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Yamaha's long-distance runner

2010-09-10 11:13

Dave Fall

At long last a motorcycle manufacturer has dared to challenge BMW’s stronghold in the adventure motorcycling sector of the market — and at bargain prices, it seems.

By my own admittance, I much prefer riding bikes on the black stuff — even the tamer off-road riding trips I generally steer well clear off, if you know what I mean. And yet a recent lengthy ride astride Yamaha’s Super Ténéré*, launched globally earlier this year, has left me keen to find the roads less travelled — search them out I will from now on.

Some years ago BMW originally showcased their 1150 GS here in South Africa at the extremely tough Gamkaskloof Pass (Die Hell) in the Swartkop mountains.  I never enjoyed that particular event (maybe because it was also July, the heart of winter) where even the most experienced riders among our group fell off more than once — the going was that tough.

And yet, if I could have the Super Ténéré media test bike just a little bit longer, I would love to go back to Die Hell once again, a pass “bounded on the east, west, north and south by mountains — just one way in and the same way out". I'm that confident about riding a bike of this ilk on that sort of terrain.

Yamaha is a giant motorcycle company that won’t do things by halves - too big a company for that. The Super Ténéré has been a long time coming in the dual sport division but the wait appears to have been worth it with Yamaha playing their major trump card by offering a decent bike that costs way below the German offering (as much as R20 000, in case you were wondering).

Some clever kit

Getting down to the nitty-gritty of the engine, we find an in-line twin, fuel-injected motor fitted. It’s liquid-cooled of 1199cc power, boasting a dry sump arrangement to positively lubricate all the vital internals, yet allowing for a bike that never appears “bulbous” or looking bottom-heavy — no matter the angle of view.

It seems some clever kit has been incorporated in the bike, possibly only found in their MotoGP models, such as traction control and linear control ABS, linked to a unified brake system.  What this all means is that riders who enjoy big-engine performance over lesser roads won’t be disappointed with the way Yamaha has overcome problems with the rear wheel spinning under harsh acceleration.

Factor in ABS and “linked” brakes and it’s quite obvious the rider retains maximum control while traversing difficult terrain. (This could also be really handy on tarred roads as well!)

A casual glance at what you see of the frame is also most reassuring because it uses steel with a precise amount of carbon in its make-up for real rigidity, while the rear section appears to be made up of aluminium piping to provide superior levels of strength, balance and rigidity.

Pity about the windscreen

The front forks seem to be the usual “upside-down” type, albeit considerably thicker than those found on most bikes of this ilk, but it’s the easily adjustable monocross suspension that proves most interesting because adjustments can be made without the need tool(s) — just twist the knob to suit.

Quite naturally, final drive is by shaft and hypoid gear - all clean and sanitary with minimum attention required - no more messing about with chains and sprockets.

It’s a pity the windscreen is the non-adjustable type — perhaps due to cost? To be fair, it does a reasonable job, but I’d be interested to know if a slightly taller one is available via the options catalogue. This is probably my only grumble - that and that I would have liked to have the clutch and front brake lever at a flatter angle to the bars. The mirrors, incidentally, are the finest I’ve come across on a bike for years; you can actually see what’s travelling behind you and not given over to the bulk of refraction to your shoulders.

Easier to live with

Finally, another clever bit of kit is the dual-mode electronic switch operated from the right handlebar that lets the rider select a module that suits, such as “S” that tweaks engine performance and response for that sportier ride, or the “T” mode for ease of use while town driving.

This is a feature I found easier to live with most of the time. Fuel tank capacity is an excellent 23 litres of unleaded.

Now for the good news: the sticker price! The basic Ténéré costs R129 500, the full-house version will set you back a very reasonable R138 500. For that you can expect and receive pannier cases, an engine skid plate and a headlight protector. What are you waiting for - go explore!

*Ténéré* is a desert region in Niger, North Africa - one of the tougher stages of the original Paris-Dakar races when they were held in Africa. They are now run annually in South America, incidentally, and deemed tougher than ever…

Specifications - Yamaha
XT1200Z Super Ténéré

Engine: Parallel-twin 1199cc, liquid-cooled
Power: 81kW@7250 rpm
Torque: 114Nm@6000 rpm
0-100km/h: 4 sec (Est.)
Top speed: 210km/h (Est.)
Tank capacity: 23 litres
Seat height: 845-87 mm (adjustable)
Kerb weight: 261kg
Wheelbase: 1540mm
Brakes: (F) 2 x wave discs (R) wave disc
Final drive: Shaft
Price: R129 500 or R138 500 with listed extras


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