Yamaha can match the Euro adventure bikes feature for feature.

Yamaha likes to shake things up. In 2010, the Super Tenere arrived in Europe and sparked a war at the top end of the adventure world. It would no longer be a BMW-versus-KTM playground, and it would no longer be enough to look the part. The Super Tenere proved that massive adventure bikes could and should have better capabilities in the dirt. It came to the U.S. the next year, and not long afterward, BMW and KTM responded with newer, better 1200s that pushed the bar even higher, and the war raged on.
Yamaha had a very short reign alone at the top of the class, but the Super Tenere is not standing still. Changes came late in the 2014 model year, designed to keep it in touch with the rapidly evolving adventure bike assortment.
Those who thought the adventure bike world was strictly a European thing were stunned by the Super Tenere, and it’s still pretty impressive to this day. Yamaha picked and chose the most popular features from other bikes in the category. It got a driveshaft from BMW, and it got a more dirt-think from KTM. There aren’t any fragile parts hanging off in harm’s way. The pipe is well tucked in, the overall width is less than most bikes in this category despite that it has a parallel-twin motor. The bars and footpegs on the standard model are excellent and can be invited to stay, even if you plan on building the bike into a serious off-road marauder. In standard form, it’s fairly crash-proof, and only gets better as you bolt on crash bars, guards and armor, all of which Yamaha is delighted to offer.
SuperTrightwebLike other top-end adventure bikes, the Super T goes heavy on electronic assistance. It comes with anti-lock, unified braking, which works both brakes at once in differing degrees. It has traction control, which can be altered or disabled with a push of a button. And, it has two different settings for power delivery: Sport and Touring. In 2014, the separation between those two levels became more distinct. Also in 2014, the 1200 started coming with cruise control as standard equipment. Even more significant was the arrival of a second version that got electronic suspension adjustment, which closed a significant technology gap between Yamaha and the Euro makers.
There are a number of other things that have changed since the Super Tenere first landed. It has an adjustable windscreen that’s bigger, an aluminum kickstand, an updated display and a new handlebar mount. The motor itself got a new head, piston and rings.

A big accessory list is part of the program for manufacturers in this world. The Yamaha tank bag is $185.95. The saddlebags are $488.95 a set.
A big accessory list is part of the program for manufacturers in this world. The Yamaha tank bag is $185.95. The saddlebags are $488.95 a set.

A few years ago the Super Tenere stunned us with how much fun it was in the dirt. It was an eye-opener at the time, and the Yamaha still has that same magic. It feels like a real dirt bike; the rider position is right, the stability is good and the power is a rush. But before you go off-road, you have to outsmart a few things. The traction control always seemed a little intrusive, but back in 2011, we figured that’s the way it had to be. Now we know better, as better systems have arrived. The XT has three levels of traction control, and all are party spoilers. If you’re in loose dirt where there’s a chance of getting stuck, it’s better to turn the feature off. And, it’s the same story if you want to drift the rear end a little. Off is best. In fact, the only time it makes sense to us is on the pavement. The irony is that the Yamaha’s power delivery is so smooth and controllable that the throttle acts as kind of a manual traction control. The Super Tenere is a very powerful motorcycle, but it’s not explosive. The torque builds gradually, and the 270-degree crank feels like it has a lot of flywheel. The traction that it finds naturally is pretty good. As the revs increase, the power levels off, and by 8000 rpm, the show is over. Move on to another gear in the six-speed gearbox.
Four years ago the Yamaha was the most powerful bike in this category. Since then, BMW and KTM have released new models that have surpassed it, and the Suzuki V-Strom 1000 isn’t far off. At what point is enough enough? We’re not sure, but if you walk away from the Yamaha thinking you need more power, you have issues you need to work out.

The Super Tenere really was designed with off-road riding in mind; it isn’t a repurposed street bike.
The Super Tenere really was designed with off-road riding in mind; it isn’t a repurposed street bike.

Not that there aren’t flaws to complain about, though. Tops on the list of things we wish Yamaha would change is the ABS system. It’s nice on the pavement but very limiting in the dirt. You can’t use rear-brake lock-up as a means of pointing the bike. On the Yamaha, the ABS can’t be turned off for this, at least not easily. Yamaha veterans point out that by putting the bike on the center stand and running through the gears, you can freak the system out and disable it. This isn’t particularly safe or convenient, and we don’t recommend it. Other gripes: The seat is a little hard but is adjustable. And, if you get Yamaha’s optional side cases, you’ll love the way they fit, but you won’t appreciate the flexy plastic latches.
The Yamaha is just as incredible today as it was when it was first introduced. But now there’s a backdrop of other incredible bikes in this class. At $15,090, the Yamaha is thousands less than a comparably equipped BMW, although you certainly can’t say it’s a bargain—unless you’re in a tax bracket that would make the rest of us mad. The Yamaha remains the non-European alternative in a world that once had a very strong German accent.


Yamaha allows you to choose between three traction control settings or to just turn it all altogether.
Yamaha allows you to choose between three traction control settings or to just turn it all altogether.

Turning a weakness into a strength
Leapfrogging technology is routine in the adventure bike world. The suspension that was so good on the Yamaha back in 2010 is now slightly behind the times. That’s why Yamaha now has the Super Tenere ES. This is a separate model that offers electronic suspension tuning at the push of a button. The shock has four preload positions, three damping settings and seven fine adjustments. You can switch between settings without stopping as you transition from street to dirt.
What we like most about the system is that you know what you’re adjusting. Other electronic suspension systems give you nebulous terms like “Enduro” and “Extreme.” You don’t know if you’re changing compression damping or something else. The Yamaha lets you go stiffer or softer, and you can feel the change as it happens.
One of the most popular aftermarket parts for the Yamaha is a replacement shock, which typically costs $1500. The ES version of the Super Tenere is $1100 more than the standard model, and you get other extras like heated grips. It makes the Yamaha a much better adventure bike, even if you don’t go off-road that often.


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