Taking a page from the crossplane crank R1, the Super Ténéré's crankshaft uses an uneven 270-degree firing order to smooth power pulses for enhanced traction and feel.
In order to smooth out the vibration caused by the uneven firing order, twin counterbalancers are utilized in the Super Ténéré's engine. The forward-mounted unit drives both the water pump and the twin-rotor oil pump for the dry-sump lubrication system.
In keeping with its more serious off-road adventure intentions, maintenance-free shaft drive is incorporated into the cast aluminum swingarm. Tubeless spoked wheels offer the light weight and flexibility needed for off-road use.
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.
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 allow the Super Ténéré's engine to be mounted as far forward as possible for better handling.
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.
Twin hard bags with a total 61-liter capacity are just part of the huge array of parts available through Yamaha's Accessory Division. Several package deals include a free GoPro Hero digital video camera.
In a global economic meltdown that has seen the motorcycle market suffer its worst decline in decades, there are a couple of categories that have demonstrated a bit more immunity to the calamitous drop in numbers that have plagued the rest of the industry. One of them is the adventure-tour category; bikes patterned after the popular Paris-Dakar off-road rally have suddenly become the hot ticket in Europe, and the category has actually shown some potential in the United States. According to Yamaha, the "651cc and larger dual purpose" category has grown by more than 750 percent since 1997, and was the segment least affected by the economy overall.
This is why bikes such as the Suzuki V-Strom 650 continue to sell, and why Ducati has staked a good part of its future on the new Multistrada 1200S. Honda's latest concept bike is aimed at the adventure-tour market, and rumored to be the precursor to a 2012 production model. These larger-displacement sporting street bikes with moderate off-road aspirations have become an increasingly important segment to the manufacturers.
Yamaha has seen the writing on the wall, and is now bringing its long-running Super Ténéré adventure-tour bike to the U.S.
Latest In A Long Lineage
The Yamaha Super Ténéré lineage actually extends back 28 years, to the original '83 XT600 Ténéré. That single-cylinder machine was ironically more of a dirt bike than a street bike, but the emphasis switched with the introduction of the first Super Ténéré in 1989, a parallel-twin 750 that eventually became the basis for a rally racing effort that racked up six Paris-Dakar race wins.
As the prestige of the Paris-Dakar rally increased during the '90s, so did the displacements of the racing machines. And once BMW had cemented its place in rally racing lore with its R1200GS boxer twin, Yamaha knew it had to step up the Super Ténéré's performance to keep pace. This latest version of the Super Ténéré actually debuted in Europe last year, and is now being brought to the U.S. as an early-release 2012 model.
In boosting the Super Ténéré's engine displacement Yamaha engineers started over from a clean design sheet. The 1199cc parallel twin gets its displacement via a bore/stroke of 98 x 79.5mm, with the forged aluminum pistons driving an 11.0:1 compression ratio using two spark plugs per cylinder in the revamped four-valve combustion chamber. Taking a page from the crossplane crank R1, the crankshaft uses an uneven 270-degree firing order (although this configuration actually made its debut with the '96 TDM850 Mk II), with the crankshaft also driving two secondary counterbalancers and the twin-rotor oil pump of the dry-sump oiling system that features an internal oil tank within the crankcase.
The Mikuni EFI with 46mm throttle bodies is controlled by Yamaha's YCC-T ride-by-wire throttle system. This also allows the integration of both a two-position Drive Mode system (Sport and Touring) that alters throttle response and a three-position traction control system (TCS1 is the full traction control, TCS2 is the reduced TC effect, and Off). Both systems are switchable on the fly.
The wheel speed sensors for the traction control also permit the fitment of Yamaha's all-new ABS with Unified Braking System. Similar to linked braking systems such as Honda's LBS, the Yamaha system applies the rear brake in addition to the front brake when just the front brake lever is used; however, unlike the LBS, when the rear brake pedal is used by itself, only the rear brake is applied. Also, the unified braking force to the rear brake varies according to speed and front brake pressure, with the system's pressure pump actually increasing rear brake pressure with higher front brake input pressure as long as rear grip (for example, with a passenger or cargo) is present. The monoblock four-piston calipers up front clamp on 310mm wave-type rotors, while the rear single-piston caliper works a single 282mm rotor.
The high-tensile steel tube frame hangs the engine as a stressed member well forward at a 26-degree angle (made possible by the side-mount radiators), with an aluminum subframe and cast aluminum swingarm cutting weight wherever possible. The six-speed transmission transfers power through a maintenance-free shaft drive integrated within the left portion of the swingarm. The hypoid gear design of the shaft's pinion and ring gears allows for a 10-percent-smaller ring gear, as well as cutting gear whine and permitting an offset pinion/ring setup in the rear that neutralizes shaft effect.
A 43mm fully adjustable inverted fork up front boasts 7.5 inches of travel to handle most off-road functions, with the rear suspension also offering 7.5 inches of travel through its linkage-equipped rear shock featuring remote hydraulic spring preload and rebound damping adjustability. The off-road intentions of the Super Ténéré are also reflected in its spoked/tubeless tire wheels, with the 17-inch-diameter rear paired with a 19-inch front for better handling over rough terrain; our bike was equipped with Bridgestone Battle Wing "trailie" tires, in 110/80R-19 front and 150/70R-17 rear sizes.
"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 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.
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).
The ABS systems on the BMW and Ducati definitely aren't off-road worthy; their cycling is very coarse, causing the bike to noticeably free-wheel in between braking cycles and making for elevated heart rates if you're approaching a downhill corner a little too quickly. However, we found the Super Ténéré's ABS to actually work at an acceptable level off-road; while perhaps not stopping quite as good as standard brakes in many circumstances, the ABS's power is excellent, and the ultra-quick cycling rate is very transparent, even as you come to a stop (whereas the others start pogo-ing as the coarse cycling causes the front suspension to compress/lift with each braking cycle). We tried a few panic stops on the dirt roads we traversed during the Sedona launch, and the Super Ténéré actually scrubbed off speed with surprising swiftness - much quicker than we were expecting, especially considering the non-knobby Bridgestone tires and the gravel-strewn hard-pack dirt we were riding on.
Our thoughts overall about the Yamaha's non-switchable ABS are that with a bike of this size and heft, the situations where you'd want to lock up the rear wheel (slowly descending a very steep downhill section, for instance) may perhaps be a little outside the Super Ténéré's repertoire anyway for most buyers of this bike. Backing it into a corner on the brakes and squaring it off may sound spectacular in theory, but might not be the quickest way unless you're an expert rider with plenty of experience on bikes like these. Regardless, those who are that intent on doing any serious off-roading will figure out a way to easily bypass the ABS, as well as modify the other aspects of the Yamaha that need attention (less weight, more power).
Of Serious Intent
The Super Ténéré is more of a serious adventure-tour machine than, say, the Ducati Multistrada by dint of the Yamaha's 19-inch front wheel, spoked rims, and large-capacity fuel tank that enable it to better handle long off-road excursions. With the boatload of accessories available for the Super Ténéré from Yamaha's accessories division, you can easily tailor the bike to your tastes, whether for more on- or off-road intentions. And with a starting MSRP of $13,900, the Yamaha gives you a lot more spare change to work with compared to its competition.
As with the new-generation VMAX, the Super Ténéré will be on a made-to-order basis only as part of the Yamaha Priority Delivery Program. Customers must put down a $500 deposit at their Yamaha dealer by March 31, 2011 (special financing with a 5.99 percent APR for up to 72 months available for qualified buyers), and orders will be filled according to the time received starting in May 2011.
2012 Yamaha Super Ténéré
Type: Liquid-cooled, DOHC parallel-twin
Bore x stroke: 98.0 x 79.5mm
Induction: Mikuni EFI w/YCC-T, 46mm throttle bodies, single injector/cyl.
Front tire: 110/80R-19 59V Bridgestone Battle Wing BW501
Rear tire: 150/70R-17 69V Bridgestone Battle Wing BW502
Rake/trail: 28 degrees/5.0 in. (126mm)
Wheelbase: 60.6 in. (1540mm)
Claimed wet weight: 575 lb. (261 kg)
Seat height: 33.3 in./34.3 in. (845mm/870mm) adjustable
Fuel capacity: 6.1 gal. (23L)