Yamaha Tenere 700 Review: An exceptional bike for a bargain price
Yamaha Tenere 700 Review: An exceptional bike for a bargain price
Yamaha Tenere 700 Review… It must be one of the most hotly anticipated bikes ever, but the all new Yamaha Tenere 700 is finally here and in Europe at least, in the dealerships. But has the bike been worth it – have Yamaha pulled a rabbit from the hat and produced the bike everyone wanted?
Ride Expeditions set out on the next incarnation of the iconic model, taking on roads and trails to get a feel of the 2019 Tenere. Spoiler alert – it’s absolutely fantastic and we love it!
So to understand where the new T7 comes from, we need a bit of context. The Tenere has its roots firmly set in the Dakar Rally, the model taking its name from the desert that spans both Niger and Chad and that was part of the rally’s punishing route. In fact the Tenere’s predecessor the XT500 won the Dakar’s predecessor the notoriously tough Abidjan-Nice rally in both 1976 and 1977, with the same model winning the first Dakar Rally in 1979 and 1980.
No doubt buoyed by this phenomenal success in an entirely new and uncharted marketplace, Yamaha were keen to monopolise on the victories, creating the first Tenere 600 a few years later in 1983. The bike had all the rough and tough looks of the Dakar bikes and teamed with a strong chassis, a punchy single cylinder engine and impressive luggage carrying capacity, the Tenere was a massive success. Long before Ewan McGregor and Charley Boorman had even left school, Yamaha had effectively created the first adventure bike.
After the first model back in 1983, the Tenere went through gradual changes to the original, with model changes in 1989 and again in 1994, the bike sadly gaining weight with each reincarnation. The model received the most significant upgrade however in 2008 with the launch of the Tenere 660, fitted with a larger liquid-cooled motor. The bike had only 5 more hp than the 1983 original, but tipped the scales at 206 kilos wet, some 40 kilos above the original. The bike also had a 17 inch rear wheel, reflecting a more dual sport focus.
But if there was one defining feature of the Tenere 660, it was the Praying Mantis headlight and upper fairing. Despite the somewhat underpowered engine, under specced suspension and heavy weight, the bike inspired legions of fans across the world. Its capability to cover big miles both on and off -road, the simplicity of the single cylinder engine and its comfort were enough to overlook the Tenere 660’s shortcomings.
Although the 2008 model sold well and was popular with buyers, the spectre of Euro 4 regulations was looming. Although the model was nominally continued until 2016, by 2014 Yamaha had effectively lost interest in the Tenere 660, with the later models having little more than a series of BNG upgrades – that’s Bold New Graphics in manufacturer speak.
The Tenere was dead ..
Except of course it wasn’t. As the 660 was shuffling into the history books, a team of engineers and designers had decided the new CP2 – Crossplane Twin – engine that was proving so popular in the MT07 road bike would work well in an adventure bike platform. The resultant T7 prototype looked surprisingly finished and production ready when it was revealed at EICMA in 2016, but it took another three years and numerous false reveals and an odd ‘World tour’ before the bike was anything like ready.
In reality, the development time was nothing particularly unusual for a new model, yet Yamaha’s decision to make the process so public lead to increased frustration as the apparent delay to releasing the bike continued, rather than enthuse potential buyers as planned. Asked whether they would repeat this process again, the Tenere team were forced to agree that it might not be the best idea!
The 2019 Tenere 700 was finally launched in May 2019 in Spain, although the bikes ridden by the assembled press were still pre-production models. Customers had been given the opportunity to pre-order the new bikes online with a £300 discount, but their bikes were not due to appear until September when they would also appear in the dealership (and if you live in Australia or the USA, you may still be waiting by September 2020).
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So leaving the past where it should be – how does the new bike stack up? It’s as sophisticated and powerful as the rest of the current crop of adventure bikes from both Japanese and European manufacturers. Does it cost the thick end of £15,000 and require a degree in computer science to understand the dashboard? A resounding no on both counts.
The 2019 Tenere keeps the original design ethic of the first model back in 1983. It’s a beautifully simple package that can take you anywhere in the world. The only electronic riding aids is the switchable ABS which is a legal requirement and fairly useful on the road but beyond that, the Tenere maintains a refreshing directness in both design and operation. Traction control is via the riders throttle hand, cornering ABS is done by the guy on the seat. Simple really …
So let’s have a look at the bike in more detail.
At the heart of the new Tenere is the 689cc parallel twin motor lifted straight out of the MT07 road bike. Termed the CP2 from the twin cylinders and firing order that sees the engine firing at 270 degrees and then 450 degrees later, the engineers saw little reason to change what was an incredibly flexible and reliable motor. The only changes to equip the lump for the new adventure platform were a different airbox, an updated fuel injection system, an uprated cooling system and a new exhaust. Although the transmission is unchanged internally, the final drive was altered to a 15 front and 46 rear, though serious off-roaders might want to change those numbers a tad.
The result is a deliciously quick revving engine with massive mid range torque and a beautifully direct throttle response using old-school cables rather than wires. It might lack the stratospheric horsepower of a BMW R1250 GSA, but the Yamaha’s 54 kw or 72 bhp is all entirely usable and totally enjoyable. Freed from arm-wrenching power, you can really enjoy the bike’s performance all day long and believe us – you will want to.
In case you haven’t gathered, the Tenere is chain drive and for a dedicated adventure bike, that’s a good thing although we suspect all the BMW aficionados will doubtless disagree …
So with an existing engine ready to go, then the frame should have been an easy one. Yet that appears to have been far from the case, with the frame design accounting for much of the time spent in the Tenere’s development.
Like KTM did for their new 790 Adventure and Adventure R, Yamaha have used the motor as a stressed member to reduce weight and keep the package as compact as possible. The resultant diamond frame is made from high tensile steel and arcs over the top of the engine on both sides to meet at the double-braced headstock.
Although there are down tubes that drop down from the front of the motor and meet with the lower parts of the main frame, these tubes are not structural and serve to mount the sump guard and protect the engine, rather than support it.
At the back end of the new Tenere 700 there’s a substantial steel subframe which will withstand the rigours of both passengers and some serious luggage back there.
Despite the steel construction and obvious structural strength of the new frame, the frame gives good flex rather than the stiffness that aluminium frames can suffer from and incredibly all this weighs only 17,75 kilos. That’s less than we take in hold luggage on an adventure trip!
If there was one area that the old Tenere fell well short of the mark, it was the suspension. While without any other adjustment the rear was just about OK if wound up to full preload, the front was simply terrible. At the slightest hint of braking the forks would dive like a Polynesian Pearl diver, and with the only adjustment being spring preload that would take the forks from ridiculously soft to just very soft, if you were serious about taking this bike on real adventures, those forks needed to be sent to the skip.
But the new Tenere has no such issues. Yamaha have fitted the 700 with a set of 43mm Kayaba USD forks, complete with compression and rebound damping, 210mm and even an air bleeder for those obsessed with gassy forks. It’s a great set up that delivers faultless performance both on and off -road. OK so if you treat the Tenere like an enduro bike you will find the limits soon enough, but guess what – it’s an adventure bike not an enduro bike.
At the rear, Yamaha have also upped their game. There’s a centrally mounted Kayaba shock with piggyback reservoir, operating through a linkage to give 210mm of travel. It’s adjustable for compression and rebound damping too and unlike the front, you can adjust the preload on the spring by adjusting the knob at the back. We whacked up the preload a tad and added a bit more compression damping and the bike was super stable and predictable on whatever we wanted to ride. Impressive stuff.
What’s refreshing about the Tenere’s suspension is that it uses good quality, well specced components to deliver wonderfully competent and enjoyable suspension, but it does all this without any electronics. There’s no presets to toggle between, no computer controlled riding modes, there’s just good suspension from stock. The decision to keep with simplicity while all others are heading for complexity has served Yamaha well with their YZF motocross and WRF enduro bikes and we suspect the new Tenere will be extremely popular because of it.
So equipped with spoked and tubed wheels at 21′ front and 18′ rear, unlike the 17′ on the 660, the Tenere 700 is clearly far more suitable to off-road riding and rubber options.
But like its predecessor, the 700 has massive twin discs at the front in the form of a pair of 280 mm wave discs, grabbed by a set of Brembo twin-pot calipers. The feel of the bikes is deliberately delicate at first and then stronger as you pull in the lever, which gives a confidence inspiring feel both on and off the tarmac. At the rear of the bike, there’s a single 245mm disc and a single pot Brembo, which again gives a beautifully progressive feel through the sensibly sized brake pedal.
As the sole concession to electronics, there is ABS fitted to the Tenere, which comes on every time the bike is switched on. On the road it’s good enough although maybe not the most sophisticated system on the market, but off-road it’s a complete pain. Luckily you can switch the ABS by pressing the button on the dashboard for a couple of seconds, but you have to be stationary to do this. It’s OK if you just leave the road and stay off-road, but if you are swapping between the two, it’s a faff to try to stop to switch it on or off again. We just turned it off from the start – we’ve got a garage full of bikes without ABS so we didn’t miss anything!
As stock, the bike comes shod with Pirelli Scorpion Rally tyres that perform well for blacktop and dirt – we had no complaints, but we might not have been so happy if the conditions had been wet.
The unbraced bars are wide with a comfortable bend and sweep giving a comfortable reach. Mirrors are plenty big enough and can be moved easily without loosening up – handy as you transition onto the dirt. The Tenere has substantial wraparound hand guards to protect from impacts and the grips are pleasingly thin to allow a good grip all round.
Unlike the current trend for bikes to have massive TFT screens like computer monitors and displaying almost as much information, the Tenere 700 again takes a different route. The LCD screen is mounted in an unusual portrait orientation, with fairly minimal information and a few essential idiot lights, gear indicator and the ABS switch. It’s plenty enough for adventure riding, even if when stood it’s a bit difficult to see and in dusty conditions, the screen seems to attract the dust. Above the display there’s a handy mounting bar for your SatNav or phone, the whole set up being protected from the elements by the thin and tall screen. It doesn’t look like it will provide much protection but it’s deceptive – we clocked 200 kmh with not much buffeting.
Looking at the rest of the Tenere, the theme of good quality, well thought out components continues. The seat is a two-piece design which is both narrow and comfortable – KTM please note! If you want to upgrade, the Rally seat is a one-piece design that will allow slightly easier movement when off-road. The designers have also included some handy luggage attachment points at the rear of the seat, there are also some good grab handles back there – again two things that are missing from the KTM 690 Enduro R! Seat height is 875 mm but there are lowering links for those short of leg or just those that prefer a lower bike.
And finally, Yamaha have abandoned their awful grey sump guard in favour of an aluminium version that gives satisfying pings as the rocks bounce off it!
There seems to be a great deal of discussion about the fuel cap which sits above the tank and is not attached or hinged, as on other similar bikes. Yamaha have been fairly practical about this observation – if you recess the cap and hinge the cap, you lose capacity – simple. The tank will hold 16 lites and has a massive 4.3 litre reserve which should prove ample notice that you need to refuel. And if you are in areas with poor quality fuel then the Tenere will cope with down to 90 octane and up to 10% ethanol. Whatever the fuel, the tank should give a range of up to 350km or around 220 miles, so just a bit below what the outgoing 660 Tenere would give you.
And if your route takes you through the wet stuff, the high mounted air intake should allow pretty damn deep water crossings without disaster – provided you don’t drop it.
So although all the advance focus was on the blue bike, Yamaha are offering three colour options on the new Tenere. You can choose Competition White – the best in our view, Power Black if you are feeling a bit gothic or the blue option which is confusingly called Ceramic Ice.
And once you’ve decided on the colour, then you also have options on different accessory packs. Choose the Rally pack and you’ll get a one-piece gripper seat, Akropovic end can, chain guide and guard, slimline registration plate holder, LED indicators and a rubber tank pad all for an additional £1,486 – much cheaper than if you bought the bits separately.
Choose the Explorer pack and you’ll get lockable aluminium side cases with mounting frames, a mono seat rack that replaces the rear seat with a flat panel for luggage, a centre stand, engine guards and a sump guard that is a third thicker than the stock version. All this will set you back a mere £1,690.
Sadly none of these prices include fitting, but if you have a good dealer, they will probably do it for free if you smile nicely! If you want to design your own bike, there’s a handy ‘Configurator’ on the site to assist.
ON THE ROAD
So as you’ve probably gathered by now the new Tenere works very well whether you are on or off the tarmac. On the road you might think that the high stance, tall suspension and dual-sport tyres would deliver somewhat nervous and skittery handling, but you could not be further from the truth.
The Tenere 700 is an exceptionally enjoyable bike on the road, whether you are hooning around the A roads, munching the miles on the autostrada or carving through the twisties in the Italian Alps. This bike will do it all and leave you grinning at the end. Far from missing all the electronics of the other adventure bikes, the Tenere 700 has a refreshing and wholly likeable simplicity. We’ve got a 1995 Yamaha TDM 850 in the garage as an everyday hack and we use it more than any other bike for the exact same reason.
The performance of the CP2 motor is faultless with bags of torque and enough grunt to propel you forward at silly speeds if you so wish, confident in the knowledge that the Brembos will haul it up at a moments notice. And with the KYB suspension smoothing out the road, the Pirelli hoops grip the road like an affectionate limpet. Good work Yamaha.
ON THE TRAIL
Now although a good proportion of Teneres and indeed adventure bikes won’t go anywhere near the dirt, the design team at Yamaha would have been dishonouring the long heritage of the Tenere if the new 700 couldn’t cut it on the dirt. A bike borne out of Dakar needs to be able to cope with some serious adventures!
Yet again we’re pleased to report only good things once you get grubby on the Ten. From the moment you stray off the black top, turn off the ABS and get up on the pegs, the Yamaha feels instantly right. Despite the unrealistic hopes of many that the bike should be close to 150 kg, the Tenere’s 205 kilos fully fuelled quickly slips from your mind as you get on with enjoying the ride. The motor hooks up quickly and propels you forward with a pleasing urgency, and the bike will change direction easily with the smallest of pressure on the bars or on the sensibly large foot pegs with their removable rubber inserts.
The balance on the bike is 48% front and 52% rear which translates to a fantastic balance when riding. You can lean forward and flick out the rear or lean back and raise the front whenever you want and when you do, the Tenere’s response will be both predictable and enjoyable.
Pick up the pace and crack on a bit and the bike’s suspension will cope with the change of pace, soaking up both the stutter bumps and the bigger hits, keeping its composure throughout. The Tenere might have taken a while to finally reach the showrooms, but when it’s this good we can forgive and forget. What a cracking motorcycle!
We like the overall look of the new Tenere. It echoes the look of the previous models and takes it forward to the next level. The white version looks the best in our view, but that motor is a bit fugly …
The lack of complication in the Tenere will be a major factor in how long the bike lasts. Free from the swathes of electronics that others currently have, this bike will still be going when there’s no petrol left!
If you are going to spend hours on a bike on big adventures then you want it to be all-day comfortable and the Tenere ticks that box with a great relationship between pegs, bars and the surprisingly comfortable seat.
If you needed any further persuading into buying a Tenere 700, the price tag of just £8699 will push you over the edge. There is no comparable adventure bike at that price – and it’s going to sell incredibly well.
RIDE EXPEDITIONS RATING - YAMAHA TENERE 700
It’s a full house from us on the new Tenere, and if we could award six out of five we would for the incredible value of a bike that does so much so well. It can be a tourer, a commuter, an adventure bike – whatever you want it to be in fact. Yes there are more powerful and more complicated bikes out there but pound for pound the Yamaha knocks it out of the park. Get yourself a test ride as soon as you can – you will buy one.
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4 comments on “Yamaha Tenere 700 Review: An exceptional bike for a bargain price”
I bought a 700 tenere November 2019..after reading all the tests.l live in yorkshire .England & couldn.t believe just how good the bike was..lt was way better then l expected..the engine was the biggest surprise.the power is so useable.l am still running in so haven.t ridden too hard yet .it was like being on a magic carpet over the potholes..brilliant all rounder….Terry..
It’s a truly great bike Terry – Yamaha will sell shedloads of them!
Glad you are enjoying it and that we might have helped you make the decision.
Hi l read all the write ups & watched all the tests.l bought one without even testing.Flitwick mc/s had one second hand with rally kit. & only 500 miles on clock..so l snapped it up.my first time out I couldn.t believe how agile it was & so comfy.still running in so can.t use full power but very surprised how good the c p 2 motor was..well done yamaha.
Well – you heard it here Terry – an exceptional bike at a bargain price!