Review: Yamaha XT1200ZE Super Ténéré

Travel back in time to 1983 and there it is: the very first Ténéré. After impressive Paris-Dakar participations in the late 1970s, Yamaha decided to commercialize their rally bike as an all-round kind of touring model: the XT600Z Ténéré. 43 hp, 595 cc and one single cylinder.

Thirty-five years later and there’s no longer a monocylinder bike in Yamaha’s adventure range. In 2016 we said goodbye to the last one, the XT660Z Ténéré, and with the brand new Ténéré 700 coming soon (we hope), a new twin will be added to the range. The other twin in the Yamaha’s allroad line: the Super Ténéré.

The Super Ténéré was introduced in 2010 as a direct competitor of that other 1200 cc shaft-driven adventure bike: the 1200 GS. I took the XT1200ZE Super Ténéré to the Vosges (travel report here). 2000 km should be enough to tell something meaningful about it.

The ZE has better specs than the basic Super Ténéré: adjustable electronic suspension, centerstand, cruise control and heated grips. There’s also a substantial price difference: 13.495 euro for the XT1200Z Super Ténéré, 15.895 euro for the XT1200ZE Super Ténéré (German pricing).

Still, the basic Ténéré’s configuration isn’t very basic: adjustable seat height (845 – 870 mm), two mappings, adjustable traction control, integral brake system, shaft drive, spoked wheels and adjustable windscreen. My demo bike also got crashbars, skid plate, LED fog lights and side cases.

More punch please

The 1199 cc parallel twin delivers 112 hp at 7,250 rpm and 117 Nm at 6,000 rpm, which certainly aren’t the highest peaks in the segment. If you keep close to those peaks, the power delivery is quite alright, yet it’s hard to deny that the XT1200ZE misses some punch. This becomes even more striking with the T (of Touring) mapping. In S (of Sport) the bike reacts more snappy without being too on-off.

The exhaust too could use some more punch. Stationary and full throttle sound good, but otherwise: meh. Sometimes the Super Ténéré is so quiet that you hold your breath, just to hear if the engine is still running.

Superb suspension

The S10 (the Super Ténéré abbreviation often used by S10 fans) counters its lack of balls with comfort. Especially the electronic suspension is nothing short of excellent. You can choose between Soft, Standard or Hard, and you can set each of these three from -3 to +3 (when standing still). That’s 21 settings. Not enough for you? Hold on, because the load also can be adjusted (when standing still): solo or duo, each with or without luggage. There you go: 84 settings!

The softest setting (Soft -3, solo without luggage) felt perfect doing the highway during the return journey. Bumps and holes seem to disappear, and at the same time the outgoing damping is just rigid enough to avoid a rocking experience.

For sharp cornering through the Vosges, a harder setting worked better. I mostly drove Hard +3 (solo without luggage), although the hardest setting (hard +3, duo with luggage) wasn’t too spartan either. In any case, the Super Ténéré had no trouble at all sticking to the intended cornering lines.

Not only the suspension deserves praise for the excellent cornering experience, the general balance of the bike also earns a share. Slow or fast turns, the Super Ténéré always feels very balanced. Yamaha claims that a low center of gravity was essential in the S10’s design, which seems to be true. At very limited speeds there’s still balance and agility. Not bad for one of the heavyweights in this category (265 kg with a full tank).

The bike’s stability also maintains a high level, even under severe braking. The integral braking system (which causes the rear brake to slightly intervene when using the front brake) eliminates nosedives, except when you perform an emergency stop.

A hassle here, a hassle there

The windscreen in the highest position offers pretty good wind and rain protection. Something I unfortunately was forced to experience during my return journey. Too bad that you can’t adjust the screen while driving. Even standing still it’s a hassle. On the other hand the horizontal bar is perfect for positioning your GPS in your field of vision.

The side cases too were a bit of a hassle sometimes. Taking them off and hanging them back on the bike weren’t a problem, but closing them off usually took me more than one attempt.

To offroad or not to offroad

The traction control is 3-staged: off, 1 and 2, with 2 stepping in the fastest. I always drove in 1 and never got into trouble. Except during my second ascent of the Grand Ballon: the extremely potholed road drove the traction control crazy. It intervened too often, making the climb bumpier than it already was. Fortunately, with the traction control off things went a smoother.

You got a disengageable traction control, so you think you also get a disengageable ABS? Forget about it. The ABS doesn’t even have settings. That’s bad news for off-road enthusiasts. Still, the gentle throttle response (especially in the T mapping) is great for off-road use. The 2-cylinder engine also allows to go low in revs without getting rude. Riding unpaved paths in a controlled manner is very easy. Make sure the bike has a skid plate though (not standard on the ZE) because the oil filter is perfectly placed to catch some rocks. Put some risers on that shopping list too. Otherwise your upper-body leans over too much to feel comfortable when standing upright on the footpegs. If you plan to leave the asphalt, don’t forget this bike weighs 265 kg (with a full tank). Not exactly the target weight for riding mud. Also the size of the front wheel is more oriented towards road use.

A quick comparison with one of the Super Ténéré ZE’s competitors? In order not to compare apples with oranges, let’s pick a twin that’s also clearly road-oriented: the KTM 1290 Super Adventure S that made a big impression on me a few months ago.

The KTM’s engine is a lot stronger and the standard equipment more extensive, including cornering ABS and traction control, a luggage rack, a tire pressure monitor, etcetera. Entry price: 16,695 euro (in Germany), which makes it only 800 euro more expensive than the Super Ténéré. That’s a small premium for a lot more thrills.

However, if you start comparing with the XT1200Z the price difference (3,200 euro) does start weighing in. Are the electronic suspension, centerstand, cruise control and heated grips of the ZE really indispensable? Do you really need all that power of the Super Adventure? Honestly? I enormously enjoyed the Super Ténéré in the Vosges, and only occasionally did I want it to react more swiftly. So if you start rationalizing, Yamaha has strong arguments.

Conclusion

In the heavy allroad segment, we see different accents. One manufacturer aims at sporty riders, the other one tries to address off-road lovers, and the Yamaha XT1200ZE Super Ténéré clearly targets the touring riders. Its comfort level is outstanding. Pleasant sitting position, good seat, sufficient wind protection and an efficient, comfortable suspension that also offers rigid settings so you can easily switch from endless km’s of straight-ahead to pure cornering fun.

It’s a bit sad the engine lacks dynamism and its modest character is only emphasized by the exhaust. It also misses some much needed features for off-road, but the average Super Ténéré will probably see even less dirt than the average GS.

Perhaps its price makes you neglect the downsides. Especially when you go for the entry Super Ténéré. Too bad you’ll have to miss that excellent electronic suspension.

Photography: Foto PK.

Pros

+ Stability, agility, balance: outstanding
+ Electronic suspension works very well
+ High comfort level for long distances
+ Attractive price of the XT1200Z

Cons

– Engine lacks punch
– Sound lacks character
– Difficult to adjust the windscreen (also not adjustable when riding)

Tech specs

Engine

Engine type: Forward-inclined parallel 2-cylinder, liquid-cooled, 4-stroke, DOHC, 4-valves
Displacement: 1,199cc
Bore x stroke: 98 mm x 79.5 mm
Compression ratio: 11.0 : 1
Maximum power: 82.4 kW (112PS) @ 7,250 rpm
Maximum torque: 117.0 Nm (11.9 kg-m) @ 6,000 rpm
Lubrication system: Dry sump
Clutch type: Wet, Multiple Disc
Fuel system: Electronic Fuel Injection
Ignition system: TCI
Starter system: Electric
Transmission system: Constant Mesh, 6-speed
Final transmission: Shaft

Chassis

Frame: Steel tube backbone
Front travel: 190 mm
Caster angle: 28º
Trail: 126 mm
Front suspension system: Upside-down telescopic fork, Ø 43 mm
Rear suspension system: Swingarm, Adjustable preload and rebound damping, (link suspension), Monoshock
Rear travel: 190 mm
Front brake: Hydraulic dual disc, Ø 310 mm wave discs
Rear brake: Hydraulic single disc, Ø 282 mm wave disc
Front tyre: 110/80R19M/C 59V
Rear tyre: 150/70R17M/C 69V

Dimensions

Overall length: 2,255 mm
Overall width: 980 mm
Overall height: 1,410 mm
Seat height: 845/870 mm
Wheel base: 1,540 mm
Minimum ground clearance: 190 mm
Wet weight (including full oil and fuel tank): 265 kg
Fuel tank capacity: 23 litres
Oil tank capacity: 4.2 litres

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