Yamaha Tenere 700 Review

I’ve ridden 2500kms on Yamaha’s new Tenere 700 (XTZ690) and now I’ve come to know it well it’s time to make some notes. Due to State Forest and National Park closures (fires) the first 1000kms while running it in were on the road. Since then a large part of my experience on it has been off road.

The Tenere 700 is home!

From the moment I left the dealership the Tenere 700 has proved a delight to ride. It’s a simple bike that while lacking in bells, whistles and electronic wizardry brings back the pleasure of throwing a leg over two wheels and a motor and riding the thing whatever way you like wherever you want to go.

I had no previous experience of what 204kg wet weight motorcycle might feel like but my impression is the Tenere 700 feels lighter than it should. Tipping into corners and giving it a fistful of throttle is just plain fun. The steering is light and direct and cranked over around a bend you wouldn’t know there was a 21″ wheel out front. A quick switch back at speed, no problems, it feels planted. A recent blast down the Putty Road put my mind at completely ease, it coped beautifully with anything I wanted to throw at it. It’s sure footed and there’s absolutely no hint of “top heaviness” in the tall bike. Powering out of the corner you feel the rear of the bike dig in and drive on – awesome!

It took me to lunch in the Vineyards

72 horsepower and 50 ft-lb or torque at 6500rpm doesn’t sound like much when you compare it to other twin cylinder Adventure Bikes but the gearing and the way the motor delivers what it has is a big part of the fun for me. To maintain a cracking pace and overtake up hills you’ll need to change gears more, dare I say you have to (or will want to) “ride it”. The motor likes, almost begs, to be revved. No problems either if you just want to lope along and be lazy, the bike will pull in any gear from low revs without any complaints, just don’t expect the feel of a v-twin torque monster. It will also run happily all day at freeway speeds or Northern Territory speed limits without any problems. As a regular Iron Butt rider I wouldn’t think twice about knocking out a 1600km day on this bike. I haven’t had any issues with vibration through the bars at any speed I’ve ridden including cruising along the M1. Speaking of cruise, McCruise has an after-market cruise control for the MT-07 so I reckon if you want to do some really long distance stuff it won’t be too long before there’s an option for the Tenere 700.

Wo Man on the Putty Road

There’s going to be a few fuel stops required to knock out a 1600km day though. Fuel economy is decent however there’s only 16 litres on board. So for full on adventure touring or a Simpson Crossing there’ll be lots of rotopax or fuel bladder sales to supplement this. I’ve hit reserve every time somewhere between 295 and 308kms riding on road or mixed road/off-road bearing in mind I am closer to sedate on average. I haven’t run it to empty yet but I have done 350kms once. It’s really subjective whether that’s enough for you, it’ll depend on what you are planning to do. But plan for fuel you will or things might get interesting. Squeezing the last litre into the tank is a pain, you’ll have to be patient if you want to maximise range (the Super Tenere is the same). I’ll only mention the unimpressive sticking up filler cap that you have to remove to fill the bike once – design disaster!

The OEM Pirelli Scorpion Rally front (90/90-21 54V) and rear (150/170-18 70V) stick great on dry tar and were pretty handy in the wet when I got caught in rain I wasn’t prepared for a couple of weeks back needed to get home to change. They are very capable on fire trails and gravel roads but I prefer something more off-road oriented for mud and sand patches. I had a couple of pucker moments in mud last outing I wouldn’t have expected on my Africa Twin or DRZ-400 running my usual rubber.

It’s dirt time

I consider myself an average off-road rider. Never-ending wheel stands, power sliding for the hell of it and impressive roosting isn’t in my day to day repertoire and I am passed more than I pass on group rides. If that’s not you it’s easy to find videos of people riding Tenere 700’s like demons in the dirt. For me, off-road the Tenere 700 is just bags of joy. The single button push while stopped to select Off-Road mode which disables the ABS is a must, push it again after you start if you switch off.

All the larger Adventure Bikes I have owned have had traction control that I might leave on at least intervention for general off-roading. So the Tenere 700 having no traction control had me a little timid when first taking it into the bush. I’m well over that now. This bike is easy to ride in the dirt, the delivery of the power is smooth and predictable. Get the gears a little wrong, no problems. It’ll flash up gnarly climbs or tractor up them with ease, your choice. I’m now happy to give it a bit too much here and there for the fun of it and I’ve rediscovered my manual traction control still works. It’s a hoot and it’s not scary but some care is required because when you check the speedo you’ll be going faster than you think you are!

The Tenere 700 hides it’s 204kg very, very well off-road as you move along but occasionally you are reminded of the bike’s weight. For example a big rock versus rim situation, the rim came off second.

Hit something hard and you’ll be reminded it’s 204kgs

Other reviewers have mentioned that with the directness of the steering it’s easy to point and go, that’s true. I feel that directness also translates into the front being more easily deflected on the trail. Maybe it’s a skill deficit but I’m quickly getting used to it. If I can draw an analogy leaving the power equation completely out of it – the Tenere 700 feels more like a DRZ-400 when you are chucking it around the dirt than it does an Africa Twin despite being closer in size to the Africa Twin. That’s a good, non threatening thing. DRZ-400/650 and KLR 650 riders are going to love this bike (I’ve had both) and people who are sick and tired of lugging behemoths around their garage and the trails are going to love it too. I laughed the first time I put it on the centre stand, it started to slide backwards because I pushed too hard!

The front suspension is pretty damn good for an out of the box build, the rear is too soft for my 95kg and I’ve run out of travel a few times when going harder in the rough stuff. I’ll be touring with soft luggage on the bike so a rear spring and some minor tweaks are on the way. But overall it’s better than many new bikes I’ve brought home and frankly better than I expected. Plenty of non hard-core riders will be very happy with the stock suspension I reckon.

Views abound in the Watagans

The riding ergonomics have been a real surprise for me for what is supposed to be a mid-sized adventure bike. I’m 194cm, 95kg and wear size 16 Tech 7’s. Right now I am riding this bike around on road and off without any changes at all. Standing is comfortable for me, the tank and seat are narrow and it’s easy to grip with your knees/legs and you aren’t sitting with your knees so wide you couldn’t wear a skirt. I will be rolling the bars forward a few degrees when I think of it. I’m not considering bar risers at this stage or lower pegs and I have one or both on all my other adventure bikes. The pegs are a bit too small, they could do with another 1cm length. I need to be careful about how changing them will alter my access to big footed gear changes. On that point it’s almost freaky that I don’t have any problems changing gears in sitting or standing with my size 16’s Tech 7’s. I’ve never really had that experience before and I’m delighted.

I’m not overly impressed with the comfort of the stock seat yet and hope it “settles in” more. However the seated position is pretty good for me although the hip angle is slightly less than 90 degrees for my 35″ inseam. I’m tossing up whether to try out the optional Rally Seat for some more seated height but for now I’d be happy to chuck an airhawk on it and ride sitting all day. On a mixed day on off road and on road it wouldn’t matter at all.

The screen and wind protection is good for me. Interestingly I get no buffeting when I wear my Next XD1 with a peak but I do get some around the edges with my (wider) Shoei NXR road helmet. I’ve never been one to hide behind screens so I won’t be making any changes to this one.

The screen works well, but no adjustments.

The information provided on the dash screen is easy enough to see in any conditions but it’s a little sparse. A minor gripe, I’d like more info to be available on screen rather than having to repeatedly push buttons to see what info you are after. The text is all a reasonable size except the indication of what you are looking at (e.g. ODO, Trip 1, Trip 2), it’s too small for an old bloke to read. The dash module also bounces about a bit over bumps. Maybe it’s vibration protection for the unit but it’s slightly irritating.

The dash, three buttons

There’s four tie/down / mounting points just under the pillion seat for luggage. Good solutions are thin on the ground in OZ at the moment if they will ever come. I prefer pannier hard racks with soft luggage and a rack replacing or above the pillion seat to move load forward. There’s two problems with my preferred setup on the Tenere 700.

First to remove and clean the air filter you need to take the pillion seat off. That makes a rack in the pillion seat space awkward for access to the air filter during a trip without having to remove it. Second the exhaust sits quite wide on the overall narrow bike so a hard pannier rack sticks out quite far on the right side of the bike to clear it and not play havoc with soft bags. That’s a “does my ass look big” with these panniers solution unless the right pannier is smaller than the left.

Yeah Yeah, it needs a bath!

Other riders seem to be happy enough with rear racks that start behind the pillion seat and also using soft rackless luggage whose lower sides don’t encroach on the exhaust. Giant Loop and Enduristan both have these available. In a way it’s the type of stuff I am more used to seeing on single pot lightweight adventure bikes, not twins. For now I’m going to get the SW-Motech rear Adventure rack and Adventure Rack extension for soft luggage. That’ll at least allow me to pop on a decent sized roll bag over the rack/pillion seat for a couple of days away while I ponder what I’ll need for bigger adventures. There are hard luggage options available if that’s your preference.

Accessories

I had my Tenere 700 delivered with

  • OEM rugged bash plate
  • OEM Crash Bars
  • OEM Heated Grips
  • OEM Centre Stand
  • Barkbusters (Storm)

Given I’ve fallen off all my other Adventure bikes at one time or another I’m also considering

  • OEM chain guide
  • Radiator protection
  • Water pump, clutch and alternator cover protection
  • More riding courses 🙂

There’ll be plenty of after market accessories arriving in the not too distant future for this bike.

Conclusion

OK, there’s a few gripes but none of them actually have anything to do with riding the Tenere 700 and taking it anywhere you might want to go. It’s crazy fun to ride on road and off road and you are guaranteed of a smile every time you get on it. It’s well built, the motor is a known entity and Yamaha and reliability are oft mentioned in the same sentence. The price is sharp and the value for money is high. This bike is a winner!

It’ll never happen for me but I’m wondering if this is finally the answer to the “if I could only have one bike” question assuming of course that more challenging off-road is part of your lifestyle and touring with the kitchen sink isn’t.

I can’t wait to see Yamaha’s looming Tenere 700 SP Adventure in 2021 with electronic cruise, a 19 litre tank, 30mm more suspension, tubeless tyres and a colour screen. There’s a rumour we don’t really need!

If you a teetering on the edge of pulling the trigger on a Tenere 700 just do it. You won’t regret it one bit.

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