2012 Yamaha Super Tenere

Good Clean Fun – It’s A Dirty World Out There

What is it about an adventure- touring bike that makes people think it needs to be dirty all the time? While most dual-purpose motorcycles are quite capable off road, I see no reason to flaunt it. Whatever happened to speak softly and carry a big stick? During the Yamaha media ride of the 2012 Yamaha Super Ténéré I supported this by saying “You’ve never seen a dirty bike on the cover of RoadBike, have you?” Media reps were all too eager to show us the off-road capabilities of the Super Ténéré, and while I’m not an avid motocrosser, I did fine keeping up with the dust-stirring pack on gravel roads, even at 60 mph. Maybe there’s a mystical power these dual-sport bikes possess that makes folks veer off paved roads with abandon. Fortunately, I’m immune to its spell. Unfortunately, I’m still cleaning dirt from my riding gear zippers.

I’m sure plenty of media outlets will be quick to compare the Super Ténéré to the perennial on-and-off-road king of the hill BMW GS 1200. And in our December issue, you may remember I partook in quite an adventure on one. But I’m happy to tell you about all the merits of Ténéré here and let it stand on its own. And there’s plenty to tell. First off, while you’re reading this story and voicing the words in your head (whether your lips are moving or not), might as well get it right; it’s pronounced Tey-ney-rey- (not ten-air). And while this is the first time we’ve had the pleasure of uttering that word in relation to a stateside motorcycle, rally racing fans out there have heard it before. You may know of a fun little romp through the desert called the Dakar Rally. The twin cylinder line of Ténéré has won it six times, and this street version will finally allow riders to capture the spirit of the Dakar Rally heritage. I’ll be quite happy to keep mine prerace squeaky clean, thank you very much.

Turns out the Super Ténéré is well equipped for pavement touring as well as built for adventure. The all-new, compact 1199cc parallel twin utilizes a 270-degree crank for excellent torque and traction because both pistons fire so closely together. Engine mass is kept low for excellent handling and maneuverability. The narrow, two-cylinder parallel twin is slim, allowing the overall bike to be narrow between your legs. Great for carving lines through twisty mountain roads at speed and equally able at low-speed maneuverability, as tight U-turns were a breeze.

Twin downdraft fuel injection with YCC-T (Yamaha chip- controlled throttle) fly-by-wire system delivers excellent throttle control and acceleration. I felt the power application was linear, with no snap or on/off-switch power surge felt at higher rpm. It can be described as calm and relaxed, not busy at all. There are two drive modes available at your fingertips, which alter throttle mapping depending on rider preference: T-mode for touring with a softer response, S-mode for sport riding when the rider wants the most performance. The compact engine design uses a dry-sump oil supply inside the crankcase, and a left-side-mounted radiator helps keep the overall bike tall and narrow. The eight-valve cylinder head cover is made from lightweight magnesium to help centralize mass, and valve adjustment intervals are every 24,000 miles.

An all-new traction control system regulates ignition timing and fuel-injection volume based on rear-wheel spin. Three rider-selected traction control modes are available to match the rider’s tastes to road conditions. The traction control is confidence inspiring, as I was able to easily run 60 mph on dirt, and as I stated, the dirt is not where I’m usually most comfortable. The wide-ratio six-speed transmission has gear ratios optimized for everything from slow dirt crawling to higher speed sport riding. The low-maintenance shaft drive is clean and reliable with a compact rear axle gear case. There’s no chain to clean for those of you who succumb to the off-road urge.

The steel frame carries the engine as a stressed member, and locating the crankshaft low aids in balancing the motorcycle. Adjustable, preload suspension allows the rider to compensate for varying loads or a passenger. The rear shock absorber settings are super easy to change. The toolless adjustment comes thanks to a large knob on the right side for preload, and the rebound adjustment thumbwheel is on the low end of the shock. The 43mm front forks have 7.48″ of travel and are preload, compression, and rebound adjustable as well.

The Super Ténéré has both an antilock braking system (ABS) and unified braking system (UBS). With UBS, squeezing the front brake alone also provides some rear-wheel braking, while pressing the rear brake first overrides UBS for traditional, separate front and rear braking action. Both front and rear discs are wave-type for great performance.

The dead-on, frontal view of the Super Ténéré is asymmetrical, with the left side of the bike housing a radiator and fan, that side fairing protrudes a little more. I think it gives the Ténéré a business-like attitude. The large 6-gallon fuel tank allows for longer distances when touring and fewer fill-ups. Handlebar brush guards are standard equipment. I found the mirrors positioned well, and they provide a clear view behind. The accessory tall windscreen has three position adjustments while the stock has just two positions. I ran with the windscreen full up most of the time and found it provided wonderful protection. The instrumentation is excellent, but I didn’t care for the location of the function buttons. I would much rather have a function button on left switchpod instead of “flash to pass.” In a word I’d call the seat awesome! The top covering material has an aggressive traction feel to it, while the sides are smooth. It’s comfortable and easily adjustable by 1″. There’s also an accessory “low” seat available (see sidebar).

The grooved footpegs are adaptable to both on- and off-road riders. While the rider is seated, rubber cushions provide excellent comfort. But when the rider stands to tackle some fire roads, the rubber compresses, letting the rider’s boots contact the metal footpeg surface. The rubber inserts are also completely removable. It’s ingenious actually.

The rear luggage rack has three configurations. Standard will retain the rear pillion seat and a handy luggage rack. Or you can remove the top of the luggage rack, exposing a lower platform that can hold an accessory hard shell topcase. Or for true pick-up truck ability, remove the rear pillion cushion, passenger grab rails, and top case bracket, and reinstall the top layer luggage rack direct to the rear fender and you have a long, flat cargo carrier platform. I’m a fan of the Genuine Yamaha top case and side cases. The side bags are easy to remove, and they don’t fight you. There’s some turning and snapping of levers, but they work well. The aluminumized finish is dentable, so be sure to swing a leg over high and far. After riding lead-follow for a while I’m not fond of the small taillamp, but it uses LEDs, so that helps with visibility. A factory-equipped centerstand is welcome and easy to use.

Overall, I found the Super Ténéré comfortable and fun to ride. It’s got plenty of smooth power on tap and great wind protection. All this adds up to a bike that you can tour on far and wide, on road or off, for long periods of time. You may have wondered why the Super Ténéré is called a 2012. The first units are expected to be delivered to waiting owners starting in May 2011. Yamaha is utilizing a priority delivery program at Yamaha dealerships nationwide if customers place advance deposits of $500. So if you’re interested, get moving. RB


Yamaha was busy designing accessories at the same time the Super Ténéré was being developed. It has a shopping list of cool touring and adventure-related equipment to complement the Ténéré. I was impressed with the design of the accessory aluminum belly bash pan. The engine oil filter is easy to reach on the front of the engine, and the oil drain plug is easily accessible through a portal window on the pan. Great thinking, as is the accessory low seat that lowers the seat height 35mm. It’s also adjustable by 1″, so it will provide seat heights ranging from 31.8″ to 32.8″. Yamaha’s accessory department has packaged popular items together in its “Capture Your Adventure” accessory campaign. The benefits of purchasing these accessories when you order your Super Ténéré include guaranteed pricing, guaranteed priority delivery, and a free GoPro camera. See your dealer for details. Just check some of the gear you can get:

Side Case, $449.95 ea

Side Case Mounting Kit            $189.95

Side Case Inner Bag, $39.95

Top Case, $369.95

Top Case Inner Bag, $49.95

Tall Windscreen, $119.95

Side Wind Deflectors, $79.95

Headlight Protector, $99.95

Engine Guard, $449.95

Low Seat, $239.95

Aluminum Skid Plate, $199.95

Grip Heater Kit, $399.95

Tank Bag, $149.95


By Steve Lita, Photos By Riles And Nelson


Originally published in RoadBike magazine, March 2011

For more images of the Super Tenere, check out our First Look.


  1. 600 pound bike with another 75 pounds of gear going off road creates big problems when you fall over. It could take 3 to 4 more riders to pick them up. I presently ride 400 pound Dual sport bike for that reason. I wonder how this bike compares to the F650GS and the F800GS BMW’s which both have vertical V-Twins but are much lighter bikes.


  1. […] Roadbikemag —- “I’m certain copiousness of media outlets will be discerning to review a Super Ténéré to a long-lived on-and-off-road aristocrat of a mountain BMW GS 1200.” […]

  2. […] Road Big Mag —- “Overall, I found the Super Ténéré comfortable and fun to ride. It’s got plenty of smooth power on tap and great wind protection. All this adds up to a bike that you can tour on far and wide, on road or off, for long periods of time” […]