2012 Yamaha Super Tenere First Ride

November 12, 2010
Ken Hutchison
Ken Hutchison
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The ulcers keep piling on for the warden of the MotoUSA asylum. With the inmates running rampant around the globe, Hutch has opted to get in on the madness more these days than in years past and is back in the saddle again.

2012 Yamaha Super Tenere First Ride
The 2012 Yamaha Super Tenere will hit the ground running in May of 2011 and the only way to get one is to pre-order it.

The 2012 Yamaha Super Tenere hits American soil sometime in May 2011. This early release Adventure-Touring motorcycle from Japan is sure to make an impact. If you haven’t noticed, the dual sports seem to be taking over the world with OEMs from all walks of life jumping on the bandwagon. The stalwart BMW GS-series is no longer the only game in town and the $13,900 Super Tenere is destined to play the role of antagonist in the battle for market share. It brings a base package replete with shaft drive, traction control, unified ABS brakes, handguards, adjustable seat, adjustable windscreen, DC power port, high-tech info system and competent suspension components that rival what BMW and Ducati offer, but the Yamaha delivers them for $3000-$6000 less. All of this high-tech componentry looks great on paper but the proof is in the performance so Yamaha led us around Northern Arizona for a couple days of canyon carving and off-road riding for a glimpse at what the new Super Tenere is capable of.

All new from the ground up, the Super Tenere features a liquid-cooled, fuel-injected 1199cc Parallel Twin with a 270-degree crankshaft design. The crank layout has been a fixture of the Tenere for a few years now, and the philosophy of

2012 Yamaha Super Tenere First Ride
The 270-degree crank allows the pistons to fire close together, creating tractable power. The primary counterbalancer on the front also drives the water pump.

the 270 crank is similar to the new Crossplane Crankshaft design of the latest generation YZF-R1 superbikes. Having the pair of 98mm cast aluminum pistons rotate through 79.5mm stroke at uneven firing intervals results in what can best be described as a big single-cylinder engine that sounds and makes power like a V-Twin. The power is mellow and the exhaust note is distinct. Yamaha claims the ST will make 108 horsepower at 7250 rpm with 84 lb-ft of torque arriving at 6000 rpm.

After a few days of riding the big bike it’s similar in both power and feel to its popular Bavarian counterpart. The Super Tenere has decent low-end power and although the tall gearing requires attention when launching the bike from a stop. Once underway it has the bottom-end necessary to crawl over rough terrain and the mid-range to cruise on down the road at 60-80 mph in sixth gear with nary an unwanted vibration or hiccup in power delivery. There are two drive modes, Sport and Touring available by toggle on the right bar as well. As mellow as this engine is, the Sport mode was mild mannered enough that I didn’t spend more than a few minutes in Touring mode. The name of the game with the ST is smooth, usable power suitable for street or off-road riding. Its worked for the GS forever so we shouldn’t expect any less from a bike that emulates it.

2012 Yamaha Super Tenere First Ride
If you plan to spend any time off-road or simply want that urban assault vehicle look, then the Engine guards and skid plate are a must have.

Yamaha intended the Super Tenere to be the perfect all around adventure-touring motorcycle from the beginning so the chassis needs to handle all types of riding without much compromise. It starts with a tubular steel frame that uses the engine as a stressed member and since the radiator is mounted along the left side of the bike, it allows the engine to be hung low and placed as far toward the front wheel as possible. The resulting weight distribution is nearly even at 51/49 combines with the low CG to help the long and heavy machine feel light on its feet despite what the spec sheet says. Up front a tall 43mm inverted fork with a full range of adjustability is paired with a preload- and compression-adjustable rear shock. The shock adjustments are tool-less thanks to a handy knob located on the rider’s right hand side. Both pieces offer 7.5 inches of travel and raise the seat height to a range of 33.26 – 34.25 inches depending on how you adjust it. Overall the suspension was up to task in both the on- and off-road environments. It’s soft enough to soak up bumps in the dirt and stiff enough to offer a sporting ride through canyons. Since the fork is tall, it does dive a bit under braking.

On the highway and blasting down back roads it hides its 575-pound curb weight well. Combined that mass with a relaxed 28-degree rake, 126mm trail and 60.6-inch wheelbase and it shouldn’t come as a surprise that it requires a bit of effort to change directions quickly but again, this isn’t a race bike. That lack of flickability is part of the trade-off for highway stability, so Yamaha was wise to equip it with wide bars to help leverage the bike from side-to-side. Once you bend it into a turn the bike tracks true with the Bridgestone Battle Wing tires providing plenty of grip on the street. In the dirt the ‘Stones are not knobbies so you have to ride accordingly. They are fine on dirt roads but I doubt they’d be much fun in gravel or loose rocks.

Where do you wnat to go today  Where ever it is  the 2012 Yamaha Super Tenere can get you there.
Yamaha’s objective was to create a bike well suited for road touring and durable enough for off-road so the suspension is set on the soft side in stock trim.

It is important to point out that the Super Tenere, with its wire-spoked 19-inch front and 17-inch rear wheels, was intended to be a capable off-road motorcycle. During our two days of testing we spent almost half our time in the dirt, traversing fire and Jeep roads that were a good representation of what these motorcycles are likely to face in the hands of the majority of today’s adventure-touring sect.

The bikes we tested came equipped with the optional Yamaha Adventure Touring package ($1520) that includes the panniers, engine guards and aluminum skid plate. Anyone who plans to do any level of off-roading would be wise to get the skid plate because the engine is exposed beneath the bike. Of particular concern, the easy access oil filter is right at the leading edge as are the headers. The skid plate offers necessary protection to these vital components. As adventure-touring bikes go, the Super Tenere is capable of more extreme off-road riding than what we put it through at the intro. It is well balanced and although it’s a heavy S.O.B. it was entertaining as we flat tracked and hauled ass through the high desert. It feels like a super-sized WR. Granted it weighs twice as much, but still, familiarity’s a good trait when it comes time to get down and dirty.

In case you missed it, the Super Tenere comes equipped with linked ABS and traction control. On the street these systems are a welcome addition to any bike but in the dirt they will be critiqued. The three-way traction control can be used in the default base position TCS1 which offers the maximum level of intervention. On the dirt it would kick in at the slightest hint of wheel spin. The traction control cuts fuel and retards timing when necessary but it was not too intrusive or abrupt, even at max setting. Using TCS2 it allowed for what seemed like twice as much freedom to spin up the rear and push the front harder on the dirt. It certainly made for some fun flat tracking in the hills outside of Flagstaff but the ability to turn it completely off and steer with the rear will make experienced ADV riders the most happy. To change TC levels the bike does need to be stopped and the little button is located on the left side of the dash. Overall the traction control worked excellent and we anticipate it will be well represented in a head-to-head comparison.

2012 Yamaha Super Tenere First Ride
The connection between the bike and those roads came courtesy of a set of deeply grooved Bridgestone Battle Wing tires that are purposely designed for the Super Tenere.

What won’t get rave reviews is the unified ABS. On the street the linked brakes and ABS are fine and we agree it is an excellent safety feature that should be standard equipment on all of these big, high-end touring bikes. The only way to really get it to intervene was if I tried to slide the rear around or if I purposely mashed the front brakes to see if it would kick in. When it does, it’s subtle and not too intrusive. You can barely feel it pulse in the bar or foot pedal. On the dirt, it’s relevance is a different story. Since we’ve ridden a lot of bikes with ABS in the dirt we’ve grown accustomed to how to make the best of it. While I prefer to turn the ABS off, it’s not always an option so it’s critical to ride with that in mind. You can’t scrub speed in the same manner you would with a dirt bike – once you get that through your head and use the ABS to your advantage you’ll learn to live with and maybe even appreciate it. If you think you’re going to slide into corners on the brakes, square it up and drive out – then you’re on the wrong bike and you’ll be complaining about not being able to turn it off. The most common scenario where ABS sucks in the dirt is on downhill descents so be advised as this may be a limiting factor in where you want to bring a Super Tenere. I’m sure there has to be a way to bypass the ABS though, so keep your ear to the ground – something will come up.

Those not too concerned with off-road and more interested in touring will be happy to hear the Super Tenere is a very comfortable motorcycle. The riding position should fit most people but will be well suited for even the tallest of riders. The cockpit is spacious, it’s a long reach to the bars and pegs plus the seat is very comfortable. Standard hand guards will protect you from rocks, brush and provide a measure of relief from the cold as well as saving levers in case of a tip over. The front bodywork cuts a swath through the air and seems to protect the ride4r’s legs fairly well. We logged a couple hundred miles on the bike and in that short period of time I found it quite comfortable and more than once it crossed my mind that this was going to become a very popular adventure bike.

2012 Yamaha Super Tenere First Ride2012 Yamaha Super Tenere First Ride2012 Yamaha Super Tenere First Ride
The Super Tenere may look like a rally racer but the fact is, this is a long range adventure-touring motorcycle. There is plenty of
information provided by the tidy LCD dashboard. If you want to access the tool kit or battery you have to remove the right side panel.

The windscreen offers decent protection in the lowest setting and the tall riders in our group reported that it didn’t buffet their helmets too much on the highest setting, either. There is an optional wider and taller windscreen available as well. The bad part of the deal is actually adjusting the darn thing. Watching the other editors pop the seat, pull out the Allen wrench necessary to dismantle the couple screws that hold the right side body panel on was kind of fun. Once they accessed the tool kit they went to work on screwing the four bolts and nuts that mount the thing. Then they removed the rubber grommets and stuffed them into the taller holes on the bracket and started the process of re-assembling the bike. Obviously this is meant to be a one-time process. Anyone looking for reason to bitch about things can spend a long time complaining about the windscreen – I chose to leave it in the stock setting and it worked fine.

The footpegs are dirt-bike in nature with serrated steel grips surrounding a smaller rubber pad inset in the peg itself. The density of the rubber allows it to mash down when the rider is standing up so that the metal pegs can dig into the sole of the boot for added grip. When seated, the rider’s un-weighted feet rest on the rubber, providing a bit of added riding comfort.

2012 Yamaha Super Tenere First Ride
No self-respecting adventure touring bike would be caught dead without a good set of side cases.

For most folks with their hearts set on touring the world, it’s important to be able to stow lots of various sundries. Our bikes came with the optional 61-liter saddlebags with the pull out liners. Yamaha’s panniers are a nylon framed box with aluminum sides. The locking mechanism is keyed to the bike (each Tenere comes with luggage keys) so that’s convenient. But the locking mechanism is quirky. You have to press down on the lid while turning the key to the lock position to get it to secure and even then it’s finicky to get it to work. It never actually failed to lock but the system could be much better. On a lighter note, the cases themselves can be removed easily and the mounting mechanism looks like it should be much more durable than some other designs we’ve found flaws with. In addition, the optional liners which are basically duffle bags shaped like the cases, are a nifty feature. You can stuff your gear in there and then simply pull out the liner, leaving the cases secured to the bike. A top case can be added but in the meantime, you can remove the rear seat and open up a wide, flat perch to tie even more gear or secure a piece of aftermarket luggage.

We logged a few hours in temperatures that ranged from comfortable to really cold and spent a lot of time riding highways that were both smooth and roughly paved but always curvy and fun. But it was somewhere in the woods on a dirt road between Sedona and Jerome that I really started to like this new Yamaha. I feel the adventure-touring bikes are the best value in motorcycling today and I always tell people that when the zombie hordes take over, that I want one of these to escape on. The Super Tenere may be one of the better all-around AT bikes on the market if you aren’t too concerned with the extra weight and some finicky gizmos.

If you look at the Super Tenere with the Adventure Touring package it rings in with a price of $15,420 as opposed to a comparably equipped R1200GS where the Premium Package is $17,735 (without panniers or spoke wheels) and a Multistrada S Touring with its $19,995 MSRP. The Yamaha starts to look like more of a value than we originally thought. Take that a step further and consider that the Super Tenere is a large gas tank and set of knobbies away from being in the same league as the GS Adventure, which will set you back $17,250 for the base model. A case can be made that some of the features and options the GS offers like Electronic Suspension Adjustments (ESA) and the associated well-integrated switchgear and controls for the ESA, heated grips and other amenities is a plus in the box for the BMW and we would agree. The way the heated grips option looks on the Yamaha is like an afterthought and the full-time ABS, windscreen and luggage lock are things to complain about as well, but there is something to be said for getting an impressive list of technological features from the base model Super Tenere. I can’t wait to put this motorcycle into a comparison test to find out if my gut instinct is right. Doing the simple math it is clear that Yamaha has come up with a formidable combination at an affordable price point.

2012 Yamaha Super Tenere First RideA slick-shifting 6-speed transmission is a welcome partner to the mellow engine. With a light clutch pull  the tranny slips smoothly into gear. - 2012 Yamaha Super Tenere First Ride2012 Yamaha Super Tenere First Ride
Standard features on the Yamaha Super Tenere include dual 310mm wave rotors, linked ABS brakes, fully-adjustable suspension,
tubelss spoked wheels and shaft drive. The steel frame holds the engine low and forward to maintain good balance and a low CG.

With the dust settled and the notes combed over a few things start to become clear. First of all the Super Tenere has what it takes to be a great Adventure Touring motorcycle. The suspension and chassis are well sorted and provide an exciting ride both on and off road. The bike looks like it rolled right out of the bivouac at Dakar. The basic electronics package, including ABS, selectable drive mode and traction control systems are on par with the new Multistrada S Touring. And, like the GS, it is a capable off-road motorcycle.

2012 Yamaha Super Tenere First Ride
At $13,900 the new XTZ12B Yamaha Super Tenere represents a good value for adventure touring riders.

The engine, while it feels sort of bland, offers good fuel economy at 43-44mpg which, along with its 6.1 gallon fuel tank, means it should have a range of around 250 miles. Plus, the seat and riding position are comfortable. Depending on your taste the bike has a style that should appeal to a lot of people, especially those who lean more towards off road. The black spoke wheels, rally racer-inspired bodywork and dirt bike feel are all something Yamaha should be proud of. However, for all the positive traits the Super Tenere brings to the table there are a few negatives. It’s heavy, probably less powerful and has a few quirks that need to be refined. Overall, it lacks some pizazz that a more-peppy engine or a lighter chassis might have provided. That said, the Tenere is a grand cheaper than the competition, and an even greater value when you compare its standard package versus the base models of other AT rides.

Yamaha reps state that the objective right now is to get Yamaha fans that haven’t had an Adventure Touring alternative to climb on the Super Tenere and get immersed in the adventure riding experience. If that’s truly the case then I’m sure this bike is going to convert a few riders. Plus, from our point of view this gives us another good reason to conduct one of our most popular shootouts. Like you, we want to see how the Super Tenere stacks up against the rest of the AT class so stay tuned for the 2011 Adventure Touring comparison review sometime in June.

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