2012 Yamaha Super Ténéré: MD Ride Review

April 29, 2011


We brought you a report direct from the press introduction in Europe, followed by a report from the separate press introduction held in the United States for Yamaha’s highly anticipated Super Ténéré. I had to ride this bike myself, particularly after hearing the positive responses from the test riders at the separate press introductions. Test units are in short supply here in the U.S., so Yamaha limited my time with the bike, but I did put several hundred miles on it, primarily on the street, but also off road.

The first thing that struck me about the Super Ténéré was the comfortable riding position.  It is bolt upright with no weight on the wrists.  There is a seemingly huge amount of leg room even though I never had the seat in the highest of the two optional positions.  Together with a comfortable seat, riding the Super Ténéré is genuinely refreshing in the sense that virtually none of the ergonomic compromises found on most modern motorcycles is present.

The optional seat heights are relatively tall, however (ranging from 33-1/4 to 34-1/4 inches), and I was not quite flat footed at stops given my 31 inch inseam (although I was not on tippy toes, either).

Clutch pull is reasonably light for a big 1200cc twin, and Yamaha has engineered out a number of the compromises traditionally found on dual sport/adventure bikes.  Modern, powerful brakes sufficient to haul down the ample 575 pounds wet weight, as well as fully adjustable suspension are present.

Somewhat surprising were the low vibration levels coming from the big parallel twin engine.  I think of parallel twins as “paint shakers”, but Yamaha has done a remarkable job by providing a very pleasant engine feel, almost like that coming from a 90 degree v-twin with perfect primary balance.

The engine has to be the star of the show here.  It is tractable and smooth with excellent throttle response from the carefully mapped fuel injection.  At the same time, it provides outstanding power from just above idle and throughout the powerband  . . . all the while providing those unique, pleasurable pulses you only get while riding a big twin.

I discovered that the chassis also deserves the accolades it received at both the European and U.S. press launches.  It indeed does feel light and nimble, given its considerable size and weight, once underway on the road.  Off road is a different story, however.

The Super Ténéré is fine on fire roads and gravel-strewn byways, where the traction control can really be put to good use.  I made good progress (I wouldn’t necessarily call it swift) on these types of surfaces, and even tackled some fairly tight single track.

The Super Ténéré has the ground clearance, engine guard and other accoutrements necessary for the occasional excursion off the highway, but it will prove too heavy for most riders to risk tight trails or circumstances with dicey traction, such as deep sand.  You don’t want to be wrestling a bike this big and heavy, or occasionally dabbing your foot to stay upright, where you might otherwise take a single-cylinder dual sport that weighs substantially less.

When viewed within these limitations, however, the Super Ténéré is really a resounding success.  The integrated luggage on our test unit looks rugged and utilitarian, and we found it to be so.  It is also reasonable spacious, although the bags will not hold a full-face helmet.

It is in the role of a long-distance street companion, with limited off-road capabilities, where the Super Ténéré shines.  I don’t recall being as comfortable blasting down Southern California freeways at elevated speeds as I was aboard the Super Ténéré.  That long travel suspension, all that leg room, and decent wind protection (with little or no head buffeting for me at 5′10″ tall) was a fantastic combination.  The fact that I had the instant torque of a big twin made it all the more enjoyable.

The Super Ténéré squarely belongs in this evolving class of Adventure Tourer motorcycles.  With competitors like the big BMW R1200GS, the Super Ténéré is another street bike without an excuse to be uncomfortably hunched over, or in any other riding position that compromises control, comfort or visibility on the street.  The huge gas tank provides reasonable range (six gallons at roughly 40 mpg), and the chassis is made to order for carrying a passenger and luggage.   There are plenty of good bikes in this category these days, but the purchaser of a Super Ténéré will not ride home from his dealer unhappy.  Indeed, the Super Ténéré is a great bike not only for Adventure Touring enthusiasts, but virtually any fan of sport tourers who wants a bit more versatility and, dare we say, even more comfort from his mount.

U.S. MSRP is $13,900 for the Impact Blue version (shown) or the other available color, Raven.  Take a look at Yamaha’s web site for additional details, including the “Priority Delivery Program” involved in the limited availability of this bike.

The manufacturer provided Motorcycle Daily with this motorcycle for purposes of evaluation.

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