There is a unique feeling that comes from a 1200cc adventure machine when it starts screaming near 6000 rpm on a fireroad, roosting dirt, rocks and whatever else falls under the rear tire’s footprint. As the revs increase, the exhaust note from this parallel-Twin roars like an unrestricted trophy truck about to hit redline, and the forward drive feels absolutely unstoppable. In this case, at a claimed 575 pounds ready to ride, the 2012 Super Tenere might just be unstoppable…
Yes, the Tenere’s weight disappears when on the throttle shredding fireroads at 80 mph, but it sure comes back rapidly in a tight corner or on a rough stretch of dirt road! As good as this big adventure bike felt a lot of the time, it only took one rain rut to remind me that the intent here is not true enduro work.
While we knew for sure we liked this bike on the street after our European ride (“Super Tenere,” December, 2010), we needed to give it a thrash off-road to see what it was made of. And it wasn’t until my second day of riding the Super Tenere at the U.S. press introduction in Sedona, Arizona, that I started to appreciate its dirt potential. It came to me when I was passing Jeep after Jeep after Jeep while seemingly just cruising up a popular fireroad. The Tenere’s punchy power could undoubtedly shred dirt-worthy knobbies (if it had them; it comes stock with 110/80R19 and 150/70R17 Bridgestone Battle Wings or Metzeler Tourance rubber), yet the smooth delivery and traction control help make the bike deceivingly quick and easy to control at a pace somewhat below that of an aspiring Dakar racer.
It’s really a techno-geek’s dream bike. There’s a digital dash (with analog tach), three-level traction control, two-level Drive Mode (D-Mode), ride-by-wire Yamaha Chip Controlled-Throttle (YCC-T) and a “unified” braking system that also features ABS.
In fact, the electronics package is one of the coolest things about this bike, and that TC is awesome. Just at the moment when the rear end begins to step out of the comfort zone, traction control takes over to keep the bike on its intended line. This is just one part of the advanced rider-aid technology featured on the Super Tenere.
It’s really a techno-geek’s dream bike. There’s a digital dash (with analog tach), three-level traction control, two-level Drive Mode (D-Mode), ride-by-wire Yamaha Chip Controlled-Throttle (YCC-T) and a “unified” braking system that also features ABS. The unified part applies varying degrees of rear brake force (based on load) when only the front brake lever is used. Use of the rear brake pedal alone sends braking force only to the rear.
No reason for the experienced rider to feel confined by the restrictions set by any of the rider aids, either, because they can be turned off or, in the case of the ABS, disabled through trickery. How so? While there is no ABS Off switch, if the bike is run in second gear on its centerstand for about 20 seconds, the ABS error light goes on and the anti-lock is shut down. Your fate is now fully in your hands.
I personally found the D-Mode switch of little use. After trying both the softer Touring and more-aggressive Sport modes (selectable on the fly), there was no question: Just give me full power and full response. My mind might change in slick mud or icy conditions, but we had neither, so I let the power run free and enjoyed every minute.
Did I already mention the TC is awesome? I spent most of the time playing around with setting 2 and Off (only switchable at a stop). I found the standard setting of 1 to be obtrusive off-road. Some folks may like it because it keeps the bike fully in line, but level 2 was great for me because it allows enough wheelspin to execute powerslides around corners. It makes it really simple, actually, especially because the power interruption is smooth enough to not throw off your rhythm. In fact, you hardly notice the TC operating, except that the bike doesn’t get too far out of line. Turn it off completely and your wrist dictates what the bike does. And with the claimed 109 ponies the Tenere packs, it is a thriller in the non-TC mode! Surprisingly, the Tenere-specific Battle Wing tires (deeper tread cuts) fitted to our bike (on tubeless wire-spoked wheels) offer reasonable grip off-road but this is definitely an asphalt-centric tire.
The riding position is more akin to a streetbike than to a dirt machine. The Tenere has a tapered aluminum handlebar, but it’s not aggressively ”dirty“ in its bend. And the bike has neither a slim profile nor a flat seat. But I must say that Yamaha has nailed the comfort zone. There is plenty of fore-and-aft room for keeping your backside comfy all day long. I didn’t drone down the highway for hours on end, but for the two days I spent saddled up, I was always comfortable. The footpegs feature rubber stompers to give your feet added padding when sitting; stand up and the rubber compresses so your boots grip the metal cleats—an ingenious idea. My legs never had a problem fitting the groove set out by the 6.1-gallon fuel tank and side-mounted radiators. At 5-foot-11 with a 32-inch inseam, I preferred the taller seat height (34.3 in. vs. 33.3) for all conditions, and my feet easily touched the ground whether at a stoplight or saving myself from tipping over in the dirt. An optional low seat takes it down to 31.9 in.
As with the FJR1300 and VMax in previous years, the Super Tenere is only available through a pre-order program, with a $500 deposit due by March 31, 2011, and the first deliveries expected in May
Suspension offers 7.5 inches of wheel movement front and rear. Overall setup is on the soft and squishy side—good for smoothing out washboard dirt roads but forget about hitting anything big at speed. There was no deflection off smaller rocks, and the fork and shock actually do a decent job of sucking up holes and sharp edges. Shock adjustments include rebound damping and a by-hand spring preload knob. The 43mm fork, meanwhile, gives you the full ride with spring-preload and compression- and rebound-damping adjustment.
Overall, it’s a good street setup and pretty good in the dirt up to a point. No jumping, though—even minor air caused our testbike to bottom onto its accessory aluminum skidplate (standard is plastic).
As with the FJR1300 and VMax in previous years, the Super Tenere is only available through a pre-order program, with a $500 deposit due by March 31, 2011, and the first deliveries expected in May.
Our testbike was also fitted with Yamaha accessory sidecases and engine guards. These are nice additions to the Tenere that are pretty much mandatory if you’re going adventure-touring. Said accessories are sold in packages or individually starting at $750. All the pre-order packages even include a GoPro HERO video camera. So, while base price is $13,900, any self-respecting adventure type is going to add the key pieces.
Clearly, the Super Tenere is much more of a BMW R1200GS competitor than it is a KTM 990 Adventure rival in terms of its off-road worthiness. But a GS competitor it is, with what appear at first ride to be similar performance capabilities on- and off-road, plus a lower price. Final verdict is out until we get the bikes together for a head-to-head test.