2020 Yamaha Ténéré 700 Review: We Test the Euro-Spec Adventure Motorcycle
Three years after we first salivated over spy photos of the blacked-out T7 prototype, we ride the all-new 2020 Yamaha Ténéré 700—the first Japanese manufacturer to join the middleweight adventure bike fray. For the last few years, the options for purchasing a modern mid-sized adventure motorcycle were somewhat limited to the Triumph Tiger 800 XCa and the BMW F 850 GS, augmented only recently by the KTM 790 Adventure and Adventure R.
The battle for supremacy in the mid-size adventure motorcycle segment is heating up, and for a good reason. The sporty middleweight bikes are proving themselves to be the go-to choice for riders who want to tackle challenging off-road conditions and still have the ability to burn up the tarmac.
However, there is a caveat—we tested the European-spec Ténéré 700. The North American moto-adventurist will need to wait patiently for another year, as the US version is scheduled to debut in the latter half of next year as a ’21 model.
After more than 300 miles of dusty gravel roads, two-track forest trails, and windy mountain passes in Spain’s Catalan countryside, we’ve created the 31 Fast Facts that you need to know about the all-new, Euro-spec version of the 2020 Yamaha Ténéré 700.
1. The 2020 Yamaha 700 Ténéré is not a downsized Super Ténéré, but an entirely new mid-sized adventure platform designed for off-road capability. Yamaha wiped the slate clean and leaned heavily on its rally racing experience to develop a svelte 39-pound high-tensile-steel frame that balances rigidity and flex.
2. Yamaha in Europe doesn’t characterize the Ténéré 700 as an adventure bike. Instead, it uses the term “Rally-bred Dual Sport” to define the Ténéré 700 and hypes the focus towards purity, toughness, and the bare essentials. However, the US arm of Yamaha puts the 2021 Ténéré 700 in the Adventure Touring category on its website.
3. Yamaha utilized its design team in Italy to craft the Ténéré 700, incorporating feedback from rally raid racers. The European-spec motorcycle is built in France, while the North American model will be manufactured in Japan. This Euro-centric design approach and split manufacturing may explain the year-long lag between the European version’s debut and the North American edition.
4. Rally-inspired design aesthetic and styling leaves no doubt to the intended purpose. With four piercing LED headlights, an up-front minimalist fly screen, and a low-slung raspy exhaust system, the Ténéré 700 is a striking departure from the adventure styling of its rivals.
5. Back to the future—Yamaha takes a “no gimmicks” approach to electronic rider aids. The 2020 Yamaha Ténéré 700 sets itself apart from its rivals in the space by eschewing ride modes, traction control, and even cruise control, in favor of simplicity and go-anywhere maintainability. However, it does have ABS.
6. The vertically mounted LCD instrument cluster allows the rider to scan information at a glance without looking down. The dash is not TFT, though meters all of the essentials, including trip information and current and average fuel consumption. Just as cool is the accessory bar above the LCD panel designed to mount a smartphone, GPS, or a rally roadbook. A standard 12v socket is conveniently located to power it all—you will need an adapter if your component uses USB.
7. The 689cc Crossplane twin (CP2) is an absolute treat. On paper, 72 horsepower at 9000 rpm and 50 ft/lbs of torque at 6500 rpm are not necessarily mind-blowing. However, in the saddle, the CP2 engine is a bona fide smile-maker. With plenty of wheel-lofting power in first through third gears, plus a robust linear pull with outstanding over-rev, the CP2 engine is a standout feature of the 2020 Yamaha Ténéré 700.
8. The CP2 engine of the Yamaha MT-07 and the Ténéré 700 are identical. The Yamaha Ténéré engineers created different fuel injection mappings, aspiration, exhaust, cooling systems, and final drive ratio to optimize torque and throttle response for off-road use. Mechanically, the engine and transmission are interchangeable.
9. Yamaha claims the CP2 engine to be the most reliable motorcycle engine on the market. These are big words, and Yamaha doesn’t just point to its own statistics. Instead, Yamaha claims third-party published data in Germany puts the CP2 powerplant of the Yamaha MT-07 at the top of the reliability list.
10. The Ténéré 700 integrates rubber anti-vibration inserts into the footpegs, but you won’t need them. The CP2 engine is free-revving and virtually vibration free, lessening road and trail fatigue and increasing rider comfort. Of course, you can always reinsert the rubber dampers if you like a squishier ride. No tools are necessary for removal or installation.
11. Initial off-idle roll-on of the throttle can be a bit grabby. A combination of fueling and drivetrain lash makes the initial crack of the throttle a little jerky. It is especially noticeable on the tarmac when tooling around town—rolling off and then reapplying the throttle results in a small but abrupt jerk. It’s not a big issue, but I found myself using a light finger on the clutch to smooth things out.
12. The syncopated thump of the 270-degree cross-plane crankshaft is complete auditory bliss. Not only does the 270-/450-degree firing order reduce inertial torque for a smooth and tractable power delivery, but the low rpm growl is formidable. It grows to a howling scream as the revs near the limit — a fitting soundtrack to any adventure or personal rally raid.
13. The 2020 Yamaha Ténéré 700’s six-speed gearbox shifts nicely and has no noticeable gaps. This is critical for a motorcycle designed to chug over nasty terrain in first gear and then later expected to pass traffic on the open highway. Credit certainly goes to the pulling power of the CP2 engine, as it persists regardless of what gear it’s in. I could easily use second gear for a low-speed dirt switchback, and sixth gear was the perfect high-speed overdrive.
14. Surprisingly, it uses the MT-07’s street-going internal ratios—only the final drive ratio was changed. The MT-07 uses a 16/43 sprocket combo, and the Ténéré 700 lowers that using a 15/46 set—about nine percent lower.
15. Handling is quick, and it is easy to flick the 2020 Yamaha Ténéré 700 side-to-side on twisty tarmac, yet it remains stable at speed. 21-inch front wheels are celebrated for their off-road capabilities, but are notorious for having a slow turn-in feel while railing the tarmac. That is not the case with the Ténéré 700. The short length of the CP2 engine, thanks to a vertically stacked gearbox, reduces the overall wheelbase and centralizes mass, allowing for quick and precise handling. As a result, the motorcycle responds to peg-pressure inputs from the rider’s feet, with performance increasing as the fuel load decreases.
16. Fully adjustable KYB suspension is featured on the 2020 Yamaha Ténéré 700. The 43mm open-cartridge fork accommodates over eight inches of travel. The fork includes bleeder valves on the endcaps to relieve pressure built up from use and changes in altitude. The shock is also fully adjustable, providing nearly eight inches of travel, and has a handy knob for quick spring-preload adjustments. A flat-blade screwdriver is all that is needed to adjust compression and rebound damping.
17. The suspension feel is best characterized as Adventure firm and Rally soft. The suspension soaks up trail chop and road undulations comfortably, and the overall action is consistent and balanced front-to-rear. It is ideal for your typical adventure ride and spirited off-road riding.
18. A balanced feel makes jumping embedded rocks and water bars on the Ténéré 700 a fun experience. The engineers designed a 48-/52-percent front/rear weight bias measured with a full fuel tank, to facilitate lofting the front end over off-road obstacles. Bear in mind though that with the stock springs and suspension settings, any air over a foot or two will result in using up all of the available suspension stroke. That conveniently allows the rider to self-regulate off-road speed and not get too throttle happy.
19. The cable-actuated clutch has a light pull. I always covered the clutch to smooth the off-idle hit and control any rear wheel slide when railing the engine on twisty tarmac. I was impressed with the feedback and feel of the clutch, and I never noticed any fading.
20. The stock Pirelli Scorpion Rally STR rubber has a large block design that is a good compromise between road and dirt, though it lacks the off-road performance of a full knobby tire. Good on Yamaha for allowing Ultimate Motorcycling to test off-road with the stock rubber and tubes. However, nothing works better in the dirt and gravel than a full knobby tire. The extra bite of a knobby is appreciated in low-grip situations, especially in the absence of electronic off-road ABS or traction control systems.
21. Lightweight Brembo brake calipers matched to 282mm wave rotors provide adequate street braking performance up front. Yamaha designed the front brake system to have a soft engagement. On the dirt, the slow initial bite is very forgiving, so I never really feel like I am going to tuck the front in corners while on the brakes. I prefer strong brakes with a nice initial grasp, so I am a bit disappointed at the amount of front brake lever pull I need for fast-paced tarmac riding.
22. The nearly-binary action of the 245mm rear brake and Brembo caliper worked well for steering with the back end, but not necessarily for slowing the bike down. Applying the rear brake while setting up for a turn in low-grip dirt conditions instantly initiates a slide from the blocky Pirelli Scorpion Rally STR rear tire, without necessarily slowing down the bike. This aids in getting the back end around the turn, but it also requires modulating the throttle and front brake to complete the slide and power through the apex. With a full knobby tire mounted up, this would likely be less of an issue. ABS helps mask the problem on pavement.
23. The Ténéré 700 has switchable ABS, a first for a production Yamaha. The rider can switch ABS off or on, but only while stopped with the engine running. Turning off the engine with the key or kill switch reengages the ABS the next time the motor is started. An easy workaround to avoid all of the button pressing on the trail is to purposefully stall the bike when you want to stop for a bit, keeping the ABS defeated.
24. With a 4.2-gallon fuel tank, range is somewhere around 200 miles. I rode like a maniac, and the onboard instrument cluster measured my average consumption to be about 44 mpg. Although Yamaha claims a fuel efficiency of 56 mpg and a range of 215 miles, I would recommend that no more than 175 miles between gas stops is a good number for initial route planning purposes. Eventually, you will get a sense of your own fuel consumption habits.
25. The standard seat is 34.6 inches high, which is not too much for my 30-inch inseam. The stock seat is fairly narrow in the front, facilitating access to the ground and providing a very comfortable knee angle while seated. A lower seat and suspension link are available to reduce the seat height to 33 inches. A taller seat option is available, as well.
26. With a claimed curb weight of 450 pounds, the 2020 Yamaha Ténéré 700 may be the lightest bike in its class. We would have to weigh each bike ourselves to prove this out, but suffice it to say that the “no gimmicks” ethos of the Yamaha engineers has produced a lightweight motorcycle designed to go the distance.
27. The 2020 Yamaha Ténéré 700 holds up exceptionally well, even when sliding down the road or trail on its side. At every new off-road capable motorcycle launch, several bikes are inevitably wadded up. I witnessed some marks in the pavement and the resulting aftermath. The Ténéré 700 is one tough customer. A few scratches and perhaps a broken lever—maybe even forks that need to be realigned in the triple clamps—but nothing that’s going to halt the adventure.
28. Servicing the Ténéré 700 is a convenient, yet infrequent, exercise. Engine valves should be checked every 25,000 miles while the oil should be changed every 6,000 miles. With the removal of the aluminum skidplate, the oil drain plug and filter are easily accessible. Likewise, the paper air filter element is located under the seat and can be swapped on the trail using the onboard hex key. If you ride off-road much, you will want to source a washable and reusable oil-foam filter.
29. Only the blue/black/white Ceramic Ice color variant will be available in the North American market. I rode the Competition White version in the test. Power Black and Ceramic Ice are available in Europe, as well.
30. The MSRP for the American version has not been officially announced, but if it’s similar to the Euro pricing, it should come in around $10,500. That is comparable to your typical 450cc dual-sport motorcycle, one that we use to connect trails, except that the Yamaha Ténéré 700 can do that, and cross continents. Of course, it won’t attack those trails with the same capability as the 450 dual-sports.
31. The 2020 Yamaha Ténéré 700 is a unique motorcycle in its class. Given Yamaha’s push to place it in the rally raid category, the Ténéré 700 has no direct competitors. In the meantime, we will put it in the ADV category out of convenience, and we suspect that our comparisons to competing sub-liter ADV machines will be about placing each motorcycle in the market, rather than picking absolute winners. However, on its own the 2020 Yamaha Ténéré 700 certainly is impressive.
- Helmet: Shoei VFX-Evo
- Goggles: Fly Racing Zone Pro
- Jacket/Vest + Jersey: Fly Racing Patrol
- Pants + Gloves: Fly Racing Patrol XC
- Boots: Alpinestars Tech 10
2020 Yamaha Ténéré 700 Specs
- Type: Crossplane crankshaft parallel twin
- Displacement: 689cc
- Bore x stroke: 80.0 x 68.6mm
- Maximum power: 72 horsepower @ 9000 rpm
- Maximum torque: 50 ft/lbs @ 6500 rpm
- Compression ratio: 11.5:1
- Valvetrain: DOHC, 4vpc
- Transmission: 6-speed
- Final drive: Chain
- Frame: Double-cradle steel-tube
- Front suspension; travel: Fully adjustable KYB 43mm inverted fork; 8.3 inches
- Rear suspension; travel; Link-assisted fully adjustable KYB shock; 7.8 inches
- Wheels: Wire-spoke
- Tires: Pirelli Scorpion Rally STR
- Front tire: 90/90 x 21
- Rear tire: 150/70 x 18
- Front brakes: 282mm discs w/ Brembo calipers
- Rear brake: 245mm disc w/ Brembo caliper
- ABS: Standard (defeatable)
DIMENSIONS and CAPACITIES
- Wheelbase: 62.6 inches
- Rake: 27 degrees
- Trail: 4.1 inches
- Seat height: 34.6 inches
- Ground clearance: 9.5 inches
- Fuel capacity: 4.2 gallons
2020 Yamaha Ténéré 700 Colors:
- Ceramic Ice
2020 Yamaha Ténéré 700 Price:
- MSRP N/A