My brief ride off-road was fun, once I relaxed enough to enjoy it. I have very little experience riding in the dirt, much to my regret. I let Yamaha know that when they invited me to ride the ST, and they promised that I would not be overmatched by the conditions, and they were right. On hard packed dirt, I was comfortable riding the ST up to 35 or 40 mph, and on softer stuff and around curves, I kept a loose grip on the bars and let the sophisticated traction control do its thing.
I tried out both the standard ST and the ST ES. The standard ST gets a long-travel (7.5") single rear shock with genuine no-tool pre-load adjustment. You can actually see the adjuster knob, and reach it, even with the saddlebags on the bike. The front forks are 43 mm fully-adjustable KYB units with 7.5" of travel. The ES gets Electronic Suspension Control, with 84 levels of adjustment (4 levels of pre-load x 3 levels of damping x 7 levels of damping fine-tuning), all accessible through controls on the left handlebar and meters on the dash. Damping is adjustable on the fly, pre-load is adjustable when stopped.
ST comes with some cool spoke wheels (really the best choice for rugged riding) -- 19" in front, 17" in the rear. The spokes connect on the tire rim, not inside, so you can run tubeless radial tires and still get the spoke advantage off-road.
The stock Bridgestones that come with the bike are probably best suited for on-road riding -- if you're crossing the Andes, you may need to seek out more aggressive rubber. ABS brakes are standard, with two wave-type discs up front and one in the rear.
The brakes are linked front and rear when you use the front brake lever first; use the rear brake lever first, and the ABS is still in play but not linked. As long as you know that's what's going to happen, it's a good system. Rear brake application becomes more critical in aggressive off-roading (which I didn't do). There may be a super secret way to defeat the ABS, but it's not supported by Yamaha (hint - it may have to do with setting up the bike's electronics while it's on the center stand).
Wow, I can't believe that I got this far into my review without ever talking about the ST's looks. I think that's a good thing. I love the way the ST looks more after riding it than I did before my ride. It's really one of those bikes where form follows function, and everything on the bike makes sense once you've ridden it. Fit and finish are top notch. I really liked the Team Yamaha Blue paint scheme (standard ST only), but I loved the Matte Gray/Matte Black paint that's available on both models. This bike means business.
- All day riding position
- Spoke wheels that take tubeless tires
- Traction control and ABS standard
- Pavement, no pavement -- no matter
- Smooth, powerful engine
- No self-cancelling turn signals
- Tall seat height a challenge for shorties
- Fiddly saddle bag locking mechanism threatens to break a key
- Heavy for off-roading
- It's not a GS
Yamaha has priced the ST pretty aggressively. The standard model starts at $15,090; and the ES model starts at $16,190. Yamaha makes with the accessories, too -- there's a full line of junk you can bolt on to your ST for your trip around the world (or across town). The aftermarket is in full swing supporting the ST, too, and there are a ton of options for everything from storage to lighting to crash protection to engine hop-up kits.
The Big Kahuna in adventure bikes is, of course, the BMW R 1200 GS, which recently got a makeover all its own. The GS and the ST start at similar price points, but Yamaha is proud to point out that when you add the electronically-controlled suspension, spoke wheels, electronic cruise control, heated grips and hand guards to the GS (all standard on the ST ES), the price differential grows to over $2,000.
There are several other bikes to consider in the adventure field. Triumph's Tiger Explorer XC, Suzuki's V-Strom 1000 and KTM's 1190 Adventure are all formidable competitors. It would be wise to consider some of the smaller displacement bikes, too, like the BMW F 800 GS, Triumph's Tiger 800 XC (a favorite of mine), and even the venerable Kawasaki KLR 650.
I seriously doubt that I'll ever be a dirt rider. It would have happened by now. But I still might buy an adventure bike, for the same reasons that I own an SUV. I like to have the capability for extreme conditions, even if I never experience them, especially when the everyday ownership experience is so good. An adventure bike is ready to go wherever you need it to, without fuss or compromise. Commuting, around town, weekend trips, a little bit of gravel -- the adventure bike swallows it all, and asks for more.
The Super Ténéré impressed me with its abilities in all conditions. I liked how it rode, how it looked and how it fit my riding style. This is a bike that could urge me to explore roads and places that I might avoid on another bike, and I like that. There might be better overall adventure bikes out there -- the BMW GS certainly takes things up a notch -- but they just make the Yamaha look like a good value, and a good point of entry for a rider who is looking for new roads and new challenges.
RideApart Rating: 8 out of 10
Helmet: Arai Signet-Q
Jacket: Aerostich Darien
Pants: Sliders All Season 2
Boots: Wolverine Durashocks