Jun 1, 2012

Thinking Big

I almost got to test ride a Yamaha Super Ténéré this weekend. Short notice, lots of complications, and tiny availability made it impossible. The point in a momentary ride on a $15k 1200cc multi-purpose bike probably evades me, anyway. I'm sure the motivation from Yamaha is to get as shiny and surface a review as possible. The purpose for the magazine is to be able to say we touched it. For me . . . I'm still thinking about it.

The Ténéré is a really cool idea about 10 years too late (for me). Yamaha tried something like this in 1992 with the TDM 850 and that bike is still one of my all-time favorite motorcycles. It would have been much cooler if it had all of the adventure touring stuff the Ténéré sports, but the TDM was also lighter and skinnier. It was also the right bike at the wrong time. Yamaha is smarter now. They know the US economy is trashed and isn't likely to recover in my lifetime and they aren't bringing in a lot of their new bikes; hence, the sparse test ride opportunities. The TDM was oversupplied at every Yamaha dealer from 1992 till Yamaha started dumping the bike in 1994 for pocket change.

I was looking forward to seeing if there is a reason for 1200cc's in an adventure touring bike. For all of my dirt bike racing life, I rode a 125 two-stroke. I never considered the possibility that I needed more motorcycle than a 125. I played with (and sold) 250's, but they were boring. The slightly bigger bike didn't suit my riding style and almost seemed like cheating on most motocross tracks. However, just before I quit racing a mid-Nebraska dealership offered me a ride on a YZ400 and to seal the deal, they cut me loose on the bike in a big field behind the shop for the afternoon. From that day on, my make-a-wish dream has been to be given an open class motocrosser and a couple of hours on a golf course. Man, I shredded that field. You can dig a trench on a YZ400 way faster than with anything Caterpillar makes.  In the end, I passed on the "opportunity" to break myself into dozens of tiny pieces in an open class motocross event and went on my with life.

Still, what could you do with a 1200cc "adventure tourer?" For one thing, you can spend a ton of money on fuel. Yamaha brags the Super Ténéré's 40mpg, but that means the bike has a 240 mile range and that is cutting it close for most adventures I know of; including most of western Canada, North Dakota, Wyoming, Montana, and a few other places where having some serious power might be fun if you could make it between fuel stops. One big reason I went for the 650 V-Strom and didn't consider the liter version was mileage. At $4-9/gallon, 40mpg is unacceptable. I'm still pissed that my WR250 only gets 55mpg (the same as my V-Strom). My Ford Escort is more efficient than the Ténéré considering carrying capacity and ignoring comfort and practicality. This is the wrong world to be hustling a 40mpg motorcycle.

However, I'm not going to find out if the Ténéré delivers the same visceral kick in the ass that I once got from the YZ400. You can forgive a lot of faults when you're tearing up the road and flinging it 40' in the air. I'm probably too old for the Ténéré, anyway.


And the review is back on. I am picking up the SuperT this Saturday (June 16)


 I did get to ride the Super Ten this past weekend (June 16-18). All of my usual bitchiness aside, I liked the bike a lot. I put almost 400 miles on the Super T, with at least 200 of those miles on gravel and wet clay. The bike performs well under all conditions. Stay tuned for the review in September's MMM.


The Vulture said...

I hope you get the ride on the bike. It didn't blow my skirt up, but it is a nice bike with a lot of good features for the price point. Your take on it will be interesting.

I ride a WR250R and have it rigged as a mini adventure bike. It is the perfect bike for a lot of rides especially multi-day rides off piste. I will ride it to the Yukon next summer. I get better than 55 mpg with it - around 60 with stock gearing when riding off the freeway. I have plenty of time to ride to Inuvik as I'm retired and have no time restraints for that ride.

I also ride a KTM 990 Adventure. It is better off-road for me than the GS bikes I owned in the past, and lighter than the GS/Tenere; geezer manageable. Kind of a big WR really, and my Giant Loop luggage works on both the WR and KTM. The most fun of the big adventure machines IMO.

The bigger bike allows me to quickly cover 600 or 700 mile days to get to Utah, let's say, go explore the back country for a few days, and then blast home. Not the domain of the WR or bikes of its ilk. I have done this on 650 bikes, when I had to, but the bigger bikes demand less of me on long road days. I'm thinking here of things like prairie winds that bike heft and horsepower help to manage.

I'm fortunate to have a choice of motorcycles allowing me to ride like I want to with, or without, time considerations. But, a lot of folk are limited to one bike and the heavier more road worthy ADV Touring bikes afford a lot of flexibility for them. Hence their increasing popularity.

I suspect most will be ridden like an SUV is driven i.e. mostly on road in good weather conditions, and rarely off road, or off road for any extended periods. But, if the rider wants to take that once in a lifetime ride to Prudhoe Bay or Inuvik, they can do it with a big trailie more comfortably than on a smaller bike, and probably with less overall road time invested.

Gas mileage is a consideration, but tank range is more critical out west. Few of us buy big trailie bikes for the gas mileage, though it may influence a purchase. My GS bikes got me a routine 50 mpg. I live out west, and my 220 mile range on the KTM is an issue I have to work around, but I bought the bike for other reasons.


T.W. Day said...


Obviously, your experience is something I'm hoping to try out with the Super. I have no way to validate that perspective from my own experience. I don't two-up much, so the limited seat space on my V-Strom 650 is rarely an issue. I have never experienced a problem with the V-Strom in high winds (except the 50-70mph stuff that blew me off of the Dempster and I doubt a big bike would have done better in 6" of chopped rock). I suspect my WR250 would have been a more stable bike on the Yukon trail.

I ride across South Dakota, Nebraska, and the western states fairly often and 650cc is plenty of power for everything I've traveled from high winds to mountain roads. I don't have a need to cruise above 90mph, so a liter bike's top end capacity would be lost on me. I suspect my 120mph days are done. My last big trip with my grandson was pretty much done at 70mph and under and it might have been the most fun I've had on a motorcycle. My brother and I looped Lake Superior last summer, me on the 250 and him on my 650, and I spent most of the trip waiting for him to catch up.

The whole Goldwing, BMW, and big adventure bike thing has been a mystery to me since I began street riding. I'm looking forward to experiencing it. I'll never be able to afford it, but it will be fun to try on a rich guy's pants for size.

The Vulture said...

I've been up the Dempster and Dalton on big bikes when I was working and didn't have a lot of time to invest. They did the job just fine, except for one 650 but it was a poor choice to begin with.

The 250 is the way to go - that's why I'll ride that instead of the 990, however it isn't fun to ride in gusty 35+ cross winds. Worse yet if it is a 30+ head wind. I just go hide in those conditions.

I don't see a 650 V-Strom as a particularly small motorcycle. It is one of the most capable on the market - no need to justify your admiration of it.

As for not needing or using the hp of a litre bike, well I think it is Bog Dog who says something like "17 hp is all it takes to go around the world, all the rest is wheel spin".

The adventure bike thing is a lot like the Harley thing, at least as I see the Harley thing. A lot of folk own them. A few really ride them and get out of them all they can provide.


T.W. Day said...

I don't know if I'd do the Dempster more than once. The ride is hard, but the scenery isn't worth the trouble. Fuel costs are outrageous and other than the Tombstone campground I was mostly unimpressed with the trip. I want to do the Dalton, which is what I intended to do the first time I went north.

The only downside I've found with touring on the WR is fuel economy (no better than my V-Strom at WR speeds) and the boredom factor. Long, wide, straight roads are just a waste on the WR. They are monotonous on a bigger bike but they're really boring at 60mph (the speed limit). When my brother and I looped Lake Superior, I spent a lot of time playing in ditches and taking every mining and campground road I could find to stay interested in the road. There is a lot of nasty crap in Canadian ditches.

In CA, you could buy spray-on dirt for your DP bike and Range Rover. I think a lot of "adventure bikes" never have adventures.