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First Impressions of Riding the Yamaha Super Tenere XT1200Z

Nov 06, 2010 // Trips on Two Wheels //

A lot of you have been asking us about the new Yamaha Super Tenere XT1200Z, and for good reason. This new adventure bike is being pitted against BMW’s defining standard, the R 1200 GS, with its on and off road abilities.

But what is it actually like to ride?

This isn’t an in-depth review of the Super Tenere, but it is a summary of my first impressions.

Yamaha Super Tenere XT1200Z USA review first impressions riding

The Super Tenere has some excellent qualities that make riding it enjoyable. The stock seat is one of them. It is extremely comfortable (at least as stock seats go). Although you might consider replacing it for something that suits you better, there’s no reason to make that your top priority – you’ll be fine waiting until after funding your other farkles. I was always impressed with BMW’s design to allow the stock seat to be raised or lowered. Yamaha did something similar: the stock seat can be raised or lowered by 38 MM in just seconds. I will say the seat is ten times easier to put back on then the BMW.

This big bike also has some robust brakes that are confidence inspiring.  Clearly the brakes were inherited from Yamaha’s successful Moto GP bikes. The suspension is good, but like with any bike, you’re going to want to adjust it for luggage or a pillion, so we were happy to find it easy to adjust preload for the rear strut, which is the same on the Suzuki V-Strom 1000, BMW F 800 GS R 1200 GS and the KTM LC8. Riding the Tenere on road, I intentionally skid around a little bit to try out the ABS. I have to say that this system is impressive; it is clear this system is evolving. For years it seemed BMW certainly had the best system, which I suspected was a result of the parent company making it. Yes, I know, you can’t turn it off – I’m a guy who rides in the dirt, so I agree that’s a problem. After reading and viewing several things online, we confirmed there is an override for that. It’s really not that bad, but it would be convenient to not have to get off the bike. More on that in a moment.

The footpeg, as you’ve already heard, was really ingenious. It’s not complex, just smart – a rubber footpeg that compresses when you stand, allowing your boot to really grip the cast metal tread. For those of us who would want to spend some time off the pavement, this is a great piece.  Ultimately, though, this will not be sufficient for proper off road riding, after a little bit of mud the stock configuration will not offer enough traction for the boot.

Another thing I really liked when riding the Tenere home last night was the heat coming off the radiator. The weather’s getting cold here, and it was nice to warm up my hand – well, left hand only but it was nice to be able to easily access that heat. But let’s face it – even in Seattle, we eventually get summer, and that heat output won’t be nearly as enjoyable in 90 degree weather.

I was surprised Yamaha didn’t allow ABS to be disabled easily; obviously, liability was a concern, but the lawyers have never been off road down hill.  Flat out dangerous. I have read a few reviews saying this is fine for 80% of riders. I don’t know what they’re thinking. Even the riders we work with on our community rides -- who haven’t ridden off road -- will with 45 minutes of coaching will be able to safely ride declines that would not be safe with ABS engaged. We’re considering building a device/board that will override the computer’s ABS, so you can disable from the cockpit of the bike.

One odd thing I noticed was the how wide the handle bar grips were, yeah kind of odd. Even thought the levers are adjustable, I felt they were still out a bit too far.  I don’t have the smallest hands at 5’10” and 180lbs I think my hand are quite normal and I wear a size large glove.

We really need to spend more time on the machine, and specifically in some hard core off road conditions. I suspect this bike will do quite well off road but I do want to see how well those trials style tubeless rims hold up over time.  They are great on trials bike, but those weigh 300 lbs. less.

Overall, a fun bike to ride, and good even in its stock state. While there are some upgrades that you’ll want to make, I think you get a lot for your money with this bike.