05-29-2010, 10:59 AM
Joined: Jan 2006
Having ridden approaching 3000km on the XT1200z (and being an owner of a TRX engined old super tenere) I have a fair impression on what they ride like.
Initially I was a little disappointed. The engine seemed rather wheezy and down on power to to the claimed 110hp. In fact I'd go as far as saying a seat of the pants feel left me thinking it didn’t have much more power than my XTZ850 (which runs at 85hp (ish) at the rear wheel). I guestimate a round 90hp @ the rear wheel for the 1200. I suspect that the shaft drive is sapping a fair chunk of power but the wheeziness is down to ever tighter emission regulations. A power commander and an Akrapovich system will transform the performance I have no doubt. I understand that Yamaha and Akropovich work closely together and the system has already been developed. A Power commander will also be required as the ECU won’t take kindly to having the Cat removed without some trickery.
That said, the bikes no slouch, its no sports bike but the power delivery is smooth across the rev range with only a slight dip around 4.5k. Overtakes were a breeze and I had the bike up to 220kmh on a few occasions in the desert. Some claimed they saw as high as 230kmh with the bikes loaded up with panniers and top box.
It wasn’t until the second day of riding the bike that I began to not e concerned about the engine and really started appreciating what it was about. The seat was without doubt the most comfortable seat I've ever sat on a bike of this type. The riding position was very natural when seated. 8 hours in the saddle and no aches or pains at all, blooming brilliant. When stood up on the pegs, I felt the pegs could have been half an inch or so further back.
On day two I began to suspect that the traction control system was affecting power delivery. With the traction control system turned off the bike did indeed feel a little bit more responsive however I soon learnt why.... Unknown to me until I turned the traction control off was how slippery the road surfaces were. It was as if the tarmac had been polished smooth by all the airborne dust and sand. The fact that I found I could get the back end to step out at will now on the bends wasn’t because I had found an extra 20 horses at all, it was because the roads were so damn slippery and the traction control system had been quite rightly stopping me from doing something stupid.
By the end of the five day ride I was convinced. The traction control system is the dogs bollox. If you're brave enough, you can hit the apex of a bend on full lean and just open the throttle wide and put your faith in the traction control which will provide the maximum amount of power down possible without letting you lose traction with no drama and no fuss.
The brakes I could not fault. I'm not a fan of liked brakes generally but these seem to have been given a great deal of thought. Apply the front only and it'll apply the brakes at about 50/50 fr/r. Apply the back brake only and it'll work independently. The ABS system is the best I've tried on a bike. Very smooth indeed, no pulsing no noise; in fact it’s quite hard to tell it’s even coming on. I found I could steam into a tight gravel strewn bend, and apply the back brake hard mid corner and other than a little squirm from the back end this deliberate act of stupidity was corrected automatically by the bikes advanced traction and braking systems. I did notice that the extra confidence this gave probably increased our road speeds so rather than making the bike safer, this technology might actually in increase risk.
The bikes handling was also surprisingly good. A very neutral and planted feel compared to all other adventure style bikes I've tried. I like the 19" front wheel setup as it allows for much sharper steering and a more sports bike feel yet for the relatively sedate pace of offroading a bike like this, I don’t think the smaller wheel size is much of an impact.
To give a little insight, on day one when we rode from Lisbon to Jerez when we got to the mountain roads a group of three of us left the main pack and were hot on the heels of Randy Mamola who was clearly having an absolute ball throwing the bike around. Pegs and panniers scraping using all of the road and blasting past absolutely everything for two hours straight with the throttles pinned at every opportunity and the ABS light blinking away on every approach it was a ride I'll never forget. I feel very privileged to have had that opportunity and not once in that ride did I yearn to be astride a lightweight sports bike (which should speak volumes).
Off-road, it was... erm.... interesting. The bikes were shod with road tyres which by that point we'd pretty much wrecked (yes, front and back tyres trashed in 3000 miles), so riding in sand required a great amount of concentration to stay right side up. The bike felt easier to ride than my XTZ850 but harder than my KLR650 off-road. The suspension was a little too soft on the front and I managed to bottom out the forks a couple of times but the backend was surprisingly capable. Ground clearance might become an issue under extreme circumstances as I managed to ground the sump guard once after a heavy landing. As you can see in one of the videos, Helder Rodruigez managed to take his stock XT1200 with bald tyres up and over some pretty large dunes so it’s not so much what you ride but how good you are at it.... and he is extremely good.
Speaking with someone that worked on the bikes development (also a Dakar rider), I was assured the bike was going to be like the new FJ1300 in that the modern technology improvements and tighter tolerances combined with modern oils meant that these new engines will be totally reliable and capable of achieving really really high mileages with out problem. The bikes had also been tested to run on low quality fuel and even the cat would shrug off having to use leaded fuel. It was quite lengthy and frank conversation I had and I was left feeling quite positive and assured that I wasn’t being spun a yarn and that Yamaha had spent a considerable time getting this right. (4 years of development allegedly)
There are one or two design flaws I spotted, the first being the panniers which although they look aluminium are actually plastic - which on two bikes were broken off in a relatively low speed tumble. Another one which may or may not be a problem was the frame design on the LHS where it had to be bent around the output shaft in order to clear it. Certainly my limited engineering exposure made me double take when I saw it as it was clearly something that gave Yamaha a few headaches. Whether the design proves to be strong enough or not, only time will tell. Let’s hope they learnt from the previous Super Tenere's incarnation (where the frames snap in a similar place).
Oh, one more snippet.... Despite the Yamaha official advice, the ABS system can be turned off completely for riding offroad. It requires the removal of a fuse on the same circuit as the speedo. Thanks to the non canbus system it should be pretty easy to farkle a simple switch to isolate just the ABS so that it can be deactivated when required.
Would I buy one? I must say I had to think this through as my heart was telling me to go straight down to the dealer and get one ordered. My head hower is telling me to wait a little and see where the prices go. I suspect that in a year or so the 14,000 Euro price tag will drop somewhat especially when one considers that you can buy a similarly equipped 1200 Bandit for half that money.
Hell I could buy a brand new BKing and have change to buy a 1150GS to go along side.
I will own one at some point but my pockets aren't deep enough to swallow the depreciation I suspect the first editions will suffer.
I wouldnt be surprised however if in years to come the XT1200Z will prove to be the thinking mans adventure motorcycle of choice.
Sp!ke screwed with this post 06-01-2010 at 04:31 AM