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.
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.
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.
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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