Motorcycle road test
By Wes Smith
Adventure bikes are the new sports bikes. There’s no escaping the fact. All the sales figures point to it, all the mags and websites say it, and all the bikes that pass me as I pootle gently along seem to say it too.
And one of the machines with the greatest adventure pedigrees is Yamaha’s XT1200Z Super Tenere. Just ask Nick Sanders, who rode one around the world as well as 51,000 miles up and down the Americas. He claims it didn’t miss a single beat and that it was dependable, exciting and reliable. Those are some big claims.
So when those nice people at Moores Motorcycles in Hemel Hempstead offered me the Super Tenere to test for the day, I couldn’t very well say no. I wouldn’t quite be able to take it through anything remotely resembling the Patagonian mountains – not unless you count the vertiginous hills that are the Chilterns – but I had enough time to give it a good old thrashing through the highways and byways of Beds, Herts, Bucks and Northants. Not quite the same, I know, but still plenty of time to get a good feel for it.
I should declare where I stand straight away – on the whole, adventure bikes just aren’t my cup of tea. And it’s nothing to do with the bikes themselves, it’s more to do with the fact that I’m a bit of a shorty. Well, I’m not that short, I’m 5ft 10ins, but I think I must have very stumpy legs because with every adventure bike I’ve been on I have found it a struggle to get my feet planted firmly on the floor when at a stop.
That is less of an issue on the Super Ten – its seat is adjustable from 845mm to 870mm. Even on its lowest setting it’s still a little above my ideal seat height but it is manageable and I didn’t have to lean its substantial weight over to be able to get a foot down. And it’s easy to change too – lift the seat and flip over the insert to raise or lower the height.
Speaking of weight, at 261kg wet, you’d think it would be a beast to manoeuvre. But think again. The mass has been kept low and central and once you’re on the move, all that weight seems to disappear. It’s extremely agile and stable at low speeds, high speeds and in the bends. As for the suspension – fully adjustable front and rear – it says a lot that it didn’t occur to me until halfway through the day that I really should be thinking about what sort of response I was getting from it. It was set up perfectly and sucked up everything the roads had to throw at it and I hardly noticed it at all. Taking it around some of the twisty back roads was a delight and easy to forget that it’s not your average knee-down kind of bike.
What reminds you that you’re actually riding an adventure bike in this instance is the distinctive sound and feel of the parallel twin engine. It’s very low-revving, and very punchy, but with very little vibration. It isn’t arm-wrenchingly torquey but it certainly has more than enough to get you out of trouble pretty quickly. And while it was a very manageable and forgiving machine to ride on the whole, you do need to be in the right gear all the time. I found there was very little room for manoeuvre when trying to take it out of a rev range it was comfortable with – it didn’t like it and wasn’t afraid to tell you so!
You can deal with this to a certain extent by switching power delivery modes from touring to sport via a bar-mounted button. I found the difference to be minimal, but don’t forget I did only have a short while to play with it. Likewise, there are two traction control settings, adjustable by a push-button at the side of the display.
The display has all the usual – analogue rev counter and digital fuel gauge, two trip counters, read-outs for what traction control and power delivery modes you’re in, a clock and air temperature, but no gear indicator.
Ride comfort is good, with high and wide bars – with handguards – and a good, comfortable seat, with good pillion capacity, that is easily good for a couple of hours. The only real distraction during longer rides is the buffeting you get from what is actually a pretty low screen. It is adjustable, but you have to stop, get out the tool kit and undo four screws. Aftermarket accessories do include a higher screen and wind deflector kit, though.
Stopping power is excellent, with hydraulic dual wave discs with ABS and an intelligent unified brake system, which allows you to choose between braking both wheels with just the front lever, or controlling each wheel by touching the rear brake pedal first. Either way, locking up is never going to be an issue. The tyres also help – Metzeler Tourance EXPs, which offered great feel and confidence. But then it was dry the whole time so I couldn’t say how they behave in the wet. They also look great on the spoked wheels.
Overall this really is a very good bike. Surprisingly so, in fact, given that I’m not overly keen on adventure bikes. It’s obviously designed to be able to withstand the rigours of off-roading – indeed, Yamaha runs an off-road experience that uses, among others, this very model – but it is equally adept at long-haul touring and even a bit of weekend scratching. Yes, I’m going to say it – it’s actually quite Super!
Many thanks to Moores Motorcycles for the loan of the Super Tenere. Find them at London Road, Hemel Hempstead, HP3 9SX or call 01442 252601
Model: Yamaha XT1200Z Super Tenere
Engine size: 1199cc
Engine spec: Parallel twin-cylinder, liquid-cooled, 4-stroke, DOHC, 4 valves, shaft drive, 6-speed constant mesh gearbox
Fuel capacity: 23 litres
Range: 250+ miles
Seat height: Adjustable 845-870mmm
Weight: 261kg (wet)