It’s been more than three months since the last Ténéré blog – and about 3000 miles for that matter. A lot has happened in that time. So, with no further ado, here’s what:
1. The 6000-mile service
This being me, I got the timing wrong and the first service didn’t happen until 7600 miles. Not that the Ténéré was complaining, it was still running as sweetly as when new. At the service it got fresh oil and filters, new brake pads front and rear and, at last, new tyres. And a bunch of little things were done, like the wheel spokes are re-torqued, grease goes here and there, water levels checked etc. Essentially, it flew through.
2. I made a brake mod.
The rear brake was bugging me, it didn’t have the bite nor the feel I wanted and boy the lever throw was long. So, a three-pronged attack. Firstly, I adjusted the lever as high as I could get it, just above level with the footpeg and just ideal for the standing position when off-road. Secondly, I bled the hydraulics – and a lot of air came out of it. Finally, I swapped out the OEM pads for a set of EBC ‘enduro’ pads (the ones with the red backing plates). All three came together to make a huge difference and at last I had the performance I was looking for, being able to either caress or plain lock the rear brake off-road, vastly improving downhill confidence and control. I was then totally gutted when our Yamaha tech (Zane!) replaced the pads with OEM ones again at the service. And back on the OEM pads – no, we need the EBCs!
3. I fitted Metzeler Karoo 4s
Actually, I owe Zane a drink – he fitted the Karoos. The OEM Pirelli Scorpion Rally STRs lasted an excellent 7600 miles and were still legal. They did a lot of off-roading and while they’re not the best tyres, we got up and down some hills that were seriously sketchy in mid-winter conditions. And they always felt decent on the road. I liked them. Yes, there are better tyres but heck, they did everything I asked of them.
The Karoo 4s have now done 2400 miles and being a more serious 50:50 type tyre, they are wearing faster, looking to have reached their half-life now. They have a very different feel on the road, I felt they resist initial turn-in and you feel and hear the knob-pattern thrumming and working on the road much more than the STRs. But that’s the obvious trade-off for good off-road performance. They’ve been very good off-road, there’s good grip and plenty of confidence to be had from them.
4. I’ve made an ACT
You might have guessed from previous blogs that there was an ulterior motive for all this byways activity – most of you know me too well, I need either the juiciest of carrots or fiercest of sticks to give up the comforts of home to tough it out on the trails in the early season. Yeah, all this trail finding, plotting and riding was for a purpose – creating a new Adventure Country Track, the ACT UK.
It’s a five-day adventure bike route that brings together trails (green roads) in Wales, Lancashire-Yorkshire and the Isle of Man. I had a free hand to choose any trails in the UK, but I picked the ones I knew best offer big landscapes and long trails that best portray that wilderness-adventure environment we crave. Because it’s the UK and we have limited off-road resources it wasn’t possible to hit the 45:65 (off-road:road) ratio of previous ACTs on the Continent, but it tickles at 30:70, and given the time it takes to ride the unsealed sections, you get more time on those than a simple ratio suggests. As well, all the linking sealed-road sections were carefully chosen to maintain that back-country feel, only on the sparest of occasions does the route touch an A-road.
All of this wouldn’t have been possible without the Ténéré. It did three whole scouting runs plus an additional two re-runs of sections I modified. And do you know, despite running some super-tough trails that I had to remove from the route – including Strata Florida – I did not once lay that bike down. It went everywhere and saved my ass time and time again.
Of course, it did go down a few times, but not with me, instead with one of Touratech’s ‘product testers’ on it and to be fair it was his lack of leg length and my high-seat max-preload setup that was the undoing of him. But he did at least prove the strength of the Touratech crash protection and the robustness of their Zega Pro panniers. The Ténéré itself, in all of these incidents, didn’t sustain any damage – proof perhaps that crash protection works.
Anyway, back to the ACT UK. This will drop into the public domain near the end of the year. The route being a free download (.gpx files). You’ll find it at www.adventurecountrytracks.com and there’ll be more words and images (even a film) on that nearer the release.
5. Garmin’s Montana 750i guided me
We are, just about, on talking terms, me and the 750i. Again, I couldn’t have made the ACT without it, not least because it endured some serious weather on the scouting, from hours of 100% saturation to proper heat, and it performed reliably throughout.
Eventually I sussed out how to make the turn-by-turn navigation work. It’s still clunky. I needed to use the Explore App on my iPhone to get postcode destinations to work. And after that you need to go into settings and make sure you’re on ‘automobile driving’ mode to get the turn-by-turn directions. I once picked ‘motorcycle driving’ and that, even on ‘fastest time’, gave the most tortuous back lane experience you could imagine – leave that for those lazy Sunday afternoon rides.
Working with Touratech’s Filipe Elias gave me an insight into how good the Garmin and the Garmin Basecamp App setup can be. He can manipulate any track into a new shape in seconds– for what was taking me hours. I need to learn more and definitely there’s need for proper classroom-based tuition to get to that level of expertise, the system just isn’t intuitive enough to get there on the self-taught basis.
Lastly, just as I was thinking yeah, the 750i is the daddy, Filipe had this 8” tablet style unit from Garmin that he was using. I’ve not seen one before and I think it must be a derivative of their 8” Drive units that they make for car drivers, but this thing was next level on screen size and absolute clarity on route and mapping. Too big for enduro bikes, but for big ADVs it looks excellent.
6. What I wore
I mixed it up a lot, which was fun.
KLIM Badlands Pro: this was excellent for my early winter scouting, I was zipped in and snug and dry. It’s equally good in the summer as the venting is excellent. My only two wishes are that the fit was less ‘loose’ and the pockets were a little more regular. Oh, and the neck tab/Velcro could be longer. But it is serious quality and I’m super-lucky to have it in my wardrobe.
Touratech Companero World Series: This is an excellent summer suit, boy it breathes – so much that if the temp drops below 20º you start thinking about the over-jacket! The fit is European-trim and the pockets make sense. On cold days the outer layer is pretty easy to put over and the full-length zips on the legs make it even easier, and once zipped in its lovely and snug. Changes? I’m not a fan of the yellow. The outer suit is bulky to transport.
Yamaha Adventure Suit: Okay, I like the understated looks of this one, but I have a list of ‘could be better’s. The leg cuffs need to be able to go over the boot and tie-up – they don’t, not even on a lighter smaller ADV boot. The venting is too modest for serious off-road in moderate to high heat. My regular size comes up small – I should have ordered a size larger. It needs a back protector as standard. The braces were a great idea but the buckles need to be stronger (broken after five days). Otherwise, it was okay, I’d use it more as a regular road riding suit.
Touratech Aventuro helmet and SENA 50S Mesh 2.0: Good super-comfortable helmet with good visor and the SENA fits in nicely. However, the inner pads – post-SENA install – were determined to come loose each time I took the helmet off. The strap is too long and too thin. The visor/peak fasteners are borderline too flimsy and are easy to break. Such as shame as this is otherwise a premium product. The SENA system was a hoot. The Germans in the ACT filming scouting run used it to good effect to pass on commands and warnings. The three Brits used it to chit-chat constantly all day long, probably driving the Germans – the mesh system means the whole group is connected – mad, and of course running down our batteries the fastest! Like most comms though, go over 70mph and hearing voice over road noise isn’t easy.
T7. The Ténéré is going home
I don’t know where ‘home’ is going to be exactly, but after a year, time is up for this long termer. But what a year it’s been. Touching 10,000 miles now, and so much off-road in that. The Ténéré has been brilliant throughout. Ultra reliable, ultra dependable and super effective. The engine is awesome in both capability and reliability. Equally the whole bike holds together so well. The suspension regularly gets criticised, but I found with a big serving of preload and damping adjustment it does 95% of what I want to do off-road, and given the last 5% involves a whole bunch of risk, it’s as well I don’t go there.
So, it’s a big thank you to Yamaha UK for the extended loan and all the help, assistance and parts they’ve allowed me to access along the way. Also, thanks to Touratech for all the protections and luggage they’ve supplied, all good stuff and I do like the fact that the crash bars look that much neater than some other ‘bull bar’ type offerings yet are just as effective. And boy did that sump plate do some work! And a huge thank you to Christian at Crispy Designs who designed and created the brilliant graphics set. They’ve lasted the year, so much dirt and so many jet washes and yet they still look great. Same goes for a set of Crispy graphics on one of the other ACT Ténérés – obviously a great product and excellent service. Also, to Rally Raid Products – I only used their excellent sat nav mount on this occasion but I know they’ve got lots more besides for the Ténéré – always well worth the look-up.
And thank you my humble Ténéré, you’ve been a great companion on the trails, dug me out of some of the worst holes, scaled and descended some of the sketchiest slopes and at the end of it all, motored home along motorways for hours at a time, like we’d done nothing. You make the van redundant. And through you, hopefully, a whole bunch of people from Europe and in the UK, will get to experience this ACT UK. You did this. I’m going to miss you…