2012 Yamaha Super Ténéré

Text: Ken Freund • Photography: Tom Riles, Brian Nelson

Yamaha has been selling this new Super Ténéré adventure-touring model in Europe for several years now and is finally bringing it to North America. Ténéré (pronounced like "tay-nay-ray") is the word for "desert" in the language of the Tuareg tribe that resides in the region of the Sahara where Timbuktu is located. The first bike to carry the Super Ténéré name was the 1989 XTZ750 twin and it won the trans-Saharan Dakar Rally six times — so this new machine has good DNA!

Powertrain

Power is supplied by a liquid-cooled 1199cc parallel-twin engine unique to this model, which is rated 108.4 hp in Europe (US specs don’t list power). With an 11.0:1 compression ratio, it breathes through four-valves-per-cylinder and has a DOHC shim-under-bucket valve train that boasts 24,000-mile service intervals. Twin 46mm Mikuni EFI throttle bodies feed fuel through 12-hole injection nozzles and two-spark-plugs-per- cylinder light the fires. The Super Ténéré also gets Yamaha’s YCC-T ride-by-wire throttle control that interfaces with an effective traction-control system.

Inside, the motor is fitted with a 270-degree crankshaft, having a staggered firing order that produces a unique exhaust note. Parallel twins are known for their vibrations and to combat this, Yamaha added two primary counter-balancers. These keep vibes completely in check until about 80 mph in sixth gear, when a few tingles get through the handlebar.

Redline arrives at 7,750 rpm and the torque curve feels very steady throughout the mid-range. While lacking spirit, the engine has plenty of power for passing and climbing and this docile character makes the bike feel predictable, easy to ride on loose surfaces and unintimidating to less-experienced riders. There are two rider selectable engine-computer maps called D-Mode: Touring and Sport, which simply control the rate of throttle opening and don’t affect peak power. Touring mode is very linear and best on dirt, while Sport mode has an initial strong pull that makes the bike feel more powerful than Touring—even if it’s not.

A hydraulically actuated wet clutch, six-speed transmission and low-maintenance shaft drive bring power to the rear wheel competently, with no missed shifts or false neutrals. Overall gearing is well-matched to the bike and engine, although a slightly lower first-gear ratio would help in rough off road conditions. Sixth gear is tall for relaxed highway riding, turning about 4,000 rpm at 75 mph. The 6.1-gallon tank includes a gallon on reserve and can take you more than 200 miles.

Chassis and Suspension

The stout tubular-steel frame uses the engine as a stressed member for rigidity. An inverted 43mm fully adjustable fork and the aluminum rear swingarm both offer 7.5 inches of travel for a plush ride. In back, a single shock provides rebound settings and has a knob for quick preload adjustment.

Yamaha employs a linked Unified Braking System. With UBS, applying the front brake alone also provides some rear-wheel braking, which is handy when you’re riding on dirt standing up, but pressing the rear brake first overrides UBS for separate braking. UBS is unobtrusive and even adjusts the bias percentage, based on how much weight the bike’s carrying.

In front, a pair of 310mm wave rotors clamped by four-pot calipers and a single 282mm disc with one-pot caliper in back provide strong braking — perhaps a little too grabby for off-road. We were skeptical about the standard ABS, which is not switchable, but seemed to work acceptably well on dirt. If you really want it off, run the bike on its centerstand in second gear briefly until the ABS warning light comes on, and ABS will be disabled until a restart.

Traction control, also standard, controls wheelspin by varying ignition timing and injection cutoff, and it has three settings. Setting one intervenes early enough to prevent slides; setting two is for riders who like to get a bit loose on dirt, and there’s an off position for serious off-roaders who really like to power slide. All settings worked as claimed, and setting two was great for letting the back hang out a little on dirt, without worrying about doing a face plant.

Yamaha developed spoked wheels that allow tubeless tires, and our test bike was fitted with 110/80-19 front and 150/70-17 rear Metzeler Tourance EXP rubber (Bridgestone Battle Wing tires are also original fitment). Low-speed maneuvering is easy, grip is good, and even at high speeds, the bike feels planted and stable.

Features and Ergonomics

The manually adjustable standard windscreen does an adequate job, but requires tools to adjust; a larger screen and wind deflectors are offered as accessories. Instrumentation is all in a tidy cluster that includes speedo, tach, dual trip meters, clock, fuel gauge, fuel trip meter with average and instantaneous consumption, coolant and air temperatures, plus D-mode and Traction Control settings.

Super Ténéré has a riding position designed to allow standing for off-road sections, yet offers all-day comfort when seated. Although seat height is adjustable from 33.3 to 34.3 inches it may be a bit tall for some riders, so a 1.4-inch lower seat is available optionally. Passenger seating is spacious and rear footpegs are comfortably positioned.

The aluminum panniers, which have a 61-liter combined capacity, and the 30-liter tail trunk that can hold a full-face helmet, are offered as accessories. They look nice and are keyed with the ignition, but the locking mechanism is fiddly and you always need to use the key. Other accessories include an engine guard that holds two optional fog lamps, an aluminum skid plate, headlight protector, heated grips, case liners, and a tankbag.

Final Thoughts

We found the Super Ténéré to be nicely made and finished. It’s well sorted out, capable, comfortable, fun, and easy to ride all day. It’s a great all-around machine that can take you to work daily, attack the canyons and backroads on the weekends, and then whisk you across vast continents on your vacation. Yamaha has a Priority Delivery Program period through March 31, 2011, which requires a $ 500 deposit that’s applied to the down payment. Suggested retail price is $ 13,900 and deliveries are expected to begin in May.