Promise of Adventure

ROSS MACKAY
Last updated 15:20 01/03/2011
Yamaha Super Tenere
Yamaha’s new Super Tenere Adventure bike.

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The one thing you can never accuse Yamaha of is rushing new models to market. Last week I wrote about the new VMax, which came 24 years after the original model.

This week my subject is the new XTZ 1200 Super Tenere big-bore Adventure bike, one which arrives here 21 years after the bike it supersedes.

The new Super Tenere has turned up at an interesting time, one in which the basic silhouette and specification of a big-bore Adventure bike is still – after 30 years – the subject of intense debate.

BMW continues to set the agenda with a pair of R 1200 GS models, but KTM retains the off-road high-ground with the hard-edged 990 Adventure, and Ducati has just moved the goal posts at the road end of the spectrum with its new Superbike-engined Multistrada.

Focus-wise the new Yamaha is closer to the two BMWs and the KTM with a strong dirt-orientated look and feel. Dynamically, however, there's not a lot of difference. Or at least there isn't until you leave the tarmac.

And price?

That's the interesting one, at $25,539 the Yamaha's pretty much line ball with the KTM ($23,995) but well below the $27,356 for the basic BMW R 1200 GS, let alone the more dirt-capable R 1200 GS Adventure model ($33,626).

Kiwis love their Adventure bikes and there's been plenty of interest in the new Yamaha since word first leaked out that the company was working on re-introducing a super-sized Super Tenere model.

Though it runs the BMW close in terms of basic specs – sophisticated, electronically enhanced twin-cylinder engine and running gear package which includes ABS brakes and traction control and shaft rather than chain drive – the Super Tenere has its own distinctive look and feel.

It's no lightweight – at 261kg wet it is a significant 16.5 kgs heavier than BMW's basic R 1200 GS model – and you can't disable the ABS system for off-road riding like you can that of the BMW.

But my overall impression is an overwhelmingly positive one, particularly if you plan to spend the lion's share of your riding time on it on formed (tarmac or gravel) roads.

Power-wise there's more than enough mumbo to satisfy the heaviest throttle hand, though in my humble opinion the choice of modes (Sport and Touring) is unnecessary.

I tried both but found Touring a little too mellow for my liking, preferring the extra snap offered by Sport.

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I was happier with the traction control feature, finding it particularly effective on light gravel, and though I'd prefer it if you could push a button and completely disable the function, the linked ABS braking system did as good a job on tarmac as it did on gravel.

The Super Tenere is also a very comfortable bike to ride, sitting or standing.

The gearing isn't quite right – it errs on the high side – for our artificially low open road speed limit.

But when the going gets tighter the big Yamaha proves to be a deft and agile partner with plenty of punch in the lower gears and great feedback through the wide dirt bike-style handlebars and taut, responsive (particularly well sprung and damped) forks.

Is it better than the BMW or KTM?

In some ways, it is, yes. In others, not so. But only a direct one-on-one comparison ride would give you definitive answer.

Speaking of which, several Adventure-riding buddies own BMWs. And I know a couple more with KTMs. Perhaps I should borrow back Yamaha Motor NZ's Super Tenere demonstrator and do just that!

- The Southland Times

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