The ramblings of an adv rider
This bike made me a better rider overnight...
There has been a ton of hype and plenty of other media outlets reviewing the new Yamaha Tenere 700 (T7) over the past year. My goal with this review is to just share my perspective on the bike. The technical specifications are out there and attached below 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 this year I started my search for a local Yamaha dealership. I scanned for dealerships within a 90-minute radius of Youngstown, 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 for about 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. The T7 definitely outperforms the Strom but it 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 dual sport Husq 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! 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 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.
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 with a great clutch/throttle play and balance.
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 stock LED headlights are extremely bright and give the bike a distinctive look. 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 next to that Kindle 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 likely be beating up in the dirt.
As mentioned previously I did throw down a few bucks on armor, adding the Yamaha Rally Package and a handful of Touratech items, putting this monster on steroids. 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:
Mono-Seat Rack (removes passenger seat and provides flat plate to place tail bag or similar)
Adjustable Folding Mirrors
Stainless Steel Pannier Racks (provide protection to rear of bike including wrap around tail bar)
Quick Release Aluminum Headlight Guard
20mm Bar Risers
Large Side Stand Foot
Water Pump Guard
Rear Brake Fluid Reservoir Guard
Rear Brake Cylinder Guard
Rear ABS Sensor Guard
Aluminum Chain Guard
Works Foot Pegs
R&G Racing Items:
Tidy Tail (removes large stock tail and replaces with smaller/lighter piece)
Aero Micro LED Turn Signal Indicators
Micro LED Turn Signal Resistors
It is impossible for me to find anything 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 it up on a tree and snap it off. The R&G Tidy Tail slims down the rear and allows that tail pole to cover the back end, plus it allows me to fling mud much better when roosting my buddies!
A quick note on the stock Pirelli Scorpion 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 they may last longer than the Shinko, but they will not take you too far off the beaten path (as noted in the picture of the T7 nap above!).
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 but when at highway 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 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 still need to recalibrate my dabbing to account for the higher seat! Luckily, I do 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 look of 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 that pretty much takes up most of that quota.
The 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 already 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.
That’s pretty much it for the negatives.
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 or the expert sections of the Backcountry Discovery Routes 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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