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.