For years a German manufacturer set the standard for the Adventure sector of motorcycling, but it hasn't stopped other manufacturers trying to take it on. Just as Yamaha has with its XT1200Z Super Tenere.
Right from the first couple of kilometers there's a nice balance to the Yamaha XT1200Z Super Tenere, so much in fact that as the rider you instantly feel at one with the motorcycle, and even filtering slowly through Bangkok's traffic in downtown traffic madness wasn't too daunting. As long as you take into account the width of the handlebars.
Initial thoughts on the smooth-running parallel-twin cylinder 1199cc engine were a little mixed though. The 270-degree crankshaft arrangement does give some immediate drive in the very earliest part of the YCC-T (Yamaha Chip Controlled Throttle) throttle opening, but for its capacity and configuration it can still feel a little flat at the lower end of its rev range. That fooled me into thinking I'd set the power option switch on the softer 'Touring' setting, but a quick look at the clocks revealed I was actually in the sharper 'Sport' mode.
Get the Yamaha XT1200Z engine revving though and the parallel-twin engine pulls more strongly in the midrange and what's lost over the BMW GS's engine initially begins to be compensated big time. But just as the Yamaha XT1200Z is getting into its stride the power fades and all you can do is hook up another gear to keep things moving along briskly.
There were times when the engine's power did impress me more than others, and I do suspect the interaction of electronics controlling the throttle butterflies' opening speed could well have been in charge a little more than the rider.
The 'Sport' mode allows quicker throttle response than the 'Touring' option, but even on the keenest setting, I got the impression the ECU was still limiting the throttle a touch.
A three-position traction control system also takes charge of affairs when grip is insufficient. The TCS1 setting is the less obtrusive than TCS2 and both rely on alterations to ignition and fueling to reduce power and maintain rear wheel drive. It's a fairly crude-feeling system when it does cut in, though it can be switched off – essential for off-road duties.
More straightforward to deal with is the Yamaha XT1200Z's handling. You may well find the 261kg XT1200Z a bit of a handful pushing it around your driveway and car park, but with the engine running, your hands gripping the handlebars and the speedo registering more than 10km/h the bulk and weight are left well behind. Those wide handlebars assist the steering and with a pretty neutral and conventional overall feel it's easy to be confident with the Yamaha XT1200Z Super Tenere. I t can feel a bit hefty to make quick direction changes at first, but you soon learn to cope with those, and the XT1200Z does have the bonus of being especially stable and capable at speed.
With good grip from the Metzeler Tourance EXP tires, reliable feel from the multi-adjustable suspension and strong ABS brakes, the Yamaha XT1200Z Super Tenere is an easy motorcycle to get on with on the road. It's definitely not as quirky a ride as the less conventionally suspended 1200GS.
I'd be brave enough to take the Yamaha XT1200Z Super Tenere on by-ways with easy-going terrain of basic Thai rural roads, but beyond those I think anyone other than riders of my ability and experience could struggle. More specialized off-road tires would be a must for more challenging routes too.
Back on the Tarmac, as a tourer, the Yamaha XT1200Z Super Tenere is far more adept and likable. It's comfortable enough for all-day rides, and the 23 liter fuel tank which will give 322 to 405 kilometer runs between refills, very much adds to its practicality. Shaft drive boosts convenience and the adjustable screen is also of benefit, though needing tools to adjust it limits that advantage. That can't stop me judging the Yamaha XT1200Z as a really good motorcycle.