2014 Yamaha Super Tenere ES | FIRST RIDE

Making the Super Ten Extra Special

By Ari Henning, Photography by Kevin Wing, Steve Cox
They say: “The ultimate machine for adventure.”
We say: “’Ultimate’ is such an absolute word.”

The Super Tenere was already a talented performer—good for commuting, long-distance touring, and even the occasional foray into the dirt—and now Yamaha has made it even better. It had to. With overachieving rivals like BMW's R1200GS, Ducati's Multistrada, and the new KTM 1190 Adventure, a bike has to be extra special if it wants to stand out in the ADV class.

Yamaha upped the Tenere's game based on input from consumers and the media. The consensus was that the bike needed more power and character, and users wanted more comfort, features, and technology. Yamaha says it's addressed those issues, and to prove it, took journalists on a two-day tour through Southern California's San Bernardino Mountains on the base model Tenere and the new ES. (Which stands for electronic suspension, not extra special.)

The Tenere is intended for travel, so it's got to be comfortable. The riding position is agreeably upright, more so now that the new tapered-aluminum handlebar is 10mm closer to the rider. The seat is wide and soft, and can be raised an inch (with seat heights of 33.3 or 34.3 inches) without tools. Aerodynamic updates include a taller, wider windscreen with more range of adjustment, and little deflectors below the headlight and windscreen said to smooth airflow around the rider.

Standard hand guards, that big windscreen, and a wide tank with cutouts for your knees provided head-to-toe weather protection on the freeway ride out of Orange County. Dual balance shafts effectively eliminate annoying vibration at lower engine speeds, but things get buzzy above 5,500 rpm. Good thing just 4,000 rpm equals 75 mph in the overdrive sixth. And when you do rev the big twin out, the handlebar's new rubber mounts keep your palms from suffering too much. As before, power is fed to the rear wheel via shaft, which promises minimal maintenance.

Few have praised the Super Ten's 1199cc parallel-twin engine as exciting, while plenty have criticized it as dull. In an effort to spice things up, Yamaha engineers revised the intake and exhaust ports and took measures to reduce friction along the valve train and cylinder bores. The goal was to make the motor spin up faster and produce more power. The motor does rev faster than the previous mill and there's plenty of low-end torque, but overall performance is still soft compared to the other 1,200cc ADV machines. It should be noted that the majority of my ride time was at elevations above 5,000 feet, which surely didn't do the Tenere's engine any favors. Even at sea level, however, the Super Ten felt underpowered considering its displacement.

As we climbed into the San Bernardino National Forest, the Tenere handled the turns with ease. Bridgestone Battle Wing tires offer plenty of grip and cornering clearance is ample. The bike falls into corners easily and is comfortable leaned over on its side, but takes some effort to pick back up. Linked brakes, which feed some pressure to the rear caliper when the front brake is applied, go a long way toward keeping the chassis level, which is especially helpful on a long-travel bike like the Tenere. The bike isn't exactly thrilling, but it handles, accelerates, and brakes well enough to keep a grin on your face on a twisty road, as it did for a conga line of journalists as we snaked around the gracefully snarled pavement along the north shore of Big Bear Lake.

Yamaha says that only 12 percent of Tenere owners have taken their bikes off the pavement, yet the ride included nearly 50 miles of fire road. In the dirt, the Super Ten's gentle power delivery and the motor's ability to lug along at just a few thousand rpm is a benefit. The bike is more sure-footed in the dirt than might be expected from such a large machine thanks to a low center of gravity and a handlebar, tank, and footpegs that are well positioned for stand-up riding. The Tenere will eat up fire roads as readily as it will dispatch freeway or back-road miles.

If you're after nifty technology, the Tenere has it. The base-model has plenty of electronic rider aids, including three-level traction control (TCS1, TCS2, and off), linked ABS, two ride modes (Sport and Touring), and a really slick new cruise control system. The D-Mode ride modes were tweaked to create a more distinct difference between Touring and Sport. It worked: Touring is very soft, while Sport has sharper response, perhaps too sharp off closed throttle at lower engine speeds. The modes are useful, though, and I found myself switching between the two often, favoring the mellower response of Touring on wet roads and loose dirt, and Sport for everything else.

Want more tech? The ES, which adds $1,100 to the base bike's $15,090 MSRP and 9 pounds to its 575-pound claimed curb weight, has electronically adjustable suspension as on the FJR1300 ES, as well as heated grips. You can pick among four preload settings and three damping packages (Soft, Standard, and Hard) at the push of a button. Switching suspension settings on the ES has a pronounced effect, making this already flexible bike that much more adaptable. The Soft damping setting is luxurious on rough freeways, and Standard offered plenty of control for spirited back-road riding. The stock bike's suspension is manually adjustable, but proved well balanced on the stock settings. Baseline on the standard bike feels almost identical to the Standard setting on the ES.

The onboard computer said we averaged 40 mpg during our 250 miles of mixed riding, working out to about a 240-mile range from the 6.1-gallon tank, which positions some of its contents under the seat for better weight distribution. The Ten's range is plenty for touring and enough for the average commuter to go quite a while without visiting the gas station.

Yamaha has certainly built a better Tenere, but it's not perfect. The motor is still underwhelming, and the windshield adjustment is clumsy compared to other setups on the market. (Think Multistrada, Ninja 1000, and R1200GS). All the bikes we tested were equipped with the optional luggage system, and while the top-loading cases are sturdy and capacious, the locks often stuck. Those are minor complaints, and the Yamaha's list of standard features more than compensates. There's no denying that the Tenere will do pretty much anything you might want to do on two wheels, all at a price that's below the majority of the competition. Is the Tenere extra special? Not quite, but this latest version is extra competent.

EVOLUTION

Engine tweaks and a variety of ergonomic changes—plus electronic suspension and heated grips on the ES—give the Tenere a fighting chance among today's impressive ADV machines.

RIVALS

Aprilia Caponord, BMW R1200GS, Ducati Multistrada, KTM 1190 Adventure, Moto Guzzi Stelvio NTX, Triumph Explorer

VERDICT: 4/5

Better than before and thoroughly proficient, but don't expect it to thrill you.  

Tech SPEC

Price $16,190
Engine type l-c parallel twin
Valve train DOHC, 8v
Displacement 1199cc
Bore x stroke 98.0 x 79.5mm
Compression 11.0:1
Fuel system EFI, ride by wire
Clutch Wet, multi-plate
Transmission 6-speed
Claimed horsepower na
Claimed torque n/a
Frame Tubular-steel perimeter
Front suspension KYB 43mm fork adjustable for spring preload, compression and rebound damping
Rear suspension KYB shock adjustable for spring preload and compression damping
Front brake Dual Advics four-piston calipers, 310mm discs with ABS
Rear brake Akebono single-piston caliper, 282mm disc with ABS
Front tire 110/80R-19 Bridgestone BW501 Battle Wing
Rear tire 150/70R-17 Bridgestone BW501 Battle Wing
Rake/trail 28.0°/na
Seat height  33.3/34.3 in.
Wheelbase 60.6 in.
Fuel capacity 6.1 gal.
Claimed curb weight 584 lb.
Colors Matte Black /Matte Gray
Available Now
Warranty 12 mo., unlimited mi.
Contact yamahamotorsport.com

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