I rode the Ultimate Motorcycling Yamaha Ténéré 700 Project Bike 1120 miles from Los Angeles to Portland so I could ride the forest roads of the Pacific Northwest. It proved to be a great travel partner—easy, agreeable, and fun. Now that we are off-roading, we are both happy to be knocking around in the elements together.
Turning the Ténéré 700 off the pavement and heading it down a dirt forest road for the first time reminded me of taking the leash off my dog at the trailhead on the first hike of spring. All she wants to know is, “Which way do I go, and why are you so slow?”
It’s because I need to stop and press the ABS button on the bottom right corner of the LCD panel to turn off the ABS! Okay. Now we can go, and go I have. So far, on four consecutive Saturdays, I have ridden over 300 miles of varied gravel forest roads, and some 4×4 two tracks that I wouldn’t have been riding on if it were a personally loaned bike—Yamaha won’t mind, of course.
In each case, the Ultimate Motorcycling Yamaha Ténéré 700 Project Bike has shown itself to be a stable, controllable, and comfortable exploration platform.
I received a 360-degree camera to review, and I happened to have turned it on just after turning onto an especially beautiful forest road. This is a frame grab of me candidly smiling simply because it was a beautiful day and in a beautiful place that the Yamaha Ténéré 700 brought me.
I had never ridden in the dirt with this amount of available horsepower, but that didn’t determine how easy it was to get used to it. The power comes on smoothly from idle and allows me to turtle, jackrabbit, or hold a steady pace, at my discretion.
Downhill, the engine braking is all that is needed for all but the most serious grades. Uphill, the power is infinitely controllable and doesn’t have me breaking the rear tire loose, unless I want to. The front brake application is linear and gives plenty of feedback. Its one-finger control gives me all the confidence I need to use it to control my speed and all stops, including downhills.
My preference is to stand when off-road. The ergonomics of the standing position for my 5’ 9” frame are simply perfect. I can get way up on the fuel tank, and my arms are in a comfortable position with knees locked.
My single fingers on the front brake and clutch are angled correctly for long-time comfort. The stock footpegs are positioned well and, while standing forward, I can still glance at the LCD display without leaning back.
I haven’t ridden with them on yet, but my protective, trail-riding knee pads are bulky and will require wider footpegs to keep me from standing bowled. There is no way to get under the shifter with the high toebox of my Klim Adventure GTX boots, so I quickly mastered shifting with side toe pressure. It did take a while to stop hitting neutral when upshifting from 1st to 2nd gear.
So far, all my Yamaha Ténéré 700 off-road riding has been with a new friend I met on a local dual-sport forum. He has been riding all his life and off-road for four years. He was leading on the first two rides, and I was getting to know how it feels to be riding off-road again. I was comfortable with his pace of about 30 mph in the gravel twisties.
I felt like I was missing some cornering capability halfway through our third ride of 95 off-road miles. I figured out I wasn’t far enough over the tank, due to the tank bag position. I stopped, took it off, put it into my side bag, and took off, literally. Just getting farther forward over the tank added 10 mph to my gravel cornering speed! After that revelation, I had to keep stopping for him to catch up.
My slight weight shift added so much positive control that I stopped wondering what a 450-pound motorcycle feels like in the dirt. Steering is light, but with a positive feel of the terrain. I was not riding for speed, but the speed simply showed up with a slight change in technique. I rode on sand, pea gravel, one-inch gravel, and river rock. I remembered my 250cc dirt bike feeling this way, except with less front tire deflection.
I found that 3rd gear gives me the flexibility to slow as low as 13 mph and run up to 40 mph without changing gears. The engine pulls strongly from the lowest rpm—just above lugging—to a rev count that asks to be shifted.
There is a lot of washboard on uphills this late in the season, and the Ténéré 700 does a satisfactory job of getting the rear tire back down on the ground at stock settings. We were wearing Sena Bluetooth communication units, and my riding partner always knew when I hit washboard because he could hear a lot of racket coming from my bike.
Just as I jumped on the Ultimate Motorcycling Yamaha Ténéré 700 Project Bike in Los Angeles without any testing or practicing, I had just dived in off-road, too. On the third ride, I did some tight U-turn practice. I applied standard techniques, so I was able to shorten the radius of each U-turn. Being hesitant to drop it, I didn’t reach lock turns, but I was got pretty close. A little more practice, and I will get there.
The seat height is an issue to be dealt with on any uneven terrain. The Ultimate Motorcycling Yamaha Ténéré 700 Project Bike has lowering links, and I have been riding off-road with the stock seat. I can barely flat foot on level ground with my 30-inch inseam. If the ground is off-camber, one of my soles is in the air.
The Ténéré 700 is well-balanced and does make it easy to lean to one side without feeling tippy. In combination with the lowering links, the stock length kickstand has necessitated finding low spots to drop the kickstand into. Even on level ground, I have to mount very carefully to not throw the balance over center. A shorter kickstand has been ordered from Camel ADV Products.
I am ready to start playing on single tracks and rougher terrain. The 21-inch front tire, the tall suspension, and the twin’s power give me confidence that I can handle the same obstacles that are so fun to ride at the OHV parks.
I have a healthy respect for what it takes to lift or push 450 pounds, so I won’t be riding alone in places where there is a reasonable chance I will drop it. When I go to an OHV park, I will make sure I am down to two gallons of gas. Getting 50 mpg, two gallons will be more than enough to ride for hours, and it will save 12 pounds up high and sloshing.
The bolt-on enhancements I have selected to put my signature on the Ultimate Motorcycling Yamaha Ténéré 700 Project Bike are starting to appear on my porch. I enjoy wrenching and spending time with my projects. I am excited to get started.