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THE YAMAHA XT 1200 SUPER TENERE

by Craig Hartley

 
The Yamaha Super Tenere is a large adventure bike that ticks a lot of boxes in all the right places.  Ride comfort is second to none with a brilliant seat for both pillion and rider, and to back that up the only bike Robyn will usually sit on the back of is a GL1800 Luxury Goldwing and she liked the Super Tenere. The overall ergonomics of the bike could not be better for highway touring, or if you want to get off road, where the best way to control these large bikes is by standing up, it would be hard to find even the best dirtbike with a better and more natural standing position without foot peg or bar modifications.


Fuel economy is where you would expect for a big adventure bike, it seems to easily get 16 to 17 KPLin serious dirt situations and if ridden on highways for fuel economy I believe 19 to 23 KPL is very achievable, the km per litre read-out on the dashboard does often get into the 24 km plus per litre readings, but I have never followed through for long enough to get the best out of it. I'm sure in thehands of a really sensible and patient rider the bike would be capable of awesome KPL readings.  The bike was a bit of a surprise package because even though it is in the BMW 1200GS class, it still felt surprisingly light and nimble to throw around in reasonably tight off-road situations, this is obviously because Yamaha have put a lot of thought into having a low centre of gravity. Of course we have that sick old mongrel, Geoff Udy, who has been punting fairly standard TDM's around and surprising the heck out of people on a road bike in the dirt for years, and guess what, it's the same motor configuration as the TDM, and even the Yamaha XTZ750 Tenere of years gone by.


On our long-term demo XT1200, all we have done to improve the ergonomics is to remove the foot peg rubbers which unveals an absolutely top quality set of off-road foot pegs that are not only strong but wide and comfortable to stand on all day. As the writer is over 6 feet tall, we turned the handlebars forward just a little more and put the seat in the higher position.


As our first ride was what you would expect when riding with the old dairy farmer Phil Hodgson’s (I guess he's young in comparison to me), within a couple of hours of reasonably serious off-road, out came the spanners to adjust the front fork preload adjusters to full hard, and we grabbed the knob on the rear shock and cranked it up to full hard as well. Hell of a difference, but getting used to the bike a few thousand K’s later and in much harder country bought out some suspension weaknesses, as in still
too soft, don’t get me wrong, this is not a major fault, but something that stands out a little when the rider is used to riding the big Austrian Adventures with firmer and more suspension combined with more ground clearance.


Ron Angel Wholesale came to the party with a newly released set of Kenda Big Block tyres, these come in a 150/70X17 and a 110/80X19 size and seem to work quite well, I think with a careful hand on the throttle or the traction control on, the rear tyre could be capable of a reasonable type of mileage, both tyres seem to work well in the traction dept and have a very strong set of cases, especially proven on the last ride where we were in some serious rocks and there were no dented rims. My belief with big adventure bike tyres is your doing well if you can get 3 to 4500 km of use with some form of knob left, and if the cases are strong, you can then run the tyre for another 1-2000 km safely.  Not proven yet with the Kenda, but it’s near half the price of a Rally Raid in an 18”, and possibly one of the strongest case 17 inch tyres on the market.


We lifted the mudguard 25mm to give more mudguard to tyre clearance in sticky conditions, a very simple mod with four steel brackets placed between the original mounts and the mudguard holes.  As any serious adventure rider will tell you, ABS brakes are great on the sealed road, but useless on the dirt and unfortunately do not allow for rear wheel steering in those situations where you just have to coax it around the corner with a little help. After many years and kilometres of riding these big elephants of the desert, one of my favourite catch cries when talking to people about steering the big bikes is” just back it in and power it out”. So what do we do with the ABS that cannot be switched off???


Take into account that KTM and BMW both have switchable ABS systems for off-road situations, and there is already an aftermarket ABS switch available for the Super Tenere.  As we know the Japanese have put the ABS on the bike for a reason, and the last thing we would do is give people advice that would make the bike more dangerous or ruffle manufacturers feathers by giving misleading mechanical advice. But the truth of the matter is, that a big dirtbike, (and this is what the XT 1200 is) in the hands of a capable rider in the dirt, can be a dangerous piece of machinery with ABS brakes. If you find yourself in an off-road situation and would really like to use the rear brake, the only way that I have found to disable the ABS brakes, is to remove the front ABS sensor from the left side of the front wheel and simply zip tie it back to the reflector bracket. This will disable the traction control mode . At this point in time there is no other way that we have worked out to disconnect it. An Ellen key and a zip tie or bit of wire is all that is needed for this mod.


Just so I was sure that I could write this down and give the correct advice to people, I refitted the ABS sensor and tried to do some emergency turns on the dirt, no way can I get that back end to step out, and if I was heading down a hill and had a sharp left-hand turn with a cliff over the edge, and trying to turn quarter of a ton, I know that the only way I may be able to turn this thing is to apply the back brake, get it sliding a little bit so I can point it in the right direction and reapply the throttle. Sorry Yamaha but that’s the truth, and if I had to ride the bike where I have ridden it with the ABS brakes on, I would consider not going on the ride for my safety’s sake.


If I was running adventure riding training schools, then I would be doing demonstrations by applying the rear brake to back it in and then powering it out, and I could not do that with the ABS brakes. I think Yamaha have nailed this bike fairly nicely, but they really should of fitted an ABS on/off switch.  So, the wrapup here is that the bike is sensational for the class it was intended for, and taking in to account that there are no vibration’s to speak of at all in comparison to the big German that seems to vibrate at every rev range in every gear, then that would be enough for me to make the Yamaha a clear winner if making a purchasing decision.


The genuine Yamaha bash plate is a nicely crafted piece of equipment, but in serious off-road conditions could be a bit of a problem which could cause a serious DNF to a ride, maybe a set of heavier springs would help here, but any bash plate that is mounted straight onto the engine sump like a certain German brand is not quite up to heavy duty work. We will be building a new bash plate out of approximately 5 ml alloy and will most likely mount off the main engine cases up high, and possibly from the centre stand bolts.


I previously mentioned a set of heavier springs when talking about the bash plate, well the next modification we will be doing to this bike is definitely to fit heavier suspension springs front and rear, there is a slight lack of dampening adjustment on the suspension, but I feel with a reoil and the correct springs for the weight of the bike, it would make a large difference in more serious conditions with capable riders, and would help keep the belly of the bike off the rocks. Of course, you could always go to the next step and fit a high-quality shock absorber and do some serious re-valving mods to the front end, but if you want to keep costs down and still have a good ride, some simple really affordable suspension modifications will be fine, and that is what we will be doing for our next major adventure ride on the bike.


The pillion seat is well designed and if you want to carry additional luggage across the top of your saddlebags or pannier boxes, you can remove the seat and make it an integral part of your luggage carrying system, not that I recommend overloading any adventure bike too much. A back pack, saddlebags and tank bag with a swag on the carrier is as far as the loading should go, if you can’t fit it in those items, don’t take it. Leave room on the seat to be able to stand up, move around and control the bike.


My personal preference is with saddlebags as they are soft and fairly narrow and traditionally mount further forward, which gives better weight distribution. They are also easier on the body if you happen to end up lying underneath them.


The genuine Yamaha panniers do work well, they are easy to remove, and if you like big box panniers, don't detract from the looks of the bike too much. I have used the genuine Yamaha panniers and they are a quality piece of gear, easy to get on off and a good size. For the record you can actually fit 30 stubbies in the right hand pannier!


We fitted the standard steel pipe engine guard, and this works exceptionally well, it definitely helps protect the engine cases plus everything above the cases behind the fairing side covers to a certain extent. As bike lift tests have shown if the bike is on its side, these engine cases actually make it easier to pick up as the bike seems to pivot on them.


The Yamaha headlight protector was also fitted.


The genuine Yamaha tank bag uses magnets as well as strap system which does seem to work quite well, it's easy to get into the fuel cap, it does need stabilising a little bit if you've got a lot of gear in it on a really rough mongrel track.


As I personally only use one mirror, I fitted the KTM folding mirror so it can be folded in for those overgrown bush tracks, but I try to avoid the highways where 2 mirrors are definitely beneficial.  For the winter months and the southern States, the bike would definitely benefit from a set of grip warmers, so if we keep it long enough a good set of Oxford grip warmers will be fitted, of course, for a little more money Yamaha supply a quality set of genuine grip warmers.


The servicing schedule on this bike is a motorcycle riders dream, oil changes and minor services are recommended every 10,000 km, this comprises mainly of checking all bolt tensions and control adjustments are within limits. The service schedule goes a little bit like this.


Parts list costs :- Set of spark plugs = $28. Oil filter = $28. Air filter = $59. Synthetic oil, your choice but usually approx $80.


ALL PRICES INCLUDE PARTS AND LABOUR.


Every 10,000 km’s, change oil/filter, clean air filter and check all normal adjustments. Approx service costs including parts, fully synthetic oil and labour. Approx. $340.00.
 

Every 20,000 km's, change oil/filter, change, spark plugs and check all normal adjustments. Approximate service costs including fully synthetic oil and labour. Approx. $420.00
 

Every 40,000 km, change oil/filter, change spark plugs and check all normal adjustments, adjust valves and replace air filter. Approximate service costs include fully synthetic oil and labour. We are quoting on 5 to 7 hours here, as things happen to bikes, depending on their use. Approx. $670-$860.
 

Good things to remember about the service intervals of the XT1200, 10000 km oil changes, 20000 km Plug changes and 40000 km valve adjustment intervals.


The motor is a brilliant piece of gear to live with, it pulls really strongly from down low in the rev range and makes good power all the way through to red line, of course, this is only in the traction control OFF and SPORT mode. I would have loved to have tried the bike in seriously slippery conditions in traction control 2 mode, which is a little bit sportier than the full on traction control, and with NO ABS brakes, but unfortunately as soon as you disconnect the ABS brakes, the traction control disappears and I ain’t ridin in slippery conditions with ABS brakes. I have thought about that while riding on the dirt and have come to the conclusion that my right wrist is my traction control anyway so who cares.


The torque of the motor allows you to ride it very comfortably in the 3000 to 4000 rpm range.  For the record, in a 20kmh rolling start drag with the latest 1200GS, the XT leads to about 130/140, then the BM just heads it, and held flat out to top speed there is a 3 km advantage for the BM. So what, you don’t ride at those speeds anyway, it’s all in the bottom end power.  To Back up the motor is a smooth as 6 speed gearbox, that seems to be perfect in all riding situations, even though it is a big capacity shaft drive bike, that in “other brands “sees a traditionally overgeared 1st gear. The XT1200 will even do wheelies with a gumby wheely man in 2nd gear so in the hands of someone like Phil Gillis, TK’s old mate, the thing would wheel stand out of sight.


While on the shaft drive. When riding the bike you don't ever notice any difference in the shaft drive to a chain drive . It really is a little bit special not to have to check the chain for tension and lube.  To sum the XT 1200 Super Tenere up, it ain't no KTM 990 Adventure but that is not it’s class, but if you are after a bike that fits into the BMW1200GS category, the Yamaha more than fills the bill, and at a retail price that you could fully set it up with accessories including GPS and more and still be under the price of a STOCK STANDARD BMW, and the really great thing about the XT1200 Super Tenere is that being a Yamaha it will be super reliable, as it has an already solid as a rock proven motor, AND HOW MANY YAMAHA'S ARE UNRELIABLE!!!!!!!!!


I REST MY CASE, IT WINS THE 1200 CATEGORY, FOR PRICE, RELIABILITY, RIDER ERGONOMICS, NO VIBRATION, SERVICE COSTS AND RELIABILITY

 

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