FIRST RIDE: 2021 YAMAHA T7 TÉNÉRÉ

Words by Llewellyn Sullivan-Pavey. Images provided Yamaha

Words by Llewellyn Sullivan-Pavey. Images provided Yamaha

THE WAIT

After three longs years, where Yamaha teased and ran the longest PR campaign in modern motorcycle history, they’ve finally brought the Ténéré 700 to the public. We headed to Europe for the press intro, in the mountains of northeastern Spain.

FIRST IMPRESSION

What was your first impression of the T7 concept? When Yamaha first threw those concept pictures into the internet as a proof of concept, the world responded well. Universally it seems, we want adventure bikes that are light, don’t demand good skills and are good at everything we ask of them.

My reaction was one of hope. Hope that Yamaha would do good on the idea and bring the market a bike that wasn’t another 500+lb middleweight bike. Just like most people, I was skeptical. Would 75hp work? Would the motor be gentle enough off-road? Would I hate it on the highway? Would Yamaha murder my dreams, fill the suspension will YZ 125 springs and make something half baked?

The didn’t. This is fully baked. The Yamaha Ténéré is a fine motorcycle.

THE TECH BIT

Starting with the CP2 engine as the base, Yamaha built the Ténéré 700 out. The CP2 motor is the same one found in the acclaimed MT-07. In transition to the Ténéré, Yamaha has changed nothing. It retaines all the same internals resulting in a cross-plane crank, 270-degree firing order engine that’s putting out about 75hp. Yamaha changed the gearing, and the fueling on the Ténéré from the street models and that’s it.

The main question then, is why did the development take so long? The answer is in building the bike they wanted to build around the engine they decided to use. The chassis is new from the ground up. It’s a steel perimeter frame has an integrated subframe and a removable cradle design.

Matched to the new chassis, you’ll find KYB forks and shock. The forks are adjustable on both compression and rebound and provide 210mm of travel. At the back is a 200mm travel, preload, rebound, and adjustable compression shock. The relatively long travel and tall engine block add up, giving the Yamaha Ténéré a not insignificant 34” seat.


Most of the stats on paper are pretty middle of the road. However, the one glaring number that pokes its head above the rest is the weight. 450 lbs, wet and ready to ride. In the context of its competitors, the new Ténéré 700 is a lightweight. In the last few years, ADV bikes have not been light. The F 850 GS came out at 505 lbs, the Africa Twin a few lbs more and the BMW R 1250 GS sits at chunky 549 lbs. The only other bike to rival the Ténéré is the KTM 790 Adventure. At 448lbs, the KTM is identical when fuelled but carries more than a gallon of extra gas over the Yamaha’s 4.2-gallon tank.

THE RIDE

While stats make interesting reading, they don’t make a bike. For Yamaha the bike they wanted to build was something that had all the boxes ticked to cross-continents, be fun in all types of riding and not be overwhelming. Those are lofty goals indeed.

Fortunately, the end result is a bike very capable of doing just that. The CP2 is as a strong engine, where you’ll find a delicate balance of smoothness, low down torque and strength to run freeway speeds all day. When put into context, the Ténéré is now one of the least powerful adventure bikes being produced, and yet it feels great.

For off-road it’s not perfect, but it’s pretty damn close. What the 700cc engine is brilliant at, is giving you control. It’s a progressive power curve, with a beautiful smoothness to it and a surprising dose of fun. For riding in the dirt that makes it easy to be gentle when you need it, and for technical riding, that is a crucial trait. A couple of tiny little hiccups hold the Ténéré from being perfect; mostly the initial opening of the throttle being abrupt. Going from zero throttle has a lurch that takes some effort to work around when rolling the throttle on or trailing in lower speed situations.

The balance that the Ténéré’s engine strikes so well is its friendliness. Where it felt especially good was the flexibility. Eventually, our morning mountain dirt roads gave way to high plains. Think of the big straight roads and a vaguely unpleasant crosswind. This is travel riding in a microcosm. In the space a few kilometers our world has changed, and I’m hunkered behind the screen, leaning left and weaving gently across the road to the tune of changing winds and the force of passing trucks. You’ll find this same feeling across the world from Wyoming to China. At this moment, the Ténéré showed that it has good credibility. At 80mph the 700 sits happily. It’s not working hard and is clearly geared for the job. The vibrations are low, and the Ténéré feels like it’s good for this type of riding day in day out. Oddly, the most pleasant trait the Yamaha has is the fantastic lack of vibration in the handlebars. They’re well damped, and it makes the next 20 minutes of fast, dull riding, surprisingly relaxed.

Eventually, the straight, monotonous roads end and we turn out onto a tight, twisty back road. The mountains are in front of us again. The Yamaha rolls through the mountain corners with effortless intuitiveness that can only be enjoyed. It turns into the quick, flic-flac corners faultlessly, balancing easy handling and stability. At no point does the Ténéré feel like an effort to ride on the road. There is no fight to it, no demand to ride a certain way, and with that comes delightful ease. A gentle input lays the bike over, and there it stays. It doesn’t require heavy counter steering or an attacking riding style, even if you want it to go fast.

As the road turns down the mountain, the braking becomes heavier to make the tight corners comfortable. With the long-travel suspension, you can always expect some more dive and wallow than a street bike, and the Ténéré has a little. There is a level of comfort about the whole setup, but it feels like Yamaha has that balance between comfort performance and about right. It’s stiffer than most adventure bikes feel meaning for 85% of people the setup will perfect. The 700 is comfy in town, pleasant, easy and fast on twisty, bumpy back roads and still offers enough control to ride with enthusiasm when the tarmac gets quicker.

When it comes to off-road, it’s in the same boat. Undoubtedly, it’ll be compared to KTM’s 790 adventure models, and it’s a different beast. It feels like a setup choice designed to work as well as possible everywhere, rather than be focussed on a single goal and they’re pretty close to the mark. Those that are keen off-road riders will want more stiffness, and it might take a re-valve to get it where you want. The clickers helped, and in our short test, I started to make some progress, but it needs more ride time to get fully dialed in. The preload adjuster is noticeably easy to use on the 700, and the bike proved sensitive to change.

Yamaha set their sights high and have done a good job. The Ténéré 700 is not perfect, but it’s definitely a very good bike. There are some niggles, some subjective elements such as the lofty seat height, the gentle front brake and the lack of electronics but every time I think of that, I circle back to the point that is if it comes in at an expected lower price than comparable models in the ADV range it works for me beautifully, because this is a simple bike, that’s the price. There is no alternate version or smart electronics, just a bike, and price. We’ll have to wait and see on this one.

I’d happily commute on it, ride it on the weekend, ride a few thousand miles on it and ride off-road on it, knowing that it’s going to be unspectacular but easy and fun. In that respect, Yamaha has produced a winner that’s very different to the competition. No pricing or date of arrival has been given by YAMAMA U.S. so we’ll keep you posted.

PS. It looks really good in white.


2021-Yamaha-Tenere-700c.jpg

2020 Yamaha Ténéré 700 Specs

ENGINE

  • Type: Crossplane crankshaft parallel twin

  • Displacement: 689cc

  • Bore x stroke: 80.0 x 68.6mm

  • Maximum power: 72 horsepower @ 9000 rpm

  • Maximum torque: 50 ft/lbs @ 6500 rpm

  • Compression ratio: 11.5:1

  • Valvetrain: DOHC, 4vpc

  • Transmission: 6-speed

  • Final drive: Chain

CHASSIS

  • Frame: Double-cradle steel-tube

  • Front suspension; travel: Fully adjustable KYB 43mm inverted fork; 8.3 inches

  • Rear suspension; travel; Link-assisted fully adjustable KYB shock; 7.8 inches

  • Wheels: Wire-spoke

  • Tires: Pirelli Scorpion Rally STR

  • Front tire: 90/90 x 21

  • Rear tire: 150/70 x 18

  • Front brakes: 282mm discs w/ Brembo calipers

  • Rear brake: 245mm disc w/ Brembo caliper

  • ABS: Standard (defeatable)

DIMENSIONS and CAPACITIES

  • Wheelbase: 62.6 inches

  • Rake: 27 degrees

  • Trail: 4.1 inches

  • Seat height: 34.6 inches

  • Ground clearance: 9.5 inches

  • Fuel capacity: 4.2 gallons

2020 Yamaha Ténéré 700 Colors:

  • Ceramic Ice

2020 Yamaha Ténéré 700 Price: 

  • MSRP N/A

Chris Glaspell

The success of any online publication depends on the quality of execution, and
in this respect UpShift Online’s success is virtually assured.  It was founded by veteran motorcycle industry professionals: English-born photographer Simon Cudby, the premier photographer in the world of motocross, and Chris Glaspell, creative director with firms serving clients that include Suzuki, Yamaha, Kawasaki, Cycle World and Yoshimura. This, plus Upshift’s veteran editorial staff and unrivaled journalism, will gives readers unparalleled views of adventure motorcycling.