Yamaha Super Tenere XT 1200 Top End rebuild


spoiler alert…it works, and works well post rebuild

I had this coming…my 2011 pre delivery  Tenere ran like a top till about 60 k km (all units will be metric!!). At which point I wasn’t able to do a full oil interval of 5 k without adding oil. It wasn’t much at first, maybe .5 L between fill, then eventually around the 75 k mark it needed 1.5 L between intervals. To top it off I was told that the bike puffed blue off throttle.

Out came the compression tester. For reference, factory spec compression: 84-108 PSI. I’m at 1200 m elevation (3500 or so footsies)
Readings were as follows:

Cyl 1/Cyl 2 (no oil): 62/72 PSI
Cyl 1/Cyl 2 (oil added): 72/88 PSI

I didn’t bother with a leak down test…I don’t own a tester.
If you don’t like reading and like looking at pictures…they are here :

Logic would dictate that rings are suspect, with a possibility of valve seals.
To rebuild or ride, or sell…I went back and fourth a few times. It annoys me to have to carry oil on longer trips. A normal motor will use a small amount of oil between changes i.e. from full mark to low mark on the window. But this was more than that.

Many will say that it’s the oil that I used (non synthetic for a break in-motoman style, google it), then amsoil synthetic from there.
Many will say it’s lack of maintenance. I ride my bikes as intended. I don’t baby them, I don’t putter. I ride. Wheelies, hell yes. Pinging off the rev limiter, hell no. I use the entire rev range. And yes, the bike has been ridden off road. Roughly 40% of the k’s were off road.
What if it was a long weekend bike? The boys at Yamaha Japan wanted to knock off early to drink sake…who knows.
Maybe sub par components? The first gen rings and pistons were discontinued. Same goes for the god awful oil fed cc tensioner. Don’t forget the clutch basket.

At any rate, the decision was made to rebuild the motor. No point in taking it in the ass on a trade in (would sir take $5k, then pay full retail for a new 2016 ST), I didn’t want to sell it second hand to some unsuspecting sucker, besides I really like this bike. It’s a keeper.
I budgeted for a $1000 cdn in parts (not including head work/valve work if needed), Without going into the motor, I wasn’t sure what needed changing/rebuilding.
My initial guess was the parts needing changing would be: pistons, rings, gaskets, valve seals, valves, springs, head bolts, possible head work/valve lap, hone and a possible re plate.
I was extremely fortunate to have a good friend of mine overseeing the process. Richard from nearby Red Deer offered to help me tear down the top end, and rebuild it once we figured out what the motor needed. Richard is one of the top motor guys in Alberta, so I was in good hands.



Do not attempt this on your own! Do not touch your motor, unless absolutely necessary! Spend lots of money at the dealer, as they will do a better job (highly unlikely) Better yet, sell the Yamaha and buy something reliable like a BMW!

Right.  The above out of the way, I set to work on dropping the motor.  As always, my trusty Yamaha book by my side, I followed the motor removal step by step.  Easy enough.  Motor came out without too much trouble.  Once out, I had to get my neighbor to help me carry the heavy bastard from my bike bench over to my work bench.  The thing weights a god damned ton.  I’m guessing about 180 lb.

Motor disassembly was straight forward.  Again following the book, I took the head off, set my head studs aside (numbered in a card board sheet)

Below, the famous K mark…

Off with the head!!
combustion chamber

I’ve seen fire and I’ve seen rain, I’ve never seen this much carbon before.. pistons prior to dissasembly

Now being a complete engine newbie (I only go to the valves, and maybe the cct…but that’s it!!) I was worried by the 1/8″ of carbon on the pistons. It looked pretty gross. No matter, I kept keeping on. Next up was the cylinder head, and to have a peek a boo at the pistons and rings.

Note the small cooling gasket on bottom left of picture. I ordered a new one…It would suck to have to take the whole motor apart again for a $2 gasket.
Bore prior to dissasembly

Here’s the head
Bore close up

Notice the fine scratches at the top of the bore. Yep, the Tenere got a case of KTnatis! took some dirt in somewhere along the way. No worries, a hone will clean it up sufficiently. The nickasil was in perfect shape. About 1/4 thou wear. Cylinder was well within spec. Nothing out of sorts

piston ring close up piston ring close up

Rings were just ok. Some blow by present, top ring was starting to move (my plating guy said that that’s what caused the scratches on top of the bores) I’m thinking it’s dirt and shit.
Scraper rings look…meh

Other odds and ends…

If you ride off road, clean the rad from time to time. This never affected cooling of the bike.
Radiator...a bit dirty//embedr.flickr.com/assets/client-code.js

So it was time to gather up all the bits, and head off to Richards shop for some real work to take place. Notice the filthy rad…I would need to clean that eventually…
engine bits

Head tear down, and clean day.
I dragged all the various bits over to Richards place and we set to work. Now you can tell a lot from a man’s work space. Mine looks like someone lobbed a grenade into my garage, and ran away. Richard’s shop looks nothing like mine.

Valves ready to come out
Valves ready to come out

I wasn’t sure what to expect with the valves, valve faces, head, guides and seals. Once the valves were compressed, springs seats, valve lock thingies set aside and bagged (Richard’s fine work, not mine…) I was tasked to go to town in the wash basin.

Bath time mo-fos! Bath time

We weren’t going to stop at a varsol bath. Bead blasting was up next. I cleaned the head, pistons, and valves. The cylinder head simply had the excess gasket goop removed with a blade, and sent off for honing

Clean and dirty
overview of cleaned pistons

Here’s the interesting bit. The pistons had 1/4 thou wear, after 80k of me romping on them.  Basically brand new!
Here’s some hard numbers:
Piston clearance (Piston to cylinder)
Cyl #1: 0.5/.75 thou
Cyl #2: 0.5/0.75 thou

Cylinder number. Taper/out of round
Cyl #1: 0.5 thou / 0.5 thou
Cyl #2: 0.5 thou / 0.5 thou

Piston diameter. Factory spec: 3.8569-3.8575 inch
Piston #1: 3.8571
Piston #2: 3.8571

Richard the hand model, and my bead blasted head. Spotless.
Another spiffy shot,and Richards hand

Head, valve seats, and valves were perfect post bead blast. Nothing wrong with any of the parts.

Borat says:

At this point, I was ready to make my parts list:
-2nd gen pistons and rings. Yes I could have reused the old ones, but Yamaha updated the piston and ring design. You cannot get 1st gen rings anymore. Besides, the 2nd gen is lighter, and higher comp. I did check the cam shaft profiles. Identical from 1st to 2nd gen. Proceed!
-All new gaskets..obvs!
-O ring for water pump
-8 new valve seals. They were gone..like dropping a hot dog down a hallway…
Valve guides were perfect
-Two new coolant hoses. One that drops from the rad to the metal cross pipe. One from cross pipe to water pump. Both were looking a bit swollen
-New cam chain. Old one had about half a link of  extra wear. Cheap insurance.

So, what the hell went wrong with the motor. Three things:
-Valve seals (see hot dog down hallway)
-Dirt ingestion and/or top ring flex

Interlude!  Took this shot in CR while waiting for my parts.
Toucans in CR

Right. Back at it. All parts came in. Well packaged by my friend Don from Lodi. I’m hella cheap, shipping was free from http://www.procaliber.com

Don did say that their packing of the gaskets was sub par. Otherwise no issues. Cheapest parts I found. Plus, if you let you basket contents linger for an extra day, they give you an additional 5% off all items. Bonus!!!

Not sure what Don is trying to tell me….
New parts!

First up was the cam chain. Undo your bottom sprocket (the one with the K and T marks). Install chain, and replace sprocket. I was reusing my manual CCT.
Easy, peasy!
let the swearing begin

Now, for the fun part. Each piston has a total of 5 rings. Two main rings (with lettering), a scraper ring and a ring on either side of the scraper ring.

These were a total PITA. With two sets of hands, four head bolts to line up the head, we managed to cross the scraper ring several times. It’s extremely hard to notice if it’s actually crossed up. If you’re not paying attention, you’ll put it back together, turn it by hand and find out the hard way. At any rate, we finally got it together, one piston at a time

Extra funness below
The fun part

That shit job out of the way it was time to re-assemble the head. Earlier I mentioned a hot dog down a hallway (see valve seal). When the new valve seals went in, you could feel a nice even drag on the valve. Nice! Richard expertly re-assembled the head (compress each valve.  Tweezers in hand and using the force, insert both valve retaining clips (with a dab of grease), while backing out valve compression tool) Any one able to do this, is the fucking man in my book! Tricky, very tricky.
Holy shit on a stick…don’t forget that $2 o-ring on the water pump!!!

Head assembled, ready to be bolted on
Look at these hands!

I cheaped out, and did not order new head bolts. Think about it. The bolts do stretch, that said, you torque them to a given spec, then use the degree tool on top a torque wrench to go to the prescribed degree (270 degree, or whatever the book says). At any rate, the motor is holding together just fine. Joy!!

Before putting the cover back on we spun the motor, to check that everything is copacetic.

We spun the motor by hand, and there was a very faint ping, and noticeable stop to the proceedings…Yay !!!! Valves contacting the piston..

SHIT ON A STICK !!!  When we changed the cc, we re-set the motor to TDC on cyl #1         (T mark on bottom of motor!!).  If my little mind can grasp the Yamaha manual, the T mark is only for checking the valve clearance. See page 3-5 and on, in manual.
Remember, T mark is TDC on cyl#1. Then you turn it 270 degrees, and you have cyl #2 at TDC.  K mark is for disassembly/reassembly.

Problem being, that we had the valve train set to work with the K mark,  but the bottom of the motor itself was set to the T mark.
Long story short, if we didn’t check this, the valve would have run into the pistons on the first crank of the starter. Good catch, scratch that…great catch!
Right. Set the bottom to K. As per page 5-16. Pull the cams, make sure your camshaft marks are aligned on the case, and the hole on the intake camshaft, aligns with the mark on the intake cam cap (closest to the chain)

To sum up:
THE K MARK IS FOR PULLING CAMS. This is where the top and bottom are in alignment/not running interference.

Put the cover back on, and it’s beer o-clock.

Well no it isn’t. I had to drive home, so we high fived each other. Dragged the heavy bastard to the trunk of my car, and I went home. Job done!

Next day, I had a neighbor help me drag the motor onto my mini scissor lift, ready to hoist the bastard into the frame.
Let the fun begin

I did forget to check valve clearances the day previous.  I was reusing all the valves, and shims.  So I marked all the shims, and which vales they went back in.  I double checked the clearances, and they were all in spec.  Joy.  Valve cover back on, and now I can call on my buddy Cam M. to help me muscle the motor back in.

This is so easy to do out of the frame…and such a PITA in the frame..
Check valve gap one more time..

This took about 45 minutes with the both of us moving things back and forth.  Eventually we lined up the back bottom motor mounts, slid the bolts in, jacked up the mini jack, slid the top rear bolt in, and last but not least, the four main engine bolts.  Done!

Here’s a shot of the new intakes.

The rest of it was straight forward. I basically had to put the whole bike back together. Once the motor was in, I had to re-install the swing arm, shaft drive, and rear wheel. Next up was my clean rad, all hoses, clamps, and coolant. I kept the crash bars and skid plate off, until everything was back on, and buttoned up. I refilled the oil to the top mark, and thumbed the starer. Bike fired up on the first or second crank. Joy!! Got the motor up to temp, and got a low oil light to ping on. Da fug? I forgot that the motor lost a bunch of oil out of the head. No matter. Put in an extra half liter and all was good to go.

Interesting side notes and findings on the rebuild.

While rummaging in the bike, I had a look at my ABS pump. What a mess. I had dried mud half way up my abs pump. The oem drains are too small, and don’t get all the filth out. I removed the pump, clean up the muck, and enlarged the two holes. I’ll check it from time to time to make sure it’s clean.

My throttle cables needed replacing. The bottom cable was catching on the throttle body assembly…can’t remember where exactly, and was starting to frey.

I tested my five year old battery at the local battery shop. The bastard lost five CCA over five years!!! I battery tender all my bikes. Maybe that helped. No matter, i’ll be good for a few years more.

I flushed all fluids, except the shaft drive. New clutch and brake fluids, new coolant, and new oil.

All in all, the whole job took about 10-12 hours.  7-8 hours on the motor.  Two hours each for tear out, and re-install.

I took the bike for a break in run, as there was a break in the weather.  Wow wee…this thing pulls hard.  The bike sounds smooth, and all is well in my world.  Now, if I could only get my KTM 300 starter mechanism to behave…
Deep snow//embedr.flickr.com/assets/client-code.js

Update: I did some compression readings after a 50 k ride. Here’s the findings:

Prior to rebuild (engine cold). dry/oil added
Cyl 1/Cyl 2 (no oil): 62/72 PSI
Cyl 1/Cyl 2 (oil added): 72/88 PSI

Post rebuild:
Cyl 1 cold/warmed up motor: 60/68 PSI
Cyl 2 cold/warmed up motor: 60/65 PSI

It’s possible that prior to rebuild the comp read higher because of the extra carbon build up :. more squish/compression

Another interesting fact is that I just did valves on a friends tenere, with 35km of light-ish use, comp cold read:

Cyl 1 cold: 55 PSI
Cyl 2 cold: 65 PSI

Da fug?

Yamaha compression test procedure page

How come I cannot come close to the Yamaha numbers listed on two bikes side by side, at the same elevation? At any rate, I’ll check it again at the next oil change and see what it reads then.

Moar updates:  this motor has a decompression unit built into the exhaust cam.  So how on earth can you measure compression if the decompression pin lets out the pressure in the cylinders every time?  It boggles the mind how Yamaha came up with the numbers.

Whatever.  The motor has just over 4k km on it now.  Running like a top, zero oil used.  What goes in comes out.  Magic.


Four day blast on the FJ09

Here’s a half ass attempt at a blog post about  my quick trip into BC and Washington State.

if you don’t want to bother with reading the below…you can have a look at the pics here: https://flic.kr/s/aHskG37v2Z

Trip went very well. 3500 actual gps shown KM in 4.5 days. Odometer showed roughly 3650km, so there’s error there, and as well as indicated speed (usually 7%)

Saturday: SW Calgary to Nanaimo…yep 1100km in one go and the ferry.  It was a bit of a marathon day.  I started it all off by loosing my tent and foamie somewhere in Calgary.  Note to self, strap things down better.   Weather wise, it was an extreme in both situations.  4C in Banff, and 36C in Lilooet.  Bike made it no problems to Golden on one tank.  Picked up a new house and bed at the Crap tire in Salmon Arm ($135 gone…) and kept on trucking to Chase for a fill up, and to get off hwy one.  Had a bit of smooth gravel between Chase and Kamloops.  From there the road to Cache Creek is un-eventful.  Once on the 99, things become fun.  This is where the FJ shines.  It punts past cars, buses, a line of 20 Harley riders, without issue, and with absolute hilarity.  I did have to keep reminding myself about the 40km/h over rule…I love BC.  Going was good till Whistler, when traffic got snarled up a bit.  Once out of Whistler, the Sea to Sky high way is a pleasure.  I was in time for the 520 pm sailing.  Some home made sandwiches consumed on the ferry, I headed for my very decent campsite south of Nanaimo. Beer and pizza to round off a most excellent day


Days map here (Calgary to Nanaimo only) https://www.motogoloco.com/map?route=25040&key=7282730d

Sunday: Easy ride around the south Island. Started the day off right with Nanaimo river road.  Epic paved road, which ends at a locked gate (opens 8am to 6pm, as it’s private logging road).  I was there early, and didn’t get to ride that part of the road to Lake Cowichan.  Instead, I turned around, rode that splendid paved section again, hooked up to Lake Cowichan, and did the loop to Port Renfrew.  This road is a treat.  It’s all paved, and rough in some sections, but for the most part, fast, flowing and empty.  Recommended.  I topped off the morning with a wild Salmon eggs Benedict at the Coastal Cafe.  Epic.


Breakfast done, I headed East towards Victoria.  This stretch of road is all perfect pavement.  And I was really looking forward to it.  Unfortunately, the fog rolled in.  It was bad enough that all I could do it follow the yellow line at 60 km/h.  The locals call August Fogust…Half way down the road, I stopped to help three guy fish out a large Victory bagger out of the ditch.  Amazingly we succeeded and the guy rode away unbroken, with a few scratches on the bike.  Lucky him


Spent the day hanging out with my buddy Scott, and his delinquent friends.  Good times indeed.


Monday: Early wake up call at 4 am, to catch the ferry to Port Angeles. Bit of a slog to Mt. Rainer…meh. The park pass was a bit of a rip at $20 USD.  Getting there and out of it was a pain, but worth seeing once for sure.



I stuck to back roads, and found a winner.  The Mountain Loop Hwy.  Perfect pavement, interrupted by roughly 25km of decent gravel.  The FJ coped well, I did have to be mindful of the wheel swallowing pot holes


End of day was a revelation though…Hwy 20, into Winthrop, WA, all to myself for close to 120km!! Magic.


Checked into the KOA campsite, set the tent up by the river, and went off for the worlds best pizza at East 20 Pizza.  Great day all in all.

Days map here: https://www.motogoloco.com/map?route=25043&key=8017a9c0

Tuesday: Winthrop to Kaslo. Some great roads out of Winthrop.  No pictures, as I was busy riding.  Originally I was going to end up in Bonners Ferry, and head home the day following via Coleman.  It’s a bit of a shit ending to the trip, as it’s straight, and windy.  So I elected to head up via New Denver, hit the 31A to Kaslo, camp at Toad Rock, and get to do the 31A all over the next morning.  good plan.

Days map here: https://goo.gl/maps/kTgGCCYGp2L2

Wednesday: Rode the 31A one more time.  Nice, very nice.  The rest of the trip was uneventful, and entertaining.  I’d let cars by on the passing lanes, but would catch them up quickly on the single lane stuff.  When ever the coast was clear, down to 4th gear, and gas it…fun.

The bike. Well, it was my first 1000km day on any motorcycle. It was cold going through Banff, 4C, and damn hot in Lilooet towards the end of the day, 36C.
Overally I’m very pleased with this bike. It’s not a tenere, and was never meant to be. I did a bit of gravel here and there. It coped well with it, and so did the tires. naturally the 17″ wheels didn’t like deep pot holes.
Engine is a peach. It’s very quick compared to the ST. It’s weird to describe, but it simply doesn’t linger, it just goes. On single lane highways, if I needed to punt more than three cars at once, down to 4th, and give-er! Wow wee. Even at 1200m elevation the thing motored.
And down at sea level, with the bags and the addedweight , it did perfect second gear power wheelies.
Pegs and bar was a bit buzzy, noticeable some times, other times I simply ignored the issue.
Economy ranged from 4.7L (taking it easy) to 5.2L/100km (caning it).  Tank range a respectful 280km to 330km for the idiot light to ping.  You could easily squeeze out another 50km, before having to push

Ergos…I’ve changed the seats to seat concept foam and covers. While fine around town, the mileage I was doing daily (except for sunday) the air hawk was a blessing, and quite literally saved my ass.

Suspension: The stock suspenders sucked! The money spent on traxxion dynamics cartridges, and the rear yacugar shock was well worth it. There were some amazing roads that I had a chance to test the bike. Stuck like glue, and the stock Dunlops did very well, wet or dry, or gravel for that matter.  10k km on the tires now, and they should be good for another 2k

Luggage, carrying capacity. The 45L givi E45s are plain as day, but they work very well.
Besides being a complete spanner, and loosing my tent and foamie before even leaving Calgary, everything stayed on once I strapped it down properly.