Motorcycles that suggest they might be useful off road can often disappoint when the going does actually get tough, but every so often a bike arrives that is actually able to live up to the imagery offered on the sales brochure. Yamaha are no strangers to building bikes that blaze a trail when the road vanishes and, before 1989, these had mostly been four stroke single machines which came in a variety of shapes, sizes and capacities. The XTz750 Super Tenere was new territory for their dual purpose range. The styling is pure Paris Dakar, from the big twin headlamps to the chunky alloy sump guard, this wasn’t a result of happenstance. Like the smaller single cylinder XT600 Tenere from earlier in the decade, the bike got its name from a stage within the world famous rally. The ‘Super’ part was down to the technology that was crammed inside that 750cc twin four stroke motor.
Yamaha had been using five valve tech since 1985 when they launched their ground breaking FZ750. The XTz750 engine also shared the same downdraft carb set up. The engine looks a little lost among all that bodywork and there’s no shortage of plastic covering up the bike’s chassis. The fuel tank is huge and will swallow 26 litres of unleaded. The rest of the package was more familiar to XT owners. Upfront was a 21 inch front wheel, there were twin brake discs and a wheelbase of 1505mm which helped keep the bike stable on the road and dustier surfaces. Top whack was around 120mph, but it was further down the speedo was where most riders enjoyed the ride. Not only was the XTz750 big, but colour choices were very bold. The yellow and orange paint is an excellent example of how Yamaha wanted this bike to be noticed. The XTz750 had a reasonable innings in the Yamaha range, it was laid to rest in 1996 as tastes had changed and its replacement, the TDM850 had a much more road biased focus. In many ways, the Super Ten (and the Honda Africa Twin of the same period), were way ahead of their time. The concept of the adventure bike was never really trendy at the time but, fast forward 10 years, and the bike parks are swarming with BMW GSs and their ilk. That, in turn, saw Yamaha reintroduce the Super Tenere moniker for an all new bike, the 1200cc XT1200Z, in 2010, but that’s another bike for another day.
What’s it like to ride?
With a seat height at 865mm, the 750 is not a bike that hides its mass. You really do have to climb on board. The bars are also on the high side and some owners opt for flatter bars, although the off road style handlebars give the bike a better visual look. Clocks are very basic, but deliver all you need to know. The twin cylinder engine is a beauty. The only fly in the ointment is a very low ratio first gear. Opinions are mixed why this is so, but on the whole it’s recognised it makes things easier for getting going on the dirt. Other ratios are well spaced and with the torque that the 750 five valve motor produces, you’d be hard pushed to end up struggling for traction. On the move it quickly becomes apparent that the XTz750 produces plenty of vibrations, any poorly fitting bodywork will only add to the annoyance.
The 21 inch wheel works exceptionally well, but push it too far beyond legal speeds and it will remind you this is not a sports bike. People buy these bikes for a variety of reasons, comfort is probably the number one selling point. That massive tank allows big miles between fuel stops, it’s also a huge area to attach a tank bag too. The brake discs are only 245 mm which means you need to keep your calipers and hoses in tip top condition to get the best from them. If you do opt to go off road, aftermarket crash bars etc are a very wise idea you know, just in case!
What to look for?
We spoke to Vinny Styles, who’s the sales manager from Wheels Motorcycles in Peterborough.
“It’s not a bike that we see these days, but in its prime you can see what all the fuss was about. We have had a few presented in part exchange and what stands out to me the most, is to check that the engine is in good order. Servicing schedules are often overlooked on older bikes. The Yamaha five valve set up is pretty sensitive to regular service intervals that Yamaha would have set. Consumables are an obvious thing to check. Most parts are unique to this model, so finding decent used parts aren’t really an option, which only leaves new. It’s always worth paying extra attention to the wheels, rims and spokes as often they can hide issues, especially it the owner rides the bike off road at all. ”
What goes wrong?
We spoke to Chris Tombleson from Grumpy 1260. They service lots of older bikes and also break them for parts.
“Most owners tend to service them themselves. That said, we have seen a few unloved ones that people are starting to restore. The downdraft carbs can be fiddly to clean and get working properly again. Gearboxes can be an issue on high mileage bikes. The frame is steel which can rust badly if the paint falls away. If a frame looks freshly painted be sure to check it’s not masking rust beneath. The engines are popular with racers and can end up in all manner of chassis kits. Stolen bikes that have been reframed etc are also quite common, always check the numbers!”
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