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2014 Long Term Kawasaki Concours 14 ABS Report #2: A Question of (Wireless) Keys

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2014 Long Term Kawasaki Concours 14 ABS Report #2: A Question of Keys
kawi-keys.jpg

The Kawasaki Concours 14 ABS's standard KIPASS system includes a mechanical key (right) and a wireless key fob (left).

Photo © Basem Wasef

KIPASS, in case you weren't up on Kawi lingo, is a wireless transponder that eliminates the traditional procedure of inserting a key to start up the bike. The technology was groundbreaking on motorcycles back in '07, and has since become common in the automotive realm, also spreading among bike manufacturers like Harley-Davidson and Indian.

During my test ride of the 2008 Concours 14, I enjoyed how I didn't need to fumble with a key, and was able to simply saddle up, twist the ignition, and fire up the bike-- as long as the transponder was on my person. At the time I called the feature "hugely handy," but is it easy to live with the system, day in and day out? Enter my long term 2014 Kawasaki Concours 14 ABS test.

KIPASS: How it Works

The KIPASS system works using a wireless, palm-sized transponder that communicates to an ECU (mounted beneath the seat) via radio waves, automatically confirming the presence of the rider. Once the computer knows the rider is within roughly 31.5 inches of the bike, a mechanical key with a dial-shaped handle is able to rotate in the same spot (at the steering head) where you would typically find a traditional key. It takes a couple seconds of pushing the "key" inward to enable turning it to the "Lock," "Off," "On," and "FSS" (ie, Fuel, Seat, Storage), and the mechanical key can be removed in the "FSS" setting in order to open the fuel filler, underseat storage, or saddlebags. Up to six additional fobs can be registered to a bike.

The bike's digital dashboard display is designed to alert when the fob battery is low with a "Transponder Low Battery" message, and has a built-in hard key that can be removed and used if and when the battery dies; estimated life for the battery is around 1 year, and the disc-shaped CR2025 replacement battery is fairly easy to come by at drugstores.

If the fob is lost or left behind after the bike is in motion, a warning displays indicating "No Transponder"; keep riding for more than 10 seconds at 12 mph or higher, and the bike won't start again once the engine is stopped until the fob is present. 

Keyless Life in the Long Run

I can't say I was overly concerned about living with Kawasaki's key fob setup since it seemed to work well enough during a day of riding at the bike's intro, but the system did take some getting used to during day-to-day use.

For starters (pun intended), the setup sometimes takes some coaxing to twist from the "Off" or "FSS" position to on; occasionally, it seems that more than 2 seconds of pressure are required to get the mechanical key to twist, though once that happens, the key does exactly what it's supposed to do.

During my first few days with the Concours 14 in my possession, it took some time to get the "push-pause-twist" action just right, and I also managed to twist the key on the saddlebag because I wasn't totally familiar with how the lock operates. And while the key fob has worked as intended, I'm not crazy about the fact that the mechanical key must be in the "On" position in order to access the small, fairing-mounted glove box, or the fact that the mechanical key must be removed in order to access the saddlebags.

In all, my complaints are minor considering the complexity of the KIPASS system and how much easier it is to throw the fob in your pocket and not have to mess with a key when you're geared up, wearing gloves, and ready to ride. While it still may not be for everyone, I can certainly vouch for the fact that the wireless key fob setup has made it even easier to live with the 2014 Kawasaki Concours 14 ABS. 

Related: 2014 Kawasaki Concours 14 Long Term Update #1: The First 200 Miles

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