Getting a grip on the T700: tyre comparison tests roll on for Yamaha’s parallel twin
I was really impressed with the OE Pirelli Scorpion Rally STR tyres that came fitted as standard on the Yamaha Ténéré 700.
They were smooth and grippy on the road and more than capable of handling light trails and even some heavier going in the dry. But after trying to tackle some really soft mud and ending up sweaty, tired and stuck, I wanted to try out something a little more aggressive.
Previous MCN Fleet Ténéré 700 updates
- Update 1: Trans European Trail beckons for the Yamaha Ténéré 700
- Update 2: Yamaha Ténéré 700 ready for adventure
- Update 3: Yamaha Ténéré 700 time to enjoy the simpler things
- Update 4: Are the extras on the fleet T7 worth the money?
Dunlop D606 front with a D908RR rear
I wouldn’t normally opt for unmatched tyre combinations, but I decided to make an exception in this case because Dunlop themselves recommended it. The D606 on the front looks pretty much like a motocross tyre with really chunky and spread-out blocks. The 908RR on the rear has more of a tread pattern but is still clearly very off-road biased.
After a short test ride down the road I thought I’d made a terrible mistake. The front felt like it was constantly seeking a line and tracked with every white line or tarmac imperfection it could find.
And things only got worse as the speed increased, with a severe weave at motorway speed. I passed this feedback to Dunlop and under their advice I put the pressures up to the low 30s and this really helped.
Sorting the pressures didn’t fix the handling though, which was really unpredictable. Sometimes I would need a lot of inside bar pressure to stop the bike standing up mid-corner and sometimes it felt as though I was pulling it in, like the front was tucking (maybe it was). It was also much easier for the Ténéré’s twin disc Brembos to lock the front if spirited braking was required, especially in the wet.
Drop the pressures for off road and these tyres really come into their own but for the mix of riding I do, they are too specialised. What’s more, the front could only manage 1400 miles before the blocks were filed down to points.
Dunlop Trailmax Mission
Whereas the D606 is described as 90/10 off road/road, the Trailmax Mission is 50/50 and certainly on the road they are an order of magnitude more capable.
I’ve yet to try them on anything more daunting than a gravel driveway but the tread pattern looks chunky enough to handle a bit of dirt riding so I’m optimistic.
Extras, extras, read all about it: are the MCN Fleet Ténéré 700's add-ons worth the cash?
One of the big selling points of the Yamaha Ténéré 700 is the price. A bog-standard model can be yours for £9147, which has admittedly crept up a fair way from the £8699 launch price but is still a chunk of change cheaper than many rivals. So, having saved a bit of money, you might be tempted to peruse the Yamaha extras catalogue for ways to spend it.
Our long-term test bike has a mainstand, heated grips, Akrapovic exhaust and crash bars that all come as extras from the factory. I’ve also added a new luggage rack from Outback Motortek that mounts Kriega’s OS panniers, and some off-road rubber from Dunlop to replace the original equipment Pirelli STR Rally tyres.
The mainstand costs an additional £235 on a new Ténéré and makes servicing the chain much easier and could really help in a pinch if you got a puncture in the middle of nowhere. It’s a shame that it’s not a standard feature, but buyers looking to tackle really tough trails would probably want to remove it to save weight and return a little ground clearance.
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The heated grips are an extra £153.56 and really are money well spent. The control module and LED lights are built into the grip and the system is far more subtle than a lot of aftermarket units. A single dedicated button controls the three heat settings and can easily be found by touch on the move. They throw out some serious heat on the top setting and mean you leave your bulkiest gloves at home even when it’s very cold.
Exhaust noise is a bit of a touchy subject in the UK at the moment, but the fully road legal upgrade from Akrapovic sounds better rather than louder. The engine now has a raspy and throaty quality at low revs and fills in some of the bass missing from the standard unit. At £848 it’s not a cheap upgrade – but it looks and sounds great.
Fortunately, I’ve not had to use the factory fitment crash bars (£213.58) but they are solid units and add peace of mind when you’re heading onto the dirt.
Outback Motortek X-Frame £220
This solid rack was really easy to fit. It takes the Kriega OS panniers without the need for the ugly plates on other systems. My only criticism is that it’s a bit wide and leaves a lot of wasted space inside the frame. Great bit of kit, though.
Kriega Overland Soft £598 per pair (32-litre) £550 per pair (22-litre)
The connecting system is genius. It makes this soft luggage as easy to fit/remove as hard luggage. Plus, you can fit extra packs for longer trips. With Kriega build quality they’re worth every penny.
Dunlop D606 front (around £70) Dunlop D908RR rear (around £130)
These have a 90/10 off-road/on-road bias so they can weave at speed on the road. The rear handles the power of the Ténéré comfortably. These tyres really shine off road where they’re stable and predictable.
Update 3: Yamaha Ténéré 700 time to enjoy the simpler things
A few months ago, back when we used to work in an office with other humans, someone raised the question of what bike everyone at MCN Towers would choose to ride around the world. During the conversation that followed, two letters came up time and time again: XT.
The simplicity, reliability and ruggedness that runs in the DNA of Yamaha’s XT models makes it the ideal overlander and that’s exactly what the brand were hoping to tap into with the Ténéré 700. In a sector replete with 1200, 1250 and 1260cc behemoths stuffed full of cutting-edge gadgetry, Yamaha saw an opportunity to launch a lighter, simpler option.
Obviously, the world has taken a bit of a turn since we took delivery of our T7, but in the few short weeks I had with it before the lockdown I was able to learn a thing or two about whether or not they’ve succeeded.
I can confirm that the Ténéré is very simple. There’s no Swedish adjustable suspension, Bosch IMUs or smartphone-rivalling dash. The heated grips and centrestand on our test bike were added as extras. Likewise, there’s no riding modes but you can switch the ABS off with a single button before heading off-road.
And if I’m honest, this all feels like a breath of fresh air. It’s a relief to be able to push a starter and go. It also removes the possibility of ‘mode anxiety’, constantly questioning your choice of settings and whether you’d be better off with an extra electronic click of preload here or a sharper throttle response there.
At 205kg, the Ténéré is no crosser, but it’s still 63kg lighter than a BMW R1250GS Adventure. And that’s a lot of weight not to be supporting through your right leg when ambition has outweighed talent on a dirty trail. It’s certainly enough for me to feel confident to tackle some green lanes when the lockdown has lifted.
Yamaha Ténéré 700 hits and misses
Hit: Loving that edgy image
The Ténéré has an aggressive and edgy look and couldn’t be further from the ‘beige brigade’ aesthetic of some other adventure bikes.
Miss: Dash it, it’s a bit basic
It’s a superficial whine, but you spend a lot of time looking at your dash and the T7’s has all the style of a 1980s scientific calculator. Shame I won’t hit 5318008 miles on it (turn it upside down).
Hit: Lanky but it handles
A lanky, soft off roader like the Ténéré will never be a scalpel on the road but I’m impressed by the way it handles itself. The forks dive like crazy, which is a shock the first time, but you never feel like you’ve run out of travel on the brakes and it steers beautifully.
Update 2: Yamaha Ténéré 700 ready for adventure
I’ve been desperate to get my hands on a Yamaha Ténéré 700 ever since I heard they were making it. My first bike was an XT660R which I used to tour the US and Central America. I loved it. That said, the XT wasn’t without its issues.
There was no wind protection, the thumping single made your blood feel carbonated and motorway riding was a chore. But with the Ténéré (or XTZ690 to give it its official title) Yamaha have the chance to fix all that.
The screen is only small and has no adjustment but gives you a surprising amount of wind protection but the biggest improvement is that 700cc parallel-twin engine. The Ténéré feels like an XT on steroids.
Having proved itself in Yamaha’s excellent MT-07, Tracer 700 and XSR700, the four-stroke now finds itself on adventure duty. With 100% more cylinders than my old XT, the Ténéré feels smooth and revvy and will sit at motorway speeds no problem, even while I’m still running it in.
One question I’m hoping to answer this year is whether that 72bhp power plant is enough for a 205kg adventure bike. The styling is exceptional. The red and white paint is striking and sporty, the twin LED headlights are reminiscent of the twin lamps on Yamaha’s old Dakar machines (from which the Ténéré gets its name) and the whole machine looks aggressive and dirt bike-esque.
Our Ténéré has a few goodies from the Yamaha extras catalogue fitted. The crash bars (£220), heated grips (£155) and centrestand (£235) are all aimed at increasing comfort or practicality.
I also added the Akrapovic end can (£848), and while this doesn’t make the bike much louder, it lends an extra growly quality. It’s a pretty tall bike, but Yamaha can tailor it to fit with three different seat heights, a lower suspension linkage, and handlebar risers. I have the standard seat and suspension but the higher bars as that’s what felt the most comfortable sitting and standing.
I’m already feeling pretty smitten with the T7 and I can only see it getting better as I swap to some tyres with more off road capability – the Pirelli Scorpion rubber it came with is great on the tarmac and gravel but can’t cope with slippery stuff – and start exploring some green lanes. The next thing to experiment with is luggage before I can head further afield.
Update 1: Trans European Trail beckons for the Yamaha Ténéré 700
I’m planning to ride the Trans European Trail, which will give me a chance to stretch its legs and see whether its modest power can cut the mustard.
The rider Ben Clarke, Staff Writer, 34, 6ft. Riding for 13 years, commutes daily. Ben.firstname.lastname@example.org
Bike specs 689cc | 73bhp | 205kg | 880mm seat height