“Neil, the good news is the bike is ready, but you have to pick it up in Los Angeles.” I heard that as “Fun awaits as soon as you can get a flight down from Portland.” With that, the Ultimate Motorcycling Yamaha Ténéré 700 Project Bike adventure begins.
I have been riding my comfort customized 2007 Yamaha Venture exclusively since 2013. I have rented a couple of bikes for day rides to test out gear in real-life situations, but nothing like LA-to-Portland on anything other than my riding couch.
I really didn’t know how my knees, back, and, especially, my bum would handle the ergonomics, so I planned my first day out of LA for only 140 miles.
With a personal inseam of 30 inches, I had the bike set up with 3/4-inch lowering links to bring the stock seat height down to a measured 33.5 inches from 34.6 inches. At the same time, I added the Rally seat for comfort. That brought the seat height back up to a measured 34.5 inches.
The first time I tried to mount the Ultimate Motorcycling Yamaha Ténéré 700 Project Bike, I wasn’t prepared for its actual seat and side case height. I have a 30-inch inseam, and I was wearing my Klim Adventure GTX boots with their tall soles. I went for the knee over first with trailing boot approach, which was rejected by the side case.
I re-evaluated how to get my leg over. On the second try, I faced the rear of the motorcycle with my left hand on the grip and swung a straight-legged boot over the seat. When my boot cleared, I pivoted on my left foot and slid my right leg down the right side of the bike to the ground. Success, but on tiptoes.
I should have stood on the left peg, thrown my leg over, and sat down, but I didn’t think of that. I pulled up the kickstand, started the engine, and moved forward a bit. I then realized the zipper of the pocket with my wallet in it was down. When I attempted to put the kickstand down, it wouldn’t fully deploy, even with the bike vertical.
It was then that it dawned on me that lowering the Yamaha Ténéré 700’s suspension significantly reduced the kickstand’s lean angle. From now on, I have had to look for low spots in the ground or test putting the kickstand down to make sure the bike wasn’t too vertical to either tip on its own or be tippy for mounting. Most gas stations have higher driveway concrete closest to the pumps for drainage. Knowing that, I have been approaching the pumps on the wrong side so I have some lean angle to comfortably dismount and remount.
As it turned out, 140 miles was just a short hop on the Ténéré. I would have gone a lot farther, but I couldn’t cancel my prepaid motel. I hadn’t ridden in LA traffic in two years, but it was second nature to head for the dashed line between the #1 and #2 lanes as the traffic on the 101 slowed to a crawl. I am a seasoned lane splitter on my 2007 Venture. Doing it on the Ténéré 700 is a better experience, as it is lighter, nimbler, quicker braking, and with a higher seating position.
When I finally got to where the traffic thinned and I could relax into the freeway rhythm, I kicked it into 6th gear and settled into my 1120-mile pavement ride home. The miles were starting to just click by, and I was really enjoying riding the Ténéré 700. Sixth gear at 65-70 mph is a smooth ride. I experienced no buzz in the handlebars or footpegs. Dropping down the Conejo Grade in Camarillo, I could both feel the temperature dropping out of the 90s and watch the temperature readout decreasing in the bottom right corner of the very readable LCD dash.
I wanted the Yamaha Ténéré 700 for where it can take me. Happily, it turns out that, even on the freeway, it is a fun ride. The quick throttle response, agility at slow speed, the stability at freeway speeds, the surprising capability of the stock windscreen to keep the high-speed blast off my chest, and the ease of holding a steady pace, and the sensational crossplane-crankshaft engine’s sounds were all immediate standouts. I was wearing the Klim Karbon Adventure helmet, both with and without the peak attached. I experienced no https://ultimatemotorcycling.com/2021/09/09/klim-adventure-helmet-test-krios-karbon-on-and-off-road-lid/buffeting, at any speed, on the entire trip.
It took me a couple of hours to get to Santa Maria. So, with some space between cars, I started getting used to what to look at on the panel, how to pull the front brake lever on the twin rotors and not dive the front end, how much throw the shifter requires to move between gears, and to remember to turn off the blinkers after signaling a lane change.
The first day’s 140 miles went by quickly, as they were all on the freeway. I arrived at the motel with both side cases full of the necessities I carried down on the plane in a backpack.
Yamaha Parts & Accessories’ waterproof aluminum side cases have secure locking lids (using the ignition key) and latch themselves tenaciously to the bolt-on mounting brackets. A quick turn of the key and a pull of a lever, and the case come right off. The cases have grab handles on one end to make it easy to carry them into the motel room. They stand flat on their bottoms, so using them as small suitcases is a welcome benefit. Re-mounting the cases in the morning was as quick as taking them off. They can be latched but not key-locked if you want to have keyless access to their contents.
I planned a route north hugging the coast to avoid the 100+ temperatures inland. That, of course, delightedly required me to ride the iconic California Highway 1 for 100 miles from Cambria to Monterey through Big Sur. Not knowing how many motor homes I would have to follow, and with imperfect timing to hit San Francisco’s Friday evening rush hour, I planned 380 miles for the second day.
I started out at first light from Santa Maria, and I guess I beat the motor homes to Highway 1 because I had the road to myself. By the time I got to the Hearst Castle turnoff, I was feeling like the Yamaha Ténéré and I were one. Although it took some getting used to the frame-mounted mini-fairing and windshield not moving with the handlebars, it all but disappeared from my sightline. It was just me and the Ténéré 700 carving turns.
Riding the twisty Highway 1, as my cornering smoothness was becoming automatic, I recognized I was using the strong engine braking as my speed control. I didn’t need to use the selectable ABS because simply letting off the throttle gives consistent and positive deceleration.
I was riding for scenery and pleasure, so my pace didn’t require cornering techniques like trail braking. However, when I was obviously alone on the road, I pushed up some of the cornering speeds and added cornering techniques. I found that I was comfortably cornering way faster than I ever expected to be.
Knowing I was getting about 50 mpg meant I didn’t have to be concerned with extended distances between gas stations. When I got into a populous area, I did run the fuel gauge to the flashing E. A count-up begins when the E starts flashing, showing me how many miles I have traveled on Empty. I arrived at a gas station showing seven miles and still had 1.2 gallons remaining in the tank. That reserve gas would have taken me more than 50 miles at 65 mph.
Arriving in Ukiah, Calif., at 380 miles, my bum was sore—everyone’s bum has different levels of built-in padding. By moving slightly forward, backward, left, and right, I found that I could keep the level of discomfort to a minimum. Ten hours on most any saddle will get uncomfortable, so I wasn’t surprised how my rear felt.
I picked up a bicycle gel pad seat cushion and mounted it to the accessory Yamaha Rally Seat installed on the bike. Having an uneven surface to change positions on helped also. Although the Ténéré 700 is not marketed as a long-distance touring motorcycle, I was certainly doing a long-distance tour on it and enjoying every minute.
Sitting in my motel room in Ukiah, I self-assessed how it felt to ride the 380 miles today. Like day 1, I could have gone a lot farther. The bike’s ergonomics are comfortable for me at 5’ 9”, 190 pounds, and a 30-inch inseam. I had daylight and no mental fatigue after enjoying the scenery of California’s Central Coast, so I decided to wing the last day and see if I could make all 600 miles of Pacific Northwest coastline in one shot. I prepared myself to possibly stop just an hour or two from home if I felt tired.
The third day was a joyride. The temperature was cool, and the road ahead was empty. Although the only dirt I had ridden on so far was the parking lot to see the elephant seals on Highway 1 at San Simeon, I was already getting excited thinking about taking the Ultimate Motorcycling Yamaha Ténéré 700 Project Bike to places inaccessible to my street bike.
As the coastal scenery clicked by, so did the miles. By late afternoon, I was getting the feeling that I would be home before dark. Stopping for gas every 180 miles or so really keeps the miles flowing. At about 6:30 p.m. (approximately 12 hours on the bike), I called my wife via my Sena 10C EVO to tell her I would be home by 8:30 p.m.—600 miles and 14 hours from kickstand up.
My first three days with the Yamaha Ténéré 700 were highway touring. I now know what it can do and how it feels getting from point A to point B. When I want to ride to an off-pavement or sightseeing destination, I will plan on a manageable 350-400 highway miles per day. I can’t wait to get off-road. I have 1120 miles of getting used to the ergonomics and have even stopped diving the front end when using the front brake.
This is the first installment of my adventure with the Yamaha Ténéré 700. For months, I have been getting to know the local dual-sport riding forums, asking questions about interesting rides and riding areas. I can finally announce to the groups that I can go on the next planned dual-sport ride and meet new friends.
As delivered by Yamaha, the project bike is the Ceramic Ice color choice, plus a range of extras from Yamaha Parts & Accessories—an engine guard, skid plate, lowering kit, Rally Seat, and side case mount with aluminum side cases. As configured, MSRP for the Ultimate Motorcycling Yamaha Ténéré 700 Project Bike is $12,600, and I’m just getting started.