Is Yamaha’s big 1200cc dual-sport truly adventure ready? Watch the 2014 Yamaha Super Tenere ES First Ride Video and find out for yourself.
Three years after diving into the American adventure-touring segment, Yamaha makes sensible updates to its capable Super Tenere (starting at $15,090 plus $957.98 with side hard cases). Yamaha’s top-of-the-line, touring-ready dual-sport gets a short list of enhancements for greater function both on the road and where the pavement ends.
According to Yamaha U.S. only 12% of Super Teneres are ridden off-road, so it makes sense that the motorcycle is engineered primarily for road duty—an area in which it excels. The reshaped windscreen and lower chin deflector pay big dividends, offering a quiet and turbulent-free environment at the controls. The height of the windscreen can be adjusted without tools; however the design is clumsy and cannot be manipulated unless you dismount the motorcycle.
The seating position is relaxed, comfortable and highly conducive to all-day rides. The seat is broad and deeply padded—plus its height can be set at either 33.3-inches or 34.3-inches via a simple shim-like under-seat tray. Taller riders, or those that prefer the traditional feel of a dirt bike, will appreciate the latter setting. The aluminum handlebar is wide and has a pleasant bend to it whether seated or standing. The design of the footpegs is another clever touch. Rubber inserts mitigate vibration and when standing the material compresses so the sole of the rider’s boot is in better contact with the peg’s metal cleat for enhanced bike control off-road. We also like that plastic hand guards help keep your hands dry in inclement weather.
(Top) The windscreen and chin deflector feature an updated shape for enhanced wind protection. (Center) The cockpit of the Super Tenere is nothing short of fantastic. Its quiet, comfortable and well adept at racking up serious mileage. (Below) The up-spec ‘ES’ model allows the rider to tune the preload and damping of the fork and shock electronically. We preferred the maximum setting for solo riding on the street and trail
At low rpms the engine is smooth and vibration free, however when the 1199cc Parallel Twin spins in the upper spectrum of its rev range it does emit a bit of a buzz through the controls. Thankfully its sixth gear is tall enough to keep the engine at a lower rpm at freeway cruising speeds.
The updated LCD instrument display is nothing short of excellent. It’s easy to decipher at a glance and remains legible in bright sunlight. It’s customizable too, allowing the rider to prioritize parameters like fuel mileage, range and a service indicator in the display’s right side. We also love the function of the cruise control which responds precisely and maintains speed with superior accuracy compared to other systems we’ve tested recently.
The engine sees some improvements in the form of an updated cylinder head. Specifically, the intake and exhaust ports are reshaped to flow more air at a higher velocity. The skirt of the forged aluminum pistons was also tweaked, as was the tension of the pistons’ oil and compression rings. Other refinements include a reduction in the pressure of the valve springs and the width of the camshaft journal on the exhaust side. Lastly, the header pipes no longer employ a cross-over tube. These small tweaks work together to boost the engine’s efficiency and make it quicker to accelerate. Additionally, the clutch damping spring has been replaced with a rubber absorber to reduce mechanical noise and vibration when the engine is chugging at very low rpm.
Revised engine mapping complements the mechanical updates. Like before, the Super T continues to offer dual throttle/engine power maps it dubs as D-Mode. The ‘S’ (sport) mode engages a harder hitting map with a more direct connection to the engine while the ‘T’ (touring) provides a more linear power curve with less hit when the throttle is cracked. While we value the more intimate feel of the sporty setting it is a little too herky-jerky on/off throttle—especially in slower corners causing the chassis to pitch faster than we like. Conversely, on the dirt the ‘S’ mode was preferred as it is more responsive and enhances handling by helping the rear tire to slide more easily under power with traction control manually disabled. However on asphalt, we had no problems running the default ‘TC2’ map or less-restrictive ‘TC1’ map, though never rode the bike hard enough to get the system to intervene. It is worth noting that the electronics modulate power through the combination of ignition timing and manipulation of the throttle butterflies netting a smoother and more linear response when excess wheel spin is detected.
(Top) On the road the Super Tenere’s handling is excellent. It carries its weight well and feels connected to the road. (Center) While the front brake is linked to the rear, the back brake can be actuated independently. It would be nice if ABS could be disabled—especially off-road. (Bottom) In motion the Super Tenere is a surprisingly competent motorcycle off-road. The road-oriented Bridgestone Battle Wings also performed better than expected.
Preload: 14mm / 5.5 lines showing
Compression: 6 (turns out)
Preload: 4 lines on shock body
D-Mode: T (road); S (off-road)
TC: 2 or 1 (road); Off (off-road)
The engine offers a broad spread of power with an above average level of character courtesy of its uneven YZF-R1 sportbike-style engine firing order. While it certainly isn’t the fastest thing on the road (it maxes out just over 90 horsepower the last time it was dyno tested) it is plenty effective on road as well as off. We also like the responsive action of the clutch (a big plus when riding up steeper inclines off-road) and the bike’s wide gearing and the bullet-proof design of its final drive mechanism (shaft to compact hypoid gear case). We’re also big fans of the transmission’s precise feel and short throw between cogs. Fuel economy was also remarkable with us averaging 39.3 MPG along the course of our route which combined slow speed trails and medium-speed touring. We expect useable range to reach upwards of 230 miles based on the 6.1-gallon capacity of the fuel cell.
Considering Yamaha’s adventure bike weighs in excess of 600 pounds with accessorial side cases, it’s incredible how well it handles. Around turns the chassis is planted and very well damped for a motorcycle that sports 7.5-inches of suspension travel. But the real magic is in the up-spec ES model’s electronic suspension. Similar to Ducati’s DES set-up first unveiled on the ’10 Multistrada, the Yamaha’s electronics allow the rider to modify the damping settings and shock spring preload easily via a push of a button. We fancied the maximum setting (two riders, plus luggage, and +3 on the damping fine tuning) as it lifted the rear of the bike slightly and slowed down suspension movement. Yet there wasn’t a discernable effect in comfort with the chassis still reacting favorably to bumps—only with slower more controlled action. The standard model still offers adjustment however adjustment must be made manually. It is worth noting that the shock offers the convenience of a preload adjustment knob so adjustment can be made more easily on the road. We also loved the ES’s three-way adjustable heated hand grips which help take the chill out of the air.
On trails the Super T has a neutral feel with a favorable center of gravity. It handles better the faster you go and its surprising how well the street-oriented Bridgestone Battle Wing tires perform in the dirt. It’s also nice to know that it comes equipped with tube-less spoked wheels which are tougher and less susceptible to damage when hitting rocks and other obstacles typically encountered on the trail.
(Left) The Super Tenere has 7.5-inches of travel fore and aft allowing it to handle light off-road riding with ease.(Center) The front brakes offer plenty of power and feel and on the street we like the function of the ABS. Off-road however the electronics make it more difficult to ride quickly. (Right) Despite only pumping out around 90 horsepower at the back tire the Super Tenere holds its own and packs modest, but fun acceleration punch.
Perhaps the Achilles heel in its otherwise excellent handling away from the pavement is the calibration of its linked ABS-equipped brakes (front-to-rear, with load sensor to augment rear brake application based on the selected ES suspension setting). While the mechanical feel and power of the stoppers are excellent, the ABS is always on and is too intrusive off-road. This makes it important to apply the brakes early and smoothly to help mitigate ABS cycling and a corresponding increase in stopping distance. However the system can be manually disabled by forcing it into a fault by doing a prolonged simulated burnout on the center stand. It would be nice if Yamaha could simplify the process by installing a bright yellow ‘off’ button.
- Extremely comfortable to ride
- Versatile performance on-road an off
- Fuel efficient with excellent range
- ABS cannot be easily turned off
- Feels heavy at a standstill
- Clumsy windscreen adjustment
Of all the motorcycles in its model line-up the Super Tenere earns the award for most versatile. Whether racking up the odometer on the freeway, or when you feel like deviating off route, the Super T handles it all with ease. It also gets the nod in terms of pricing with it offering a very high-quality and meticulously engineered machine at price that’s thousands less than rival brands.