This bike made me a better rider overnight...
The original article was put out after owning the Yamaha Tenere 700 (T7) just over a month, riding approximately 1800 miles on various terrain including tarmac, gravel/dirt roads, unmaintained drivable trails, as well as ATV/OHM-styled trails. Some of my original thoughts on the T7 still hold true but after a year of riding, particularly more trails, I felt it was time to update the original assessment.
After a year and 5500 miles in the saddle of the T7 on mostly ADV, ADV Dual Sporting, and trail riding with minimal superslab, I have found a couple weaknesses that bare explanation. After beating up the T7 over that time/distance I still believe this is the best ADV bike out there at the moment, hands down. The T7 has dutifully carried me through the 2020 PA Wilds Hardcore ADV Tour, Wayne National Forest's Monday Creek ATV/OHM Trails, scouting for and leading the 2021 Fools Ride on April Fools' Ride Rally, scouting for and leading the 2021 Allegheny Backcountry Adventure Loop Inaugural Tour, all five of the ATV/OHM trails in the Allegheny National Forest, a good portion of the Bald Eagle Dual Sport Loop, and the expert sections of the Mid-Atlantic Backcountry Discovery Route (MABDR).
This updated review also includes new photographs and an updated list of add-on accessories along with a couple links to other articles on our website as well as for the Twists & Turns Blog over at Twisted Throttle.
There has been a ton of hype and plenty of other media outlets reviewing the new Yamaha Tenere 700 over the past couple years. My goal with this review is to just share my perspective on the bike. The technical specifications are out there and easily found so I will not really dive too deep into those aspects but will concentrate on the feel of the bike, the things I like and don’t like, and compare it with what I know.
As we all know, Yamaha dragged out the release of the T7 for what seemed like a decade! For those of us with the patience, I think it was well worth the couple year wait as Yamaha fine-tuned their first Tenere 700 production model. When I first came across the T7 concept bike, I knew it was just what I was looking for… a stripped down, middle weight, rally inspired ADV bike that would excel in the dirt.
At the end of 2019 and into the beginning of 2020 I started my search for a local Yamaha dealership. I scanned for dealerships within a 90-minute radius of Youngstown, Ohio, researched their websites, poured through reviews, looked at any available pictures, and started to visit their locations in person. As soon as I walked into Motozilli of Warren with my son, I knew this was the place to do business: a long tradition of racing sponsorships, a very well-maintained establishment with a Motorcycle Museum in the basement, and a fantastic staff. We wandered around chatting up the owner and his employees, talking bikes and about the ADV-style. The owner even gave my son a couple Matchbox motorcycles and they let him kick a leg over a few of the 50’s. From the time I threw down a deposit for the T7, whenever I visited the store awaiting its arrival, when I picked up the bike, and when I take it back in for service, the crew at Motozilli has been consistently awesome.
I’ve been riding ADV for over 10 years. The first bike I bought was a street-oriented Suzuki V-Strom 650 and proceeded to kit it out as an ADV bike. I attempted to push the limits of the bike and took it pretty far off the beaten path, with plenty of scars to display our history together! I eventually grabbed a Husqvarna TE310 and continued to improve my off-road abilities.
Why do I provide that background? From my perspective, the T7 is a synergistic blend of those two bikes. On the street, the T7 performs similarly to the Strom, definitely outperforming it but there is a familiar feel: comfortable cruising, peg scraping leaning, and great acceleration. On the dirt, the T7 has the feel of a heavier Husq. The Husq TE310 can dive further into the brush but the T7 isn’t far behind! There are many similarities on how the bike is set up compared to the Strom and the Husq, making the maintenance and upkeep also feel familiar.
This bike is a monster! I did add the OEM Rally Package and a bunch of armor from Touratech, R&G Crash Protection, Black Dog Cycleworks, Barkbusters Handguards, and Camel-ADV to put this monster on steroids, but more about that later. The front wheel easily lifts off in any of the first three gears. A little goose will get that front end aloft to bounce over potholes, logs, rocks, etc. The stock suspension feels great for my size (165 lbs.) and with a little customization it gets the job done. Weight that suspension and goose the throttle and you’ll be bunny hopping off berms, rocks, and other various terrain. Fast is fun and this bike definitely has giddyap, whether you’re talking about scraping the pegs on the twisty tarmac or power sliding that rear end around a graveled forest road. The bike is very well balanced with a smaller gas tank than my Strom. I immediately felt the difference in weight distribution on the very first ride even though the Strom and T7 are similar wet weights around 450 pounds.
With slow speed maneuvers the T7 shines, stock sprockets and gearing with light feathering will allow you to roll at a snail’s pace. It helps that it is very difficult to stall the bike out too. I tested that out in a parking lot, no gas and slow clutch release easily got the bike to a smooth start. With the clutch all the way out the cockpit LED display was bouncing between 6 and 7 MPH. Up a slight incline the bike slowed to about 4 MPH but showed no signs of a struggle. Many times in technical terrain, a slow speed is required and this bike has performed like a champ.
The bike looks amazing. I grabbed the Ceramic Ice color configuration and it is just a beautiful bike. The blue rims are a definite eye catcher. The four stock LED headlights are extremely bright with two running constantly and the other two kicking on when activating the high beams. I don’t mind the big LED cockpit display but some of my buddies keep asking if I like reading books on my Kindle when I’m riding! I was easily able to throw my Garmin 64st with Ram Mounts to the bar right above the display and have it tucked in behind the windshield. The only “bell & whistle” that comes with the bike is the ability to turn off the ABS system. When you do, a giant “OFF ROAD” will display on the middle of that Kindle and I must admit that it looks cool. No other fancy electronics, which is what I was looking for in a bike that I will be beating up in the dirt.
As mentioned previously I did throw down a few bucks on armor and accessories, adding the Yamaha Rally Package and a handful of other items. If you do plan on taking any ADV bike out into the wilderness there are definite upgrades that you should add including crash bars and a skid plate at a minimum. Here is the list of items I used to create my #TankTenere700:
Yamaha Motor USA Rally Package:
Skid Plate (included in the package but eventually replaced, see below)
R&G Crash Protection:
Aero Micro LED Turn Signal Indicators
Micro LED Turn Signal Resistors
Engine Case Covers (article hyperlinked)
Tank Traction Grips
2.0 D2 TriOptic LED Light Kit with DataDim Technology (article hyperlinked)
2.0 DataDim Dual-Intensity Controller
VPS Handguard Kit (article hyperlinked)
R&G, Barkbusters, & Denali through Twisted Throttle
Explore HP Rear Shock
Adjustable Folding Mirrors
Stainless Steel Pannier Racks
Quick Release Aluminum Headlight Guard
20mm Bar Risers
Rear Brake Fluid Reservoir Guard
Rear Brake Cylinder Guard
Rear ABS Sensor Guard
Aluminum Chain Guard
Exhaust Heat Shield
Black Dog Cycleworks:
Ultimate Skid Plate
Yamaha T7 High Mount Exhaust Kit
Oxford Heaterz Premium Adventure heated handlebar grips
*A note on the OEM Rally Package center stand: I have since removed this accessory. The bike went down hard enough when hitting the Monday Creek trails that the tang dug into the ground and bent the angle of the center stand arms enough to start scratching the swing arm. The best thing about a center stand is that you can easily service your tires and chain, especially when out riding. The worst is the tang sticks out far enough to be a hazard for your leg or for my issue noted above and it also slightly lowers your ground clearance since it sits below your skid plate. It does make it easier but its definitely possible to service tires and your chain without a center stand. The pros and cons should be weighed before purchasing any add-on accessory.
It was difficult for me to find things that I hate but there are a few things that I don’t necessarily like. Some of the items above were purchased to replace some of these dislikes, such as the stock mirrors, hand guards, foot pegs, and gigantic turn signals. Just about any bike you purchase will have “street ready” versions of items that you will need to replace if you are planning on spending a decent amount of time in the dirt. I think the stock tail looks fine, but it is thin and sticks out pretty far. The tail bar of the Touratech pannier rack actually tucks underneath of the tail. Not much protection for the tail there, plus I am worried I might hang the tail up on a tree or something and snap it off (article hyperlinked). The R&G Tidy Tail slims down the rear in both weight and space and allows the Touratech rack system to cover the exhaust and the entire back end... plus it allows me to fling mud much better when roosting my buddies!
It took some work for me to find but there are a couple things that Yamaha definitely needs to look at upgrading for future models of the Tenere 700. After a year of riding the T7 on many surfaces there are two major issues that any off-road rider will want to fix or be ready to handle. The first is a major flaw from the manufacturer, especially since they have touted the Tenere 700 as “rally inspired”. The OEM exhaust system hangs low and wide with an extremely long exhaust hanger connected to the sub-frame. On my first real ride with the T7 I hit some of the Challenge Areas on our Fools Ride on April Fools Ride Rally routing and dumped the bike on a muddy hill climb (more on the OEM tires later!). Of course I went down on the right side and knocked the muffler. After a couple more knocks the aluminum swing arm was showing signs of wear in the form of gashes from the ever-so-slightly bent exhaust hanger and loosening pipe.
There are a few problems with the OEM exhaust set-up. Scraping up your swing arm is never a good thing and if you don’t pick up on the issue quickly, the OEM muffler can actually dig a hole right into the softer metal of the swing arm. If caught early enough, hitting the gouges with some spray paint should alleviate any cosmetic issues and make the scrapes all but invisible. The fact that there is such a long exhaust hanger attached to the bike’s sub-frame will actually put pressure where you don’t want it due to the extra leverage from that length. Damaging the sub-frame will be an expensive problem. If you smack that low hanging muffler and pipe enough times you will eventually damage them to the point that they will need to be replaced anyway.
The Camel-ADV T7 High Mount Exhaust Kit fixes these problems and installation is pretty straight forward. Their custom “Lobster-Back” link pipe and mounting bracket are high quality and the whole set-up is actually 4.5 pounds lighter than the OEM system. Chopping down the exhaust hanger is the trickiest part of the install but they provide a cutting template to make it easier and the installation video on their YouTube channel thoroughly walks you through the process of installation step-by-step.
Major issue number two, the side stand safety switch (kickstand engine kill switch). If you give it a close look, the kickstand mount and the small protection shield actually sit slightly lower than the skid plate. The shield is a light and thin metal that will bend if hit hard enough. Riding through rocky conditions is a recipe for disaster and will inevitably lead to a little trail-side bypass repair. Yamaha actually did do a great job with their kill switch wiring making it easily accessible and a simple slice, strip, and twist the two wires together will get you back on your way pretty quickly. This bypass closes the circuit and will allow the bike to be ridden but make sure you throw that kickstand up before taking back off! I should probably tell you to have the safety switch repaired but I cleaned up the wiring and also ensured it is waterproof, removing this safety feature which removes future trailside repair sessions for this issue.
(Top) Trailside repair session with a little help from OGB, lean on a berm/tree for easier access. (L) The wire is easily accessible, pop out and start slicing. (R) Twist the wires together to close the circuit, temporary tape job, secure it using original and a zip tie, and clean it up when you're done riding!
A quick note on the stock Pirelli Scorpion Rally STR tires. If you are an ADV rider who leans street with gravel forest roads and the occasional 2-track, these tires are more than sufficient. For an OEM tire, they are actually pretty aggressive. If you are more interested in the rally inspiration of the T7 and plan on hitting the trails, you will definitely want to upgrade the rubbers to a more aggressive pattern. The Scorpions have small knobblies with a small space in between (both lateral and vertical), think of these as the little brother to a Shinko 804/805. I’m sure the STRs may last longer than the Shinko, but they will not take you too far off the beaten path.
If you are interested in testing that T7 rally inspiration you will want to upgrade to something more aggressive such as the MOTOZ Tractionator RallZ (80/20 Dirt/Street) or the Tractionator Adventure (rear)/Dual Venture (front) combo (70/30). Out of the dozen or so brands I have tried out, MOTOZ is by far the best performing ADV tire for off-road. Both have handled everything from drivable trails to OHM trails to single track and I have been impressed with their longevity. The main difference I've found is in mud, the RallZ tread pattern is slightly better at evacuating the mucky stuff. I've never had any issues with hard leaning in twisty pavement on either. I'll take a little road noise and get the off road performance when I need it, especially since I spend minimal time on high speed, long distance pavement.
A few things that I will learn to live with… the windshield, seat height, weight limit of the mono-seat rack, and the placement of the crash bars. Actually, I do like the small profile of the windshield, particularly for off-road riding, but when at high speeds it beats me up. I am not tall at 5’9” so I would assume if you are any taller and plan on hitting a lot of pavement you will want to look at options. Pretty sure there are deflectors that you could add to help move that air away from your noggin’. I don’t plan on a ton of highway speeds, at least not sustained, so I think I will be able to live with it and either tuck myself down into the tank or remove the visor from my helmet.
Speaking of height, the T7 sits tall. Not that this is necessarily a bad thing, but I have toppled over a few times on the T7 when my dab didn’t quite find the ground. One thing I was looking forward to, compared to the Strom, was the increased ground clearance of the T7. I can sit on the Strom and just about have flat feet, but this has equaled cracked skid plate brackets several times when traversing rock gardens. The first few times I popped over high obstructions with the T7 my body automatically readied itself for the normal impact but alas, the larger 21” front tire and much higher ground clearance had me rolling smoothly. That aspect has been confidence boosting but I had to recalibrate my dabbing to account for the higher seat! Luckily, I did have a point of reference as my Husq is also tall but is much lighter and easier to recover when the tilt angle goes a little too far.
The mono-seat rack on the T7 somehow makes it look more aggressive. No passenger riding here, I even removed the passenger foot pegs. The replacement rack is a solid piece that allows for easier mounting of a tail bag or the cross straps for soft panniers. It also has a small strap underneath to store tool or tire repair kits. The problem is that the displayed weight limit is 5 kg, which is just over 3 lbs. Not much. I have a tire repair kit that includes tubed and tubeless items as well as a vice grip and hemostats strapped underneath and that pretty much takes up most of that quota. So far it has been a matter of no concern as I do generally use a tail bag with a CruzTOOLS roll, Motion Pro spoons, and spare tubes. Hopefully it continues to be a non-issue.
The OEM crash bar placement is really a super-minor issue, but I see it as a flaw in the design. The bars themselves are solid and protect the cowling very well… I have thoroughly tested them! The issue is that there is a crossbar in the upper loop, and they put it right over top of a bolt that is needed to remove the cowling. You can work around it to get it off so it is not completely in the way but if they would have moved that bar up about a half inch, it would be WAY less annoying. It would also have been nice if they extended the bars in that wrap around front style to help protect more of the bike. I will likely end up replacing them with something in that style at some point.
The Yamaha Tenere 700 is about as close as perfect as it gets, for me at least. The base price for the bike is unbelievable; a hair under $10k gets you one amazing bike. If you are an ADVer who leans towards the street with the occasional fire road and 2-track, then this is an amazing buy and a quality bike. The fact that they had the bike in development for about 2 years before production should ease your mind on purchasing a “new model”. Besides, Yamaha has a huge line of bikes and they are all based upon and built using characteristics from their proven models.
If you are like me and want to take this sucker on some “ADV Dual Sporting” rides (#ADVDualSporting), the expert sections of the Backcountry Discovery Routes, or jump into #DirtBikingaT700 then yeah, you will have to throw down a few more bucks on appropriate crash protection. If you look at other similar sized bikes built for similar purposes, the base price is much higher, but you do get a few more “bells & whistles” and maybe a couple stock crash protection items. For me, the Rally-Inspired T7 was the perfect bike with the only “bell & whistle” that I wanted (ABS that can be turned off) and at the perfect price point. This allowed me to fully customize the bike with a ton of add-ons and I still payed way less than a new stock KTM 790 Adventure, BMW F850GS Adventure, or Triumph Tiger 800 XC that would still likely need beefed up.
So in conclusion, this bike has made me a better rider overnight…
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Published October 10, 2020...new version to come!
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