2012 Yamaha Super Tenere Two-Up Review

October 12, 2012
Justin Dawes
Justin Dawes
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Raised on two wheels in the deserts of Nevada, the newest addition to the MotoUSA crew has been part of the industry for well over 15 years.Equal parts writer, photographer, and rider, "JDawg" is a jack of all trades and even a master of some.

It’s not often that we test a motorcycle two-up and even less often that we test an adventure-tourer with a passenger. It’s not that we don’t want to but most of our significant others have seen videos and photos of us in our most spirited moments, 
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Watch as we explore the Dixie National Forest with the Super Tenere in the 2012 Yamaha Super Tenere Two-Up Review Video.

and that doesn’t instill confidence that we can reign in our wild side when and if they take to the pillion. No matter how many times I’ve crossed my heart, on only two occasions have I convinced my wife to hop on the back seat of a bike. This test would mark the third, and would hopefully yield more positive results than the first two outings.

Yamaha happened to have a 2012 Yamaha Super Tenere that was shined up with no particular place to go. We’ve tested this very same machine in our 2011 Adventure Touring Shootout in which we were impressed by the comfort and smoothness of the 1199cc ADV machine. These are both qualities that should be tops on the list if you are considering any long trips with a passenger. Nothing will ruin a good day of riding quicker than an unhappy spouse. With that in mind, I figured the Tenere might be just the ticket to give my wife the touring bug. With a little coaxing and a promise of no wheelies, she was game to give it a go and to report how the ride is from a passenger’s perspective, specifically a slightly hesitant new rider.

We stopped off at  Yamaha HQ and picked up our Super Tenere that had been equipped with a Yamaha Genuine Accessories Top Box – a necessary addition if I wanted my wife Kirsten’s involvement. She felt the top box would make the ride more secure and comfortable for her. We would soon find out if that was true on the roads and trails of the Dixie National Forest in Southern Utah.

We headed for Southern Utah with the 2012 Yamaha Super Tenere for some two-up testing.
A top box made a nice backrest on the street  but on the dirt it beat up the passenger in the big bumps.
The only option that we had installed on our Super Tenere was a top box for extra storage and passenger comfort.

Adding a passenger on the back of any bike will significantly alter the handling if the suspension is not adjusted, and this was the case for the Tenere. My wife weighs somewhere around 140 pounds fully geared, and the additional 10 pounds of water, snacks and essentials in the top box along with her at the back of the bike taxed the rear-end in its stock setting. Just a few turns on the preload adjustment knob was enough to bring the steering geometry back into a normal zone. A few more clicks to slow the rebound and the back-end was perfectly behaved – as long as you rode sanely. A couple of times I got a little too whiskey on the throttle in the dirt and the rear end bucked a little too much for Kirsten’s liking. This resulted in a punch to my shoulder and a scream; I learned quickly to back ‘er down a notch or suffer the wrath of the wife.

“In the dirt the ride was smooth most of the time, except when Justin forgot I was back there and tried to get crazy,” said Kirsten. “He only scared me a couple of times when the back end kicked up on some big bumps.”

The front end was planted on the fire roads two-up and gave plenty of warning before things would get loose or out of control. The front tire handled the varied traction well, and the front suspension was plush enough to follow the inconsistencies of the two-track for even more confidence. Getting the Tenere turned didn’t require any more effort than riding solo.

On the street, handling was rock solid. Turn-in was smooth and light and mid-corner stability was tops. Not once did I get the shoulder punch on the street. All was smooth and easy even when the pace was turned up for my entertainment.

Part of the reason I could get away with some silliness on the street was the seamless power delivery of the Yamaha. 

Wind protection from the 2012 Yamaha Super Tenere is excellent for both the rider and passenger.
Handling on the street and in the dirt was solid and confidence inspiring for both riders.
Wind protection was excellent for both the pilot and passenger.

Twisting on the power results in a smooth push forward with torquey authority. No lurching or hard-hitting powerbands here, just pavement gobbling acceleration that is so smooth it feels slower than it really is. One thing to keep on eye on if you like to give the bike full-stick out of the corners is the rear tire. After 500 miles of having fun on the dirt and street the rear carcass was looking pretty shagged. I blame myself more than the quality of the tire, but its something to consider if you are cut from the same wrist-jockey cloth.

An excellent windshield also creates a calm ride for the passenger and rider. In our 2011 Adventure Touring Shootout we ranked the Tenere’s windshield as one of the best, and both Kirsten and I still agree with that assessment.

“The wind on the road wasn’t bad at all. The other times I’ve ridden with Justin, my helmet got pushed around by the air,” commented Mrs. Dawes. “But this time it was pretty calm. I felt like I could relax and enjoy the ride.”

Having a passenger limits the amount of real estate available for a rider to adjust for fatigue as the day wears on and once Kirsten climbed on the back I was locked into position. To my surprise I never had a issue with a sore tailbone, and neither did Kirsten until the very end of our test.

“The seat was very comfortable when you first sit on it. It’s not too hard, and it feels like it supports me. Towards the end of the second day I started to get a tiny bit sore, but I think that was just because I don’t have much time on the back of a motorcycle.”

She also felt the $411 Yamaha Genuine Accessories top case helped with the comfort factor by adding a sense of security. Not only did it hold all of our road snacks and drinks, but it gave her something to lean back on when we were on the long straights. However, on the dirt the hard edge of the box would hit her in the back when the going got rough..

The rear end of the Super Tenere handled the extra weight of a passenger and top box with just a few turns on the preload adjuster and a few clicks on the rebound damping.
The Super Tenere allows you to get off the beaten path with a passenger.
The 2012 Yamaha Super Tenere was the bike my wife needed to finally understand how much fun two-up touring can be.

“I liked having the box behind me for security, but in the dirt the top edge would hit me in the back on the big bumps. After the first day in the dirt the middle of my back was kind of sore.”

My only real criticism is a carryover from my past dealings with the Super Tenere – the inability to switch the ABS off with ease. Yes, there is a way to shut it off, and no, I’m not going to tell you how. Google is yours and my friend on this one. That being said, Yamaha needs an ABS-off button like other ADV tourers. While the ABS is one of the best I’ve ever felt in the dirt, it still is not as effective and controllable as my trigger finger and right toe. Every time we hit the dirt, we had to go through a song and dance to get the ABS off, and after the tenth time I was ready to just pull the ABS fuse.

On the whole the 2012 Yamaha Super Tenere made a great two-up adventure-touring machine. The comfort is just as good with a passenger as solo, the power delivery is well suited to making the passenger at ease and it has the ability to go places a bagger or sport touring bike could never go. It made a believer out of me, and even more importantly it made one out of my wife. In fact she is ready for her next adventure and asked if the Tenere is still at MotoUSA headquarters.

“I enjoyed the ride and I got to experience more of the scenery than I would in a car. It really opened up my eyes to how fun it is to ride a long ways on the back of a bike,” she said. ”I used to not really care about riding, but now I want to do more rides. I like that we can go in the dirt for some adventure. I think riding to the Grand Canyon or Yosemite would be fun.”

Stay tuned as we adventure farther and to more exiting places in the near future, most likely on the capable Super Tenere.

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