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2012 Yamaha Super Tenere Review

Japanese giant takes on the dominant German paradigm

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2012 Yamaha Super Tenere

The Yamaha Super Tenere rides comfortably on the road, and is capable of high speed cruising for hours on end.

Photo © Tom Riles
The 2012 Yamaha Super Tenere is an all-new entry in the adventure genre that was kick started by the venerable BMW GS-series bikes thirty years ago. Going up against the mighty BMW— as well as newer adversaries like the KTM 990 Adventure, Triumph Tiger 1050, and Ducati Multistrada 1200— is no small feat.

How does this lower-priced newbie from Japan take on the European competition? I spent two days in Arizona riding the Yamaha Super Tenere across trails and highways to see if this $13,900 adventure bike lives up to its superlative name.

>>Click here for a 2012 Yamaha Super Tenere Photo Gallery

The Goods: Ready for road and trail

Yamaha's oddly named Super Tenere is pronounced "Tey-ney-rey," and though the bike's lineage spans nearly three decades and includes twin-cylinder ancestors like the XTZ750 Super Tenere (which claimed six Paris to Dakar Championships), the all-new 2012 Yamaha Super Tenere marks the model's debut in the United States.

The Super Tenere is powered by an all-new 1,199cc parallel twin that sports dual counterbalancers and a 270 degree crank. The crossplane crankshaft is also found in the "Big Bang" Yamaha R1, and its uneven firing interval aids traction while adding character to the engine's exhaust note. Though official output hasn't been released for the US-spec bike, it shouldn't stray far from the European-spec model's 108 horsepower figure. A side-mounted radiator enables a shorter wheelbase and better weight distribution, and fuel capacity is a bladder-busting 6.1 gallons. The engine can be run in one of two modes: "Sport," for a sharper throttle response, or "Touring," which is less aggressive. Those modes can be switched while riding as long as the throttle is closed. The Super Tenere's traction control system detects speed differences between the front and rear wheel every 1/1000th of a second and modulates throttle response, ignition timing, and the volume of fuel injected into the engine. Traction control operates in one of three modes: "1" (more intrusive), "2" (slightly less intrusive), or "Off." The riding modes remain in place when the bike is shut off, but the traction control automatically resets to mode "1" for safety.

2010 Yamaha Super Tenere

The Super Tenere's optional aluminum side cases.

Photo © Yamaha

Power gets routed through a wet clutch and a wide-ratio six speed transmission, with a final shaft drive passing through a cast aluminum swingarm to the rear axle. Front 43mm forks are compression, rebound, and preload adjustable, and the rear monoshock suspension is a preload and rebound adjustable, with preload controlled via a small hand dial.

Stopping power comes from ABS-equipped 4-piston, 310mm dual front discs and a single-piston 282mm rear, and the anti-lock system cannot be switched off. Brakes are linked front-to-rear, so the hand lever automatically activates both front and rear brakes, while the foot pedal only activates the rear brake. The linked system adjusts the ratio of front to rear braking by comparing lever pressure to the rate of deceleration; if a lag is detected due to greater weight (like a passenger, or cargo), more pressure is directed towards the rear brake.

The Super Tenere's high tensile steel chassis has an aluminum subframe; loaded up with fuel and ready to ride, the bike has a curb weight of 575 pounds—that's 71 pounds heavier than the BMW GS, and a whopping 97 pounds more than the Ducati Multistrada. It's also 73 pounds weightier than the Triumph Tiger 1050 and 50 more than the smaller-engined Suzuki V-Strom 1000. It's also worth noting that despite its heavier curb weight, the Super Tenere's $13,900 price undercuts virtually all of the competition, except for the V-Strom 1000.

A center stand and dash-mounted power outlet are standard equipment, and options include heated grips, side wind deflectors, a tall windscreen, and a 1.3 inch lower seat (the stock saddle is adjustable between 33.26 and 34.25 inches tall.) Yamaha's factory accessories are available individually, or in one of three packages: the first includes an engine guard, aluminum skid plate, and headlight protector ($749.) The second consists of a top case, heated grips, tall windscreen, and wind deflector kit ($1,019.) The priciest comes with aluminum side cases, tank bag, tall windscreen, and wind deflector kit ($1,519.) Incidentally, the first two packages come with a free promotional Go Pro camera, and the third includes the Go Pro HD version. Aftermarket manufacturers like AltRider are also developing accessories for the Super Tenere.

On the Road: Predictable power, stable handling, and all-day comfort

In keeping with the oversized proportions of the adventure touring bike genre, the Super Tenere exudes a rather towering stance. Propping it up onto the center stand requires a considerable shove, and standing on the foot lever with my 185 pound mass alone wouldn't do it; I had to roll it backwards while jumping on the lever to get 575 pounds of bike up on the stand.

Fire up the big parallel-twin powerplant, and it comes to life with a mellow bass note. The clutch requires moderate lever pressure while the shifter engages with a solid, but easy-to-engage click.

2012 Yamaha Super Tenere

The Super Tenere is made to ride on the road, as well as dirt trails like this one in Arizona.

Photo © Brian J. Nelson
In motion, the first thing you'll notice about the Super Tenere's power delivery is its flatness, which can come across as either predictable or lazy, depending on your outlook; like the R1, the Super Tenere's actual speed is usually faster than the seat of your pants might suggest. It should be noted that the elevation of my ride surpassed 7,000 feet in some areas, which has the effect of diminishing engine power. Regardless, the engine rpms never sound quite as high as they actually are, and glancing down at the digital speedometer invariably reveals that you're going faster than you think; there were numerous moments on the interstate when illegal velocities crept up quicker than expected, and triple-digit speeds were attained with ease. A tall sixth gear ran the engine at a lazy 3,500 rpm at 70 mph.

"Sport" on the right handgrip-controlled throttle mode selector offers a relatively crisp response to throttle twists, while "Touring" is predictably milder and smoother, especially on the low end. Though not as punchy as the mills found in the BMW GS or Ducati Multistrada, the Super Tenere's crossplane crankshaft lends it a mild "pulsing" quality that keeps it from suffering terminal blandness.

>>Click here for Page 2: Trail riding impressions, Bottom line, Who should buy the Super Tenere?, and Specifications

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