lot up at Wharton’s it feels a bit top heavy, once up on two wheels, the Concours begs to be cornered.

We arrive at the Chevron far to soon for my liking. Two hours later, as I write this, my cheek muscles still ache from grinning.

I LOVE MY WIFE and would never consider a moonlit beach and a bottle Silver Padron with anyone else. And I love my BMW as it is powerful, dependable, graceful and it has a cachet that Kawasaki won’t equal on its best day. However, the Concours is a seductress. Slippery and sexy. While strangely familiar and accommodating to the point of being comfortable.

Having recently ridden both the Concours and the Triumph Tiger 1050 triple, I am beginning to think that should something happen to the RT, perish the thought, a smooth, sophisticated multi might be in my future.

© 2007
Church of the Open Road Press

1 comment:

  1. Friend Patricia Boek adds: "If something should happen to your beloved RT, that something also happens to you."