2011 BMW R1200GS Adventure vs. 2012 Yamaha Super Ténéré | Road Test Review

photography by Kevin Wing

This 2011 BMW R1200GS Adventure vs. 2012 Yamaha Super Ténéré Motorcycle Comparison was originally published in the January 2012 issue of Rider magazine]

2012 Yamaha Super Ténéré and 2011 BMW R1200GS Adventure
2012 Yamaha Super Ténéré (left) and 2011 BMW R1200GS Adventure can do it all: touring, sport touring, dual-sporting, Iron Butting, you name it.

If imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, then BMW must have blushed when Yamaha released the Super Ténéré (pronounced ten-er-ray; see Rider, February 2011), which is remarkably similar to BMW’s R 1200 GS Adventure, the über version of open-class adventure touring’s standard bearer. The Super Ténéré and GS Adventure (GSA) have 1,200cc twins that make the same power and torque, and both send power to the rear wheel via shaft final drive. Both have beefy tubular steel frames, long-travel suspension, spoked 19- and 17-inch wheels shod with tubeless tires and fuel ranges exceeding 250 miles—perfect for backcountry expeditions that continue long after the pavement ends. Even more so when kitted out with ABS, hand protectors, heated grips, engine guards, skid plates, luggage racks, side cases and power outlets—some standard, some optional—as our test bikes were. Incredibly, both bikes tipped our scales at exactly 628 pounds fully fueled (as tested). Heck, these bikes even have comparable Paris-Dakar Rally heritage, with four wins on the BMW R80G/S in the ’80s, and six wins on the Yamaha XTZ750 Super Ténéré in the ’90s.

There are differences between the GS Adventure and Super Ténéré, of course. Engine configuration, fuel capacity, seat height, standard features and price are among the points of divergence between the two, but neither bike overshadows the other. In fact, of all the comparison tests we’ve worked on, none was a tougher call to make than this one.

BMW’s 1,170cc boxer twin has been refined over many decades and is found in several models. Updates in 2010 delivered more power, rowdier sound.

With its air/oil-cooled cylinders jutting out from each side, the BMW’s 1,170cc boxer twin is a versatile engine that has benefited from decades of refinement. It is found in several R 1200 models (GS, GSA, R and RT) and has an unmistakable profile. The crank is longitudinal, the cylinders move outward and inward together and the center of gravity is low, contributing to the bike’s balanced feel. It has a 12.0:1 compression ratio, chain-driven dual overhead cams and a radial four-valve head with dual spark plugs. Though lumpy at idle, the counterbalanced boxer spins smoothly all the way up to its 8,500-rpm redline, and throttle response from the fully sequential EFI is crisp and predictable. On Jett Tuning’s Dynojet dyno, it spun up 95.1 horsepower at 7,600 rpm and 74.6 lb-ft ­of torque at 6,100 rpm at the rear wheel, with a steady upward progression of power and a broad, flat torque curve. Power is sent to the rear wheel through a six-speed transmission with a hydraulically actuated dry clutch and a shaft-driven Paralever single-sided swingarm.

2012 Yamaha Super Tenere engine
The Super Ténéré’s 1,199cc parallel twin was purpose-built for this model and makes the same power and torque as the BMW.

Echoing the XTZ750, which Yamaha produced from 1989-1996, the XTZ1200 Super Ténéré is powered by a 1,199cc liquid-cooled parallel twin purpose-built for this model. Like the GSA, it has a dual-spark, four-valve, DOHC cylinder head but a lower 11.0:1 compression ratio. A 270-degree crankpin offset with uneven firing intervals emits tightly spaced power pulses, similar to a big thumper, and twin gear-driven balance shafts subdue unwanted vibration. Similar to Yamaha’s sport and sport touring models, the Super Ténéré is equipped with the Y-CCT (Yamaha Chip Controlled Throttle) throttle-by-wire system, which enables Drive Modes (Sport and Touring) and integrates with the standard, three-mode traction control system (our BMW test bike did not include Anti Spin Control, a $400 option).

2012 Yamaha Super Tenere right side beauty
A rally-style fairing, rugged fairing plastic, hand guards and beefy construction throughout put the Super Ténéré solidly in the go-anywhere, do-anything category.

Though it redlines lower at 8,000 rpm, the parallel twin spins up quicker and feels rowdier than the boxer, yet its peak dyno figures were almost exactly the same: 95.1 horsepower at 7,300 rpm and 75.4 lb-ft of torque at 5,700 rpm (in Sport mode) at the rear wheel. Like the BMW, the Yamaha has a six-speed transmission, a hydraulically actuated clutch (though wet rather than dry) and shaft drive. Clutching and shifting were smooth and easy on both bikes. The Super Ténéré has a lower first gear ratio (2.77:1) than the GSA (2.60:1), as well as a lower final drive ratio (2.99:1 vs. 2.91:1), giving the Yamaha an advantage on steep, tricky hills. Overdrives—sixth gear on the Yamaha, fifth and sixth on the BMW—allow them to cruise smoothly and reduce fuel consumption at highway speeds. We recorded 39.2 mpg on the GSA, yielding a 341-mile range from its voluminous 8.7-gallon tank, and 41.2 mpg on the Super Ténéré, yielding a 251-mile range from its 6.1-gallon tank.

Arden Kysely’s test of the BMW R 1200 GS/Adventure (Rider, August 2010) was titled “The All-Bike,” an apt description that suits the Super Ténéré as well. These bikes are designed to handle any kind of riding, to go any distance, and do so comfortably and confidently. Despite carrying 2.5 gallons of additional fuel and a catalog’s worth of bolt-on items that boost curb weight by nearly 100 pounds compared to a standard GS, our premium-equipped GSA had similarly light, predictable handling. A shorter wheelbase than the Super Ténéré (59.4 vs. 60.6 inches) and tighter steering geometry (24.8-degree rake/3.5-inch trail vs. 28-degree/5.0-inch) help the GSA feel more nimble but only marginally so.

2011 BMW R1200GS Adventure right side beauty
The GS Adventure is a common sight on six continents. Bigger tank, extra suspension travel and protective hardware make it a serious traveler.

Despite having the same as-tested wet weight as the GSA, the Super Ténéré looks and feels more compact, and the rider sits lower in the machine (adjustable seat height is 33.3/34.3 inches); due to more suspension travel and thicker seat padding the GSA’s adjustable seat height requires supplemental oxygen (35.0/35.8 inches). Motocross-style handlebars, ample legroom and wide, flat seats allow riders of either bike to navigate any kind of terrain and be comfortable for distances ranging from milk runs to SaddleSores. Cleated footpegs (the Yamaha has removable rubber inserts) provide grip in the slip, and their tank shapes and handlebar positions allow easy stand-up riding.

Like most owners of these bikes, we spent the majority of our 2,000-plus mile test on the street. Metzeler Karoo knobbies are standard fitment on the R 1200 GS Adventure, but we spooned on a pair of Dunlop’s new street-biased Trailmax TR91 tires for comparability with the Super Ténéré, which comes with Bridgestone Battle Wings. These bikes are quite capable off-road, but their size demands respect. They have plenty of ground clearance (BMW: 9.5 inches; Yamaha: 8.7) and suspension travel (BMW: 8.2/8.7 inches; Yamaha: 7.5/7.5) to ride over and absorb rough terrain, as well as sturdy engine guards and skid plates to fend off what can’t be avoided. Our premium Adventure was equipped with Enduro ESA (Electronic Suspension Adjustment), allowing push-button adjustability of damping and preload for the single-shock front Telelever and rear Paralever. Except for the remote rear preload adjuster knob, changes to the fully adjustable male-slider fork and preload/rebound adjustable rear shock on the Super Ténéré require tools. Both exhibited robust suspension compliance, especially on rough, bumpy roads, but the longer-travel BMW felt plusher and its push-button adjustability was undeniably convenient.

2012 Yamaha Super Tenere left side action
Our Super Ténéré test bike was slathered in optional accessories: taller windscreen with deflectors, engine guards, skid plate and side cases with mounting kit. Drive modes, traction control and ABS are standard. Side-mount radiator is visible on the left side fairing. Apparel: Helmet: Shoei Hornet DS / Jacket & Pants: Tour Master / Boots: Sidi.

Bikes as big as these need strong brakes, and to be ridden in a wide range of conditions they need to be easy to modulate. Both have dual floating front discs with opposed four-piston calipers and single rear discs with pin-slide calipers. ABS is standard on the Super Ténéré, and it was included as part of the premium package on the GS Adventure. Both systems are linked front-to-rear only. A convenient button on the left switch pod turns on/off the BMW’s ABS for off-road riding; defeating the Yamaha’s system can be done on the centerstand until you next turn off the ignition, this also defeats the traction control. Braking performance was comparable, with the Yamaha exhibiting slightly more stopping power and the BMW exhibiting better feel.

We did our best to obtain test bikes with apples-to-apples levels of fitment. Standard equipment on the 2011 GS Adventure ($17,250) includes a centerstand, skid plate, hand protectors, engine guards and cross-spoke wheels (which can take more abuse than cast and still carry tubeless tires) and, of course, BMW’s proprietary Telelever front suspension and Paralever shaft final drive. Our test bike also included the premium package ($3,245), which adds Enduro ESA, heated grips, onboard computer, fog lights, ABS and saddle­bag mounts, plus aluminum side cases with locks ($1,121), raising the as-tested price to $21,616. Standard equipment on the Super Ténéré includes a centerstand, hand protectors, ABS, traction control, onboard computer and Yamaha’s own tubeless spoked wheel design. From Yamaha’s accessory catalog we added heated grips, a tall windscreen with side wind deflectors, side cases with mounts, engine guards and a skid plate, boosting the as-tested price by $2,340 to $16,840. No matter how you slice and dice it, the Yamaha is less expensive. Cost of ownership is likely to be cheaper in the long run, too, since Japanese parts tend to be less expensive than those from Germany, and four valve adjustments are recommended on the BMW for every one on the Yamaha. Then again, the Super Ténéré is a relatively new, unproven model, whereas the GS Adventure has been thoroughly flogged the world over and is known for its durability and reliability (the BMW also comes with a three-year warranty compared to one year for the Yamaha). And with so many GS bikes on the road, the breadth and depth of factory and aftermarket accessories for the BMW are mind-boggling.

2011 BMW R1200GS Adventure left side action
Rugged black plastic in front of the rider’s knees is part of the GS Adventure’s most addictive features: an 8.7-gallon fuel tank that offers well over 300 miles of range. Aluminum side cases with locks and fog lights are optional. Apparel: Arai XD3 / Jacket: Firstgear TPG Rainier / Pants: Firstgear TPG Escape / Boots: Aerostich Combat Lite.

Riding the GS Adventure and Super Ténéré back-to-back on lots of roads for lots of miles gave me a deep appreciation for their comfort and versatility. Tellingly, when riding one I never wished I was riding the other; an obvious favorite never emerged. Power, handling, braking, wind protection and comfort are too close to call. Load capacity (as tested) is similar (417 pounds on the BMW, 408 on the Yamaha), both have standard 12V outlets (two on the BMW, one on the Yamaha) and both have removable pillion seats that extend the luggage-carrying space of the rear racks. The BMW has higher fuel capacity, more compliant suspension (with ESA), additional legroom and larger, easier-to-use side cases (82 liters of total capacity vs. 61 liters for the Yamaha, which had balky latches), but the Yamaha could be brought up to par with aftermarket parts and accessories. Honestly, as tested, these bikes are so evenly matched that the decision comes down to preference more than performance, personality more than price. Do you prefer chocolate or strawberry? Or, in this case, Shine Yellow or Impact Blue?


2012 Yamaha Super Tenere gauges
Ténéré’s analog tach is paired with a digital speedo that’s part of an LCD display with lots of info. Button on far left adjusts traction control.

2012 Yamaha Super Ténéré

Base Price: $14,500

Price as Tested: $16,840 (heated grips, tall windscreen, side wind deflectors, saddlebags w/ mounts, engine guard, skid plate)

Warranty: 1 yr., unltd. miles

Website: www.yamaha-motor.com


Type: Liquid-cooled, transverse parallel twin

Displacement: 1,199cc

Bore x Stroke: 98.0 x 79.5mm

Compression Ratio: 11.0:1

Valve Train: DOHC, 4 valves per cyl.

Valve Adj. Interval: 24,000 miles

Fuel Delivery: Fuel injection with Y-CCT, 46mm throttle bodies x 2

Lubrication System: Dry sump, 3.6-qt. cap.

Transmission: 6-speed, hydraulically actuated wet clutch

Final Drive: Shaft, 2.99:1


Ignition: Transistor controlled

Charging Output: 600 watts at 5,000 rpm

Battery: 12V 11AH


Frame: Tubular steel space frame w/ engine as stressed member, cast aluminum swingarm

Wheelbase: 60.6 in.

Rake/Trail: 28 degrees/5.0 in.

Seat Height: 33.3/34.3 in.

Suspension, Front: 43mm male slider, fully adj., 7.5-in. travel

Rear: Single shock, adj. for spring preload (remote) & rebound damping, 7.5-in. travel

Brakes, Front: Dual 310mm floating discs w/ opposed 4-piston monoblock calipers & Unified ABS

Rear: Single 282mm disc w/ pin-slide 1-piston caliper & ABS

Wheels, Front: Cross-spoke aluminum, 2.50 x 19 in.

Rear: Cross-spoke aluminum, 4.00 x 17 in.

Tires, Front: Tubeless, 110/80-R19

Rear: Tubeless, 150/70-R17

Wet Weight: 628 lbs. (as tested)

Load Capacity: 408 lbs. (as tested)

GVWR: 1,036 lbs.


Fuel Capacity: 6.1 gals., last 1.0 gal. warning light on

Average mpg: 91 PON min. (high/avg/low) 43.6/41.2/37.8

Estimated Range: 251 miles

Indicated rpm at 60 mph: 3,100


2011 BMW R1200GS Adventure gauges
The GSA’s analog gauges are flanked by an LCD display that includes many helpful functions. Onboard computer is optional.

2011 BMW R 1200 GS Adventure

Base Price: $17,250

Price as Tested: $21,616 (premium package: heated grips, ABS, saddlebag mounts, onboard computer, Enduro ESA, fog lights; saddlebags w/ locks)

Warranty: 3 yrs., 36,000 miles

Website: www.bmwmotorcycles.com


Type: Longitudinal, air/oil-cooled flat opposed twin

Displacement: 1,170cc

Bore x Stroke: 101.0 x 73.0mm

Compression Ratio: 12.0:1

Valve Train: DOHC, 4 valves per cyl., radial configuration

Valve Adj. Interval: 6,000 miles

Fuel Delivery: Fully sequential EFI, 50mm throttle bodies x 2

Lubrication System: Wet sump, 4.2-qt. cap.

Transmission: 6-speed, hydraulically actuated dry clutch

Final Drive: Shaft, 2.91:1


Ignition: Electronic (BMS-K+ w/ twin spark plugs)

Charging Output: 720 watts max.

Battery: 12V 14AH maintenance-free


Frame: Tubular steel space frame w/ engine as stressed member, Paralever single-sided cast aluminum swingarm

Wheelbase: 59.4 in.

Rake/Trail: 24.8 degrees/3.5 in.

Seat Height: 35.0/35.8 in.

Suspension, Front: BMW Telelever w/ 41mm stanchions & single shock, adj. for spring preload & rebound damping w/ 8.2 in. travel & Enduro ESA (as tested)

Rear: BMW Paralever w/ single shock, adj. for spring preload & rebound damping w/ 8.6 in. travel & Enduro ESA (as tested)

Brakes, Front: Dual 305mm floating discs w/ opposed 4-piston fixed calipers & Integral ABS

Rear: Single 265mm disc w/ 2-piston pin-slide caliper & ABS

Wheels, Front: Cross-spoke aluminum, 2.50 x 19 in.

Rear: Cross-spoke aluminum, 4.00 x 17 in.

Tires, Front: Tubeless, 110/80-R19

Rear: Tubeless, 150/70-R17

Wet Weight: 628 lbs. (as tested)

Load Capacity: 417 lbs. (as tested)

GVWR: 1,045 lbs.


Fuel Capacity: 8.7 gals., last 1.0 gal. warning light on

Average mpg: 89 PON min. (high/avg/low) 39.8/39.2/38.9

Estimated Range: 341 miles

Indicated rpm at 60 mph: 3,500


  1. I couldn’t wait for the tenere, though I’ve never been let down by a yamaha, so I ended up with an adventure. I recently got to ride a Tenere. I do not regret buying the bmw at all, but like the review says, they’re practically down to what you feel like at the time.
    The tenere is significantly cheaper and I bet will last longer and probably have more convenient service, but also has a chain, which, though normally reasonable, does tend to need more service when used in extreme conditions.

    I like the BMW’s weight balance and accessories, but the tenere feels a bit more sleek. What ya gunna do? Buy both if you can.

  2. super tenere’s got shaft drive i think… rode it a while back, felt great. you dont really feel the weight. sort of like a big(huge) scrambler. havent had a go on the r1200. if only i had deep enough pockets

  3. and what about the maint$$$ BMW valves at 6k versus the Tunng fork…I left BMW a few years back to Yamaha and have not looked back.

  4. Had a GSA last year and it’s a great bike and loved it. After spending lots ov $$$$$ for maintenance and repairs I decided to go with the tenere. Love everything about it and don’t regret my decision at all.

  5. Am looking at both with akeen eye…the abs on tenere offroad how is it….otherwise bmw is amonster eye catcher it pulls crowds in seconds…will ride the world one day

  6. I sold a 1200GS to buy the Super Ten, Best move I’ve ever made. After owning both of these bikes, for me the Yamaha leaves it for dead. The horrible brakes, awkward front end,horrible dry clutch, leaky seals, bizzarr turn signal swithes, ect. Off road the Super Ten feels 100lbs lighter the bulky BMW. 24000 miles between valve adjustments!!! I can change oil,filter,rear diff myself in 20 min! Bottom line, it’s not going to pull many hard core BMW riders away from their clunky shifting bikes, but the ones with an open mind that give the Super Ten a try will never look back, I know I’ll never go back!! Happy riding!

  7. I have intentions of buying one of these two bikes, they are so very similar in a lot of ways, But when I test ride either of them which I have done on both a couple of times. My grin seems to be so much bigger when I am on the super tenere.

  8. Personally, I always look at resale value along with reputation. I have purchased several lightly used, well equipped GS models over the years. My last was an ’09 F800 GS. Loved the bike and rode it 40K miles in two years. I sold it for $1,000 less than I paid for it. The maintenance cost was minimal since the first year+, the bike was still under warranty. Had no serious problems with the bake or any other BMW I’ve ever owned. I will be watching to see how the Super Ten holds it’s value. I only have one friend who bought one and sold it already. He wouldn’t tell me how much he lost in the deal. I think these are both great bikes and you can’t go wrong with either one.

    • I owned them both BMW 2008 model Super Tenere 2011 model. I also race and tune motorbikes road and off road.
      BMW’s are good for the first 3 years like all the German products, after that they need big $$$ for maintenance. This is the reason why their second hand value goes down very sharp after the first 3 years. With the Tenere the value reduced at the second year but stays there for very long time as they are maintenance free almost for ever. The only problem they have are the wheel spokes that they need to be checked every 10k miles.
      I clearly prefer Yamaha than the GS

  9. I still have a 1994 1100gs. I know it’s 20 years old. Still a ton of fun to ride. They aren’t as reliable as people think. Parts take a long time to arrive.

    The Tenere has an engine that doesn’t make you go “wow!”, but it is so predictable and you need that if you plan on going off road. I will install my own switch to deactivated the ABS. It is sooo easy to maintain (only one oil to change). I like the single sided swing arm on the BMW, but I have never had to remove the rear wheel by the side of the road.

    The Tenere feels more smooth and compliant off road and handles like a sport bike on road. Liquid cooling is great in slow traffic. The price loaded up is at least $5000 less. Too many toys and options (ESA) are no good when they break down.

    I made the right choice in the Tenere.


  10. Yamaha Super Tenere review from new purchase to sale after 3 years
    Background – I’ve been riding for 35 years and do a 4,000 mile trip each year. On this bike I’ve been to Portugal, the Amalfi Coast and the Alps. After 3 years of use I’ve decided to go back to Vstrom’s as I’ve had 3 before. Here are my thoughts on the XT1200
    • Excellent Headlights
    • Excellent seat – I did Lake Garda, Italy to London in one day [950 miles] with no problems
    • Good vibration free mirrors
    • Unobtrusive trouble free shaft drive
    • Heritage – the much vaunted Paris-Dakar heritage gives you a bike with spoked wheels and a sticker with a sand dune on it. If you take this to the real desert [I’ve lived in Dubai] and drop the bike, you’re going to die because you can’t pick up a 267kg bike on soft sand or mud. So dirt tracks are what this is for and what all the promotional videos show
    • Weight – many reviews say how light the bike feels when its moving. Frankly once any weight bike is moving its easy to keep up. It’s low speed manoeuvring, particularly with a pillion, that will have you gingerly moving around fearing a drop. This is my main reason for getting rid of it
    • Luggage – once you have established this is not an off-road bike you might then look at what makes it a good tourer. The luggage is plastic with aluminium sidings. Neither top box or panniers can hold a helmet. The Panniers are rectangular and if your pillion has short legs they will find it uncomfortable getting their legs to sit over the panniers. The locks periodically shake loose in the housings and the method of attaching the luggage will amaze you with the multiple operations required compared to, say, Givi’s Monokey system. The soft inner luggage will quickly shed the zip pulls as they break off inside the boxes. Finally, the ignition key used to open the boxes protrudes 2 inches and could easily be accidentally bent when in the lock. I had a spare made to avoid this
    • Residuals – I paid £14.5k for this bike and got £5.6 part exchange for a Vstrom. The value plummets faster than the GS it’s meant to be up against
    • Insurance – I park it on the road in London. Because so few people bought this bike insurers were loth to insure me as they didn’t know how to price it. The day I bought it the Yamaha recommended insurance agent refused to insure it as it wasn’t on their books and I finally found one company that would insure me for £700. Over 3 years I’ve got that down to £500 but its something to watch out for.
    • Cachet – While I’ve had this bike my pal has had a GS1200 and Multistrada 1200. Nobody looks at the SuperTenere against those bikes. This partly explains the terrible residuals.

  11. Thank you for a great informed & honest review! I think I better stop pondering these things, as I reluctantly got rid of my beloved Tiger 955i for much the same reasons. My kitted out V strom 1K serves me well & enjoy the near perfect motor, it’s just the suspension is so lacking. Even after throwing a fair amount of coin @ it. Weight, lower C O G & balance are better then all those bikes mentioned. But yea, nobody thinks it terribly sexy. Oh well, I like her. G

  12. I bought my first Super Tenere 1200 in 2013 and never looked back, I have seen the BMW GS 1200 adventure and spoke with a few riders who own them and the all stay its a great bike to own but at a cost…but they couldnt stop looking at my Super Tenere and making positive comments about it because I have it fitted with the world crosser kit and everything else imaginable for touring the world in the event we dont have any more sheep to muster…
    Tim…South Australia

  13. I have had Bmw’s Harleys Suzuki’s, bought a Ten last Nov, best bike I have ever had. Went Across India on a 350 bullet across US on a Harley all the way around Australia on a 650 Vstrum Took the Ten down to the Faro rally in July stayed off motorways was the best trip ever, if you are thinking BMW or Yamaha go for the Yam , you will get Jaw ache from grinning.

  14. Just bought a used 2012 super 10 with 26,000 miles, I had researched both bikes, almost bought a 2011 GS but found a 2012 S-10 for half the money so I went with the Yamaha. This thing is awesome ‘ and works well off road too. So far my only issue is noise”, it seems like im getting alot of drive train noise from the drive shaft or is that engine noise ? Anyone have the same issue

    • I have a 2016 s-10. I was having a clutch problem and did some searching on the net. I found that pre 2014 S-10s have a problem with the dampening springs in the clutch basket.They tend to loose their tension and just rattle around and apparently can be heard at certain speeds. Other riders reported that the basket can be upgraded, I believe with the 2014 basket. Of course the side cover has to be removed and all of the clutch plates as well. Not an easy fix or cheap. I think I found this on the S-10 owners forum. Good luck!

      • I had a lot more noise before I changed the final drive oil. The hex screw was rounded out and it took penetrating oil, heat, a chisel and days to remove. Who knows when it was last changed… much less chatter afterward though


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