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2010 Yamaha Super Tenere First Ride

Wednesday, July 21, 2010
2010 Yamaha Super Tenere First Ride
Yamaha knows there's room to play in the adventure bike market, but it didn't necessarily jump straight in and try to take down the established heavyweights.
It was inevitable. Yamaha’s new Super Tenere was bound to be compared to BMW’s R1200GS. It should be, they’re both from the same adventure bike genre after all. The trouble is, the Beemers sell like hotcakes and there has to be a reason for that. Could the Japanese really challenge the mighty Germans to produce a motorcycle that’s equally capable all round? It’s a tall order which ever way you look at it. On paper, things do look promising. A 108.4 bhp, 1199cc Parallel Twin against the German 110 bhp, 1170cc Boxer engine. Both bikes have a shaft drive, aluminium luggage and a riding stance designed for hours in the saddle... hence the mammoth press launch.

Journalists from all over the world joined the trip at various check points, from Paris to Toulouse, then on to Madrid, with the finish ending up in Lisbon. Once in Portugal, I joined the final leg of the adventure to ride with seven competition winners to Marrakesh where we would donate five of the Super Teneres to Riders for Health. Founded by our very own Randy Mamola back in the late 80s, the charity uses motorcycles to courier blood samples across rugged terrains of Africa. It’s a commendable slant to add to a bike launch, but I couldn’t help but wonder how much the "Ride for life" would also tug at our heart strings and encourage us overlook the bike’s downsides, should there be any.

The thing is, the Super Tenere is pretty capable and it’s extremely comfortable. Aesthetically, as with most bikes, the ST creates a divide between those who prefer its inoffensive, tidy looks and those who liken it to a big Varadero. It doesn’t have quite the same rugged go-anywhere appeal as the GS, but that’s part of the plan. Apparently. Yamaha was keen to stress that the ST wasn’t introduced to tempt BMW riders away from the globetrotting German model. It’s more for hard-core Yamaha fans. If that’s really the case, then making direct comparisons with any other bike in this genre is simply irrelevant. But what happens when all the Yamaha riders have been placated. Surely the rest of us will wonder how the Super Tenere stacks up to other bikes like the tried and tested GS, or the ridiculously powerful, technically advanced Multistrada.

2010 Yamaha Super Tenere First Ride
The Tenere has a smooth motor that isn't exatly what our tester would call exciting, but it gets the job done.
The first thing to strike me was how flat the Super Tenere’s engine felt. And that’s not necessarily a bad thing. The torque curve is as steady as a surgeon’s hand and the power delivery is predictable and measured. Wind the throttle on and the bike picks up so gradually, the more inexperienced riders will find it encouraging and totally unintimidating. There are two engine mappings, Touring and Sport. The first one is about as sharp as a butter knife and while the Sport mode has more edge, it’s not exactly mind-blowing. In twisty sections, there is enough poke in Sport to offer a lively ride, and, together with the easy handling, the Super Tenere can be pretty rewarding. But on the straights it’s a different matter. Take it easy, enjoy the comfort of the adjustable seat (from 33.3 to 34.3 inches) and you can literally ride for days on end, so to that end the power delivery is just fine. But ask for more aggression, and the ST just won’t play ball.

On one particularly long stretch, somewhere in the Moroccan desert, I snapped the throttle back to the stop and held it there with the frustration slowly building in the pit of my stomach. It’s not often I can wring a twist grip like a wet flannel, and to an extent it’s a fun experience. But this is a 1200cc twin-cylinder motorcycle. I expected it to have a little more fight. And in the mountains, the ST almost throws in the towel, wheezing through the thinning air indecisively. At "normal" altitudes, the bike behaves far more predictably and although it definitely has less punch than BMW’s latest GS, all seven (non-journalist) riders in my group were completely and utterly satisfied by the bike’s engine performance while I continued to fantasize about aftermarket exhausts.

The onboard technology is as limited as the optional extras list, which was another surprise to me. ABS that you can’t turn off and traction control that you can. Initially, that made no sense. The Super T is an adventure bike, designed to cope will all kinds of terrain and surfaces. Five of them will be used purely in Africa, so how is non-switchable ABS going to work there? Just fine, it seems. Although I’m sure more experienced off-roaders would prefer to disconnect the ABS, I couldn’t find fault with it. At all. Even the Dakar dude, Helder Rodrigues who was accompanying us on the ride, managed to do some pretty spectacular stuff without turning the safety braking system off. And for the rest of us mere mortals, the technology seemed to work just fine.

2010 Yamaha Super Tenere First Ride
Nimble handling and a great linked braking system are two of the Yamaha Super Tenere's strong points.
Of course, in deep desert sand, the Super Tenere is simply too heavy at 575 pounds to ride the crests of yellow-brown waves, but the GS would struggle in the Sahara too. And at least the Super T appears to be more "crashable" than the shiny, but pricey-to-drop Multistrada. Yamaha has added a linked braking system as well. If you use just the front lever to scrub speed, the ST automatically adds some rear brake pressure and even adjusts that percentage according to how much weight you’re carrying. It’s a totally unobtrusive system that works brilliantly, reducing front end dive and stabilizing the bike under braking. The rear anchors still work independently, so U-turns and slow-speed maneuvers aren’t hampered by a front brake chiming in at the wrong moment.

Although the engine isn’t the liveliest, attacking twisties is actually really good fun, not only because of the superb braking system which allows you to grab a fistful at the last moment, (within reason of course) but the bike also has effortless handling. Again, it’s no GS and it doesn’t have the same pendulous drop into corners as the BMW, but Yamaha has given the Super Tenere a character of its own that works very well indeed. Once you’ve got your head around the dead weight and you’re up and running, slow speed maneuvers are incredibly easy. The steering lock is more than adequate and the bike feels like an extension of you, one that you can put exactly where you want without having to do a feet-down-shuffle. It’s a handy characteristic for off-road adventures, where dribbling along at a snails pace, picking over rocks and deciding on the best route works well with a smooth throttle and manageable ride.

2010 Yamaha Super Tenere First Ride
Traction control settings help to adjust for different terrain, but the ABS is not switchable, which might deter some riders.
Rather than the GS’s tractor like chugging, the Super Tenere has a gentler approach which may suit some riders more. At a faster pace, the Super T feels planted and secure. I had an occasional front end wobble with the throttle glued to the stop against the desert’s relentless side winds, but it wasn’t anything to be concerned about. As for protection, it’s okay, but not great. The windscreen as standard does an adequate job and I didn’t have excessive head buffeting until I delved over about 95 mph. The screen is adjustable, but doing so is not exactly a two-minute job. Where the GS just needs you to twist a couple of knobs, the ST requires an allen key, screw driver and the removal of a side panel. It’s just a shame it’s so overcomplicated. And although resetting the trip switch or turning the traction control off isn’t exactly hard, again, it’s a pity you have to reach the bike’s dash to do it rather than flick a switch on the handlebars. It might seem like I’m nit picking, but these are the things that make life easy. Like the panniers. They’re a fair size and they look the part, but the locking mechanism is really poor. Not only is it stiff and awkward, the panniers only open with the ignition key from the rear. Not really a deal breaker I know, but whether you’re an adventure traveller or a commuter, being able to access your goodies without a key is certainly helpful. And because the lock is so fiddly, and you always need to use the key, it has a tendency to bend. Worryingly so. The panniers are standard on the 2010 first edition model, along with a sticker, headlight protector and aluminum skid plate. Next year, they’ll be an optional and avoidable extra.

Back to the positives, the traction control has three settings. For general use, it intervenes early enough to help prevent slides, the second setting is for a hint of dirt and riders who like it loose, and finally there’s off for heavy duty sand etc. All the settings certainly appear to work exactly as they’re supposed to, but the power delivery felt crispest in the Sport mode with the traction control turned off. Apparently turning the traction control off shouldn’t have affected the power delivery, but I’m booking another test ride and a run on a dyno to be sure.

During one late night ride to Fes, the bike’s headlights seemed noticeably faded, hence the optional extra engine guard accessory that holds two (also optional) fog lamps. It’s pricey at about 200 Euros. But it also makes sense given the dim-dipped beam. The 6.1-gallon tank proved it can handle over 200 miles and although the suspension isn’t electronically adjustable, I left it as standard for the entire duration of the six-day trip simply because I had no call to change it, it works that well. You can adjust the rear spring preload manually for two-up riding and it’s straightforward enough. Whether you’d actually be content with the bike’s pulling power is another question entirely. If your mate is Kylie Minogue proportioned, you may be just fine. Which is the perfect way to describe the gear changes. The shaft drive is smooth and it feels as clean as it is practical.
2010 Yamaha Super Tenere First Ride
The Super Tenere strikes an attractive pose against the Saharan sands, but our initial ride indicates that this touring machine is more comfortable on the pavement.

So in all, the Super Tenere is an adequate all-rounder. It’s fun, comfortable and easy to ride. But in the UK the biggest stumbling block isn’t its performance but its price. Compared to BMW’s R1200GS, it isn’t any better, it has fewer options and it is more expensive. For the price of a Super Tenere, you could lavish a GS with BMW’s Dynamic package that includes a tyre pressure control, ABS and ASC (traction control) Then you could add a Premium package, which includes a chrome exhaust pipe, heated grips, an onboard computer with oil warning light and LED indicators and still brim the tank and pay for your first night away. For diehard Yamaha fans, maybe that doesn’t matter. For everyone else, I’m not so sure.
Yamaha Super Tenere First Ride Photos
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2010 Yamaha Super Tenere Tech Specs
The Parallel Twin engine arrangement should be relatively slim.
2010 Yamaha XT1200Z Super Tenere
Model: XT1200Z Super Tenere
Engine: 1199cc parallel twin engine
Power: 108.4 bhp @ 7,250
Torque: 84.20 lb.ft @ 6,000 rpm
Transmission: 6 speed
Weight: 575.4 lbs. (261kg)
Seat Height: 33-34.25 inches (845-870mm)
Fuel Capacity: 6 Gal. (23 litres)
Price: $20,808.55 (£13,624)

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youcanrunnaked -Non-Switchable ABS  November 29, 2010 11:40 AM
Those of you criticizing the non-switchable ABS are missing the point. This latest-generation ABS apparently doesn't have to be switched off to cope with off-road conditions. I was skeptical, too, but I've now read several articles in which the testers have said that the "missing" off button is a non-issue. Oh, and the price has been set for the U.S. debut, and it is slightly less than a similarly-equipped BMW GS1200.
H. Sanchez -Nice Bike!  November 26, 2010 08:01 PM
This thing is killer! It already has a forum for great discussion - www.yamahasupertenere.com
ryan -theft alert  November 16, 2010 02:03 PM
your article has been stolen and reposted here http://papatoto.com/article/747811842547/2010_Yamaha_Super_Tenere_First_Ride
Roger -Jane!!  September 16, 2010 12:47 AM
Keep the bike, i'll take Jane instead...... ; )

grtz Roger.
Simon & Tess Moore -Simon-We Care Its already Here & selling?  September 12, 2010 08:26 PM
I have Test ridden it, twice now. My gut feeling is its a top bike. It will sell well here in Oz. Its weight is placed low making it easy to use on most surfaces for two people. Its aimed at people who want a good Adventure Tourer but not the bulk or expense of a BMW. with all the bolt on bit you could ever wish for. It will do rough terrain if your keen but its not designed for this.
pascal prince -Mr  September 7, 2010 06:53 PM
Hey Yamaha, Only the MT01 won't have any competitor in the US and you don't bring it, go figure. The Buell is a moped compare to it and is not a rival at all. Bring it to the US like the S Tenere, pre order only and it will be a much better success than the V Max.
Michael Palmer -Mr.  August 5, 2010 03:19 PM
I’m looking forward to Yamaha bringing the Ténere 1200 to the US. I want a bike that’s comfortable on long rides, shaft drive, and will take me from Oklahoma to Colorado—then take to the mountain dirt roads when I get there.

I currently ride a Ducati 1100s Multistrada and will hang onto it until the Ténere arrives or it is concluded that it will not come. If the latter is the case, then I’ll go with BMW.

Boone -replying to the WTF....  August 5, 2010 12:27 PM
if you want a good yamaha that isnt a cruiser or big boat anchor, maybe you should try the FZ1 series... al least the 2001-2005 version. yamaha killed the FZ1 in 2006. yeah it looks alright but robbing the power and cutting the fuel capacity and that darn fuel injection, that yamaha still has yet to figure out.
JOHN SYMONS -Mr  July 29, 2010 10:59 AM
I have just completed a 15000 km trip around African countries on a wide variety of roads from deep sand, rocky to long stretches of tar. The new Tenere 660 was faultless ,tough, and extremely fuel efficient. She started first time, every time, hot or cold. The KTM Adventure 990 was fine, the 2 BMW 650's unsatisfactory, requiring continual maintenance and fixing.

I believe in the Tenere 660 unashamedly. Tried and tested.
Peter Viljoen -Yamaha let down  July 27, 2010 08:53 PM
There was alot of hype about this bike, as was with the XT 660 Z Tenere. Unfortunately the super tenere does not ring out " true adventure" or practicality for adventure. It has the attributes of a glorified road bike to say the least. Bad design by Yamaha with not very much consideration for the end users requirements or needs. Basic needs have been covered yes. But unfortunately it is definately not in the Beemer class. And if anyone may have a idea to why it is that yamaha only distribute's the Tenere range in Europe...? WTF is up with that??
Personally I am a big yamaha fan, but all the hype surrounding this bike really lead to nothing but dissapointment not to add to yamaha's fine tuned "marketing" skills. Yamaha please get with the program boys and get back to the front of the production kew on adventure bikes!
Scooter -We gave up the Ulysses for this?  July 27, 2010 02:53 PM
Yamaha is expecting to sell these for *more* than the Bimmer GS? What have they been smoking, & where can I get some? :D Seriously, Buell couldn't move the Ulysses at what, 3/4 the price of the ST? Don't waste our time, Yamaha...
Stewart G -S10 1200 Owner  July 26, 2010 09:17 AM
Interesting comments about the S10.Have had mine for 3 months now here in South Africa and its superb.The braking system takes getting used to and with true 50/50 tyres its damn good on dirt roads and mountain passes.i have done 5000ks allready and 3000 has been on dirt.My mate has a ktm 990 and rates the S10 suspension as good and in some cases better.The fuel consumption is brilliant and I get between 5-5.2lt per 100ks , Try beat that With a GS and you never will with a KTM 990.Is it fast , its plenty fast anough .I have done 220 on the tar and 180 on he dirt.Dont tell my wife!!Fully fueled with bashplate and the std exhaust it weighs 268kg.The GS with aftermatket exhaust weighs 245kg , The GS adv weighs 290kgs with aftermarket exhaust and the KTM 990 weighs 241kgs with a aftermarket exhaust. Dont be bulls**tted otherwise about the bikes weight.I did not know a adventure bikes criteria was speed and Im sure there is no gs that will leave me behind anywhere , but im sure a R1 will. My other bike is a xt660z and I throw the S10 around with the same confidence no problem.Going up a mountain pass that had ice on one corner the S10 was the only bike that rode over ( the traction control is awesome )the GS boys had to walk there bikes over. So how about that.I was wondering whatwould everyone be saying about the Super if the Super had been in the market for years and the GS had recently been launched ?? Same old bulls**t I reckon . Happy days and Happy riding , Bye for now
Choco -Wrong direction  July 24, 2010 07:54 AM
I don't do multi-country motorcycle safaris although I'd like to some day. I know guys who do and they like light bikes. I'm thinking take the Honda CRF or equivelant, detune the motor slightly so it can burn just about any fuel to be found, give it a large comfy seat and larger tank, a GPS port, hard luggage and call it good. There you will have a bike than can easily run over any legal speed limit except perhaps the Autobahn, and will do very well in sand and tight technical mountain roads.
MIkeP -Yes, why do we care?  July 24, 2010 04:01 AM
I agree with Bryan. Why waste valuable time and energy with a motorbike that will not see US shores for a while. And when it does, likely will be available sight unseen after a deposit of $x.
Michael -Mr  July 23, 2010 11:35 AM
It is to obvious that you are promoting GS using the Tenere test as a disguise! GS is an old bike with virtually little changes in appearance compared to the original model. Yamaha Super Tenere is a fresh model with new design and fresh ideas. GS has numerous recalls with almost every part since was original produced. The germans are fixing one problem and create a new one for the new model. The big challenge for BMW is to get reed of an oil burning engine that they are manufacturing with limited changes since 1938 (if I’m correct). Yamaha has so vast experience in off road bikes that it is impossible to manufacture something that is less than a top model. BMW very recently bought Husaberg to gain some experience but they are way back to Yamaha’s knowledge in this field. I can keep writing on this for long but I think I made my point.
Tenere is far superior to GS.
Bob -Unapologetic Yamaha Fan  July 22, 2010 09:39 AM
1st, don't assume you know anyone else's skill level. By doing so, you proved it is you who are without a clue as to why you do NOT want ABS or linked brakes when off road. I race road bikes in the CMRA and dirt bikes in TORO in Texas. Have since '99.

2nd, everyone who rides off-road knows ABS and linked brakes is not only undesirable but in many cases is UNSAFE. ABS will prevent the wheel from locking up when the ground is loose, causing you to not be able to stop at all. Linked brakes prevent the rider from steering the bike in loose terrain as well. You can't lean the bike to turn like a street bike but you already proved you don't know anything about off-road technique.

BTW, My BMW R1100SA is ABS and linked and I do like it for street and touring. All my future road bikes will have ABS as well. My R1100GS has neither and it gets ridden all over Mexican/Texan desert and woods, true Dual Sport style. My CRF450X and Buell X1 race bikes do not have it for obvious reasons.
TG -XT660  July 22, 2010 09:15 AM
Yes, the XT660 could/would sell great in the US. The problem for that bike (in the US) is the KLR. At $6k, the KLR easily dominates the 650cc single dual sport in the US - but you get what you pay for. The XR650L is/was a much better off-road bike, but was prohibitively more expensive ($1000-ish). Could the XT660 do better? EFI is generally an option people will pay more for, but how much?
pedro gaspar -660  July 22, 2010 07:09 AM
it is a curious thing that yamaha doesn't sell any 660cc monocylinder bike in the us. here in brazil, the fuel-injected xt660 has been a bestseller for a decade. people here like this bike so much that its sister, the mt-03 didn´t sell and was discontinued, though visually nicer. as you, we are waiting for the xt660 z teneré...
RET -I think it will sell OK  July 22, 2010 04:31 AM
When Yamaha starts to import this bike to Canada and the US it will sell OK as they will make sure the price is line or below the BMW R1200GS. Too bad they do not bring in the 660 Tenere as well as that bike suits me better as it is lighter, cheaper, and easier to insure.
Gunther -Too bad  July 22, 2010 03:53 AM
considering the price and the performance, this bike will not become a bestseller. The GS is a proven concept,even though the later models are not as bulletproof as before. It has no strong points that will persuade riders to go for yamaha over the bmw. If you're going to copy a concept, make sure you make it better or cheaper.
GD -It's a good thing. It will probably get to the states once they catch up with demand..  July 21, 2010 09:08 PM
"The Super Tenere strikes an attractive pose against the Saharan sands, but our initial ride indicates that this touring machine is more comfortable on the pavement." That makes it pretty damn comfortable on the pavement then! http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nIwqwtjt-vM
TG -BMW killer? Yeah right.  July 21, 2010 03:43 PM
ABS is a huge hindrance on gravel or anything other than pavement. Who would be stupid enough to make an adventure bike with ABS always on?
Robb -Overpriced like Harley Davidson  July 21, 2010 02:03 PM
Yamaha is getting just like Honda. This bike is overpriced for the product just like the VFR1200. What is with these people? Yamaha will sell this bike in the U.S. If Americans are dumb enough to overpay for a Harley they think they will overpay for this also.
Unapologetic Yamaha Fan -Super Tenere -- the BMW-Killer  July 21, 2010 01:42 PM
The Tenere will come to the U.S. but not this year. It won't be priced higher than BMW. Just you watch. Extra weight? Compared to what -- it's close to a BMW similarly equipped. Can't turn off the ABS? Dude, I guarantee based on your skill level you're better off with the ABS, no matter the riding surface. Don't like linked brakes? Again, WHY? If you don't want to PAY for these things, OK, that makes sense to desire a lower-cost bike. Otherwise you're better off with them, else you're kidding yourself about your skills.

Bob -Who cares? Yeah another one we don't get.  July 21, 2010 12:56 PM
I actually had high hopes for this bike, if it made it to the US shores, but the linked brakes, not being able to turn off ABS and the extra weight are deal breakers. The BMW has better suspenders but it would've been nice knowing that you won't knock your jugs off on some off-road excursions. Shame to hear of the little things like the windscreen and cases.
Tim -WTF?  July 21, 2010 12:25 PM
Screw Yamaha. They don't want to sell anything but big overweight cruisers, or a crotch rocket in the USA. I've sworn off Yamaha's forever. I've turned to Triumph and BMW for better machines. As for this piece of jap crap, I'll stick to my BMW R1200GS.
Bryan -Why do we care?  July 21, 2010 11:39 AM
Why do we care about the review of a bike the will never see the light of day in the US? All these great bikes are reviewed that we Americans can never buy? Just stop already.