2014 Yamaha Super Ténéré: Rugged, Yet Refined!

Text: Ken Freund • Photography: Yamaha

Many motorcyclists have discovered that adventure-touring motorcycles offer an excellent combination of on- and off-road performance, comfort, and practical utility. As this do-it-all market segment gains more competition and models, Yamaha has upped its game with significant improvements on a late-release 2014 Super Ténéré. There are more than a dozen minor changes, some additional optional accessories, plus a new ES (electronic suspension) version that adds electronically-controlled suspension and heated hand grips.

I had an opportunity to try the standard Super Ténéré model on the coast-to-coast Cannonball Centennial Ride, which followed the route of Erwin “Cannonball” Baker’s epic journey in 1914. Baker left San Diego astride a seven horsepower machine and reached New York City 11 1/2 days later, breaking the existing record, which was 20 days. We left San Diego 100 years to the minute later, along the same trails he took, going through the same towns—but with a lot more horsepower!

Powertrain and Performance

Power comes from a liquid-cooled 1,199cc parallel-twin engine with four valves per cylinder, the same as previous models. It employs a 270-degree crankshaft that fires both cylinders closely together and results in a staccato exhaust note and spirited acceleration. A two-axis primary balancer smooths the engine vibes effectively at all speeds.

For 2014 the piston rings, intake, and exhaust ports, and exhaust header pipes were changed. The result is two extra horsepower and 1.5 lb-ft more low-end torque. That’s not a lot, but the change is palpable with a bit more lower-rpm grunt, plus improved acceleration. Although the USA distributor doesn’t provide power specs, European websites indicate there’s about 110 hp at 7,250 rpm and 86 lb-ft of torque at 6,000 rpm. That’s ample for passing, even at high altitudes, on long upgrades, and when fully loaded.

Yamaha Chip Controlled Throttle (YCC-T) fuel injection interfaces ride-by-wire throttle control with traction control, rapidly adjusting ignition timing, throttle opening, and fuel delivery to limit rear-wheel slippage. Yamaha D-Mode (drive mode) controls the rate of throttle opening and has two settings: S-Mode for sport riding when peak performance is desired and T-Mode for touring, which offers a smoother response. D-Mode was revamped for 2014 with more difference between “T” and “S” settings. The S mode feels quicker and more aggressively responsive.

Traction control allows you to accelerate with greater confidence, particularly on slippery surfaces and when charging out of corners hard. In normal operation on wet or dry pavement, it’s quite seamless without an abrupt choppy feel found on some other brands. On very loose surfaces, such as sand and mud, it is too severe and had to be turned off to make headway.

The clutch damper is changed from a spring type to a rubber unit for less vibration and noise. Clutch lever effort is light, and it’s easy to modulate engagement. A wide-ratio six-speed gearbox provides the right ratios for slow dirt sections all the way up to relaxed highway cruising. Shifting is smooth, neutral simple to find, and the shaft drive eliminates pesky chain maintenance and replacement.

Chassis and Handling

The steel frame uses the engine as a stressed member for increased strength and feels solid in all conditions. An inverted-style fork with 43mm tubes features adjustable preload, compression, and rebound damping. The 2014 forks’ inner cylinder piston rods were upgraded from steel to aluminum, and they are slightly longer with 7.5 inches of travel.

On the new ES version, there are four pre-load choices, three major damping adjustments, and seven fine-damping settings. This allows the Super Ténéré rider to find pretty much any combination desired for solo riding, carrying a passenger, cargo, or all of the above. I got to ride an ES briefly and it worked well, as claimed.

The standard single rear shock has adjustable rebound damping and spring preload with a remote preload adjusting knob and 7.5 inches of wheel travel. The ES model can be adjusted by toggling the switch by the left hand grip.

The Super Ténéré has both an ABS and Unified Braking System (UBS). With UBS, applying the front brake alone also provides some rear-wheel braking. Pressing the rear brake first overrides UBS for separate front and rear braking. Braking is strong and fade-free with low lever effort, and the ABS works well when needed without being overly sensitive.

Yamaha found through surveys that only about 12 percent of Super Ténéré owners take their bikes off-road, so the engineering department focused more toward its on-road attributes. Hence the ’14 Super T has excellent highway manners with a comfortable riding posture. Ride quality is quite plush, and the suspension soaks up bumps competently. On pavement the bike feels stable and solid at all speeds. Lean it into a turn and it tracks well and holds a line like a sporting machine.

Having said that, the Yammie is one of the more portly 1200cc machines in the adventure bike class, which can be a detriment off-road. With knobbies it can handle loose dirt and some sand, but with the stock Bridgestone Battle Wing tires, only graded dirt roads should be attempted. Also there’s no way to shut off the ABS for tough off-road riding.

Features and Ergonomics

A larger, redesigned windscreen boosts wind protection, effectively cutting wind noise, while more airflow under the windscreen reduces helmet buffeting. The tool-less manual height adjustment is easy, even with gloves on, and offers five inches of range.

A reshaped aluminum handlebar is 10mm higher and 10mm closer to the rider. Rubber isolators under the bar-mounts, and removable rubber footpeg inserts, help soak up on-road vibrations. Heated grips with three levels are great for cold weather on ES models.

The roomy saddle has an adjustable height of either 33.3 or 34.3 inches, and both the front and rear seats are comfy. A new instrument cluster keeps the rider informed with a bar-graph tachometer, digital speedometer, and LCD readouts for vital functions that include time, temperature, fuel level, fuel economy, and more.

A GPS mounting point is now standard along with a 12V power outlet and makes installing various navigation and electronic devices easier. There’s also a new aluminum sidestand, which both looks and works better than the previous one.

The modular rear luggage platform allows mounting flexibility, and Yamaha’s optional accessories include aluminum side cases and a topcase suitable for adventure touring. My bike was fitted with the roomy side cases, which when combined with a waterproof tailbag provided enough capacity for a cross-country trip.

Final Thoughts

After thousands of miles on our coast-to-coast ride, which included rugged desert terrain, the big bike never missed a beat and not one thing came loose or malfunctioned. Quality components, top-notch assembly, finish, and attention to detail make the Super Ténéré a very capable touring and travel companion with excellent fuel economy and competitive pricing.