2014 Yamaha Super Ténéré First Ride Review

Minor updates turn the Super Ténéré into a more capable Adventure Tourer

One of the wisest things a manufacturer can do is listen to consumers. These are the people spending their hard-earned money on product, the ones who'll delve deep into a bike's performance envelope, and in due course, these are the persons who'll put forthcoming updates to use in the intended environment. With its 2014 Super Ténéré and Super Ténéré ES, Yamaha has paid greater attention to its customers' requests and returned with small revisions aimed at improving the overall riding experience.

Exactly where that riding experience takes you will depend on how deeply you crave adventure, and Yamaha admits that just 12 percent of Super Ténéré riders journey into the dirt; the other 88 percent stay within the confines of multi-lane highways. Updates for 2014 correspond with these statistics. The 2014 model gets an adjustable windscreen for added aerodynamics on the interstate, a repositioned handlebar, and cruise control, in addition to a revised engine for livelier performance on a canyon road and modifications intended to reduce vibrations. The Super Ténéré ES lays claim to the same updates as the standard model, but comes with heated grips and electronically controlled suspension (the side cases, shown in the images above and below, are an accessory item, as is the skid plate and engine guard).

Yamaha says that 88 percent of Super Tenere riders stick to the pavement, and the updates made to the 2014 model correspond with that statistic. These updates include an adjustable windscreen for added aerodynamics on the interstate, a repositioned handlebar, cruise control, revised engine for “added character,” and modifications intended to reduce vibrations.

The Bike
The Super Ténéré's retooled engine is claimed to produce 2 horsepower and 1.5 foot-pounds of torque more than its predecessor, a result of a cylinder head with straighter, more direct intake ports and exhaust ports that are round instead of D-shaped. The first of these updates increases the velocity of the mixture coming in, whereas the second allows gasses to come out more freely, ultimately allowing Yamaha to do away with the crossover tube in the header pipe.

Yamaha has re-engineered the pistons’ skirts and rings so that there’s less friction against the cylinder wall, ultimately allowing the Super Ten’s 1199cc parallel-twin engine to spin up faster. The journals on the exhaust cam are reduced in size, which enabled engineers to lighten the exhaust springs and give the bike a livelier character, plus there’s a new rubber damper in the clutch for smoother acceleration off idle and reduced vibrations. In an attempt to reduce mile-limiting vibrations even further, the Super Ténéré’s bar is rubber-mounted, and its footpegs have rubber inserts.

The Super Tenere’s 1199cc parallel-twin engine was reworked so that it’d provide a more exciting power characteristic, Yamaha says. New pistons and rings reduce friction, plus the intake and exhaust ports are reshaped. The crossover tube in the header pipe has been removed as well.

The bike’s reworked ergonomics fit Yamaha’s talk regarding “relaxed touring.” A newly shaped aluminum handlebar is positioned 10mm closer to the rider for a more upright riding position, and a single plate beneath the seat allows riders to take the seat from 34.3 inches to 33.3 inches. Further forward you’ll find a 40mm-wider windscreen that’s also 15mm taller and adjustable between four positions, sans tools; a lower deflector and under-panel are intended to deter helmet buffeting and improve wind protection when the screen is adjusted to its highest position.

The gap in performance between the Super Ténéré’s two riding modes—Sport and Touring—has been increased so that there’s a more noticeable difference in output when switching between settings. A three-position traction control system uses front and rear wheel speed sensors to maintain grip in a TCS1 or TCS2 setting, plus the bike’s unified brake system can sense carrying load and adjust the amount of braking pressure placed on the rear wheel, once the front brake is grabbed. “This is possible because the computer knows how heavy the bike is and how hard it should stop based on the pressure applied,” Yamaha claims. ABS cannot be turned off, though the traction control system can be disengaged via the dual-display meter.

Speaking of dual-display meter, that too is new. And large, with a multitude of settings and menu formats to choose from. Fortunately, the display is as easy to manipulate as it is large, meaning that changes to the ABS, traction control, cruise control, or trip meters take almost no time. On the ES model, you’ll use the handlebar switch to adjust the electronic suspension and heated grips.

An all-new windscreen is 40mm wider, 15mm taller, and adjustable sans tools, though said system is rather crude in design. Aluminum handlebars are stronger, positioned 10mm closer to the rider, and relatively vibration-free at highway speeds.

The Ride
The standard Super Ténéré weighs just about as much as an average Grizzly Bear (575 pounds) when its 6.1-gallon tank is filled to the brim, but Yamaha has placed the weight low and forward so that the steering doesn't overwhelm riders. And it doesn't in most scenarios, though the bike still requires some upper body strength when you go to pick it up at the exit of a corner. The Super T is exceptionally stable once tipped into a corner (whether that's a result of its heft or steering geometry we're not sure), and the standard model was balanced enough to never surprise us when traversing the roads that lead toward Lake Arrowhead, CA, the final destination for our test ride. The bike doesn't feel catawampus or difficult to manage at parking-lot speeds, either.

Without having a 2013 model on hand for back-to-back testing, it’s difficult to say whether or not the small changes to the Super Ténéré’s engine have made a substantial difference. The parallel-twin engine never really grows legs, but the bike does jump off the line well and has decent power past 5000 rpm. Midrange power isn’t arm-stretching, but as a result of its overdrive-style sixth gear the bike cruises contently down the freeway at just 4000 rpm. Better yet, there are almost no vibrations to speak of at around 70 mph.

The 575-pound Super Tenere (584 for Super Tenere ES) steers well thanks to its low center of gravity, though you’ll notice that it takes some muscle to pick the bike up on the exit of a corner. A long, tight canyon road will remind your body that this is no R6.

Changing between Sport and Touring riding modes provides a noticeable difference in performance, and on a Jeep trail we preferred the smoother on/off throttle response offered up by T-mode. S-mode’s more direct throttle response isn’t overly aggressive, but the sharper response feels more suited for dry pavement, something we weren’t always afforded during our two-day trek. The traction control system’s two settings provide an opportunity to tune the bike to your needs; we preferred TCS2, which allowed us to slide the bike around in the dirt and didn’t overly affect our pace. TCS1 will be great for those not comfortable on gravel roads, but you can really feel the power being restrained as you try to drive off a corner. We didn’t feel the system intervene while on the pavement.

On the opposite end of a dirt road you’ll feel the ABS working hard to keep the tires inline, and while the intervention levels do feel like they extend stopping distance, the system kept us from ever getting out of shape. Back on the road, the brakes proved more capable, with decent feel and stopping power.

When going back and forth between paved roads and dirt trails, it’s nice to have the Super Ténéré ES model beneath you. A $1,100 upgrade, it enables you to adjust suspension settings between four levels of preload, three levels of damping, and seven fine tuning adjustments, without pulling tools out your luggage. The bike is more composed over braking bumps, ravines, or rocks when in its firmest settings, and suspension action is noticeably different when cruising down the freeway and toggling between Hard and Soft, skipping over Standard. The KYB suspension on the standard model isn’t an underachiever, and felt well-balanced on the two-lane road that’d lead us into one of California’s greatest mountain ranges.

The Super Tenere ES model's electronic suspension with three settings and seven fine-tuning adjustments enable the rider to tailor the suspension for every road, trail, or load. On the dirt roads we traversed, the Hard setting made the bike feel more sure-footed and composed. Traction control allows small slides in TCS2, but cuts power pretty significantly in TCS1. Unlike the ABS, it can be turned off if desired.

On the freeway ride home we played more heavily with the Super Ténéré’s adjustable windscreen and seat, ultimately choosing the highest setting for the seat and lowest for the windscreen. In its highest setting the screen directed air toward the visor on our enduro-style helmet, ultimately doing more harm than good. Because the bike’s lower deflector had been removed in order to mount engine crash bars, the air around the rider was more turbulent than expected, and though the screen is wider, it’s edges bend inward and allow the air to reconvene before hitting the rider. The bike is not as aerodynamic as our 6-foot-3 Associate Editor would have hoped, and a more simplistic screen adjustment mechanism, like that on the Kawasaki Ninja 1000, would be more ideal.

The Super Tenere’s engine makes enough power past 5000 rpm to keep you satisfied, though the midrange and top-end isn’t as exciting as expected.

Rest assured, the Super Ténéré feels tranquil and enjoyable at a casual pace. The bike doesn't want (or need) to be ridden aggressively (a result of its heft and top-end engine performance), but that’s in-line with Yamaha’s intent. Representatives say the bike is meant for relaxed touring; for the long-haul, and the occasional foray into the dirt. And though they may not get you to the other end of a mountain range in a hurry, the ever-capable Super Ténéré and Super Ténéré ES will undoubtedly get you there with an ear-to-ear grin on your face.

Listening to customers can definitely pay dividends.

SPECIFICATIONS

2014 Yamaha Super Ténéré/ Super Ténéré ES
MSRP $15,090/ $16,190
ENGINE
Type Liquid-cooled DOHC parallel-twin, 4 valves/cyl.
Displacement 1199cc
Bore x stroke 98.0 x 79.5mm
Compression ratio 11.0:1
Induction Mikuni EFI with YCCT, 46mm throttle bodies
CHASSIS
Front tire 110/80 R19M/C Bridgestone Battle Wing BW501
Rear tire 150/70 R17 M/C Bridgestone Battle Wing BW502
Rake/trail 28.0 degrees/4.96 in. (126mm)
Wheelbase 60.6 in. (1540mm)
Seat height 33.3-34.3 in. (845-870mm)
Fuel capacity 6.1 gal. (23.1L)
Claimed wet weight 575 lb. (268kg)/ 584 lb. (265kg)