2016 Yamaha Super Tenere Review – Five Things You Should Know

We take a spin on Yamaha’s adventure bike

Super Tenere static
Powered by a 1199cc, parallel twin engine, the Super T is no slouch in the power department.Photo By Joe McKimmy

1. Is the Super T a dirt bike?

No. It is a bike that can go off-road, but that isn’t the ST’s focus. We don’t mean to be harsh or mean, but we don’t think that even Yamaha would disagree. Actually, in the tech presentation that Yamaha gave, on the scale of off-road to street use, and on the scale of aggressive riding to touring, the Tenere skewed toward the latter in both. While the rider compartment is very upright and neutral like a dirt bike, the bar bend is just a little too swept back to feel completely normal when standing up. But, what is really cool is that there are dedicated ankle grip plates that let you squeeze with your boots like a moto bike, just a much thicker moto bike. Given that the tank holds 6.1 gallons of fuel, the bike isn’t as bulbous as you’d guess and standing and squeezing with your knees feels pretty OK.

Super Tenere
The bike has a balanced weight feel - something that is really important on a bike with so much of it.Photo By Joe McKimmy

2. Is the Super T a street bike?

Yes and no. If you bought this bike to commute on, you’d be plenty happy, but since you are reading Dirt Rider, I don’t think you care much about that. The reason we say also no is that would be severely limiting this motorcycle. What makes it not a street-only bike is the usual adventure bike goodies like KYB, fully adjustable, 7.5-inch travel suspension in front and out back. The suspension is very comfort oriented which is good and bad. The bad side is that you cannot slam into things like a dirt bike or even some dual-sport bikes. You have to be cognizant of your speed and ground clearance when coming up on rocks, ledges, or big holes. But the good side to this suspension is that it eats up small chop and bumps like nobody’s business. This comfortable ride means that you can cruise down dirt roads and mellow two-track all day long without getting beat up or worn out. Also, compared to many other large adventure motorcycles whose weight seems to be carried far toward the front of the bike, the Tenere felt really balanced front to back. This lends to a planted, confidence inspiring character, especially at slow speeds.

Super T dash
A few simple controls make the Super Tenere's electronics easy to change and understand.Photo By Joe McKimmy

3. Are the electronics confusing or distracting?

Not at all. The beauty of the Tenere’s electronics package is that it is simple and doesn’t have an overwhelming amount of options. It has ABS front and rear that can be turned off in the rear, it has three levels of traction control (aggressive, mellow, and off) and two drive modes (S for sport and T for touring). ABS has come a long way over the last few years and it helps a great deal in panic situations – even with the rear turned off in the dirt, having front ABS was a nice safety net that we used a number of times. As off-road guys, we used the traction control as follows: Level 1 (most aggressive) was just for the street. Level 2 (mellow) was good for really fast gravel roads where the back end wanted to get away from us. Off is preferred for normal off-road riding and any kind of sand.

There is a huge difference between the two drive modes, which is good because so many bikes, dirt and street, have different maps that seem to be not that different. The T mode has a much mellower hit and overall smoother throttle response while the S mode is much punchier and has a quick response to the throttle. While the S mode was preferred in most situations because of the full, hearty character, the T mode made some sketchy descents easier since the throttle wasn’t so responsive. The 1199cc, parallel-twin engine makes most of its power mid to top, but, as you would expect from such a large powerplant, there is gobs of torque as well allowing you to use the bottom end to chug through tighter sections.

Super tenere water
There is 7.5 inches of wheel travel in the front and rear, just be careful not to carry too much speed over obstacles.Photo By Joe McKimmy

4. How gnarly can you get with the Tenere?

Well, that depends on your level of gnarly-ness, but if you are picturing off-camber, sloppy single-track through the tight woods, think again. But, to be fair, no ADV bikes can do that. The Super T is happy and fun on not-too-rocky jeep trails, mellow two-track, and dirt service roads. We stepped a little astride of this intended use in our testing and tried to used dirt bike technique to get through a short uphill rocky section. On an off-road bike, the proper way to get over this particular obstacle would be to carry momentum and “float” over the rocks. Well, with a nearly 600-pound bike with soft suspension, there is no float. Charging with more speed than we should’ve the bike hit a pointy rock and preceded to spew forth its bowels of oil like a freshly tapped well. After some Quicksteel and humble pie, we used the proper ADV technique to get out of the rocks. That is, trust in the massive power of the engine and muscle slowly up the rocks rather than relying on speed and bounce.

Super Tenere
Traction control lets you slide with reckless throttle input.Photo By Joe McKimmy

5. Ultimately, who is this bike for?

This bike is made to cover massive distances of both highway and dirt and that is basically the definition of adventure riding. Load it down with camping gear, forget the map, and just see where those dirt roads you’ve always wanted to explore take you. Once you get into the mindset of having a 1200cc motor in your bike and that you are not going to pop over, glide through, or wheelie up any obstacles, with some patience and the proper speed, the Super Tenere can get you through those short sections of sketch so you can enjoy those long sections of comfort.

2016 Yamaha Super Tenere Specs
MSRP: $15,090
Seat Hight: 34.3 in.
Wheel Travel: 7.5 in. front and rear
Fuel Capacity: 6.1 gal.
Claimed Weight (tank full): 575
Website: yamaha-motor.com