It seems that the manufacturers of adventure bikes have two main goals: 1) build a machine that satisfies the the fundamentally conflicting purposes of riding off-road and on asphalt; and 2) come up with a name for said machine that has as many accent marks as possible.
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Yamaha’s new adventure motorcycle, to be released in the second half of 2019, may or may not fully satisfy the first goal, but any competitor will be hard pressed to have more accents over its name than the Ténéré. BTW, Yamaha says Ténéré is a Tuareg word meaning ‘desert’ or ‘wilderness.’ And for those of us insufficiently worldly wise, Tuareg is the name of a Bedouin people in Africa. And if you don’t know Bedouin either, you’ll just have to look it up.
Yamaha claims to trace the roots of the 700 back to its launch of the XT500 enduro-adventure bike in 1976. That bike was a big hit for Yamaha, which says the machine’s strong torque, compact chassis and versatile single cylinder 4-stroke engine became the brand’s best-selling model in much of Europe during the late 1970s – with more than 60,000 sold just in France alone during its 14-year production run. That was also the bike that won the first Paris-Dakar Rally, ridden by Cyril Neveu in 1979. Yamaha claims the XT500 “is considered to be one of the most significant and iconic motorcycles of the late 20th century.” Bold.
With the success of the 500, as surely as night follows day, there would have to be a 600, which Yamas premiered in 1983. Not satisfied to simply up the model number 20 percent, the company also added a “Z” to the name, making it the XT600Z. Even that was not enough marketing glitz, though, so this was the first version to also carry the Ténéré name.
Today’s Yamaha ADV range features the XT1200Z/E Super Ténéré models introduced in 2010, and the… deep breath…
Kind of makes you want to duck and cover, doesn’t it? However, this does look to be a worthy challenger to the adventure bike segment. Yamaha unveiled a prototype in 2017 and says the bike has undergone an intensive development phase, subjected to “the most extreme testing in hostile terrain and severe climatic conditions… pushed to its limits across the globe, from Australia’s unforgiving outback through to the brutal South American deserts.”
Yamaha says the end result is a lightweight, no-compromise adventure model with one of the highest specifications in its class, equipped with a 698cc parallel-twin engine and a completely new chassis.
The Ténéré 700 comes with a 16-liter (4.2 US gallons) fuel tank for a range in excess of 350 km (217 miles). Yamaha is particularly proud of that fuel tank, claiming that it’s narrow enough to enable you to grip the tank with your knees whether sitting or standing, “giving added confidence and control in every situation.” They also say that “because of the bike’s slim and compact body, you are able to tuck in tightly to the chassis and keep out of the main airflow.” Yeah, maybe. I think my personal chassis would probably not “tuck in tightly” enough to allow much airflow reduction.
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Seat height is a lofty 880 mm (34.6 inches), of which some 240 mm (9.4 inches) is ground clearance. Just in these stats it becomes clear that Yamaha is aiming for a no-compromiss machine.
The powerplant used is effectively the same as the one found in the delightful MT-07, but Yamaha says it’s made quite a few tweaks, promising “instant throttle response together with outstanding acceleration.”
Yamaha expends a lot of words singing the praises of its suspension. Condensed, the key points are this: 43mm upside down forks; 210 mm of travel up front; 200 mm of travel in the back; 21-inch tire up front; 18-inch tire in the back; lightweight, extreme, progressive, ultimate, performance, buzzword, buzzword, buzzword.
The braking system consists of dual front discs and a single rear disc. ABS is standard but can be switched off for wheel-locking shenanigans. LED lighting also comes standard, with the headlight offering a unique-look combination of four tiny lights. The LCD dash is trend-avoidingly spartan, which is strangely comforting in a world of TFT screens full of cartoon images. There’s a small bar across the top of the dash that serves as a place to mount a GPS/phone/GoPro. More bikes should have this feature.
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You can have Yamaha’s new Ténéré 700 in any color you want, as long as it’s black or white. Seriously, you can pick Competition White or Power Black. OK, they also offer something called Ceramic Ice. I think that’s blue.