"Ultimate Machine For Trans-Continental Adventure"
Yamaha Motor Corp. USA held its press launch amid the beautiful desert canyons surrounding Sedona, Arizona. With an excellent mix of off-highway fire-roads, canyon twisties, and highway touring over the course of two days, it allowed us to get a decent feel for the Super Ténéré in the majority of elements the units sold in this country are likely to encounter.
As far as on-highway touring performance, the Yamaha is top-notch in that respect. Wind protection from the adjustable (requires tools, though) windscreen was decent, and the standard hand guards will surely help protect your fingers in colder climates (as will the optional heated hand grips available from Yamaha's accessory division). The seat was perfectly shaped and padded for the editorial derrière, with no issues whatsoever after hours of highway droning; it's also adjustable for height, with a good 25mm difference achieved just by switching the rubber brackets underneath (and an even lower and narrower accessory seat is available).
The Yamaha's dashboard provides...
The Yamaha's dashboard provides an extensive array of information, but in an easy-to-read format. The analog tachometer is framed by the warning lights on the left and an LCD panel on right.
The wide and upright tapered handlebar provides plenty of leverage, making steering effort in the canyons fairly light, especially considering the Super Ténéré's considerable heft - at 575 pounds with a full tank, the Yamaha is definitely on the heavy side, even for a large displacement streetbike (considerably heavier than even BMW's R1200GSA, a direct competitor that has an even larger fuel tank). The street handling and grip of the Bridgestone Battle Wing rubber was very good, with light and neutral steering characteristics in all cornering situations. That grip also helped the ABS system work well on the street, allowing you to shed off speed very aggressively if needed without causing excessive front end dive due to weight transfer. Vibes from the dual-counterbalanced engine were virtually non-existent, and judging by our mileage with the overdrive sixth gear and large 6.1-gallon fuel tank, we'd predict that 250 to 260 miles per tankful is easily within reach.
Speaking of the engine, the parallel-twin powerplant has an incredibly flat torque curve, and with a 7750 rpm redline, shifting is more of an option than a requirement in the canyons. Acceleration is available anywhere in the powerband, although staying above 4000 rpm keeps the power pulses from overcoming the counterbalancers at larger throttle openings and being felt through the bars. Our only complaint is that the engine could use a little more top-end power; at only 110 horsepower or so at the rear wheel, there's not a lot of steam when you need to complete a highway pass, and if you're loaded down with cargo and/or a passenger, it makes downshifts a requirement. We used the Sport mode at all times on the pavement, as the lazy throttle response of the Touring mode was more of an annoyance than anything else.
Seat height is easily adjustable...
Seat height is easily adjustable between 33.3/34.4 inches by simply switching the rubber bracket position underneath the seat.
Dual side-mount radiators...
Dual side-mount radiators allow the Super Ténéré's engine to be mounted as far forward as possible for better handling.
Again befitting its more serious...
Again befitting its more serious off-road intentions, the Super Ténéré is equipped with a 19-inch front wheel. Twin 310mm wave discs and monobloc calipers provide excellent stopping power.
The lack of top-end power really isn't an issue off-road; the flat torque curve and tractable nature of the 270-degree crankshaft make traversing rough terrain easier and keep things from quickly getting out of hand with a 575-pound machine. On the traction control's level TCS1, some wheelspin is allowed to keep everything stable, but not much more; on level TCS2, there's a lot less intervention, and the traction control will let you hang the rear end out quite a bit under power. On most of the rocky and gravelly hard-pack fire roads we encountered, TCS2 seemed to work best, although if the weather turned ugly, we might opt for maximum traction control.
Probably the biggest issue with the Super Ténéré (other than its heft) is the non-switchable ABS. While the advantages of ABS on less-than-perfect pavement with a less-than-expert rider are indisputable, once the road ends and the ground turns to dirt, the ability to lock up the wheels (at the least the rear wheel) is actually desirable in many instances. Other adventure-tour machines with ABS such as the BMW and Ducati allow you to shut off the system, but that isn't the case with the Super Ténéré (well, there is an unauthorized method to shut it off, but we figure those who are serious about off-roading the Yamaha can easily find it by searching on the internet).