New Bike Evaluation: 2013 Yamaha Super Ténéré

tenereboxToo many motorcyclists pass judgment on motorcycles that are outside the realm of what they’re familiar with. It’s human nature to resist change, and most people, unfortunately, stick to what they know. I’m thankful to have a job that actually forces me to break away from my comfort zone and try motorcycles that don’t appeal to me at first glance. Once only interested in classic cruisers, I’ve learned to love all shapes and styles of bikes (even if I don’t find them beautiful), and enjoy riding them the way they were meant to be ridden.

When Steve assigned me the 2013 Yamaha Super Ténéré as my long-term test bike last summer, I carefully reread his full bike evaluation of the 2012 model (March 2011). Since this bike is nearly identical to the one he reviewed, I won’t delve into specifics that he already detailed quite well in that article. If you missed it, you can read it online at For this long-term test, I used the bike as my main ride for commuting, weekend rides, and a 1,650-mile, six-day tour of West Virginia. In all, I tallied up over 4,000 realworld miles on the bike in five months. I performed routine maintenance and even installed and tested some aftermarket accessories on the Ténéré.

For starters, the 1200cc, liquid-cooled, parallel twin, adventure-tourer is equipped with high-tech features that rival its competition. My favorites include two drive modes (Sport and Touring for different throttle response), three traction control settings (Default, Sporty, and Off), ABS, a unified braking system, and fully-adjustable suspension. The tall bike is well balanced and has a comfortable sit-up seating position, and the wide bars make tight maneuvers a cinch. Standing on the pegs is equally enjoyable, and hugging the bulbous tank with your knees controls the bike with your strongest extremities.

Yamaha's Super Ténéré outfitted with accessory bags is an excellent adventure-touring motorcycle.

Yamaha’s Super Ténéré outfitted with accessory bags is an excellent adventure-touring motorcycle.

Less technical — but equally practical — features include two seat height and three windshield height settings, toothy footpegs with removable rubber inserts, and three options for cargo carrier surfaces. All are manually adjustable and need to be set up while off the bike. I kept the seat set at the lower 33.3″ setting, which was fine for my 5’7″ height. Backing up while seated even on the lowest setting on this tall bike was difficult for me, but standing beside the Ténéré and pushing it, using my body weight for leverage, was no problem. However, the centerstand was intimidating, so I used the sidestand almost exclusively.

I kept the Ténéré’s windshield in its midheight setting most of the time while Steve preferred the higher setting. Moving the windshield up or down requires a Phillips head screwdriver, but it’s simple to do. Both of us were impressed with the quality of protection this shield offers, but we wanted to see what more coverage could provide. Adding the optional Yamaha side wind deflectors was a five-minute job. We used a screwdriver with plastic screws and grommets in the existing holes of the plastic cockpit area. Installed, they look stock, and provide extra wind and rain protection for the rider.

Dual 310 discs with two-piston calipers and ABS up front provide excellent stopping power.

Dual 310 discs with two-piston calipers and ABS up front provide excellent stopping power.

Hand deflectors come standard on the Ténéré, so we added more coverage by replacing the stock windshield with National Cycle’s midheight V-Stream shield. A few inches taller and wider than the stocker, the V-Stream was best appreciated both on the highway and when the weather was cool. Looking comfortably over the shield, the air was directed over my helmet without any buffeting and the ride was quieter.

Adjusting the rear monoshock on the fly is super-easy.

Adjusting the rear monoshock on the fly is super-easy.

Yamaha calls the Super Ténéré an adventure-tourer, but it doesn’t come with luggage. The Yamaha accessory aluminum side cases you see here will cost you more than a grand over the base price, but are top-notch quality and can be keyed with the ignition. The bags provided me with enough room for a complete change of riding gear, camera, tripod, computer equipment, and enough clothes for a six-day trip. They close securely with the key and the contents stay dry, even at speed in torrential downpours. Removing them is easy once you understand the trick to turning the plastic levers that pop out with a turn of the key. Handles are useful and do double duty as bungee points if you want to mount more cargo to the bag’s flattop surface.

Riding the Super Ténéré on my daily back road commute, the easy handling, sit-up riding position, and responsive throttle were most appreciated. Sport (S) was my preferred drive mode, and it was nice that there was no default setting that forced me to switch to S every time I turned the bike on. The throttle-by-wire system worked without a hitch, but was a little twitchy, most noticeable when my young passenger, Kaia, tightened her death-grip on my waist during takeoffs. Switching to Touring (T) mode helped me make smoother, slower shifting transitions, which helped Kaia relax and enjoy the ride.

The Ténéré's accessory aluminum side cases  pivot all the way open for easy loading. They can be keyed to the bike's ignition.

The Ténéré’s accessory aluminum side cases pivot all the way open for easy loading. They can be keyed to the bike’s ignition.

Shifting happens quickly, and you can work through the six gears before you reach 40 mph. Adjustable shift and brake levers are much appreciated, and the clutch pull is easy but solid. Braking is superb, and it takes an extreme situation to activate the ABS, as the traction control does its job extremely well. Heavier passengers have a big effect on handling, but making rear preload adjustments can be done on the fly from your seat. Rear rebound damping is a little harder to get, but is a tool-free affair. Front suspension changes include spring preload, rebound damping, and compression damping force.

The stock seat’s uncomfortable forward angle burned my rear end in very little time; I traded it for a Saddlemen adventure/tour seat (and the company’s pillion and rear bag). The passenger pillion went right on, but the rider seat took a bit of time, sweat, and tears to click into place. Unfortunately, my rear end (and my passenger’s) didn’t like it any better than the stock seat. I was fine for about an hour. After that, butt burn set in again. This was truly my only complaint about the Ténéré and not everyone had the same criticism.

There's plenty of lean angle for the twisties.

There’s plenty of lean angle for the twisties.

For longer trips, I mounted a GIVI universal GPS holder to the handlebar, and plugged my GPS into the accessory 12V DC jack on the dash to keep it charged. The Ténéré’s handlebar uses 7/8″ grips, but becomes thicker toward the risers. And the so-called universal mount wouldn’t work there, where it would’ve been easier to see. Ideally, I’d find a mount that would place the GPS front and center above the instrument controls.

I found cleaning the bike to be a chore, as there are a lot of nooks, recessed engine bolts, and little stuff that made my fingers sore. If this were my bike, it would be dirty all the time. Which is just fine since I wouldn’t be entering the bike into any beauty pageants. The Super Ténéré is built for long hours of riding fun, not for parking lot bike shows. For those who look past paint and chrome, focusing instead on the road itself, adventure beckons the Super Ténéré rider. M

Hard Data

Silver Side Cases, $478.49 each
Side Case Mounting Kit, $200.49
Side Wind Deflectors, $85.95

S950 Universal GPS holder, $80

VStream Sport/Tour height, $159.95

Adventure Tour Two-Piece
Seat, $549.95
AP2350 Pillion and Rear Rack Bag, $220.95