Is rid­ing a big ad­ven­ture bike off-road a re­al­is­tic prospect, or is it just man­u­fac­tur­ers’ mar­ket­ing spin? We headed out to Wales to find out...

Motorcycle Monthly - - First Ride - WORDS: Mikko Niem­i­nen PHO­TOG­RA­PHY: Yamaha & Mikko Niem­i­nen

Some days are bet­ter than oth­ers.

The one at the Yamaha Ténéré Ex­pe­ri­ence in mid-Wales has to go down as one of the bet­ter ones, as I was im­me­di­ately pre­sented with two bikes and the im­pos­si­ble ques­tion of which one I would rather ride: the Su­per Ténéré 1200 or the Ténéré 660?

The big daunt­ing bulk of the 1200 looked a bit men­ac­ing, so I opted to start with the 660. Its ca­pa­ble sin­gle­cylin­der en­gine, man­age­able size and bul­let­proof rep­u­ta­tion seemed like good rea­sons to start with this one.

As we pro­gressed fur­ther I be­gan to get more used to the bike. There are no ride modes or switches for ABS or trac­tion con­trol, so you don’t need to worry about any of that; in­stead, you can just keep your eyes scan­ning the trails and bob along mer­rily. As Dy­lan put it: “Ex­tend your views and let the bike find its way. If you look at the front wheel, you’ll miss what’s com­ing, and you’ll be off!”

Com­pared to a small trail bike, the Ténéré feels more sub­stan­tial – and let’s be hon­est, heav­ier – but it has the ad­van­tage of pack­ing in plenty of torque to help you get out of trou­ble, and for a big bike, it doesn’t feel too clumsy. Whether go­ing up or down a hill, cross­ing a river or just track­ing a line in a nar­row rut, the bike felt ca­pa­ble of tak­ing on any­thing you threw at it. Not bad for a bike that has been around in pretty much the same for­mat since it was launched in 2008.

An hour or so into the ride I was start­ing to feel con­fi­dent and re­laxed on the bike, no longer wor­ry­ing about its size or what might be around the cor­ner – I knew that I could han­dle both. Mak­ing a con­scious ef­fort to keep my knees straight and push­ing my el­bows out to gain more con­trol on the bars, rid­ing the trails be­gan to seem al­most nat­u­ral.

GO­ING UP A SIZE

When we next stopped Dy­lan asked if any­one wanted to swap bikes and try the Su­per Ténéré. I quickly con­sid­ered how of­ten you might get a chance to try a bike like that off-road, with such ex­pert guid­ance, and de­cided that it would be fool­ish not to.

Jump­ing on the big­ger of Yamaha’s two ad­ven­tur­ers was a pleas­ant sur­prise. The bike is more mod­ern than the 660, and you can feel it in­stantly. The sus­pen­sion is more re­fined, throt­tle con­trol bet­ter, and gear and brake levers more re­spon­sive. And sur­pris­ingly, given that it pretty much dou­bles the lit­tle Ténéré's dis­place­ment, it doesn’t feel much big­ger at all.

“Ex­tend your views and let the bike find its way. If you look at the front wheel, you’ll miss what’s com­ing, and you’ll be off!”

If any­thing, I found it eas­ier to ride on the trails.

“Just watch out in the ruts,” Dy­lan ad­vised. “The 1200 doesn’t have as much ground clear­ance, so you may ground the bash plate. And it’s a bit wider too, so point your toes in and watch for the edges of the ruts, so you don’t catch your foot.” Keep­ing my toes well tucked in, I man­aged to squeeze the big­ger Ténéré through the ruts that fol­lowed.

With Dy­lan’s in­struc­tions and the steady com­fort of the Su­per Ténéré, I was hav­ing a whale of a time: we crossed a river, nav­i­gat­ing slip­pery rocks – not a prob­lem; we climbed up a track, balanc­ing on a path just a foot wide – easy; and we clat­tered and crashed over some rocky hills – child’s play! Ad­mit­tedly the route was de­signed for be­gin­ners, but even so, the big bike han­dled well, and rid­ing it was a breeze.

A ca­pa­ble bike and help­ful ad­vice meant that even an off-road buf­foon like me could have a great time.

All too soon our ride ended, but the off-road ca­pa­bil­ity of these bikes was al­ready clear. They don’t have the agility of small trail bikes, but the sta­bil­ity and power they pos­sess make off-road­ing a real op­tion. The ex­pe­ri­ence it­self was well planned and ex­e­cuted – these guys re­ally know their stuff. The only trou­ble with the one-day course is that it doesn’t half leave you han­ker­ing af­ter more…

“We crossed a river, nav­i­gat­ing slip­pery rocks – not a prob­lem; we climbed up a track, balanc­ing on a path just a foot wide – easy; and we clat­tered and crashed over rocky hills – child’s play!”

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