Yamaha XT690 test by Wayne Vickers
Images by Rob Mott
Yamaha’s popular Tenere 700 is already a bit of a sales hit, in fact it is the biggest selling motorcycle in Australia. After spending some time exlporing my local dirt tracks on it, I can see why. Yamaha have pretty much nailed it.
I was lucky enough to be supplied a Tenere 700 running Pirelli Scorpion Rally hoops – and while they make a bit of noise on the tarmac (they sound a bit like 4by mud tyres!), they have plenty of grip where it counts and as I wanted to spend most of my time aboard off the sealed stuff. Giggedy.
Trev has written up on the technical stuff in his earlier review here, so I’ll stick with my ride impressions mostly.
Straight away you notice the ergos – super comfortable seat and nice and relaxed reach to the bars. It feels familiar straight away with a ‘big dirt bike’ feel. Heaps of room to shift your weight around whether sitting or standing. You do feel the right-hand side of the parallel twin’s engine cover on your inside ankle when you stand, but it doesn’t seem to get in the way at all. And I found my left boot top catching on the rear side plastic a little – less so when I ran my pants over the top of my boots. Other than that – no issues. I spent a few hours in a row in the saddle several times and felt fresh stepping off every time, I wouldn’t see it being a problem for seriously long hauls.
That motor is a gem too – the spec sheet says 74 hp and 68 Nm and in this set-up it doesn’t feel over or underpowered. Super smooth and pulls clean right off the bottom, it even has a nice bark to it even with the standard muffler. The box is also bullet-proof. Clean, slick shifts – including clutchless downshifts when it felt right. It’s so smooth and torquey that I often found that I was running a gear higher than expected and just torquing through. Sometimes I’d be two gears higher… Bloody deceptive little lump. It happily starts in second gear and just lugs away.
I spent most of my time around my local hills and overall – it shone, even though some of the tracks were probably pushing it past its intended purpose at times. Got plenty of interest from the regular crews on their more focussed dirt bikes as I belted around on it too. Plenty of compliments. The area is mainly ridden by guys on 300 two-bangers and 450 four-strokes. There’s a mix of good double and single-track if you know where to find it.
On the more open tracks it flows along effortlessly and is a right giggle in second and third in the right conditions where you can get the back out waving at the trees. It soaks up corrugations without raising a sweat and I really liked the dash lay-out and the fact that its rubber mounted.
As a gravel road mile eater it’s a winner. I didn’t ever get to the point that I was running low on fuel like Trev did as I kept topping up, but I’m in fierce agreement that the lack of a distance to empty meter is something that more than just Yamaha need to have a look at… As someone that commutes around 1250 kilometres a week it actually does my head in.
You do feel the weight at times as you start pushing the envelope into more adventurous speeds and terrain. It tips the scales at just over 200 kegs when fully fuelled after all, so it’s not a light-weight despite it doing its best to hide that heft on the move.
To give you more insight – I estimated that it might be 165-170kgs before I read the spec’ sheet just now. On bigger, repeated, whoop sections for instance that weight does stretch the limits of the suspension. That said, I only bottomed out the front once when I misread the size of a series of whoops and hit it a little hot. Even after (just) bottoming out it didn’t get particularly unsettled. That extra weight keeps it on line.
You can actually find a pretty good rhythm and float through most whoops if you work your legs a little to keep your momentum up and pick good lines. I was following a group of 450s at one point on one day and they certainly weren’t getting away. There was a fun bit of bungy action going on in that if it got particularly whoopy, tight or technical they would eke out a little gap and then when it opened up I’d creep back up to them. We had a bit of a giggle when we got to the end of that section.
I felt the weight in the front mostly, with it being a little reluctant to lift over logs or roots or up onto ledges. I’m a bit of a wheelie guy normally – but my standard technique would just spin the rear wheel more often than not in the loose dirt and gravel. It was also noticeable if I was trying to push the cornering limits a little and hit them harder for the camera. Often the front would push as I got on the gas and then the rear would start letting go – that weight would bring it around more than expected a lot of the time. No doubt with more time on the bike fine-tuning the clickers and you’d start to find the sweet spot of entry speed and throttle input and really start to generate some serious speed. A little TC would probably make a big difference there in terms of the confidence you could have to keep the throttle open and get some serious slides going. If there was a more focussed version in the wings I’d put that on the list please Yamaha. That would take it to the next level.
Brembo stoppers felt near perfect. Great feel and plenty of power. The ABS feedback to your boot is fairly pronounced, but I must admit that having to turn the ABS off by putting it into off-road mode each time I restarted was a bit annoying. Just leave it in the mode it was in please.
Tight single track stuff is doable but I’d put it more in the ‘challenging’ basket than the ‘fun’ basket, but tight single track was never really my favourite even on my little CRF. And on one particularly deep, sandy, slightly downhill section things got a little sphincter tightening. I’m admittedly a relative novice in deep sand – the same section going uphill was fine as I was able to keep on the gas, so that’s probably my lack of talent to be honest. But there was certainly a bit of lock to lock action on the way down as the front dug in and my eyes grew to dinner plate size…
Here’s where it gets interesting though. I think I’m being overly critical of the weight because in my mind it’s more like a big dirt bike than a small adventure bike. I was riding on tracks I normally ride my CRF on, even took it on some single track that I hit on my mountain bike. It’s seriously bloody capable. Light years easier, lighter and more capable than my gen1 Tiger 800xc. It’s not even comparable. It feels much closer to a 450 dirt squirter by comparison.
There was one particular climb I did on the Tenere that I wouldn’t even have attempted on my own Tiger. It was a fairly steep uphill, with some serious rocks, drop offs, and ruts in all but about a 12-inch wide line that you could pick your way through on. At one point I had a few inches from some boulders on the right and if I went left I’d end up in rut land, half way up a hill. But the Tenere barely raised a sweat.
Towards the end of my time with the Tenere I dinked a rider who’d run out of fuel back to his vehicle and he mentioned that he wouldn’t want to ride a big bike like the Tenere up these tracks as his 450 was already heavy enough. But in reality the Tenere cruised up with a pillion without much fuss. And I hate riding with pillions! So riding it loaded up with another 90+ kilograms and it still felt predictable. If anything a bit more weight over the back helped. So riding it with some soft side bags and luggage shouldn’t be an issue. I had hit that same climb at speed a couple of days earlier on it and had a ball… It’s not overly technical or rutty, but does have some challenging sandy corners that can catch you out.
And that’s exactly the sort of riding that it shines in – flowing double track, not destroyed by 4wders, but with the odd challenge thrown in, a few whoops, a climb here and there, some nice flowing switchbacks, the occasional lip to launch over. For that sort of riding I’m not sure there’s much better for the money. As a tool to get the hell you out of Dodge it’s a ripper. It was in development for quite some time and you can tell. It’s been worth the wait.
Why I like it
- Feels much more like a big dirt-bike than a little adventure bike
- Lovely torquey mill with a nice exhaust note too
- Focus on Simplicity. It should be a bullet proof thing
- Super comfy, great ergos
I’d like it even more if
- Skid plate/protection should be standard. Otherwise that oil filter is fairly exposed…
- Can’t help but feel that it’d be next level with TC
- Can we lighten the front a smidge?
2020 Yamaha Tenere 700 Specifications
|Engine Type||Liquid-cooled, 4-stroke, DOHC, 4 valve, 2-cylinder|
|Bore x Stroke||80.0 mm x 68.6 mm|
|Compression Ratio||11.5 : 1|
|Lubrication System||Wet Sump|
|Fuel Management||Fuel Injection|
|Fuel Tank Capacity||16 L|
|Transmission||Constant mesh 6-speed|
|Frame Type||Double cradle steel tube|
|Suspension Front||Upside down telescopic fork, 210 mm travel|
|Suspension Rear||Swingarm (link suspension), 200 mm travel|
|Brakes Front||Hydraulic dual discs, 282 mm, ABS|
|Brakes Rear||Hydraulic single disc 245 mm, ABS|
|Tyres Front||90/90 R21 M/C 54V|
|Tyres Rear||150/70 R18 M/C 70V|
|Seat Height||880 mm|
|Ground Clearance||240 mm|
|Wet Weight||204 mm|
|RRP||$17,149 Ride Away|