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.
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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 want to improve my off-road skills and find out if Yamaha’s ‘diet adventurer’ can hold its own compared to full-fat alternatives.
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.email@example.com
Bike specs 689cc | 73bhp | 205kg | 880mm seat height