At long last, it has arrived in the United States – the much-anticipated 2021 Yamaha Ténéré 700. The T7 concept was debuted in 2016, which quickly led to the official announcement of the Ténéré 700 production. Since then, middleweight ADV enthusiasts have been doing everything short of pressing their faces against dealership windows, cash in hand, and fogging up the glass in anticipation.
The 2021 Yamaha Ténéré 700 dives right into the center of one of the most hotly contested and functionally diverse segments in motorcycling. This category spans the spectrum, ranging from machines with no technological frills and heavy on-road bias, to those with every bit of electronic wizardry under the sun and serious off-road performance. Yamaha has delivered a smart piece of kit—a machine in the middle—excellent on-road manners combined with genuine off-road potential that comes in at a price just below $10k.
There are no ride modes or newfangled rider aids to speak of, other than basic on-road ABS; it’s just a pure motorcycle, through and through. If the Dakar-inspired looks didn’t already sell you on the T7, its ability, and the price might be flattery enough.
The Ténéré moniker harkens back to 1982 when the Yamaha XT600 Ténéré was unveiled at the Paris Motorcycle Show, and the word Ténéré was chosen for a few reasons. When directly translated from its Berber and Tuareg origins, it means “desert,” “wilderness,” and “solitude.” Yamaha marketing wants you to know that bikes with the storied Ténéré name are about exploration. The name is also a nod to Yamaha’s years of experience in the Paris-Dakar Rally and, more specifically, the unforgiving Ténéré Desert located in Niger and Chad.
Well, we’re a long way away from the African continent, but Southern California’s San Bernardino Mountains offer a whole lot of fun riding in one place, and that’s where I spent time on the 2021 Yamaha Ténéré 700. I hit the streets, tamed fire roads, rutted trails, rocky two-track, and a tiny sampling of some sandy single-track. The T7 impressed with its capability and friendliness, especially since I don’t spend a tremendous amount of time on ADV bikes off the pavement.
Now, let’s get into the thick of it. Powering the ‘21 T7 is one of Yamaha’s crown jewels—the 689cc CP2 engine pilfered directly from the popular MT-07 and XSR700 street bikes. With sumptuous low-end torque, fantastic midrange, and more than enough over-rev when riding at highway speeds, it is a treat.
The Ténéré is light, playful, and welcoming, with a broad torque curve that is one of the gold standards of tractability. Whether you’re on or off-road, finding and using power is never an issue. You also won’t feel any numbing buzz, unless you start pushing it into the upper regions of the rev-range. From a value standpoint, this engine is also proven to be incredibly reliable and robust since it was introduced in 2015.
Taking the CP2 engine and making it suitable for ADV riding took a bit of work, though not as much as you might think. At its core, it is essentially the same engine found in the street-oriented models. To give it a better spread of torque and mid-range puff, a new exhaust system and spark-arrested muffler are in play, along with a Ténéré-specific airbox. Working in conjunction with those changes is a new fuel map and, in the case of North American T7s, it’s a map that’s specific to our emissions requirements.
What riders will feel immediately is the roughly nine percent shorter final drive gearing, going to 15/46 from 16/43 sprockets. With that tighter gearing, the already peppy p-twin engine is even more at the ready, winding up quickly, yet controllably. It’s a significant and welcome change for this application as it prevents the T7 from becoming luggy or unmanageable while riding off-road.
With a quick wick of the sweetly tuned throttle, I’m able to break traction with the rear or bound over obstacles as needed. On the road, you won’t feel as if you’re wringing the T7’s neck, as it comfortably turns around 6500 rpm at 75 mph; that’s a little higher than the MT or XSR due to the shorter gearing.
Crucially, I need to point out that the slick six-speed gearbox plays a role in its inviting off-road mannerisms. Well-spaced gear ratios and that ever-present slap of torque will often accommodate a gear too high when in maneuvering some of the few slow hairpin climbs I sampled.
The singular quirk with the 2021 Yamaha Ténéré 700’s powerplant is some abruptness during the initial application of throttle. It’s most pronounced when riding on-road where there’s more grip and at low revs. However, when the engine is spooled up beyond 6000 rpm, the issue disperses into the ether. Whether this is due to fueling or driveline lash is tough to discern, but a one-finger slip of the light cable clutch cures it completely.
Speaking of fuel, the T7 carries 4.2 gallons of the flammable stuff, and Yamaha claims it’ll achieve 56 mpg, which means 215 miles in one go. During my time in the saddle, on- and off-road, I saw mpg hovering in the high 40s and low 50s most of the day, giving the Ténéré 700 a commendable range.
Of course, we need to discuss electronics or the lack thereof. For some, the absence of off-road TC, ABS, ride modes, and cruise control is a sticking point. To be fair, many of the off-road rider aids on the market these days are quite good. Without sophisticated rider aids, it’s on you to keep the shiny side up. Importantly, all those aids drive the MSRP up, and Yamaha wanted to keep the price in four-figures.
The only modicum of electronics on the bike is the on-road ABS, which can be disabled by holding a button on the dash for three seconds. If you turn off the bike with the key or kill-switch, the ABS reengages.
Luckily, the power delivery and tractability of the CP2 engine is confidence-inspiring. With a quickly calibrated wrist, you’ll be able to manage the performance underneath you easily. The icing on the cake is the 270-degree firing order that, even with a stock exhaust, sounds brilliant. It might be unintimidating and an absolute blast to ride, but the T7 has bark.
Outside of the shared engine, the 2021 Yamaha Ténéré 700 is an entirely different motorcycle from its street biased cousins. The perimeter steel frame features off-road minded additions such as removable lower frame rails that bolster chassis stiffness—a pivotal element to stability while dealing with the rigors of off-road riding. In the same vein, the head-tube boasts double braces. Also, a new and noticeably longer swingarm helps the dirt-riding cause. Lastly, the integrated triangular sub-frame has been designed with the express purpose of accommodating luggage or other attachments.
Of course, what makes the 2021 Yamaha Ténéré 700 better than its street-biased competition is the real-deal long-travel KYB suspension. There is a fully adjustable 43mm inverted fork with ample 8.3 inches of travel matched to a shock controlling nearly eight inches of travel, assisted by spring-preload and rebound-damping adjustment.
The chassis reports numbers with an eye on stability on and off-road, as noted by the lengthy 62.6-inch wheelbase and relaxed 27-degree rake. Those numbers don’t seem like they’d make for a quick-stepping bike on the road, but the Ténéré 700 doesn’t shy away from an excellent twisty road. Push through the footpegs a tad, and it tips in gently, with little to no effort. It flicks side-to-side nicely, too.
The geometry, coupled with the 21- and 18-inch wire-spoke wheels, present their apparent limitations when compared to street bikes. Still, the Ténéré 700, isn’t leaving too much on the table and is a hoot in the canyon. Better yet, even in a ‘comfort’ suspension setting, as described by Yamaha staff, the T7’s damping kept the bike on the straight and narrow.
Hitting the trail, I added damping in the front and rear to help keep the bike in shape. For an ADV rider of my skill level, I found the KYB suspension difficult to fault, as it dealt with nearly everything that I could throw at it, comfortably. It took hard hits well and maintained grip when I needed it.
Yamaha engineers emphasized the 2021 Ténéré 700’s off-road worthiness by giving it a 48/52 front/rear weight balance. Typically, street bikes have a bias on the front to load the front wheel more aggressively. The Ténéré 700 doesn’t deflect unexpectedly and, even when you do find the bump-stops, the chassis doesn’t get squirrely. With a lightest-in-class claimed 452-pound wet weight, it’s on the petite side for an ADV machine, and the KYB suspenders do a good job.
Again, the 21 and 18-inch wire-spoke wheels offer a helping hand in the off-road department, allowing riders to roll over rough terrain effectively, while also being able to take a hit. The Pirelli Scorpion Rally STR tires provide a fair amount of grip on or off the pavement, keeping things tidy on the tarmac, while still hooking up or breaking traction predictably when you feel the need to steer with the rear. The wheels require that you use tubes, and for severe off-road riding, it can make repairs easier, though it does add some weight.
I might opt for a slightly more aggressive front tire if I knew I’d be spending most of my time off-road, as I’d get a little more edge grip. If you’re running knobbies, you can get some more clearance with the adjustable front fender.
When it comes to getting the bike stopped, Yamaha opted for radial four-piston Brembo calipers clamping onto 282mm floating rotors. In the rear, a single-piston Brembo caliper wrestles with a 245mm disc. Yamaha removed any harsh initial bite from the front brakes to help riders avoid tucking the front in low traction situations, and it pays off in the dirt.
On the street, where speeds are higher, it’s a different story. There is feeling and enough stopping power, though you will be pulling more of the lever than you may be accustomed to. The rear brake has a long stroke and bites quickly once engaged. It’s helpful when trying to kick-out the rear and slide in the dirt, but it could use some more linearity. In both cases, ditching the rubber brake lines, in favor of steel-braided lines, and opting for brake pads with a more aggressive compound will increase feel and bring back some attack.
With a tall 34.6-inch seat height, the saving grace to the T7’s ergonomics is the narrow chassis, allowing my 32-inch inseam to reach my tip-toes to the deck. Yamaha offers a higher seat option (+1.6 inches) and lower option with accessory seat and link, effectively lowering the entire bike 1.5 inches.
The off-road style seat is firm, though not dirt-bike firm, and the neutral riding position is comfy. There’s plenty of legroom and a casual reach to the bars. It’s the same story while you’re standing up and attacking the trail. The rally-bike inspired windscreen deflects a surprising amount of air and, in all, the ergonomics are excellent for all-day riding.
One change I would make on the 2021 Yamaha Ténéré 700 is opting for longer footpegs, especially if you wear knee-braces while off-roading. They’re not short by any means, but the clutch cover and other bits attached the frame take up precious real estate on the footpegs. Rubber dampers are installed on the footpegs to help shield vibrations on the engine and can be popped out for more grip.
Taking a gander at the pricier end of the middleweight ADV class, and you’ll see bikes equipped with flashy (and pricey) full-color TFT dashes. The T7 opts out with a utilitarian LCD dash reminiscent of rally road books. It’s functional, easy to read, and I have no complaints about it. You do get a USB charging port, free of charge.
The T7 can play in the dirt, and it comes with a few nifty items to help that cause, from the handle on the tail section to manually pull the bike out of trouble, to the handguards and skid plate. There is a dizzying list of factory accessories, such as crash bars, luggage, lights, and more, all of which help you make your Ténéré 700 unique.
What’s clear is that Yamaha has put together an enticing package that is more than just a sweet MSRP. The CP2 engine has been getting high-fives ever since it rolled out of the factory, and in an off-road application, it’s just as fun – if not more. The on-road touring or commuting potential of the 2021 Yamaha Ténéré 700 is there, without sacrificing the genuine dirt capability, and it’s all wrapped up nicely in a genial, approachable package.
Photography by Joseph Agustin
- Helmet: Shoei VFX-Evo
- Goggles: Scott Hustle X
- Jacket: Alpinestars Andes Pro
- Gloves: Alpinestars SMX-2 Air
- Pants: Alpinestars Andes V2
- Boots: Alpinestars Corozal
2021 Yamaha Ténéré 700 Specs
- Type: Crossplane crankshaft parallel twin
- Displacement: 689cc
- Bore x stroke: 80.0 x 68.6mm
- 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 spring-preload and rebound-damping 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: 62.8 inches
- Rake: 27 degrees
- Trail: 4.1 inches
- Seat height: 34.5 inches
- Ground clearance: 9.5 inches
- Fuel capacity: 4.2 gallons
- Estimated fuel consumption: 56 mpg
- Curb weight: 452 pounds
- Colors: Ceramic Ice; Intensity White; Matte Black
2021 Yamaha Ténéré 700 Price: $9999 MSRP