|04-21-2012, 03:49 PM||#1|
Joined: Apr 2008
Location: Columbus, OH
Buell Ulysses to Super Tenere Comparo
Well I wanted to wait to have the Uly in my possession again to do a back to back comparison, but I ended up writing out my thoughts for someone that emailed me, so I might as well just go ahead and post them here. Keep in mind, I'm going to be a little biased, I love my Uly, but I did just spend mega-bucks on the Tenere to replace it. I tried to be blatantly honest and unbiased, but it's a little difficult
The Bikes: 2012 Yamaha XT1200Z Super Tenere versus a 2009 Buell XB12XT Ulysses Touring
Comfort: I find the Uly seat a bit more comfortable. The Tenere's is not bad, but the Uly's is about the best in the industry, for me at least. The handlebars and footpegs all feel neutral to me, not unlike the Uly. The Tenere has an adjustable rider seat, and removable passenger seat. Both nice features. With the passenger seat removed, you have a double sized luggage rack, a pretty cool feature if you do some touring alone.
The Tenere looks big; especially when sitting on it, with that mammoth gas tank and fairing in between your arms. The wide handlebars also add to the effect. But it is so light on it's feet it's just about mind boggling. Knowing how heavy it really is, I'm not sure how Yamaha pulled off. Buell is all about 'mass centralization', which I understand and respect, but the idea that Yamaha can make this beast feel this light/nimble is very impressive (especially considering the huge muffler hung high out back, and the 6 gallons of heavy fuel sitting so high up front). To be fair, I ride my Uly 100% of the time with a top box and side cases (generally empty), both are very anti-mass-centralization. When I get my luggage on the Tenere, surely it will effect this (negatively) a bit.
General handling characteristics: The Tenere feels quicker steering/leaning, which is odd, as slow steering is a common complaint with the bike. I can throw it into corners effortlessly. It has much thinner tires than the Uly, which may contribute to this feeling. On the contrary, the Uly has significantly better lean angles. I've dragged the pegs on the Super Tenere through the fun S-curve in my neighborhood. The only time I've dragged pegs on the Uly was on a race track while dragging knees; pretty drastic difference here. The lower peg position gives you two positives though: a slightly more relaxed leg position and a center-stand. The center stand is extremely handy for maintenance and parking on soft surfaces. If you're planning on hard touring, many would deem it a requirement. But it does reduce available lean angle. If you're planning on hard cornering, the lean angle of the Uly will be welcome. This is a fairly large trade-off, that is not something the aftermarket will be able to help with. I'd say your Uly 'chicken strips' will be able to tell you if you will use that extra lean angle. I run my Uly to about 1/4" from the edge of the back tire under normal (fun) riding. This same type of riding will run the Tenere to the very edge of the back tire, where your just about at the limit of lean angle. Short answer: The steering of the Tenere feels quicker and easier, but the Uly has more raw ability in the twisties. I'll do a head to head comparison when I get the Uly back, but the Uly tires are only at about 20%, and tires in general handle poor when they get that low, so it may not be a good comparison.
Engine Comparison: The Uly is more linear; from about the time you let the clutch out to redline, the uly pulls like a tractor, nice and smooth and fun. The Tenere uses it's engine management to change the characteristics at different rpms. It's hard to make a direct comparison, because you've got Sport Mode and Touring Mode, and then even the different levels of Traction Control change things. Let's say we do a fair battle, Uly, versus Tenere in Sport Mode with Traction Control off... This is as close to 'all out' as you can get. The Tenere's a faster bike. It's going to walk away from the Uly at any speed I think. The catch is, with an extra gear, your shifting the Tenere more often, the Uly's wide ratio 5-speed is going to draw out each gear a bit more, which can be more enjoyable than constantly shifting while blasting up to speed. But the spec sheets don't lie in this regard, the Tenere does the quarter mile in about 10 and a half seconds, where as the Uly is a good bit over 12. ((EDIT: further investigation proves the Tenere does the QM in the low 12's, closer to the Ulysses, but it puts down an impressive 0-60 time of 3.12 seconds.)) Back to reality though, and the Tenere does feel similar. In touring mode, it feels slower to start, but that's because the computer is heavily limiting the throttle under 3k rpm (at such low rpms, more gas hurts fuel economy, while not helping acceleration much). There is a noticeable kick in the power-band at 3k rpm in touring mode. Also, for the first couple thousand miles, that low rpm seemed down on power a bit more, possibly due to the tight motor. For this reason, I was fairly certain the Uly had much more low end kick than the Tenere, although after that 3000-3500 rpm kick, the Tenere would still walk away. Now that it's broken in though, the bottom end opened up a good bit, plus Sport Mode opens up the bottom end more as well. It still gives you a kick at 3k rpm that the Uly doesn't have. I'd say, with the lower lean angles of the Tenere, but quicker acceleration, they'd be a pretty decent match-up on a twisty road or track. All of that having been said, I can't wait to get the Uly back to do some back-to-back comparisons.
Transmission: The Tenere has the 6th gear overdrive that we all asked for on the Uly. It's not required by any means, the Uly does well with it's wide 5 speeds, but I feel much more comfortable cruising at higher speeds on the Tenere. 75 is about the max I'd cruise on the Uly, we all know it'll do much more than that, but it was just a mental thing, I don't know if it begins to sound like it's straining, or begins to vibrate a bit, or the wind, I honestly don't recall. What I do know is that I find myself (especially down south where people drive FAST) purring along at 80 on the Tenere, which has never happened on the Uly. Shifts are super smooth, and the hydraulic clutch works flawlessly. No complaint here. Really for either bike though, they just work.
Final Drive: The Yamaha drive shaft is a well known and trusted system. No more carrying a spare belt around with me on trips. It does take the added maintenance of changing the fluid every 12k miles, but that's a 5 minute process, with only 200 mL of a standard fluid. There is a bit of drive-line lash, which is perfectly normal to anyone used to a shaft or chain, but it's new and different if you're used to a Buell's constant belt tension system. Not a negative, just different.
Windshield: The Tenere's is adjustable from the factory, which is nice, but like the Uly's, it's just simply not that great. I'm going to live with it, but folks more particular than I (or willing to put more money into it) will prefer a different shield to eliminate buffeting. The Tenere has a factory option of little winglets that mount to the fairing. Supposedly these make a noticeable difference.
Fuel Economy: I get nearly identical mileage between my Tenere and Uly. Where the advantage come is with the extra gallon and a half of fuel in the Tenere. I love that big tank, and the range was my biggest complaint with the Uly. I hated the idea of needing fuel every 150-180 miles when touring. The Tenere easily passes the 200 mile mark, and should under most circumstances pass 250 miles on a tank when touring. On my trip on the Tenere, I netted a 'best' of about 55 mpg for a whole tank (cruising around 55-60 mph), and 45 mph for a 'worst', cruising at 80mph. Entirely city riding in sport mode will drop that number down to about 40 (or below), which is still identical to what I'd get on the Uly.
Brakes: The Uly works great! Nothing fance here (well, ZTL, but I mean 'feel' wise), it just works. Until you get pulsing in the front rotor. Then it's time for an EBR 6mm rotor. For me, this came at 25k miles. The Tenere, it works great too! BUT, then it also has a well-thought-out linked brake system, and then it has a best-in-the-industry ABS system. The linked brakes works with the front brake lever, apply front brakes, and it'll apply both. Apply rear brake only (or initially), and it'll keep the system separate. That way you can trail brake, or brake off pavement, without any unexpected outcomes. You'd never know the system was there if I didn't tell you, it's that seamless. The ABS just works as well. Many complain that there is no 'off' button (which has easy work arounds if you really want it off), but it's because it never needs to be off. It just works. On pavement, off pavement, anywhere. I've activated the rear ABS on several occasions, and it did exactly what I wanted. I've never activated the front ABS; that would take some seriously slick stuff, or seriously hard braking, but I have faith it will work as well as I've been told. Even dirt riding, the ABS lets you ride aggressive as you want, but it keeps everything in check. It's an awesome system.
Traction Control: I don't know, I mean, I don't need it, but I guess it's good to have. Most agree that TC1 is too limiting. TC2 is about perfect for most, and TC-OFF is needed for off road riding where tire spin may be necessary. The downside is, upon starting the bike, it always reverts back to TC1, no matter what it was in when you shut it off. I ride in TC1 about all the time, but I don't ride that aggressive on pavement. TC1 will keep the front tire firmly planted, no matter how hard you try to throttle wheelie. It'll also keep yours tires tracking perfectly off pavement. TC2 will let you float the front tire a bit on pavement, and will let you get a little sideways off pavement, while still keeping everything in check. I'm more or less under the impression that traction control, ABS, and the engine management settings could all be combined to one adjustment: Touring mode has (obviously) touring mode on the engine management, TC1, and ABS on. Sport mode (again) has sport mode engine management, TC2, and ABS still on. And then OFF, could be in sport mode engine management, with TC and ABS shut down. I can't think of any situation where you'd want limited power (touring mode) but the ability to spin the tire or wheelie. And vice versa, when would you want FULL POWER, but an extremely aggressive traction control system keeping you have doing anything even remotely aggressive. Really not a big deal, just some thoughts.
Gadgetry: The Uly is pretty simplistic. Take that for what it is, simple can be good. But, the advanced stuff on the Tenere is pretty sweet. The on-board computer can tell you the air temperature, engine temperature, current fuel economy, average fuel economy, and, um, something else which I cannot currently remember. The digital speedo is not my favorite. Not this unit in particular, but in general, digital speedo's are constantly flickering between numbers, even when cruising, it's always going to blink between a couple digits, just a little annoying to me. It's not nearly as high tech as the Beemer unit, but that's also not a terribly bad thing either. Take for example when the BMW starts blinking big unknown symbols at you, and you'd surely think something was about to catch fire and destroy you and the bike both, only to learn later you're 2 psi low in your back tire. Plus there's the little fact that the BMW computer is an optional accessory ($$$), but that's neither here nor there. The Tenere has a fuel gauge! The Uly does not, and really, once you get to know your bike, you can have a pretty good idea of fuel levels simply by watching the trip meter, but still, it's very handy to have the gauge, score one for the Tenere. Both bikes have a power outlet on the dash, but the Uly has one beneath the seat as well. I've never used it, but I can see how it would be handy, and I'll give them credit there. HEATED GRIPS! This is a gadget that any bike even remotely considered a touring type machine should have. I mean, required; make it a law. It is unacceptable for Yamaha to sell a bike of this caliber (at this price point) without heated grips. Their optional kit works very well, but is bulky and ugly. Huge points to the Uly here. Mine came with heated grips as standard, but even the optional Buell kit installs in the switch housing and is stealth and seamless, just the way it should be.
Tires: This is where the intentions of the two bikes begin to show their true differences. The Uly can be considered an adventure tourer, at least, that's what I considered it. But the fact of the matter is, you will be running street tires. So, should it be considered a sport tourer? That's probably more accurate. To take the Uly off pavement, you have to be good. The bike will do anything you want, but the talent has to be there to make it do things well. I've ridden my Uly off pavement plenty, and without the necessary skill, it can quickly become terrifying and difficult, or more simply, no fun. A dirt road that starts out hard packed and dry can be a blast, but who's to say that a mile up that road it doesn't turn wet or loose? Then I have to turn around. I know that Conti now makes the TKC-80's in Uly sizes... but the fact of the matter is, the bike was not made with the intentions of running knobbies. It has street tires and street suspension, so, you know, if it looks like chicken and smells like chicken... Still, the Uly does sport touring, and if that takes you on rough roads, it'll eat them up, but it's not made to go off pavement. The Tenere is a different animal. with a skinny19" front wheel, and thin 17" rear, it runs the same tires as the rest of the Adventure class, which means there are nearly endless possibilities; from cruiser tires that wear like iron, to full on knobbies, and everything in between. Beefy higher travel suspension and more ground clearance wrap up the conclusion, the Tenere is more apt for off-pavement travel. Make your own conclusion if that's what you're looking for. Personally, the thought of over 100 mountain passes around Colorado that are only accessible by an off-road capable machine are enough to know, I want that ability! Do I live near Colorado, or have I ever been before? Nope, but it sure as heck is in the plans for the future.
Passenger: The Tenere is a bigger bike. There is more space for the passenger back there, and the seat seems just fine. I will get a more accurate assessment from my girlfriend once I put a top box on it, we've done a few good rides thus far, but she's used to the triple tail and top box of the Uly to lean against. I guess that triple tail is another feature of the Uly; the Tenere has a luggage rack (or two), but no passenger back rest. The Tenere handles added weight better than the Uly. Perhaps this is due to the added weight of the bike to begin with, but the Tenere just doesn't seem to mind when I throw a passenger on the back. The suspension holds up perfect, the brakes, the engine, everything is consistent. On the Uly, I can tell a difference in the suspension and engine when I put extra weight on the back. I didn't like touring 2-up on the Uly. The weight of all that luggage in addition to the passenger simply made it feel overwhelmed. I could feel the belt tightening as the rear suspension compressed towards its limit.
Protection: Comparable! Both the Uly and Tenere come with factory frame pucks. The Tenere has a drastically larger aftermarket for engine guards and skid plates, but that goes back to the fact that they have slightly different intentions. The Tenere, with it's wider front end, provides the rider with more protection from the elements. I rode for several hours in misty rain, and my pants stayed mostly dry. On the Uly, the water from the front tire mists my lower legs.
Other notes: The Tenere has valve adjustments. They're not often, every 24k miles I believe, but still, the Uly has none. They both vibrate, but in completely different ways. The Uly vibrates at idle, and the higher the rpm, the less vibrations are noticeable. The Tenere vibrates under load. This is most noticeable at high speeds (like when passing someone in 5th or 6th gear), it's also noticeable in lower gears if you have more weight, like a passenger, or are hard on the throttle (causing more load on the engine). The Tenere has a more noticeable bark from the exhaust, especially in sport mode, but normal riding will produce less noise overall out of the Tenere. The Tenere is much wider with side cases. I mostly blame the fat exhaust pushing the left case out. The Uly can be close to 30-32" wide at the panniers, where as the Tenere can easily reach (and pass) 36" wide.
Conclusion: If you ride the Uly like a tall sport bike, like I know several folks do, you're going to miss that available lean angle. If you ride it like a tourer, you're going to appreciate the gas tank and features of the Tenere; the dealer support and final drive reliability being a couple major touring advantages. If you ride it off-pavement, the Tenere is leaps and bounds ahead of the Uly. If you ride it like all of these, like I do, then the Tenere is a compromise just like the Uly, but with slightly different trade-offs. In the end, the Uly was introduced 4 years before the Tenere, and that extra 4 years shows in the technology and overall ability. They both have plenty of power; any rpm, any conditions, they're both going to get the job done. Specifically 'testing' or racing is the only time you're going to notice the added power of the Tenere (unless you often ride near WOT). Similarly, both bikes handle great. Regular or spirited pavement riding, and they're both fantastically enjoyable. Extreme cornering or track days, and the Uly has the major lean angle advantage. Off-Pavement handling, the Tenere takes the cake in a major way with it's better tire choices, tech advantages, and general sure-footed-ness.
Well there it is! The best I can do from memory, having put 28,000 miles on the Uly over 2 years, and 6,000 miles on the Super Tenere over 2 months. I hope it wasn't too biased.
2008 990 Adventure
Mikef5000 screwed with this post 04-23-2012 at 04:48 PM Reason: Corrected QM times
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