First Ride: 2021 Yamaha Tenere 700

2021 Yamaha Tenere 700 ( Images: Paul Shippey)

Yamaha Tenere 700

Long Pedigree

The first time that the world witnessed a Yamaha Tenere in action was 38 years ago, in 1983. Frenchman Cyril Neveu had just won the Paris Dakar in 1979 and 1980 on the Yamaha XT550. However, some competitors were getting faster and as  averge speeds increased in the Dakar, the Yamaha riders requested a more capable machine that could cruise all-day long at top speed.

The development team at Yamaha headquarters set to work. The result of their efforts was the XT600 Ténéré. The bike boasted a 600cc engine that retained the advanced Yamaha Dual Intake System (YDIS), a big 30-liter fuel tank, the first front disc brake ever on a Yamaha off-road model, a bell-crank Monocross suspension, an aluminum swingarm and more.

The first incarnation of the Tenere is deeply related to that bike and went straight to number one in France. When it was first unveiled at the Paris Motorcycle Show in the autumn of 1982, the XT600 Ténéré sparked a new movement that would spread worldwide. After its official release, the Ténéré not only became the natural choice of numerous Paris-Dakar racers but also the choice of many general motorcyclists who admired the adventure that the Paris-Dakar symbolized. 

Stefan Peterhansel 1989 Dakar on The Yamaha Tenere (Image: Yamaha)

Back then the Yamaha Tenere came in one color and one size originally and has since been converted in a full line. Today, it is possible to find one of these Paris-Dakar champions that will suit every rider need. Yamaha´s hit was to be able to transform a Super Tener 1200cc bike into smaller-engine models like the latest T 700 without compromising the bike´s spirit.

Much history there, so how is the latest Tenere 700 stack up? I personally own a competitor, in the form of the F800 GS from BMW, so was more than curious to get astride the Yamaha Tenere competitor.


Yamaha has always been known for their reliable, low-maintenance four-stroke engines and the Ténéré follows these same principles. First valve check isn’t until 24,000 miles. The Ténéré uses the new CP2 engine (Cross-Plane 2 Cylinder) which was pioneered back in 1996 with the production TRX850 and they continue to use this technology in multiple models of their line-up.

The super-compact, low-vibration CP2 engine features a bore and stroke of 80 x 68.6 mm with a 11.5:1 compression ratio that produces a smooth and at the same time torquey power output of 72 hp at 8000 r/min.

This engine is basically the same as that found in the MT-07 road bike, but it has its own specific electronic settings, exhaust system, air box, cooling system, and final gear ratio of 46/15 that allows the engine to work diligently in both on-and off-road situations.

This powerplant is great, with more than enough grunt on tap to suit almost any rider. It felt more perky than my 800 Beemer, and way more gutsy low down. I will say at highway speeds it didn’t feel as smooth as the F800. Sadly, I didn’t get to actually hit the dirt on this machine due to time constraints.

Great Aesthetics

Aesthetically, Yamaha aced  it with the 700’s styling. Its shape is lean and purposeful and its Dakar DNA is most evident through subtle styling cues such as the quad projector LED headlamps which create a Transformer-like appearance. The two-tone paint scheme was great, the blue wheel-rims, add some spice to the package too. I really like is how clean the bike looks, no large decals or badges. Just simple. One look at this machine and you will want to ride it. It just looks so capable, so fun!

No Gizmos

There are no electronic aids to mess with a nice blast in the dirt. I’m old-school and love this concept. No throttle-by-wire rider modes, traction control, or lean-angle-sensing IMUs to spoil the fun. Just two cables off the throttle controlling two throttle bodies and a simple LCD dash that has a tachometer on the outer left side to let you know when you’re approaching the rev-limiter, at 10,000 rpm.

The Tenere does however have ABS for street cruising and there’s a button to disengage it when playing riding off-road. Unlike other large ADV bikes on the market, there is no “off-road ABS” option to disable ABS at the rear wheel while leaving it active in limited form at the front wheel. Yamaha wanted to offer a completely stripped down ADV bike without the electronic “complications” – well done!

Simple LCD Dakar style display, nothing too complicated!


To recap: this machine is brand new from the wheels up and does a great job of offering function, value, and ease of use for those who want to experience off-road adventure on weekends and still commute to work during the week. It’s as at home on pavement as it is on dirt roads. Like a McGyver of motorcycles. During my short stint on the bike around Los Angeles I got to immediately feel comfortable with the bike.

My lanky frame was perfect for the relatively tall frame. I liked how simple the switchgear is, how the engine performed, the ABS assisted brakes. On the highway it felt comfy at 65mph, only once did a strong crosswind affect the ride, as it is a tall machine. Its price point at $10,000 is competitive versus its natural competitors- the KTM 790 ( $2500 more) and Triumph Tiger (same MSRP). My only regret is that I didn’t get to ride on the dirt. Next time Yamaha.

Yamaha Tenere 700 Specs

  • Class: Adventure
  • Engine: 689cc Parallel twin
  • Trans: 6 speed 
  • HP/Torque: 72hp, 50 ft/lbs
  • Suspension: 
    • Front: 43mm inverted fork, fully adjustable, 8.3in travel
    • Rear: monoshock, adjustable preload w/remote adjuster, rebound damping, 7.9in travel
  • Brakes: 
    • Front: Dual 282mm discs, selectable ABS
    • Rear: 245mm disc, selectable ABS
  • Electronics: Switchable ABS
  • Weight: 452 lbs (wet)
  • Seat Height: 34.4 in
  • Fuel Capacity: 4.2 gal
  • Competitors: KTM 790 Adventure ($2,500 more, but more power and premium features), Triumph Tiger 850 (same $)
  • Price: $9,999

Other: Narrow body, slim tank, flat seat.  12 inch front, 18 inch rear wheels. Rally style instrument panel. 9.5in ground clearance.