Monday, September 18, 2017


First Impressions of the Yamaha Super Tenere

My foray into cruiser motorcycling is over.  The Triumph Thunderbird is gone, not so much because she wasn’t a relatively competent and very cool looking machine – although there were some bugs in her that shouldn’t have been – but because I guess I’m a fickle rider.  While I generally keep a machine for six to eight years, the T-bird lasted less than two.  It seems my experiment on a heavyweight bike with loads of chrome and torque gave way to a longing for crisp handling, long distance capability, lighter weight to push around in the garage, a collective record of dependability, a comprehensive dealer network, and a shaft drive system.

After conducting some on-line research and chatting with guys on the road who loved this particular mount, the Yamaha Super Tenere rose to the top as the chosen successor.  It has become the first non-BMW, non-Moto Guzzi, non-Triumph, non-European primary motorcycle I’ve owned since I was about 24.  Forty years past that age, I suspect I found that, for me, cachet has succumbed to something else.

900 miles in, this scoot appears to have that something.

The Yamaha Super T recalls my BMW R1200GSA with its tall seat, commanding view, rugged go-almost-anywhere suspension and ability to strap on a week’s worth of gear before heading out.  With a smaller fuel tank, however, ready-to-roll it is lighter and easier to pad around in the garage much like the Guzzi Breva or the Kawasaki KLR.

Enrico Caruso, tenor 1873-1921

 At idle, the exhaust doesn’t burble like the T-bird, rather it sings a smooth tenor note similar to the Breva or maybe more similar to Enrico Caruso.   

Sitting on the Tenere, rather than in it, at speed, the miniscule windscreen deflects the blast from my chest, but even when adjusted to the high position, blows a good torrent of whistling air past my helmet.  Plenty of aftermarket windscreens are out there.  I’ll do a bit of research with an eye toward upgrading that.

And only that. 

Everything else on this machine feels as if it were engineered specifically for me.  The seat is high, wide and comfortable making a ninety-minute or even two-hour runs quite reasonable.  The switchgear seems standardized – that’s good – but I have yet to take the five minutes it’ll take to figure out resetting the trip meters. 

The fuel tank packs premium and gets me a couple of hundred miles down the road and I now get better mileage on a bike than my brother-in-law gets in his Prius.  Noted is that the range function is pretty optimistic until it isn’t optimistic any longer.  I was cruising along with 60 miles listed when all at once it hopped down to 32, then 21 then zero, when it mysteriously began counting single miles up, one… two… three… and me still about sixteen miles short of the next Chevron.  When I, with a sigh of relief, filled Enrico up, he only took about 4.6 gallons in his 6.1-gallon tank.

Something a little more saddle time will help me to understand.

The Super Tenere handles 65 to 75 mile-per-hour jaunts on the freeway portion of US 101 with ease, although the windblast makes slower speeds winding through the redwoods more enjoyable.

Of all the gin joints, in all the towns...
Not as classically good looking as the T-bird or, say, Ingrid Bergman, it does garner comments, one from a Harley rider who’d accompanied a pal on a GS, saying, “It’s sort of a shame to see a Triumph Tiger with no dirt on it, ain’t it?”  To which the GS rider (a former Tiger owner, it turns out) responded: “That’s not a Tiger.  It’s a Yamaha that’s like a Tiger only with a dealer network.”

Enrico was, indeed, rather clean that day.  He only had 456 miles on him at the time.  And my intention is to use the bike as a paved road tourer recalling the sinking feeling I got trying to singlehandedly pry my GS upright from laying on her side in the gravel on many a remote forest service road.  Don’t want to do that anymore.

The break-in trip midway up the Oregon Coast (recounted here: proved to be a delightful introduction to the possibilities the Super Tenere holds for me.

I hope Enrico and I will enjoy a long, steadfast and, perhaps musical relationship.

© 2017
Church of the Open Road Press

Saturday, September 16, 2017


First ride on the Yamaha Super Tenere

It is a gift to live in an area where within a half-day’s ride, one can view among the world’s most scenic of wonders.  Like some grand candy store for motorcyclists, the west coast offers mountains, deserts, croplands and the coast itself. 

The initial adventure on the new Yamaha Super Tenere was slated to be a run up to Grants Pass, Oregon followed by a circum-navigation of Crater Lake, but smoke from the late summer’s horrendous fires prompted a change in plans.

No problem.  There are so many options.  My riding buddy from Seattle would travel south; I would travel north and we’d meet in Bandon, a delightful coastal village about a hundred miles up the Oregon coast.

Sans panniers, which are ordered from my local Yamaha dealer, I strapped a duffel on the back of my new mount and headed into the fog.

A few years back, I’d trekked to California’s northeast corner in search of the Von Schmidt marker posted where the California-Nevada border Ts into Oregon.  Details are recounted here:  and it was a good little adventure.

Finding the western end of California’s northern border, something on my bucket list, proved to be less of a trek…

…one made easier with the use of the mapping program on my iPhone.

There is no Von Schmidt marker – there’s no marker at all, but this post at 42.00013 degrees north is about sixteen feet into Oregon.

The folks in Oregon have done a fine job preserving access to their dramatic coastline, thanks in no small measure to the efforts of Samuel Boardman who’s life and work is outlined on this wayside plaque.

A thirteen-mile (dog-friendly) trail parallels US 101…

… affording breath-taking views of the Pacific and her work against the timeless shore.

Lunch would be in Gold Beach where the bridge crossing the Rogue proves to be art you can use…

… and a half-sunk vessel reminds us that the Pacific isn’t always passive.

The Inn at Face Rock is a Best Western affiliate located near the bluffs a couple of miles southwest of Bandon – I suspect on the old highway.  Though not on the water, within earshot of the surf, the oceanic lullaby it provides is perfect after a long day of riding and sight-seeing.

The Yamaha Tenere and the Triumph Trophy pose in the parking lot.

Walking distance is Lord Bennett's Restaurant and Lounge where the seafood combination, when paired with a nice Sauv Blanc is something to text home about.

Face Rock is named after a rock that… well… looks like a face.  At dusk, this particular evening, perhaps 140 folks were in position with cameras on tripods eagerly seeking a shot at sunset. 

“What is this,” I asked one young woman, “another eclipse?” prompting a courtesy giggle.

Bandon, itself, is a sweet little town located at the mouth of the Coquille River.  Its rustic business district and picturesque wharf invite strolls and stops for suds, but I left my camera back at the room.

The misty morning prompts this view of the cliffs.

Heading south, stops along the way made the two hundred mile route to Eureka a full day’s ride. 

The bluffs demand to be photographed…

… particularly the arched ones …

… and the beaches on the California side offer a nice place to stretch one’s legs and catch a gentle slap of salt air to the face.

Eureka is a favorite for over-nighting.  The harbor supports a fascinating collection of working sea vessels…

… the Old Town area transports one back in time …

… and the historic Eureka Inn offers accommodations once enjoyed by presidents and Hollywood personalities. 

We celebrate the day’s travel out in the courtyard.

Breakfast is a couple of blocks away at the Black Lightning Motorcycle Café where one can dine …

… elbow to muffler with their favorite classic two-wheeler.

The final leg of the journey involves the Avenue of the Giants, a road that gloriously celebrates the ancient and mystical redwoods that once dominated California’s north coast.

The Yamaha seems ready for this relaxed 30 mile stretch, softly offering a tenor exhaust note that does not drown out the spirits that whisper in the woods.

So a successful initial trip on the new machine mated the Tenere’s honey-smooth riding characteristics with a wonderful couple of days exploring both the natural and human history of our Pacific shore, leaving me with the desire to do it all over again ...

... tomorrow.

© 2017
Church of the Open Road Press.

Thursday, September 7, 2017


Sadly, no longer in the Triumph fold…

I am a huge supporter of small businesses and because many motorcycle dealerships are small businesses, I like to develop a relationship with my dealer and do most of my maintenance and merchandise trade with him or her.  I want them to be successful for two reasons.  Selfishly, I feel if I care for the small business, the small businessperson will care for me, and I believe that small businesses are the economic backbone of many communities both large and small.

Earlier this year, my Triumph dealership gave up or lost the Triumph franchise.  Too bad.  They are a good group of people to whom I happily took my BMW for service and my Moto Guzzi for consignment.  Slipping out of my motorcycle comfort zone or biases, I purchased a 2015 Triumph Thunderbird.  The huge cruiser came with compromises, but will always rank as the most comfortable motorcycle I’ve ever owned.  Long distances melted beneath her white-walled wheels and passers-by’s eyes popped whenever I pulled into a rest stop or a 7-11.

My new “local” dealer – who I will not identify here – was nearly fifty freeway miles distant but windy alternative routes made that distance a gift rather than a burden.

Two months ago, I scheduled a tire change delivering the T-Bird at the appointed 10:00 hour and was told by the service writer that they’d “get right on it; shouldn’t be more than and hour-and-a-half.” 
I had brought along a book and after perusing the inventory of new machines sat down for a few minutes of literacy.  By noon, the beast was not yet on the rack. 
“Next in line,” I was told. 
Ultimately, the keys were handed back to me at 4:30.  Arriving home, I discovered the Avon on the rear was a full 10 p.s.i. underinflated. 
Probably just an oversight. 
I’ll give ‘em a heads up next time I’m in.

Three weeks ago, on a Wednesday, “Big Blue” went in for her 12,000-mile service including a valve inspection. 
“Plan on leaving her overnight.” 
“No problem.  I’ll be back next Tuesday.” 
“She’ll be ready.”  I ticked off three items needing attention beyond the normal service: Belt adjustment, check engine light, and “Oh, and could you pop a new bulb in the right side running light?”

The following Wednesday, I boarded the newly operating commuter train with helmet in hand to pick up the ‘Bird. 
“Ummm.  She’s just going up on the rack right now,” says the advisor.  “Probably be six hours or so.  Are you waiting?” 
The train ride back was pleasant.  I helped a little fifth-grade girl with her math homework. 
Shame on me for not calling the dealership prior to heading down there.

Thursday at noon, the call came, “Your bike is ready.  Are you going to pick it up today?” 
“Probably tomorrow.  What did you find out about the check engine light?” 
“Oh (pause) It’s on the lift right now.  We’re checking it out and will get back to you.”

Unseasonable heat – like 106 degrees – prompted me to postpone picking up “Big Blue” until after the temperatures broke.  That’d turned out to be the following Tuesday. I called to make sure it’d be okay for them to hold on to it.  Graciously, they said yes.  In the mean time they spotted a coolant leak for which I authorized repair, suggesting it might be a warranty issue.

The bike was, indeed ready on Tuesday.  I hiked over from the depot to be presented with a bill for all repairs including $4.78 for the running light bulb and $139.00 to “diagnose the problem.” 
Wouldn’t one stick a new light bulb in there and if it didn’t pop immediately, there’s nothing to diagnose?
Also was told that the check engine light was due to improper routing of wires to the sensor in the exhaust system. “We rerouted them and reprogrammed.” 
“Good.  Would that be covered under warranty?” 
“I asked around and no, I have to charge you for that because the part wasn’t bad.” 
.75 hour shop time. 
The coolant leak turned out to be a clamp that failed: not covered.  Another $139.00.

Ultimately, the bill came to nearly $1500.00 for a 12,000-mile service.  “But I have a bit of good news.  It seems when Triumph sent us the 12,000-mile kit, they included the wrong air filter.  You can bring it back down and we’ll install it, or I can credit your bill.” 
Doesn’t make Triumph USA, Ltd sound very good to me, the customer.
“Credit please.”  Then I mentioned: “When I picked the bike up a few weeks ago after you put new tires on, I got home and the rear was at 34 when it should be 44.  Can you double check pressures for me?”  
“Sure, no problem.  I’ll meet you out back.”

Out back: 
Me: “What did you find out about the belt alignment.”
Service advisor: “I’ll check with the mechanic. (Leaves momentarily.) He adjusted it.”
Me: “Good.  It wasn’t listed on the bill.”
Me: “What was the source of the check engine light?”
[See above.]
Me:  “And thanks for double checking the tire pressure.”
SA:  “Sure.  The rear was a bit low.  I got it up to 40.  That should be good enough.”
I bit my tongue.

Firing her up three things became obvious.  Tiniest one first:

·      One: It takes thirty seconds to reset the clock after a battery disconnect.  When I, the customer, have to reset the clock it sends a message about the degree of customer care I just paid a large-and-a-half for.
·      Two: After a battery disconnect, the gauges reset – this I discovered – and the fuel gauge read “full” when I know I was planning on filling ‘er up after I left the dealership.  I decided to physically check the gas tank only to find…
·      Three: the filler cap was loose, not snapped into place; now, back to…
·      Two: As the machine idled, the gauge reset itself indicating:
a)    I did, indeed, need to fill ‘er up – no problem – and
b)   Since the battery had been reconnected, the bike had not turned on or ridden as most service departments will do after completing a job or the gauge would have already rest itself and ‘found home.’  Perhaps.

Businesses fail for any of a number of reasons.  Here are some:

1)   Evolution:  What you make may no longer be needed:  Buggy whips.  Coal.
2)   Lousy Product:  Edsel Ford.  Yugo.  Pet Rocks.
3)   Economic Downturns:  Recessions hit and products deemed not essential (for some, this means motorcycles) are not purchased at a sustainable level.
4)    Competition:  Somebody does what you do, only better or cheaper: Let’s see how Tesla’s Model C stacks up against Chevy’s Bolt.
5)   Poor Customer Service:  Something that is under the direct control of the business owner. 

A successful owner will likely set standards for his employees relative to their interactions with customers and the quality of service the customer receives.  Employees are counseled and coached to ensure that their work matches a standard that will invite the confidence of the customer.  Screw-ups – things that naturally happen as apart of the human condition – are seen as teaching moments; opportunities to invest in the employee and thereby grow the business. 

At the outset of this post, I stated that I am a supporter of small business – and I am with this small business, even though I feel as if my recent experiences ranked well below satisfactory.  I’m sure others have fared much better with this shop.  A copy of this diatribe is being sent to the shop in the hopes that they’ll do better for the next guy.

I am disappointed in Triumph USA Ltd.  I am disappointed with my new local Triumph shop.  This storied brand deserves better. 

It has been three days since “Big Blue” returned from her 12,000-mile service.  She ran like a top coming home and also ran delightfully well to the local Yamaha dealer where she was traded yesterday.

© 2017
Church of the Open Road Press