Is the Super Ténéré really Super?
South Africa had the media launch of the new XT1200Z Super Ténéré earlier this week. They invited me along as a representative of our local Adventure Forum, the Wilddogs.
This is an unprecedented step for any manufacturer, it says a lot about their confidence in the product.
Keep in mind here that I am not a journalist and will not attend any further launches, so I am free to give my opinion be it good or bad. In fact, quoting from the original invite “he/she must be prepared to write an objective as possible ride impression on the forum for the benefit of the forum members”.
Well, I'll do just that. Let's get to it.
Beauty is in the eye of the beholder but beauty was not the first thing I thought of when I saw the bikes lined up. From the pictures I also got the impression that it is a huge bike, but in the flesh, it did not look so daunting.
Some of the design that grates on the eye is the exhaust and the plastic heatshield that covers it.
If I had one of these I would swop that exhaust can out for something more streamlined asap. Currently there are no after market cans available, because we are only the second country to launch the Super Ten. The USA do not even know yet whether they will be getting the Super Ten.
With a 1200 twin motor, the Super Ten joins the ranks in the Big Traillie class. With the KTM 990 leading the pack in the sporting traillies and the GS Adventure in a class of it's own in the super tanker division, the Super Ten is aimed squarely at the BMW R1200GS, the king of the touring traillies.
When I originally bought my GS the main motivating factors for me was 1- tubeless and 2- shaft drive.
Now both the GS and the Super Ten share these features as well as more;
1200 twin cylinder engine
tubeless spoked rims
similar suspension travel
same wheel sizes.
Browsing around the bike, checking out the details, it's immediately clear that Yamaha used the GS as a benchmark and tried to improve on it.
The Super Ten comes with wide pegs and removable rubber inserts standard. That's how it should be, if you make a bike that is going to be applied off sealed roads, then it should have wide pegs to stand on.
The shaft drive have the more conventional double sided swingarm, with the control arm at the top, out of harms way.
This allows for carrier bearings to be fitted both sides of the wheel. I expect this design to be more reliable than BMW's single sided swingarm. On a single sided swingarm the bearing has to deal not only with the normal stresses but also the directional stress, by having to keep the wheel straight. Time will tell I suppose.
The tubeless, spoked rim is designed differently to the BM's. Even the front and rear is different to each other.
I do believe that the BM design makes for a rim that is more resistant to dents, as it has a very thick leading edge.
The seat is clearly copied from the BM. The rear seat is the same height as the carrier which allows for a large surface for luggage. There is also ample places to hook straps and tiedowns onto, nice.
The seats also have a light grey insert on the sides that tend to get dirty quickly.
To remove the rear seat, you need a screwdriver.
The carrier rack looks dodgy though. It is secured by three bolts which are situated close together, leaving a large unsupported overhang. I don't think it will be able to support much weight.
The panniers and top box are matched to the bike's key and are interchangeable between the 660 and 1200 Ténéré models.
The tank is made of steel; that was not very well thought through. These kind of bikes take many knocks, and plastic can absorb and shrug off most small impacts. Steel deforms and stays that way, so expect to visit the panel beaters now and then. It is also edged with unpretty rubber edging, very 1974. It lets down the premium product image a little.
The tank cowls are also going to need protector bars. This one was dropped at walking speed and there is already damage to the cowls.
More importantly, behind that cowl is the radiator fan and the radiator. The vast majority of big traillie drops happens at dead slow and in loose terrain such as rocks and the like. This makes the radiator very vulnerable, situated on the side of the tank. A radiator situated in front of the engine, behind the front wheel, is more protected.
Positioning the radiator on the side does have a certain advantage though, damage by flying rocks and caking of mud flung up by the front wheel is not an issue anymore. Also the heat dispensed by the radiator is passed out the side past the rider, so less heat flowing over the motor and rider.
The bash-plate is not standard equipment, it is optional. One is sorely needed though because the oil filter is in such an unfortunate position.
I do not think that this plate will take more than one hit without damage. The bash-plate is fitted with two thin retainers at the front (check arrow), which is probably designed as crumple zones. Other than that there is a single bolt underneath that holds it on.
The air intake sits right on top of the motor above the spark plugs. So, you can expect to cruise through water while your mates drown their GS's. Getting to the filter involves quite a couple of bolts, but the tank swivels up very niftily on a hinge to give you access.
Another thing that is optional is heated grips.
The blue version has a yellow spring on the rear shock and the silver version has a red one.
Both headlights are used in dim and bright mode.
Ok, enough with the small talk, let's get to the important part, what's it like to ride?
This has to be the most talked about aspect when the specs were released. Weight with full tank – 261kg.
I can give you finality on that. No need to argue or discuss anymore, write it down, roll it up in a ball and chuck it in the rubbish bin. There is no weight problem to talk about. Not in relation to it's peers.
I rode it, I put it down, I picked it up, there is no issue.
The weight feels exactly the same as the GS when picking it up, and riding and moving it about at slow speed, it borders on feeling lighter than the GS.
The only time I ever noticed the weight was when trying to steer with the pegs at over 100km/h, then it was noticeably reluctant to change it's line. Jan du Toit reckons the BMW moves easier because of the boxer lay out. The Super Ten's side by side layout has the spinning motor creating a centrifugal force that resists rapid direction changes. It makes sense to some extent.
So there you have it, we can move on, nothing to see here.
Although the bike does not look that large when viewed from the side, it feels quite high when seated. It is more of a seated on, than a sitting in kind of feeling.
The screen can be adjusted (with tools) to be high or low, like this.
I found the screen to be quite adequate, just a little buffeting as the airstream came right at my peak. An extra inch would have been good. Yamaha does have an optional extended screen available.
The seat also has a low and a high setting, and I found it very comfortable. It is more flat than the GS which does allow you to move around a little bit to get rid of pressure points.
Standing is comfortable due to the wide pegs and the bars are very close to being at the right hight, I would lift it maybe 2cm to make for a perfect fit for me. I like that the bars are nice and wide, giving good leverage and making you look strong.
When standing, your knees are clamping the tank in a very comfortable fashion. Just make sure to stick some protection on the sides of the tank, the paint job will be damaged pretty quickly from wear.
The bike pulls very lekker with a raspy engine note when you wind it. It pulls a bit stronger than the GS but the big difference lies in the upper reaches of the speed range.
My GS can run to well over 200km/h but starts feeling rough at 180km/h. Accordingly I do most of my long distance travel at 170km/h.
The Super Ten pulls very strongly from 160 – 180km/h and is ultra smooth at 180km/h. It only starts to feel rough at about 196km/h, from where the grunt is gone too. I took it to an indicated 209km/h but it is really academic as there is no power left then. I know some of the other guys took it to 235km/h by using slipstreaming and downhills, no point to that really.
Fuel economy is not on par with the BM though. Well, nobody expected it to be, BMW is the undisputed leader when it comes to fuel economy. Over the two days of riding of which about 500km was dirt and 200km tar, the Super Ten averaged 16km to a litre, sometimes dipping into the 15's when steeking it on tar.
One further benefit of this inline twin, is that you do not have the cylinders sticking out the sides of the bike, looking to get damaged at the first drop. Let's be honest here, for a bike that is going to be dropped repeatedly, the boxer motor was a silly idea.
The dash has all kinds of things to play with, but it does get a little crowded with information. Also, the cables hide some of the display.
It can display your consumption in litres/100km or km/litre.
The power socket is unfortunately one of the standard types that you find in cars. This is not suitable for bikes because the sockets that fit in there are prone to slipping out quite easily. It may a bit of a schlepp to replace it with the Hella type because the hole in the dash is bigger than needed.
There are two settings that are toggled by a switch on the handle bars, S for sport and T for touring. The touring setting I found to be pretty useless on the road, maybe it is supposed to reassure pillions or something but I will not be happy with the slow pull aways.
On loose rocky climbs and technical surfaces the touring setting comes into it's own however. It takes the snappiness out of the throttle and makes it easy to control the rear wheelspin. Not too far from how the GS puts it's power out so controllably. It makes technical riding a lot easier than the sport setting. Incidentally, in order to toggle between the two, the bike needs to be stationary.
I like this gadget a lot, it is in use on the KTM 690 (and if it was not, I would not have wanted one) and a variety of other bikes. It surely is the future, it is like having two bikes in one.
There are three traction control settings that are set by a button on the side of the dash. Setting 1 is the default that activates every time the ignition is switched on, setting 2 is like an off road setting, it still works but is more reluctant to interfere and then finally, it can be switched off altogether.
I have never been a fan of interfering with wheelspin, but over the two days I spent using all the settings, no 2 grew on me. It still allows enough power through for the back wheel to step out, but it brings it back without you having to do anything. Unless you are intent on pulling long slides all day long, this setting does not interfere with your riding at all.
Off road, setting no 1 is probably usefull on very slippery surfaces, but I did not really get the chance to use it on such. When I did use it off road, I did not like it, it interferes too quickly, like for instance when you need a quick squirt of power to unload the front suspension.
I did not have the opportunity to try these settings in deep sand, but I suspect that the traction control will have to be switched off in sand.
Suspension and handling
If you can imagine a sliding scale with the 950's suspension on the one end and the GS's suspension on the other end, then the Super Ten would lie between them, but a lot closer to the GS.
Although the GS and Super Ten has much the same travel, the Super Ten is a lot better sprung. The suspension is quite firm, but I was able to hit obstacles much harder and jump higher and generally keep a more rapid rate of progress going than what the GS is able to. We had limited chance to evaluate sand riding, but on the odd occasion where we hit sandy stretches on the road, the bike was very stable, moving about with confidence.
Maybe this is not a surprise either because I have never come across a properly suspensioned BM. They must have a company directive out that all their DS bikes are to be supplied with inadequate damping.
So a convincing knockdown for the Super Ten here then.
The Super Ten does not like to lift the front though. When trying to get the front to clear ditches and the like it was decidedly woody, and needed a good compression on the pegs to have a noticeable lifting effect on the front. The guys that could wheelie also found it quite difficult, but not impossible.
Off-road, I was continually surprised at the amount of traction this bike was able to put down. We were using the new Metzeler Tourance pattern that looks like this.
So it was not the most aggressive tyre out there. We were also running at quite hard pressures of 2.2bar front and rear. The Super Ten was getting grip all over, many places where I expected it to scrabble around it just thrust forward. Yamaha says it is because of the 270 degree crank that has the cylinders fire 90 shortly after each other, behaving like a thumper almost.
On road, the suspension is excellent, keeping the bike firmly planted at all speeds. There is a bit more dive on the brakes than the GS, but that is to be expected of telescopic forks. Contrary to the KTM for instance, the dive is very limited, giving great confidence in grabbing a hand full of brakes. Both front and rear are adjustable for pre-load and rebound.
The brakes are linked, if you grab the front, the rear is also activated. If you hit the rear first, they are unlinked and operate independantly.
That is the theory. In practice, you can all but ignore the tech details, it is intuitive and easy to use. If I wasn't told how it operated, I would not have known except that the braking is excellent.
Off road the braking performance with ABS on really surprised me. It is streets ahead of my GS. Very different. How exactly they do it I do not know, but I tested it over two days, trying to make it misbehave on surfaces that I knew the GS would. Only twice was I able to replicate that dreaded 'no brakes' release. I got the feeling that it activates much later than the GS's would and that the pulses of release and grip was much closer together.
The back wheel obviously has the ABS kick in the most and it pulses quite strongly through the pedal. But generally it always feels like there is a lot of braking power, even on looser surfaces and importantly, in turns.
The usability of the ABS off-road, is the one thing that stands out most for me on this bike. It is the one aspect that impressed me most.
For the vast majority of riders this ABS will be sufficient 95% of the time.
But there is a problem. The ABS cannot be turned off. This, I feel, is unforgivable. A bike that is used off-road needs to be able to lock it's wheels.
You need to be able to lock up the rear for instance to do rear wheel steering, or to create that plow effect when you want to stop in deep sand, or going down a steep decline in order to keep the rear in the rut, to make turns shorter than your turning circle, there are many examples. Try barrel racing without being able to swing the rear around. ABS would for instance be dangerous if you attempted to do the GS Challenge red route, where your bike will start a runaway downhill if your front brake releases over a loose rock or two.I hear you say “who the hell wants to do barrel racing with a 1200 behemoth?” Fair enough. These are all examples of technical riding that the majority of riders do not partake in, but some do.
All riders however, need to be able to stop rapidly from time to time. It may be because you are too fast for the terrain and comes across a cement culvert at 120km/h, it may be because on our rural roads you at one time or another, are going to have to make a panic strop, be it for sheep, cattle, kids or some skedonk making a u-turn.
I did a quick test to illustrate what I knew would happen. I did a series of stops from 80km/h, three with no ABS and two with ABS. In this picture, the bikes in the rear are standing where I stopped the bike under my own power, letting the rear slide and modulating the front when it started sliding. In the forefront there is a can on the ground, that is where the ABS were able to eventually stop the bike with both brakes fully engaged.
The difference was about 12m. I do not want to stop 12m on the other side of the cow. I want to stop before I hit it.
And this was still an excellent surface, add some potholes, rocks or corrugations and the difference will be much greater. You can do this panic stop test on any bike with ABS and the result will always be that a competent rider can stop faster on his own.
That is why I say that ABS is not appropriate for off-road riding.
The good news is that for the take-charge kind of guy, there is a way to work around this problem. What we did is to just unscrew the front wheel pick-up and cable tie it out of the way, like so.
The electronic management picks up that there is a problem in the ABS system, and disables it. So you have normal brakes that you can lock up at will. I spent the second day riding it this way.
The ABS and traction control uses the same pick-up though, so the traction control is also disabled, turning it into a proper bike that does what you tell it to. The negative is that you have three yellow warning lights on all the time.
I suspect that if you just lengthen the line running down to the pick up, and route it past your handlebar, you should be able to fit a basic switch, which will allow you to turn the ABS on and off at will. Which by the way, is the way that BMW should have done it too, cutting out the frustration of having to switch of the ABS every time the ignition is switched on.
I will leave you with this last thought. Of all the riders on the launch, every one except me chose to keep the ABS on at all times. It is that good.
Everybody is going to ask “is it better than the GS?”
That is a very difficult one to answer because 'better' means different things to different people and a bike is a sum of many parts. Not everyone attaches the same weight to the same attributes.
What I can tell you is this. The Super Ten has better brakes, better suspension and better power.
Add to this the aggressive pricing; R130 000 for the base model, R139 000 for the First Edition version, which includes panniers, bashplate and headlight cover. That is roughly R20 000 cheaper than the equivalent GS.
I expect Yamaha to sell a shit load of these. If they don't, there is something wrong with the buying public, definitely not the product.
I will leave you with some eye candy.
Ok, fire away, Q&A session.
Thanks you Mr Jockey for a wonderful, objective review, NICELY DONE!!
Three Q's for you:
How much do you weigh and how tall are you??
Can you translate the MPL to MPG??
Did you do any night riding and can you comment on the effectiveness of the lighting??
In the UK the Super Ten is only available via internet ordering. Dealers will not stock it according to TBM magazine. I wonder if that is the plan in SA. That would certainly explain why Yamaha would invite a forum writer to a bike launch.
I understand you have a GS. Given a chance, would you trade in your GS for a Super Tenere? Why?
Considering Super Tenere is a 2010 bike, would you prefer it over a 2010 GS or GSA? Why?
Google says 37.6 mpg
Yes, we did night riding and the lighting was very good, throwing a very wide spread of light making verges visible.
A friend asked me, if the two bikes were presented side by side, which will I choose, and I answered I'll take the BM. They are both quality bikes, but my heart will still make the BMW my favourite.
That being said, I could very easily live with this bike.
The Super Ten is serious competition though, and I dare say the first too.
Thanks for the great write up and pics :clap
In your opinion since you have rode both bikes now do you think the Tenere will be a true contender for the GS?
Also, If you had to pick the worst thing about the bike and the best thing about the bike what would it be?
Best thing - ABS useability.
Worst thing - ABS not able to be switched off.
Yes, I know, quite a contradiction.
I wonder why they would have a bike launch for a line that is already sold out. Not really any point in creating more demand if there is no more supply.
Excellent and thorough write up!! :clap
At a stopped position, how do the Yam and BMW compare in terms of flat footing (ie; seat height)?
Thanks for an excellent review which has helped negate the incessant guessing and naysaying in the GS camp. Better power, better brakes, better suspension, comfortable, feels lighter than the specs, etc. And odds are, more reliable.
And the local sales clowns still have no idea this bike even exists. I live in a strange and difficult world. :lol3
Great write up!! :clap
Hopfully when i'm ready for a new bike i'll be able to test ride it and a GS to see which one i like better. Assuming Yamaha ever brings it here!!
Yet another big heavy poseur bike that should stay on the street,every crash or scrape on a bush will de value the thing. Toooo heavy and wide best just to buy a street bike. Wanna be's will love it!
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