Review: 2014 Yamaha Super Ténéré

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2014 Yamaha Super Tenere

A brand new dashboard graces the ST, along with a new switch on the left handlebar to help navigate the nested menu system on the dash. Once you get the hang of the operation, it’s pretty simple and easy to use. I needed a couple of tutorials before the operation clicked in my brain, and then it became intuitive.

Fancy electronics deliver a sophisticated cruise control system. It’s sophisticated, but still straightforward to use. Since it doesn’t just keep the throttle in the same position, it reads the information from the YCC-T (Yamaha Chip Controlled Throttle, or throttle-by-wire) and maintains the set speed quite accurately, which is a great feature on long rides with changes in elevation.

2014-Yamaha-Super-Tenere-03

Yamaha is rightfully proud of the ST’s new aluminum side stand, which replaces the heavy steel one from previous models. It’s long enough to keep the bike pretty close to vertical when parked. For total stability, there’s a standard center stand — though it takes a mighty yank to get the 575 lb (584 lb for ES) bike settled. I know that using a center stand is an art — I’m just not a master of that art.

2014 Yamaha Super Tenere

The Ride

If you’re looking for one of those rollicking adventure stories where the writer brags about conquering sand dunes and splashing through the swamps on a dual sport, I’m afraid I’m going to have to disappoint you. But I did get to ride the ST for two days in a wide variety of conditions, including several miles of gravel and dirt roads the San Bernardino Mountains east of Los Angeles. The ST performed as advertised — it is very good in all conditions. A freeway blast or two showed that the tall, relatively narrow bike is comfortable, smooth and powerful. Lane sharing (legal in California, as you know) is achievable, thanks to nimble handling and predictable power delivery — nothing worse than a surging throttle when you’re threading through traffic at low speeds. ST’s seat was all-day comfortable for me, and the riding position was just right. I could lift my weight off the seat with my legs, but I didn’t feel bunched or cramped.

2014 Yamaha Super Tenere

When the roads became more interesting and challenging, the ST responded beautifully. My test bike was equipped with Yamaha’s accessory hard bags, which added a little width to the bike but didn’t hamper handling at all.

The engine purrs along nicely, and the six-speed manual transmission snicks (as opposed to clunks) from gear to gear, and sixth gear is a slight overdrive, which works well on flat straightaways. Yamaha doesn’t release horsepower and torque figures — but I believe reports that I’ve read that the 1,199 cc parallel-twin puts out a little over 90 hp and around 75 lb-ft of torque, enough power to cover a quarter-mile in under 12 seconds in the right hands. Not to get too deeply into the engineering, but Yamaha has tuned the engine to deliver a unique character with a 270-degree crank pin off-set with uneven firing intervals. The resulting engine pulse almost feels and sounds like a big single, instead of a twin, and the power comes on smoothly, with a nice rise with revolutions — not a kick in the pants, but smooth, linear power that makes the bike very predictable to operate.

The ST’s engine sound and exhaust note didn’t send shivers down my spine, but did give me confidence and comfort. Shaft drive is a logical choice for a bike that’s going to spend at least part of its life in the dirt, and the ST’s system is simple, elegant and, according to Yamaha, virtually maintenance free. That’s nice.

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  • MichaelEhrgott

    575 lbs is pretty damn heavy.

    • Bruce Steever

      And that’s before you start bolting up crash protection. Make no mistake, she’s a pig…but she’s also a graceful pig with excellent suspension to control the mass. The only time the weight comes back to haunt you is during slow-speed u-turns and similar moves on dirt. But everywhere else, this thing just plows through without a care in the world. Put another way: should it be lighter? Oh gods yes. But does it NEED to be lighter? Not really, cause it works pretty damn well.

      • MichaelEhrgott

        Yeah, even my KTM 950 is a bit much to handle during the slow speed stuff so I can definitely forgive that. Glad to hear she carries her weight well!

      • Shrek

        Interestungly I have no problems making U turns, read lee parks total control, great book and it will help you make slow turns with ease. Oh yea I would like the bike lighter not because of handling but in the event a person drops it.

  • Scheffy

    I thought it looked kinda frumpy until the big scoop to the left of the headlight started reminding me of Predator’s shoulder cannon.
    +10 charisma.

  • Jasper909

    looks like it needs a beak

    • Nathan Haley

      a beak would also be less likely to fill up with gunk and break off like a super-low fender does on a muddy ride. and IMHO beaks look better.

      • zedro

        The beaked bikes still have those low fenders tho.

  • Heath Collins

    “SuperT” is the standard nickname from what I’ve gathered on ADVrider.

    • Nathan Haley

      or S10.

      • Jason Fogelson

        I coined my own nickname. That’s how I roll.

  • Tiberiuswise

    That settles it. I’m stenciling “Super” in on the tank of my V-Strom.

  • Alex

    …like a Range Rover sport…

    • Stuki

      Land Cruiser. Heavy, Japanese, a bit clumsy and old fashioned. And no record of a single one requiring unscheduled maintenance yet, as long as it’s ridden within it’s limits.

  • William Connor

    Nice bike, well made. Yamaha quality is as good as it gets. I prefer my Explorer for now but the S10 is a quality option.

    • Heath Collins

      I’ve contemplated getting one. I need to test ride one somehow… I’m worried it’ll be too boring after living with a Z1000. I really like it, I’m just not sold on it.

      • Shrek

        No offense but I was not overly impressed with the Z, the Yami will handle far better and will have a better more responsive throttle and will feel plenty powerful. To be fair mine does have the jumper mod, pipe and commander but it brings a smile to my face every time. Take one for a ride, it will end up in your garage not long after

  • Bones Over Metal

    Yamaha if your listening, please please bring it’s little brother the XT660 to NorthAmerica, or at least to Canada.
    It fills such a gap in the small, lighter adventure touring market.
    http://www.bikez.com/pictures/yamaha/2009/28857_0_1_4_xt660z%20tenere_Image%20credits%20-%20Yamaha.jpg

    • Nemosufu Namecheck

      That is an awesome bike. If you like it you should really try out the BMW Sertao – it’s just a little bit better in every way.

      • Shrek

        BMW requires maintenance every 6k yami every 24k which is why I chose the yami

    • Stuki

      If the S10 is heavy for it’s class, the 660 is obese to the point of ridiculousness.

      • Nemosufu Namecheck

        I love the headlight setup though – looks legit.

        • Shrek

          The headlight sucks, I think I will give HID a try

  • Tom Gabriele

    Smooth fueling and shifting? Sounds like Yamaha is figuring things out. This is coming from a happy FZ6 rider, by the way.

    • Paolo

      A friend of mine is selling on of those FZ6′s! I’m tempted…

      • Tom Gabriele

        It’s a solid all-rounder, with great community support. Definitely a good option to consider

  • Robert Glover

    I’ve always felt this bike weighed entirely too much, and have read that the motor has no real character. I’d go for the KTM 1190 Adventure because it weighs so much less and has quite a bit more power and off-road capability.

    • Nemosufu Namecheck

      The wet weight of the Super Tenere is 575lbs. The wet weight of the KTM 1190 is 528. Honestly not that big of a difference in how the bike will handle and the Super Tenere engine feels a lot more welcoming than the 1190. I rode both bikes in the past three months and like both.

      • Stuki

        I had an S10 for almost 2 years, sold it; and just recently got an 1190. While both are adv bikes, they are very different in how they feel to ride. The S10 may ride lighter than it is, but the 1190 feels like it’s about half the weight of the S10. On road, it rides like a Vstrom 650 with much upgraded suspension and a rocket engine.

        For a bit of background, I rode an 1150GS for years back in the day. When BMW released the 1200, lots of long time GS’ers lamented how BMW had changed the formula that made the previous GS’ so desirable (BMW people are wont to do that with every generation, but the 1150 to 1200 was a meaningful change.) With the 1200, the focus was much more on light weight and sporty handling when lightly loaded; which is how 90+% of buyers use the bike 90% of the time. But it did lose a bit of the “Live off the bike for two years riding around the world” mojo. Kind of like a lumberiung old school SUV getting a Unibody.

        Anyway, the S10 is more in line with what the 1150 was. A big honking Hulk of a bike that handles just as well loaded down for the Long Way Around, as it does in day to day commuting and sport riding. Which is another way to say that loaded down, it handles fantastic for a loaded down bike; but lightly loaded, it’s a bit more cumbersome than the latest GS. While the 1190 is much more in line with the new GS.

        One issue with the S10, is the very limited ground clearance. The thing has 7.5″ of travel both ends, like the 1190. But whereas the 1190 has 9″ of ground clearance, the S10 has 7.5; leaving very little room under the bike when the suspension compresses….. And to add insult to injury, the low point of the Yamaha is all the way at the front of the engine; hence maximum susceptible to touching down when the bike dives on the brakes. It felt like I could almost get the bike to scrape it’s skid plate on flat ground, by just goosing the front brake. The KTM has it’s low point a bit further back, more under the center of the bike, like a dirt bike. While the GS don’t dive on the brakes.

        Another difference, is that compared to a chain setup, even the latest wonder shafts on the S10 and the GS are heavier and clumsier. More driveline lash, and a rear wheel that starts bouncing around somewhat independently of the road surface once the going gets a bit faster. Before getting the 1190, I got to ride it back to back to back with a GS and a Multistrada Pikes Peak blinged to the max, and next to the lightweight Marchessinis on the Multi, even the 1190′s rear end felt comparatively out of sync with the surface.

        On the other hand, if you really are going on “an adventure”, say to the Arctic or Around The World, I’d take the S10. Dealers everywhere, probably less issues, an exhaust can actually enabling side cases on both sides (the 1190s can is the size and position of a large Jesse bag), less lively response to crosswinds, a shaft; now cruise control, and a demeanor that says “traveler” rather than “middle aged wannabe hooligan.”

        • Nemosufu Namecheck

          Excellent writeup of all the above! I never got to ride the older 1150GS, mainly because I was into sport bikes at the time. For this years purchase I narrowed down my choices to four contenders – all usual suspects. Here is what I found and again I’m not a pro tester. Pro testers always say the same stuff and they can get on any bike and ride it like they have owned it for years.

          This is what a “normal” guy found out. For background I’ve been riding for about 18 years.

          – Ducati Multistrada: Really awesome sport bike, but it felt too delicate to me to take even occasionally off-road. The engine is definitely not for beginners and I would group it in the advanced category. My build came in around $20k

          – Super T: It looked really good but kinda cheap compared to the rest of the field. The engine let me feel at home right away but like you said there were limiting factors. The Yamaha dealer here didn’t seem to care if he sold one bike that day so I didn’t really go back. That was a shame because I really wanted to try it for a year or two. You could put an intermediate rider on this bike and be ok. Yamaha gear boxes feel amazing compared to some of the other companies.

          - KTM 1190: This was my favorite bike with really low insurance (progressive quoted it as a dirt bike), but my dealership was selling all of them as “kits”, with retail prices around $18.2k. Really nice with all the Touratech stuff etc, but then. The downfall of this bike for me was how tall it was. It is a sail on the interstate.

          - BMW R1200GS Adventure: This was my last bike to test because I thought it would be out of my price range and I was currently riding a BMW and looking for a change. After the first ten minutes of the test drive I turned around and signed papers. The bike just feels right. You don’t feel the weight at all and it comes with all of the stuff I usually have to buy at a premium.

          In the end it doesn’t really matter – buy what makes you feel good. You will ride what makes you feel good.

  • stever

    So there’s nothing bad about the bike, except the looks, which on second thought, are actually good.

    Huh. Some review.

    • Stuki

      I doubt most new 15K bikes have anything particularly bad about them. Which is one argument for doing reviews as shootouts; as that more easily highlights differences between bikes that are all really very good.

  • Richard R.

    Don’t forget that these bikes are known to be ultra reliable. Thats a big selling point in the adv market. If the bike went on a diet she would be a winner.

    • Stuki

      For real RTW travel, the whole point of picking a 1200 class bike, is because it allows you to bring lots of stuff. I had an S10, and just the empty luggage with racks were almost 50 pounds. Up high. Then add 100+lbs of stuff. And, for many, a 150+lb passenger. In that role, which is probably closer to the design goals Yamaha’s engineers were given for their RTW ready Adv mount, saving some weight off the bike itself is not really all that important. One could even argue it’s detrimental, since it makes handling more load dependent.

      Of course, like most SUVs, the people who actually use their adv bike this way, are few and far between. And for running unloaded, losing wight is a clear benefit. Which is why BMW went in that direction when they went from 1150GS to 1200GS. But something definitely did get lost in that translation as well, and that something is better preserved in the S10 than in any of the other current Adv bikes. And this is coming from a current 1190 owner, BTW…….

  • Κακος Λυκος

    Can we see any pictures of this trip with the tenere or is it just images from general sites….?

  • Doug Montgomery

    The Yamaha guard bars look ineffective in guarding the upper plastic side panels. Should I go after market for protection bars? AltRider bars protect this area.