On the boil…
As with most big-bore bikes these days this thing comes loaded with shed-loads of electronics and although some people may think they’re daunting: it’s far from it. The Ténéré has three levels of traction control (aggressive, mellow and off) and two drive modes (S for Sport and T for touring). When I took it off-road I used the traction control as follows: Level 1 (most aggressive) was just for the street so I wouldn’t even bother using it on the dirt unless you’re a real novice. Level 2 (mellow) was good for really fast gravel roads where the back end wanted to get away from me, usually under provocation from my throttle hand. 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 have different maps that seem to feel quite similar. The T mode has a much mellower hit and overall smoother throttle response while the S mode is punchier and has a quicker response. While I preferred S mode in most situations because of its quick response, the T mode made some sketchy descents easier since the throttle was less responsive. As you could imagine the 1199cc, parallel twin made mince meat of whatever you chuck at it and having these electronic aids made life a lot easier when I got into sticky situations.
As much as the ST is promoted as being for off-road riding, if you’re thinking about getting one to use on off-camber, sloppy single track through tight bush then think again… But to be fair no adventure-style bike can do that with ease no matter how dirt-orientated they are. The ST is happiest and fun on not-too-rocky trails, mellow two-track and fire trails. We stepped outside the bike’s comfort zone a few times, trying sand and rocky fire trails. On a trail or enduro bike, the proper way to get over the rocks is to keep momentum up and sort of ‘float’ over the rocks but with a bike weighing around 250kg and softish style suspension there is no float… You can always take the slower, technical approach but don’t get caught on a shitty uphill trail is all I can say.
So what’s it like on the road? ‘Bloody good’ is the answer… Just by looking at it you know the bike will excel at long distance touring. It is well equipped for the job, it’s what it is designed to do. But despite the adventure tyres, the size of the thing, and the less than sporty steering, you can ride the ST quite quick on the road. Tight twisting roads won’t bother it, nor do the lumps and bumps of our back-roads. It has ‘only’ 112 horsepower but it has plenty of torque and revels in lower revs rather than revving the crap out of it. It has a 270-degree crankshaft so it’s supposed to sound and feel like a V-twin. It does to a degree but not overtly so…
The brakes impressed me too, with dual, four-piston calipers grabbing decent sized discs on the front. The rear single caliper is great in the bush, while not needed so much on the tar. ABS is standard, as is the Unified Brake System (UBS) that balances the braking effort yet gives you the option of separating the brakes for traditional function on the fly.
Who wants one?
Every time I rode this bike it had me wondering… Who would buy one? It is made to cover massive distances on both highways and dirt which is basically my definition of adventure riding. Load it with camping gear, forget the map, and just see where those dirt roads you’ve always wanted to explore take you.
Once you get over the mindset of having a 1200cc motor between your legs and that you’re not going to be popping over tree stumps or rocks with ease, you can appreciate that with some patience and the proper speed, the Super Ténéré can get you through those short sections of sketchiness so you can enjoy those long sections of comfort.
I wouldn’t be in a rush to ride it in the Finke Desert Race but I’d love to ride it there and back, and at around 22K it’s a lot cheaper than most of the Euro options.