It was the year 2016 and as the first pictures of the Yamaha T7 Concept came in, I couldn’t stop drooling over them. It was a long wait until the Ténéré 700 finally arrived in 2019 and an even longer wait until I could finally swing my leg over it mid-2020. Enough with the drooling, shall we go for a ride?
Before I turn over the key, let’s have a look at what I’m dealing with. A middleweight adventure bike. That’s a very crowded segment with all the usual suspects and mavericks. It’s not hard to find some ten competitors once you start listing them up. BMW F 850 GS, Triumph Tiger 900, KTM 790 Adventure, Suzuki V-Strom 650, Moto Guzzi V85 TT, Ducati Multistrada 950, Kawasaki Versys 650, Benelli TRK 502, Royal Enfield Himalayan, Honda CB500X … almost all brands have got one in their model range. What added value can Yamaha offer?
The looks and equipment clearly state which side the Ténéré 700 is choosing. Offroad? Yes, please! It turns its back on more road-focused adventure bikes, thereby shortening the list of competitors.
The high, slim figure, the rally-inspired face, the long suspension travel (8.3 inch front and 7.9 inch rear), block pattern Pirelli’s, aluminum engine guard: it all looks pretty tough. The seat matches the adventurous appearance: enduro-look and 34.4 inch tall, but still narrow enough for me to put both feet flat on the ground.
The no-nonsense approach of the Ténéré is also hard to look over. Don’t search for any tech shizzle. Traction-control, mappings, ride-by-wire, electronic suspension, quickshifter, cruise-control, slipperclutch … there’s none of that. The disconnectible ABS is about the only electronics you’ll find and that means there’s no overload of buttons on the handlebars either.
The back-to-basics approach of the Ténéré is in sharp contrast with its direct opponents that are showing off their tech bling, and you can tell by the pricing. The Ténéré 700 is quite a bit cheaper than the 850 GS, Tiger 900 or 790 Adventure. An important factor to bear in mind.
So what does this ‘naked’ adventure bike have to offer? More than you might think. The Japanese made a very well thought-out package with plenty of intelligent details. For example, the brake pedal and gear lever have foldable ends, the mirrors give an excellent overview of what’s happening behind you and above the display there’s a handy bracket to mount your GPS.
The (non-adjustable) windscreen also does surprisingly well. It might look small, but it really keeps away most of the wind from your torso and head. Without causing any turbulence to the helmet, which isn’t that obvious. Just don’t expect to be seated as comfy as on a 1250 GSA.
And then there’s the CP2 engine, an amazing engine to say the least. Yup, just like during my first meeting with the XSR700 in 2016, this 689 cc parallel twin engine effortlessly steals the show with its great character. I’ve been impressed since day one and it hasn’t lost any of its magic in the Ténéré package.
The 75 hp two-pot is exactly 20 horses down on the opposing threesome I mentioned above – a quick count, since they all offer 95 hp – and with 68 Newton meter it is also down on torque. Yet there wasn’t a single moment where I felt that I needed more. Even my own 11 year old 800 GS is stronger than the Yamaha on paper, while in reality ze German feels tamer than the new Ten7.
Twist its ear and the Ténéré will dash, but without the risk of losing your driving license. The power has a nice and linear spread over the rpm-range with a pleasant extra push around the 6,500 mark where we find peak torque. The twin is very rev-happy, but just as much likes to cruise around in the lower rev range without fits and starts. Lazy riding? No problem. Something that comes in handy too during slow off-road manoeuvres.
The 21 inch front wheel and wide handlebars demand a clear first impulse, but after that the steering character adapts perfectly to the playfulness of the engine. The Ténéré steers light, sharp and strikingly stable, even though it might take a bit of getting used to the way this bike ‘falls’ into the corner at first. The suspension (adjustable both in the front and back – something Yamaha found indispensable, and I’m not complaining) is set up quite rigid off the shelf, especially the rear monoshock. It has no trouble handling a sporty riding style and it isn’t unsettled by horrific asphalt either.
Add a flawless gearbox and precise brakes (front and rear) to the combination of a frisky engine with an ace rolling frame, and it becomes crystal clear that it’s terrific to horse around on this Ténéré.
I didn’t do much offroad frolicking, apart from a couple gravel trails, but too little to really judge the bike on this. Looking at what the pro’s are doing, the Ténéré can handle quite a bit. What I can tell you, is that the stand up riding position feels really great. Even without tilting the handlebars slightly forward – to reach your front brake and clutch lever more easily – I’m standing comfortably with my knees naturally gripping the tank.
The Ténéré is shod with Pirelli Scorpion Rally STR rubber that has no problems with off roading. Don’t let the block pattern scare you: they do really well on asphalt too. I was going as hard and as confident through corners as on any regular street tire.
Isn’t there anything to nag about? Sure. I haven’t discussed the LCD-display which is quite basic and fits the whole picture well. It shows your speed, a gear change indicator, tachometer, fuel meter, odometer, double trip meters, average and instantaneous fuel consumption (but no action radius). The tach is quite hard to read, although that never bothered me because the twin is so capable over the whole rev range. What did bother me was the difference in speed on the display and on my GPS. When the Ténéré’s dash said we were doing 75 mph, my TomTom said 69. That’s a pretty big difference. And even on lower speed, there’s quite the margin between the real and indicated speed. That’s all for the whining.
How much do you need for some good fun? Not a lot, proves the Yamaha Ténéré 700. You can leave the electronics at home, just bring the essence: nice engine, good suspension, fine brakes, spotless gearbox. That’s it, which might seem simple, but when riding the Ténéré, everything just fits so well, that you don’t even start to wonder whether you’re missing out on something. Mappings, traction control, quickshifter … I really didn’t think about them one second. What I did think however: should this be the successor to my 800 GS?
+ Those looks!
+ Convincing combination of a playful engine and solid rolling frame
+ Lovely back-to-basics philosophy
– Difference between indicated and real speed
– There are more comfortable adventure bikes for bigger journeys
– My 800 GS is weeping when reading all this praise
PS: I’m not the only one who’s thinking about exchanging his 800 GS for a T7.
Engine Type: 689cc liquid-cooled DOHC 4-stroke; 8 valves
Bore x Stroke: 80.0mm x 68.6mm
Compression Ratio: 11.5:1
Fuel Delivery: Fuel Injection
Transmission: 6-speed; wet multiplate clutch
Final Drive: Chain
Power: 75 hp
Torque: 68 Nm
Suspension / Front: 43mm inverted fork, fully-adjustable; 8.3-in travel
Suspension / Rear: Single shock, adjustable preload (w/remote adjuster) and rebound damping; 7.9-in travel
Brakes / Front: Dual 282mm hydraulic disc; selectable ABS
Brakes / Rear: 245mm hydraulic disc; selectable ABS
Tires / Front: 90/90R21 Pirelli® Scorpion® Rally STR
Tires / Rear: 150/70R18 Pirelli® Scorpion® Rally STR
L x W x H: 93.3 in x 35.6 in x 34.4 in
Seat Height: 34.4 in
Wheelbase: 62.8 in
Rake (Caster Angle): 27 Degrees
Trail: 4.1 in
Maximum Ground Clearance: 9.4 in
Fuel Capacity: 4.2 gal
Wet Weight: 452 lbs