Super Ténéré – Preparation T (for tough … and touring)
One of the main events I had planned for our Super Ténéré long termer was a trip along the Labrador Highway. More gravel than pavement and a road that literally takes you through the middle of nowhere, it is an ideal test for Yamaha’s Super Ténéré.
But I’m getting ahead of myself.
For this first update I want to cover what we did to the bike in order to get it ready for such a ride. Although it’s quite capable in stock format, there are a few very useful aftermarket accessories out there that can toughen her up. We wasted no time calling around to see what we could get.
Initial internet searches showed that Alt Rider, Twisted Throttle and Touratech all had a host of parts available. Requests went out and we ended up with a “Please tell us more” from AltRider, no response from Twisted Throttle and a pretty definite “no” from Touratech Canada (sigh).
Now one thing that I really wanted to avoid was adding any bling to the bike. It isn’t a shiny chrome cruiser and it doesn’t need go-faster stripes, and beside, at a hefty 574lbs wet, it doesn’t need anymore weight either.
AltRider seems pretty confident that they don’t sell bling as they sent me everything they had for the Super Ténéré save for the side stand foot which helps prevent the stand from sinking in the soft dirt (though in hindsight, that too could have been quite handy).
One thing they did show on their site but hadn’t built yet (and the thing that I was maybe most interested in too) was an ABS off switch. Now for some reason Yamaha decided to not offer this as standard, citing that their ABS is clever enough to still be of use off-road.
For the “dirt is for potatoes” crowd, the reason why you want to be able to turn off ABS is that it is far better to have a rear wheel that is locked and dragging itself down a gravel hill (thus offering some retardation as well as some steering by choosing when to drag and where to lean), than to have a free turning wheel because the ABS keeps it spinning.
In fact I would go so far to say that ABS in the dirt is a danger, not a benefit. But more on that later, for now let’s take a look at the parts we did get.
TOUGHENING UP THE TENERE
Okay, so what parts did we get and what do we think of them?
1) SKID PLATE (Yamaha – C$219.95, AltRider – US$332.97)
The Super Ténéré came complete with some of Yamaha’s own options, including an aluminium skid plate that replaces the stock plastic jobbie.
Since our tester wasn’t just out of the box it had already been subject to a certain amount of journalistic abuse resulting in some sizable dents and scars on the exhaust pipe, laying testament to the OEM part’s inadequacy.
For some reason they neglected to cover the whole right side where the exhaust pipes are totally exposed. There is a small heat shield that bolts directly to the pipes toward the rear but even that is a flimsy pressing and was already well bent.
The AltRider powder coated aluminum unit (8lbs) offers additional protection but oddly still leaves a gap at the rear where the Yamaha heat shield sits – though they do supply their own, much sturdier shield too (US$48.97), that fills the gap nicely.
However, their skid plate is a much better piece of kit, and includes a substantial cross brace that mounts at the rear to stop the plate from bending on harder hits. Here the Yamaha piece has no support whatsoever and the plate was rippled and distorted accordingly from sliding over rocks.
Overall is took me about 2 hours to fit the plate, thanks to good design and the detailed instructions that came with it.
2) CRASH GUARDS (US$348.43)
Now I didn’t think I’d need these. After all, aren’t they just protecting the plastic sides of the bike? And if so, albeit handy, that’s added weight (another 8lbs) and expense.
Then I looked a little more closely at the Super Ténéré’s design only to find the radiator mounted under the plastic on the left hand side and the battery/electrics on the other. A simple drop could be enough to take out the rad or the electrics, so the bars became a must need.
Again, the AltRider bars are a well-designed piece of kit made from TIG welded stainless steel that fit snugly around the front of the bike, are easy to mount (about 30 mins) and adds the required protection. Oh, and it adds a very Mad Maxish look to boot.
BTW, the bars almost allow enough wiggle room to be able to remove the electrical sidecover in place (which I needed to remove when the original battery failed on me in Newfoundland).
It would normally be a 10-minute job, but to give a little more room, remove the two lower Allen bolts of the bars (will add another five minutes). Just be careful not to touch them with the wrench when tightening the terminals up – ZAP!
Yamaha do offer a set of crash bars, but from pictures they appear to be smaller tubing, and they do not appear to offer any rad/electrics protection either. At an asking price of C$469.95, the AltRider parts seem to be a bargain.
AltRider Crash bars
3) OTHER GUARD BITS (US$155.91)
The other three bits that AltRider sent, one of which I would maybe consider optional are the rear brake master cylinder cover (US$60.97) and the universal joint (US$60.97) and sidestand switch cover (US$33.97).
The rear brake cover I think is pretty important and again a simple drop onto an unfortunately located object could break the brake, so to speak. There is a pressed steel Yamaha jobbie in place but the AltRider piece is much beefier (and fits in less than 10 minutes).
The standard Yamaha UJ guard I originally though to be adequate as it’s an area that I’m not sure is that exposed anyway, but Christina at AltRider pointed out that the original unit has an upper edge that can catch clothing and thus result in a drop when you can’t release your foot at a stop. The AltRider piece wraps around at the top to prevent this.
The sidestand switch comes sans covered as standard and although the AltRider cover is quite the piece of engineering, again I’m not sure how vital it is. It also proved quite fiddly to fit so I left it off. Of course, a bashed sidestand switch can cause the motor to be cut, but if this were to happen it’s a pretty easy fix to join the two wires of the switch together to bypass.
4) REAR RACK (US$189.32)
The standard plastic rack that comes with the bike is perfectly usable, but if you want to have a bigger area, on a stronger rack (made from 3/16 inch aluminium) with lots of slots for bungees then you should consider the AltRider rack.
It comes in two parts, which gives it height to match the rear passenger seat, but can also be lowered by removing one of the parts to lay flat if the rear seat is removed for even more luggage space.
The space between the two parts can also be used as additional storage though it would be even handier if it came fully enclosed with a hinged door for access – that would be a good place for some tools!
AltRider has also designed the rack to take mounts for a Givi Monokey bag or the Rotopax fuel canister. Which leads me neatly to …
5) ROTOPAX FUEL PACK ($US72.97 – 1 Gal + mount)
If you’re going to do the Labrador Highway then you need to be sure that you can cover a 410km stretch without gas stations. The Super Ténéré has a decent range but it won’t go that far so we asked for a 1 Gallon Rotopax container just in case.
The Rotopax container is basically a rather thick plastic gas can (they claim that you can run over it with a truck), that is thin in section with a slotted hole in the middle of it. The mount fits into this hole and has a screw down arm that crosses over the container to keep it firmly mounted to wherever you stick the mount.
In my case it’s bang in the middle of the AltRider rack, which gives me a secure way to carry extra gas, with a container that lies flat enough and is strong enough to have gear placed on top of it too.
It’s a great idea and worked a treat, though when I came to actually use it I couldn’t get the locking ring on the funnel to unlock, so had to steal one from a cheap $5 gas station can. Still, a great item for the long remote haul; just make sure that it will unlock before you head out into the wilderness.
Rotopax and mount
6) HARD BAGS (C$1,239.85)
As mentioned, the Super Ténéré already came with a few Yamaha accessories attached and one we were quite pleased to see were the hard panniers.
Yamaha says they are aluminium bags with a reinforced nylon frame, though I’d say they are made of nylon with aluminium skin for that all important adventure look. Still, they seem to be pretty sturdy units and feature top loading and easy mounting and unmounting.
Both are rectangular shape, which I find very useful when packing, and have a claimed capacity of 32 litres each (a little small, but usable), though one is shaped to go around the exhaust and so is a little harder to pack fully.
They use the same key as for the ignition, which is handy unless you bend it trying to open the bags (easy if you’re in a hurry and when there’s been some dust build up in the locks).
Turn the key one way and the lid opens, the other and the catch to release them from the bike opens (and yes, it takes a while to remember which way those are).
Yamaha claims they’re water resistant, and although I packed everything in plastic bags, I haven’t noticed any leaks yet, despite being caught in some good downpours.
I also find the shape very handy and they stand upright and double as chairs should you be unlucky enough to have to camp.
Still, they’re not cheap and for $300 (or so) more you can get a pair of Jesse Odyssey II bags, which are true aluminium bags (and therefore tougher) and offer a total of 105 litres capacity.
Yamaha Hard bags
No, not that kind of damage, how much does it all add up to? Well if you were the proud owner of a Super Ténéré and you wanted to take your bike into the back and beyond and maybe down a few trails then I would certainly recommend the Skid Plate and Crash Bars (for a total of US$680).
Having seen the issues of the Yamaha skid plate under tough conditions, although it’s a $100 cheaper, I would give it a miss and get something significantly tougher. Same goes for the Yamaha crash bars, only they cost more and seem to offer less protection.
As for the other AltRider guards, well they’re well-made but I would stick them in the optional pile depending just how rough you intend to get with your Super Ténéré. Maybe go for the rear brake master cylinder guard as losing the rear brake in the trails would certainly suck and the UJ guard would prevent an embarrassing “oh, my foot is caught” topple at standstill (adding another US$120).
The rack is very handy and I was glad I had the Rotopax on the Trans Lab trip, but that again would depend on what kind of distance you wanted to travel, and how remote it was. For our needs I was happy to have both, so add another US$260 to the bill.
As for the bags, I’m not convinced that the Yamaha ones would be the best option. They’re certainly very good bags, but the price is just too close to a true aluminium bag, which offers additional toughness and much greater carrying capacity to boot (and if you’re going to carry stuff, panniers are the best place to do it). Still, you need bags for this bike so let’s say another C$1,500 to cover all options.
So what’s the damage? Well adding up all the ‘vital’ parts and taking a US dollar on par and then rounding off a few bucks and we have a grand total of $3,000 to give you needed protection, luggage capacity and an extra gallon o’ gas for when you run dry in the deep dark woods.
We’ve already done some miles with this stuff but will continue to appraise over the rest of the summer and will update with any more revelations in the end-of-season wrap-up piece. Stay tuned!
BTW, AltRider now distribute their stuff directly in Canada through our friends at Dual Sport Plus, if you want to save some shipping and border fees (favourable Canadian pricing pending of course).
If you want to see the AltRider video on all these parts, here you go: