Can Yamaha's rugged Tenere 700 dethrone its European-built rivals?
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Yamaha’s new Tenere 700 has been a long time coming. Making its debut at the 2016 EICMA show in Milan as the T7 Concept, it has had a relatively fast development into full production as public demand has driven Yamaha to sell out shipments here and over the ditch leading up to the Tenere’s release. Based around the 54kW 689cc DOHC 270-degree CP2 parallel-twin that originated in the MT-07, the Tenere has been built from the ground up for the task.
While the engine may have come from a street bike with only minor changes to the intake and exhaust system, the chassis is all adventure. The all-new frame is unique to the Tenere 700, incorporating removable down tubes to allow better access to the engine come service time.
The suspension has 43mm upside-down forks and a monoshock in the rear. These offer adjustability, with compression and rebound adjustment in the forks and preload for the shock while rolling stock comes in the form of a dirt-ready 21in front wheel matched to an 18in rear.
Unlike other increasingly complex bikes in the segment, Yamaha has used only the bare minimum of electronics with ABS which can be disabled when the road gets rough. Even the electronic dash is simple, with a rectangular LCD unit giving all the info needed rather than the more expensive TFT favoured by the European competition.
While Yamaha could have thrown the kitchen sink at the Tenere 700 and bestowed it with rider modes, traction control and a TFT dash; that market is already overpopulated. Instead, Yamaha was conscious of keeping its bike for the people within an approachable price bracket with pricing at $16,999. That’s a mere $650 more than the Tenere 660 we tested in 2016.
The idea behind our five-day adventure on the Tenere 700 was to live with the bike in a way that Yamaha expects owners to use the bike in Australasia. With a 1550km loop of NSW planned, the elephant in the room leading up to the ride was the widespread bushfires raging across the state. With Yamaha’s partner for the event, Ride ADV, pre-running the course and giving the all-clear, we embarked on the adventure.
But first Yamaha Motor Australia gave back to the communities that had lost at least 160 homes in the weeks before the launch. Yamaha Australia’s communications manager, Sean Goldhawk, presented the Mid North Coast Rural Fire Service with an EF3000iSE inverter/generator, while the Taree Lions Club received a PW50 and full Yamaha/Kincrome tool kit to raffle off towards fire relief.
All bikes were outfitted with upgraded Pirelli Scorpion Rally tyres over the factory rubber options and radiator guards because of the terrain ride leader Greg Yager had planned for us. Yamaha also gave us a selection of accessories to try, including adjustable levers, upgraded alloy bash plates, full crash protection and luggage, and Akropovic exhausts.
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With 11 bikes to choose from, I picked a bike in as close to base trim as possible in blue Ceramic Ice scheme to start the trip.
From the outset, it felt like Yamaha has put an exceptionally good bike together for its price point. With an 880mm seat height from the factory, it is approachable for many — with options for a lowering seat and a taller Rally seat as accessories — combined with an easy reach to the bars and rock-solid ergonomics. The seat is comfortable while touring despite its dirt bike-inspired looks.
Its 204kg wet weight isn’t noticeable in most situations.
It didn’t take long to discover that the Tenere has the performance to match those Dakar Rally-inspired looks. Within the first 5km, we left sealed roads and the off-road prowess and controllability of the new Tenere became apparent.
The CP2 engine is well suited to the task with its spread of easy-to-control power and Yamaha’s choice to not strangle it with electronic aids proved refreshing. Whether we were travelling on hard-packed gravel roads or rugged single rainforest trails, the Tenere 700 proved you don’t need cutting-edge electronics and bling from Europe to make for a capable adventure motorcycle.
After five days and nearly 1600km aboard the Tenere 700, I had only two minor complaints. From the factory floor, the bike comes with an adjustable brake lever but not a clutch lever, which was taxing. And the LCD dash wiggles a little on rough surfaces, thanks to its soft mounting.
Yamaha has achieved the near-impossible, coming to market with a simpler take on the middleweight adventure class than the competition, but also a bike that achieves the design brief of confidently inspiring riders, old and new, to set out on an adventure.
YAMAHA TENERE 700
689cc DOHC Parallel-Twin
54kW @ 9000rpm / 68Nm @ 6500rpm
Uncomplicated, easily controlled, great engine, durable design, accessible pricing
Lacks tech of European competition