MCN Fleet Yamaha Ténéré 700 long-term test round-up

1 of 18

I’ve spent the strangest year of my life as custodian of the Yamaha Ténéré 700 and some of the best bits of it were spent in the saddle. Here’s how the last 12 months unfolded.

Previous MCN Fleet Ténéré 700 updates

600 miles

The first 600 miles are spent avoiding ‘prolonged operation above 5000rpm’ to break the engine in. No major hardship, you can hit all speed limits without issue.

1500 miles

I manage to squeeze in a few commutes and explore some local greenlanes and the Ténéré proved excellent at both. I also fit a rack in anticipation of adventures.

2700 miles

I swap to some more aggressive off-road rubber and head to an adventure bike day at an enduro centre in Kent. The Ténéré really proves its mettle as it tackles the toughest sections on offer. It’s fine on the motorway there, too.

I also rack up some miles with a pillion and the Ténéré handled it no problem. My passenger does complain of a numb bum after longer rides but is happy enough for shorter journeys.

Yamaha Ténéré 700 puddle splash

3666 miles

Having ditched the knobbly tyres for some much friendlier dual sport hoops, the Ténéré impresses yet again on a long schlep to mid-Wales (between the lockdowns).

At motorway speeds the engine is thrumming along at around 5000rpm and isn’t as vibey as you might expect for a parallel-twin. The seat is firm but you can shuffle around in it easily to keep your bum happy between fill-ups.

4861 miles

A K-tech suspension upgrade shows what the factory forks and shock are capable of with better internals. The improvements to the damping make for a smoother tip in and much more composed cornering experience. It costs a little over £340 plus labour.

5231 miles

Sadly, it’s time to wave goodbye. A final clean reveals how well finished the T7 is with no corrosion to be found. I only wish I’d been able to spend more time riding this genuinely brilliant bike. It’s a simple, unpretentious and most importantly fun motorcycle.

Update 10: Feeling rustless – MCN Fleet Yamaha Ténéré is tough cookie

First published 26 February 2021

MCN Fleet Yamaha Ténéré 700

When the last lockdown lifted, I managed to squeeze in a wintry recreational ride around my home county of Norfolk. I chucked the cover on the Ténéré when I got home – perhaps assuming I would clean it the next time I had an opportunity (perhaps not) – and then the nation was plunged almost immediately into lockdown 3.0.

Previous MCN Fleet Ténéré 700 updates

I’m not the most fastidious cleaner at the best of times, especially with a bike like the Ténéré that ought to be able to cope with some dirt, but even I wouldn’t normally leave a dirty bike standing for a couple of months.

With my usual jet wash closed and no reason to go anywhere anyway, that’s exactly what has happened. On the bright side, this was a good opportunity to have a bloody good rummage around and see if anything was starting to look worse for wear from sitting idle.

I peeled the cover back expecting the worst. I had an XT660R of my own once that was a surface corrosion magnet and I feared the same might be the case here – especially with the T7 being relatively easy on the wallet.

I couldn’t have been more wrong. After poring over every inch, the only hint of corrosion I could find was a small fleck on the exhaust hanger that, on closer inspection, turned out to be the washer rather than the component itself.

The bottom of the centrestand also has some rust where the feet scrape on the ground, but that’s to be expected. All of the usual suspects: footpegs, sidestand, foot controls, wheel spokes and pillion hangers were clean as a whistle (beneath the layer of winter grime, that is).

MCN Fleet Yamaha Ténéré 700 heated grip wear

In fact, there is only one place that has given me any trouble of any kind during my time as custodian of the Ténéré and that’s the heated grips from the extras catalogue. First, the throttle grip came unstuck from the tube inside and then the cover on the LED display peeled off.

The latter is something often mentioned on owners’ forums. While both issues could be fixed with a blob of glue, I would expect better from an accessory costing more than £160.

I’ve also lost one of the two Torx head fixings that hold the exhaust heat guard in place. It evidently shook itself free and made a bid for freedom somewhere before 3000 miles (when I noticed).

And that’s it, all the grumbles are done. For a bike that represents such good value, the finish is excellent. And while it’s a shame the only snags have come from extras, it also lets the bike itself off the hook.

Update 9: Rising dampening: suspension upgrades for the MCN Fleet Yamaha Ténéré 700

First published 12 January 2021

Yamaha Ténéré 700 gets a suspension upgrade

If you’ll excuse me being gauche, I’d like to talk about money. Price is a long way from the only thing the Ténéré 700 has going for it, but it’s hard to ignore the fact that it’s £2800 cheaper than a KTM 890 Adventure and £2555 cheaper than the cheapest off-road Triumph Tiger 900 (the 850 Sport has cast wheels so it doesn’t count).

Any bike that attacks the lower end of the price scale like this will have to make a sacrifice to the gods of quality somewhere and – as with the T7’s road-going cousin the MT-07 – suspension is the chosen lamb.

The Ténéré’s stock set-up is soft and underdamped and this adds up to a pogo stick effect that can be felt both on and off road. You can particularly feel it when you come to complete stop and the bike then rocks back and forth between the fork and shock before settling. Slow moving traffic can invoke seasickness.

The softness of the shock can also mean that it is sitting in the wrong part of its stroke and a sudden bump will ejector-seat you out of the saddle if you don’t see it coming.

Luckily, the good folk at K-tech Suspension have a solution and it doesn’t cost as much as you might think. “The basic architecture of the stock suspension is good so all we really needed to do was sort the damping,” explains Michael Hancock from K-tech. “That means a new piston kit and some better oil and that’s it.” K-tech can also re-spring the units to a rider’s weight if desired.

Michael from K-tech works on the MCN Fleet Yamaha T7 suspension

The difference in ride quality on and off road is instantly noticeable. On the road, the improved damping makes the bike feel poised under braking, upping confidence as you tip in. What’s more, a newfound stability in the bends means the bike no longer ties itself in knots over mid-corner bumps and it holds a line better than before.

Off road, the bike handles lumps and bumps far better and also delivers more consistent rear grip as the weight of the bike is bouncing around less.

The fork piston kit costs £282 and the version for the shock is £59.94. So, for a little over £340 plus labour you can transform your suspension. If you want to go further and change the springs, too, the front set and the rear cost £85 each.

Update 8: Ben’s quest for the perfect Ténéré do-it-all tyre combination continues

First published 27 November 2020

Yamaha Ténéré 700 on Peddar's Way

All these lockdowns have made it difficult to rack up as many miles as I’d have liked this year. My commute has generally been a weary trudge down the stairs and I’ve been durability testing more sweatpants and loose hoodies than bike gear.

But like a motorcycling Goldilocks I’ve continued in my endeavour to find the baby bear’s porridge of tyre choices; not too off-road, not too on-road, just right.

Previous MCN Fleet Ténéré 700 updates

The Dunlop D606/D908RR front/rear combo I had been running were great in the dirt but too much of a compromise on the road. So, I decided to try the latest generation of Dunlop Trailmax instead.

When I first saw the Trailmaxes ‘in the rubber’ I was surprised by how road-biased they looked compared to the images on Dunlop’s website. This sentiment was echoed by RiDE Editor, Matt Wildee, who said, “they look like you could do a trackday on them”.

Yamaha Ténéré 700 green lane

But appearances can be deceiving. The Trailmaxes are certainly more comfortable on the road than their knobbly predecessors and I initially felt like I was floating on air by comparison.

I found I could take advantage of the T7’s twin front Brembo stoppers with levels of aggression that would have had the ABS pump whining like an air raid siren on the previous choice of tyres.

Then I rode in the rain and all of that fresh confidence was washed down the drain. On wet roads, the rear would break loose under acceleration in all but top gear and had a life of its own under engine braking, too.

I’m no Rubén Xaus at the best of times and, frankly, much prefer to have my wheels in line as I approach a wet roundabout. If a 50/50 tyre looks road biased but doesn’t cope with wet tarmac, then you would assume that it would be utterly useless off road; and I did.

Dunlop Trailmax rear

But I was wrong again. Actually, on the wet and slimy Peddar’s Way in Norfolk, the Trailmax coped admirably. Fearing the worst, I crept onto the first section expecting the rear to spin up straight away, but it didn’t.

So, I rolled on a little speed to test the brakes expecting a full lock up, but I could actually squeeze a surprising amount on without an issue. After a mile or so I hopped off to inspect the grooves and they’d even managed to clear themselves of mud.

Update 7: How does the dirt-loving Yamaha Ténéré 700 handle tedious M-roads?

First published 22 October 2020

Riding the Yamaha Ténéré 700 on the motorway

Like many riders, I’m not generally a fan of motorways. All the best bits about riding happen off the beaten track, as far as I’m concerned; whether that’s an exquisite black ribbon of twisty A-road, a challenging rollercoaster of undulating B-road or a serene playground of little-known green lanes.

For me, though, motorway riding is a necessary evil. Not all of my miles are covered for leisure and I can’t very well ride across the country for work stopping at every scenic vista and café on the way. And even when I am riding for pleasure, the motorway can bring far-flung playgrounds much closer to home. The pay-off for half a day spent on the boring road is extra time exploring my destination.

Previous MCN Fleet Ténéré 700 updates

All adventure bikes are a compromise with one wheel on the tarmac and the other on the dirt in varying ratios. So, with a clear leaning towards the dirty stuff the question is: can the Yamaha Ténéré 700 cut it on the big roads?

Having taken a couple of long-distance trips on the tarmac, including a 10-hour round-trip to mid Wales over two days, the answer is a resounding yes. With 72bhp, six gears and a tall, upright riding position you can just pin your ears back and watch the miles tick by.

The screen isn’t big enough to keep you completely protected from the elements, but it takes enough of the edge off to prevent a sore neck. You don’t get much buffeting, either, although you will occasionally take a beating as you pass a lorry or tall van.

Yamaha Ténéré 700 engine

At motorway speeds the engine is working hard but it doesn’t feel buzzy or breathless for it. I’ve read in forums of owners swapping sprockets to bring the revs down by a few hundred rpm, which might be nice but certainly isn’t imperative.

Don’t get me wrong, there are obviously far better bikes for the job and if your idea of a riding holiday is to smash big mileages on European toll roads then look elsewhere.

The seat is narrow and quite firm and by the time you’ve drained the 16-litre fuel tank, your bum is glad of the opportunity for a rest. But it’s certainly not crippling and whereas a quarter-ton BMW R1250GS might be armchair-like in comparison, I’d much rather be on the T7 when I reach my muddy destination.

Update 6: Leave the road behind: Getting dirty with the Ténéré 700

Published: 05.10.20

Riding off-road on the Yamaha Ténéré 700

You know those moments where you realise you’ve bitten off more than you can chew? When your ambition has outweighed your talent and you’re regretting the decisions that led you to that point? Well, with sweat in my eyes, my rear wheel spinning up and my momentum failing to get me up a muddy climb, I was having one of those moments.

Just minutes ago I was reassuring fellow nervous attendees that the track wouldn’t be too difficult as it was designed for those with little to no experience of wrestling a big bike around on the dirt. But several riders were now hopping off on the processional sighting lap and I was starting to wonder what I’d let myself in for.

Previous MCN Fleet Ténéré 700 updates

Off-road event organiser, Actiontrax usually use this venue near Tunbridge Wells for enduro practice. On those days, the circuit is much harder and packed with 200 lightweight motocross and enduro bikes but today is the first of a new event series designed for owners of road-going adventure machines so that they can experience riding their own bike away from the tarmac but in a safe and legal environment.

Around 40 of us congregated for the socially distanced briefing on a range of bikes including 1200 and 1250 BMW GSs to KTM Adventures and Yamaha Ténérés. The most off-road-friendly machine I could see was a Husqvarna 701 LR, the least was a Ducati 1260 Multistrada Enduro (on road tyres, no less).

Warming up

Action Trax morning briefing

I managed to wobble around the course for the sighting lap without incident and, as it turned out, the trickiest part by a long way was in the first mile or so of the three-mile loop.

Much of the rest was open grass track with some tight sections through the woods and a couple of places where you could choose a more difficult route if you were feeling confident.

As I came to the end of the guided sighting lap I was determined not to peel off to the parking area, as many riders were, and wanted to crack straight on with another lap or two.

The tricky woodland first section proved much easier with more space to carry momentum and my trepidation began to ease each time I found a more efficient way round or over the assorted obstacles.

After three laps I returned to the parking area to compare notes with some of the other riders I’d met that morning and let a bit more air out of my tyres.

It was immediately obvious that everyone was having a great time. The place was chock-a-block with smiling faces, enthusiastically exchanging war stories from the laps they had completed and the near misses (or crashes) they’d had.

There were a few levers being bent gingerly back into place and some damage assessment and duct tape application taking place, but everyone had signed up knowing this was a possibility.

Off road rider pressing on

Finding my stride

By lunch I was feeling really at home on the bike. I’d started using all the optional harder routes and I was catching slower riders far more regularly than I was getting passed. As is usually the case when I start enjoying myself on a motorbike, I was due a reminder from the universe to wind it in a bit.

Having stopped to help a fallen comrade pick his bike up (this was very much encouraged in the morning briefing due to the size of everyone’s machines) I set off again but completely forgot that turning off the ignition would mean the ABS had switched back on.

At the next corner – a particularly tricky off-camber right hander – I stepped on the back brake to be rewarded with a whining ABS pump and no stopping power whatsoever. Luckily, there was plenty of space to run straight on into. Time for that lunch break.

Kevin Armstrong with his Ducati 1260 Multistrada Enduro

Adventure bike off road day

I’d always intended to take the T7 off road but doing it legally on green lanes can be fiddly and frustrating. You pick your way through a short byway and then generally have a road ride before the next stretch of dirt.

But at this event you can leave all of that behind and concentrate on the riding. What’s more, you know there’ll be help on hand if you have a spill and you’ll never round a bend to discover a group of ramblers.

The atmosphere is relaxed and bravado-free, too. I would whole-heartedly recommend an off-road day to anyone who’s never taken their adventure bike onto the dirt, it’s what they’re for, after all.

Update 5: Getting a grip on the T700 – tyre comparison tests roll on for Yamaha’s parallel twin

Published: 17.09.20

Yamaha Ténéré 700 on the road

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.

Dunlop D606 front with a  D908RR rear

Dunlop D606 front tyre

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

Dunlop Trailmax Mission rear tyre

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.

Update 4: Extras, extras, read all about it – are the MCN Fleet Ténéré 700’s add-ons worth the cash?

Published: 12.08.20

Ben Clarke with MCN Fleet Yamaha Ténéré 700

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.

Related articles on MCN

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

Outback Motortek X-Frame

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)

Kriega Overland Soft OS panniers

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)

Dunlop D908RR rear tyre

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

Published: 23.04.20

Yamaha Ténéré 700 on the road

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

Yamaha Ténéré 700 looks

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

Yamaha Ténéré 700 dash

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

Yamaha Ténéré 700 handles well

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

Published: 14.04.20

Yamaha Ténéré 700 gets a taste of the dirt

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-07Tracer 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

Published: 17.03.20

The Yamaha Tenere 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.

Bike specs 689cc | 73bhp | 205kg | 880mm seat height