Ed’s Note: The following report on the European launch of the 2011 Super Ténéré comes courtesy of our friends at Solo Moto.
Tora! Tora! Tora! This was the call used by the Imperial Japanese Navy to announce a successful surprise attack. Yamaha has launched an attack on the large enduro category with its new Super Ténéré, but … has it achieved success?
For the most part, recent years have been very good to Yamaha, particularly when it comes to competition. One could say that in 2009 Yamaha took all the championships that matter most, including MotoGP, WSB, and World Supersport, among others. Once you have achieved all the sporting objectives, I suppose you look to regain dominance in categories you have recently ignored.
Introduced in the 1980′s the Super Ténéré and its single cylinder sibling found success in raids and Paris-Dakar. After the glory years, and the evolution of more powerful single-cylinder bikes, Yamaha discontinued its big twin.
But the big trail bikes have a long tradition, and remain very popular in Europe, perfect for any road travel, long tours or simple day-to-day riding.
The new Super Ténéré highlights all these qualities, but also incorporates modern technological advances like traction control, ABS with combined braking and throttle-by-wire. Our test of this new model took us across the Pyrenees into Spain … a trip of more than 1200 km (roughly 700 miles). In some ways a grueling two-day trip, but one that led us to an inescapable conclusion: the Super Ténéré is an outstanding motorcycle.
Let’s start with the new motor. An 1199cc parallel twin with four valve heads, DOHC, and fuel injection, peak power is 110 hp at 7250 rpm. With a broad, smooth band of torque it provides rapid acceleration. The MotoGP-inspired crankshaft firing interval is one of the most interesting points, and is similar to, in some ways, the crankshaft employed on the four-cylinder R1 sportbike.
The engine also incorporates balance shafts to minimize vibration. The dry sump design allows a lower placement of the engine. Despite the size and weight of the Super Ténéré, it handles very easily, and lightly. Surprisingly so. Adjustable ergonomics, in the form of two seat heights (845 mm and 870 mm) don’t hurt, either.
Like the R6 and R1 sportbikes, the Super Ténéré has Yamaha’s YCC-T system (throttle-by-wire) that monitors throttle position every millisecond. Improved throttle response and more precise fuel injection is the result. The system incorporates advanced traction control in three, selectable modes. The first prevents virtually all rear wheel slip, while another allows a moderate amount of slip for off-road. Finally, the traction control can be turned off entirely. The second setting was ideal for our 20 miles, or so, on slippery, gravel strewn trails, allowing some needed wheel spin, but never allowing us to get into trouble.
The Super Ténéré also features D-MODE selectable engine mapping, including “S” (for sport) and “T” (for touring). Sport mode provides maximum throttle response and power, while touring mode is a bit more relaxed and smooth. Personally, I preferred the sport mode which, combined with the traction control system, provided a safe but entertaining experience. Touring mode might add some additional measure of safety when riding in wet weather.
This is clearly a 21st Century motorcycle with electronics and technical sophistication akin to modern automobiles. The unified brake system with ABS is really exceptional. A computer program constantly monitors bike speed, deceleration and slip rates, in addition to wheel speeds to determine the point at which one or both wheels may be about to lose traction. The system also acts as a distributor of braking force between the front and rear brakes when the front brake lever is used (using the rear brake first defeats the brake linkage and allows the rider to control both front and rear manually). Overall, a very complex system that really works well. Without feeling artificial, it provides hard, bold braking that gives the rider confidence.
Virtually every journalist on the launch was surprised by the chassis of the new Super Ténéré. Although nearly 550 pounds wet, the bike handles extremely well at both low and high speeds. Yamaha kept the wheelbase short for this class of motorcycle, increasing agility, while also taking great efforts to lower the center of gravity and centralize mass. The Ténéré combined a nimble, playful feel with excellent stability.
Steel frame tubes were utilized for the frame, rather than aluminum, to better control shock and vibration for a bike that may frequently be used off-road. The suspension is also very refined, and performed well throughout our test.
The 43 mm inverted front fork did its job absorbing bumps while avoiding significant brake dive on corner entry. It is fully adjustable for preload, rebound and compression, and carries a 19-inch front wheel — better for off-road riding than a 17-incher.
The rear shock is adjustable for preload via a convenient knob that does not require tools. It acts through an aluminum swingarm that incorporates shaft drive.
That shaft drive system worked flawlessly at transmitting the engine power through to the rear wheel, shod with a Bridgestone Battle Wing tire that proved versatile enough to provide good traction in extremely varied conditions. None of the traditional bad behavior associated with shaft drive was evident.
The truth is that the new Super Ténéré surprised me. After more than 1000 km, I have to say that Yamaha has produced an excellent bike for the large enduro category. An outstanding motor housed in a very capable chassis that was quite comfortable and a pleasure to ride both on-road and off. With the large fuel tank the range is good … nearly 200 miles. The high tech aspects of the machine integrated well and did not interfere with an experienced rider’s enjoyment.
Unfortunately, for our U.S. readers, at this point we will not be able to buy a Super Ténéré in the States. Make sure you let Yamaha know if you want one here, because consumer demand always makes the difference. Take a look at this PDF if you want to see the Super Ténéré brochure, including specifications.
MD Readers Respond:
- I’d love to see the new Super Tenere up close and personal. It looks like my kind of motorcycle. I hope Yamaha USA sees fit to bring it stateside. Scott