2020 Yamaha Tenere 700 Review
By Alan Dowds
- Genuine off-road potential
- Hardcore styling
- Great engine
- Tall seat as standard
- Few rider aids
Yamaha goes hardcore with its new middleweight off-roader
There are a few names which have carved out a proper niche in the bike world. Kawasaki’s Ninja, Honda’s Fireblade, BMW’s GS – they’ve all become legendary marques, standing for top performance in their respective areas.
Yamaha’s Tenere is another one of these renowned monikers.
Tenere , from the desert...
Named after the Ténéré’ region of the Sahara desert, it’s been the name on the side of a series of capable off-roaders since the mid 1980s, first on an XT600 single, then the V-twin Super Tenere and onto the current 1200 twin and outgoing 660 single. They’re Yamaha’s full-beans road-legal off-road machines, with stacks of capability, and can deal with all sorts of adventures.
And now we have the very latest Tenere on test – the parallel twin 700 version. It uses the excellent, compact 270° twin engine from the Tracer 700 and MT-07, in an all-new dirt-focussed chassis with aggressive styling and a super-tall stance.
That stance was a worry for me at first – I’m sort-of average height at 5’8”, but have slightly stumpy legs, and my 29” inside leg isn’t really designed for massive offroaders… The Tenere’s seat is fairly narrow, though, which helps a lot, and once on board, I can just get a toe down to lift the side stand, and we’re off!!
It has personality
That height is a boon through the Woking traffic outside Yamaha HQ – you get a great view over the cars, and are on level with the bus and lorry drivers as you trickle through the jams (which have arrived surprisingly quickly after the Covid-19 lockdown…)
The engine is a corker. We loved it in the MT-07, and for the capacity, it’s a lively, fun little powerplant. There are no rider power modes, wheelie control, traction settings or anything else here – just a simple direct link from your right wrist to a grunty torque-delivery system, that makes a properly sweet sound as it fires you out of a bend.
The suspension is surprising too. With the obvious off-road bent, I assumed a soft, boingy fork and slightly wallowy back end. But not at all – on stock settings, it’s quite firm and keeps everything taut through bends. It’s also fully-adjustable kit front and rear, so you’ll be able to dial in a setting more suited to what you’re looking for – on or off-road.
The tyres, too, look like they could be a dirty compromise too far on the asphalt. But the blocky tread of the Pirelli Scorpion Rally hoops gives solid grip on the warm dry roads we tested on.
In a nutshell:
So – the Tenere 700 is a strong performer on the road, and has much more capability off-road than I’d need. And my city-based riding life would no doubt be better served by the Tracer 700 with its more road-biased chassis.
But if you’re the sort of person who needs – or wants – the great dirt-riding capabilities which the name ‘Tenere' stands for, then it’s definitely worth a look.
Price: starts at £9,147
Engine: 8v parallel twin, DOHC, liquid cooled, 689cc
Bore x stroke: 80x68.6mm
Compression ratio: 11.5:1
Max power (claimed) 73bhp@9,000rpm
Max torque (claimed) 50ft lb@6,500rpm
Transmission: six speed gearbox, wet clutch, chain drive
Frame: steel tube backbone
Front suspension: 43mm fully adjustable upside-down fork
Rear suspension: aluminium box-section swingarm, fully-adjustable monoshock
Brakes: dual 282mm discs, twin-piston sliding calipers (front), 245mm disc, single-piston caliper (rear), switchable ABS.
Wheels/tyres: wire spoked/Pirelli Scorpion Rally, 90/90 21 front, 150/70 18 rear
Rake/trail: 27°/105 mm
Kerb weight: 205kg
Fuel capacity: 16 litres
Rider Aids: switchable ABS.
Same brilliant 689cc parallel twin as on the MT-07 and Tracer with minimal changes – just altered gearing and some fuelling tweaks. Nothing to moan about there – it’s a great little motor.
Basic, strong, cheap steel tubing takes a lot of punishment, and is a better bet for a hardcore off-road bike than aluminium castings.
Impressive spec for the pricing – tough USD 43mm front forks and rear monoshock, with plenty of adjustment all round. Not fancy enough? Yamaha will sell you an official Öhlins rear shock upgrade for £1,160…
You get dual, twin-piston sliding Brembo calipers up front and they work well – but these are off-road-biased brakes so a little less sharp than the usual silver-spot four-piston units used on Yamaha’s road bikes. There’s a button on the dash to turn the ABS off completely for proper dirt action.
The small screen doesn’t have any adjustment, and there’s a 12v power socket mounted in the cockpit next to the smart vertical monochrome LCD dashboard.