2021 Yamaha Ténéré 700 First Impression/Video Ride

If Adventure Were Simple…

Yamaha Adventure bikes have been named after a desert region in Africa, the Ténéré Desert, for a long time. And riders in the US have felt as if crossing that desert waiting for the T7 to arrive Stateside since the concept bike first appeared. The mid-sized, dirt focused was sold in every other market but the US. Which is nothing new for Yamaha mounted ADV riders. But the wait is over.

Dirt Bike Test got the chance to take a one-day impression on the newest Ténéré on a very dirt focused and sporty ADV ride. Unloaded and full of gas we hit the roads and trails in the mountains East of Los Angeles for this impression. You can watch the video here or read more below to learn about the US version of the machine.

There are three things that stand out about the T7. First is the weight and handling. It is a typical weight range for a mid-sized ADV bike, Yamaha claims 452 pounds ready to ride. Nothing surprising here, but they nailed the ergonomics and struck a good balance between seat height and suspension travel with ground clearance, a touchy subject for most who want to put a foot down on the ground. (Jimmy Lewis rode the bike with the optional tall seat most of the day, he is 5’10” on a good day.) And in this balance of finding a rider cockpit that works, they nailed the right feel in the chassis that does not give the bike any misguided lightweight feel. It has stability all the time, a planted yet not heavy front end feel and great control and leverage through the footpegs. Even if the footpegs are the first thing this rider would replace with something larger and with grip. The stock seat isn’t bad for on-road but the taller one was excellent with its added cushion. Off-Road we were always standing so it makes no difference.

The suspension has nothing in it that is special. The technology is sound, the components, dialed. It is just set up properly and works like it should for an ADV bike. In the standard setting it rides like an aggressively set up street bike with a lot of travel. Once off-road this yields a stiffer feeling ride (you feel the bump before it starts to get absorbed) mostly because the initial is soft enough to have the bike settling in the mid-stroke. Yamaha’s off-road setting suggests clicker positions more in the 7-clicks out from full stiff on all adjustments. (11-17 is the standard setting depending on the clicker.) We tired that setting and found the rebound to be a little slow even if it helped the compression damping additionally. So we kept the stiffer compression setting and opened up the fork and shock’s rebound to more near 10-clicks and found a much more supple feeling and still excellent bottoming resistance. We also nearly maxed out the rear shock’s adjustable preload adjustment for the same reason, getting the most of the suspension stroke–and it worked without altering the handling feel. The adjusters make a difference, unlike on some ADV bikes where they are useless. The T7 will bottom, but if it does, you hit something in a way you shouldn’t on an ADV bike. This setting had no disadvantages on-road either. Of note is the Pirelli Scorpion Rally tires were set at 29F/27R PSI for the off-road and we’d really like to try some more aggressive tires in the future. 

What really makes this bike and ties it all together is the engine. The Crossplane Parallel Twin’s firing order and the way Yamaha has mapped out the ECU make for a sporty and extremely manageable powerplant that delivers on every condition. It starts out acting more like a V-Twin giving distinct power pulses and a sensation of flywheel mass and torque. It chugs. As RPM builds it starts to smooth out in a way that gets exciting without giving up on traction. As it revs, and it revs to near an indicated 11,000 RPM, it just gets faster, stronger, and progressively more impressive, almost as if it were a four-cylinder. In this there are no adjustable “engine modes” which is a common theme with ADV Bikes. There is no electronically controlled Traction Control and the butterfly valves on the throttle body are activated by cables and not wires. Your wrist is very connected to the rear wheel and everything the engine does is expected and consistent. This power delivery acts like traction control from 2000-4000 RPM when off-road and will spin the tire easily above that RPM if asked. On-road you keeps the revs above 5000 and the bike pulls impressively for its 700cc displacement. This engine never upsets the chassis and never interferes with the rider getting the most out of the bike. It just responds and delivers.

The six-speed transmission seemed spot-on on our one-day impression, especially first gear being low enough for technical off-road. The cable activated clutch seemed up to abuse and has excellent feel and a light enough pull to be easily manageable. Brakes are strong and the simplicity of the ABS activation is a single push-button. Though the activation and feel of the ABS, when used, will not impress anyone familiar with more complex systems on most current bikes.  It is a bit on the grabby side when first applied and then a little slower in the computer’s control of the wheels, but it gets the job done, at least on-road. Yamaha seems to expect it to be turned off for off-road use and we agree. As mentioned, the footpegs are slippery, even with the rubber pads removed and a bit on the small side too.

The wind-protection was good for the size of the windscreen. The small display does not get in the way of the view and has all the info you need and nothing you don’t It is easy to use, even when riding through a handlebar-mounted switch. The protection is basic and with the exhaust and a water-pump lingering low on the engine, we can see a lot of riders looking for added protection. Ditto for the radiator so for many crash bars will be on the agenda. On our ride, even being aggressive with the throttle we averaged 41 MPG and that would give us a 170-mile range but Yamaha claims over 200-miles for average riding and we can see that.

As of now the first wave of this bike has come and gone through dealers and for good reason. The bike is good. At $9999.00 (plus a $425 destination charge so $10,424 really) the price is a strong point in the T7’s arsenal. Yamaha has a list of accessories ready and waiting even with pre-packaged kits for off-road and touring if they fit your needs. Hopefully, we’ll be logging some more miles on this machine soon to get a really deep dive into the performance and compare it to a few of the other bikes out there. But there is no doubt that Yamaha will sell a bunch of these.

For more info and specs see: https://www.yamahamotorsports.com/adventure-touring/models/tenere-700