Overland Expo Yamaha Ténéré 700 Review [Yellowstone Tested]

The motorcycle community is tight-knit—one of the things I really like about being a motorcycle rider. Earlier this year, I met a moto rider and writer working for Overland Expo at the launch of the new Triumph Tiger 1200 adventure motorcycle. We swapped adventure travel stories, as you do with similarly minded people at these events. The company she represented, Overland Expo, founded in 2009, puts on a comprehensive event series for do-it-yourself adventure-travel enthusiasts. Their focus is on 4WD travel and adventure motorcycling experiences.

Overland Expo recently collaborated with Yamaha and a number of aftermarket accessory manufacturers and retail organizations to completely trick out a 2022 Yamaha Ténéré 700. Overland Expo reached out to me to gauge my interest in coming to Bozeman, Montana, to test out its new customized beast. Is this a trick question?

To clinch the deal, Overland Expo sent over the build specs and photos of the bike. The customization list was long and would make any adventure rider drool. All I had to do was come up with a trip befitting the bike and put it through its paces. My loose plan was to depart Bozeman and head south through Big Sky and Yellowstone. Then, I could spend a few days in Jackson Hole before heading back to Bozeman and then home.

Landing in Bozeman, I was excited to get rolling. The Overland offices were close by, and the motorcycle was out waiting for me, ready to go when I arrived. The custom Ténéré has a ruggedly burly look, cool color scheme, beefy crash protection from Outback Motortek, and Bridgestone Battlax Adventurecross AX41 tires.

Scanning the build sheet, it appears to have just about everything needed for an extended off-road adventure, plus a very tall stance thanks to the TracTive X-Treme long travel suspension! Throwing a leg over puts me on my tiptoes to keep the Ténéré 700 balanced—not ideal with a fully loaded ADV bike.

After packing all my gear into the spacious Mosko Moto soft panniers, I pulled away from the Overland Expo offices. Not having a chance to ride a stock Yamaha Ténéré 700 before the trip, I was anxious to discover how the modified bike would feel.

On the back roads around the airport, the bike felt spritely and nimble, though a little underpowered. It also felt top-heavy at low speeds and in the dirt. When I found faster roads, the bike settled in, feeling stable and balanced. Power from the 689cc liquid-cooled twin is there—just not as much as I hoped.

My first stop for the day was Big Sky. Climbing up from Bozeman into the mountains along the sweeping turns of U.S. Route 191, the surrounding scenery was breathtaking. This was my first time visiting Big Sky Resort, and wow, is it big! Sadly, I would only be passing through today because I wanted to keep cruising and exploring the winding tarmac and dirt roads.

The loaded down Ténéré 700 cruised nicely through the paved turns. I found some dirt, gravel, and rocky roads to get my first impressions of the off-road capabilities of this bike. Despite the top-heavy feel, I initially felt the bike was extremely balanced, and it absorbs a variety of conditions easily, including large, loose rocks. The only time things got a little hairy was in slow-speed maneuvering on hills where my Lilliputian legs made it challenging to put a boot on the ground.

Leaving Big Sky, I continued south along 191 to Hebgen Lake and the Lake View Suites Yellowstone—my hotel for the night. The ride continued to be beautiful as 191 crossed into and out of Wyoming and the northern part of Yellowstone National Park.

As I came out of the hills toward Hebgen Lake, the heat began to rise. I began to feel the heat coming off the parallel twin; fortunately, there was plenty of airflow to keep me cool. The Ténéré has a small windscreen and bodywork that reduces the windblast on the body, while allowing plenty of airflow on the helmet. It’s good for cooling, but a bit loud at 70+ mph.

As I got used to the Overland Expo Yamaha Ténéré 700, I started to appreciate its stability and flexibility, as well as the superb suspension dialed in perfectly by Ted Porter’s BeemerShop. Whether it’s high-speed sweeping turns or sketchy fire roads, the suspension works extremely well. Unfortunately, the stock seat is less impressive. After an hour on the road, there started to be some complaints from the back. Luckily, it was a short ride day.

The customized Overland Expo Ténéré has a bunch of other add-on features; some were very helpful, and others less so for my itinerary. AltRider provided a host of ergonomic and dual sport upgrades for protection and comfort, a Ram Mount securely held my phone and allowed me to use it for navigation, and the Atlas Throttle Lock is intuitive and easy to use. The GPS system by Zoleo was not important to me on this trip, so I tossed it into the Mosko bags for another time. The Mosko tank bag was extremely roomy, with multiple sections and a wide variety of places to put things. It also included a hydration bladder, but I did not use it.

Back to the ride, I chose Hebgen Lake for my first stop because I wanted to be close to the West Entrance of Yellowstone for my ride through the National Park the following day. It is a beautiful lake tucked into the mountains with far fewer visitors than the park. I checked into the hotel and was given a great room with a porch overlooking the lake.

I unloaded the T700, which was made easy by the quick-release Mosko panniers. Opening the bags, I realized that the folks at Overland Expo had loaded them with every possible accessory I might need on my adventure. These items included fuel bottles, a full tool kit, the Aclim8 Combar Pro Titanium industrial camp tool, and even Armor All wipes to keep the Ténéré 700 looking pretty.

The result of having all this equipment along with my own gear was that the panniers and tail bag weighed a ton! Once I took all of the kit off the bike, the rear shock had noticeably less sag. There was still plenty of light in the day, so I took the unladen bike out to find some unpaved roads.

Wow! What a difference! Pulling out of the parking lot, the Yamaha Ténéré 700 immediately felt much lighter and more nimble. Acceleration was improved, and the twin no longer felt underpowered.

Veering off the road, I found several dirt roads and jeep trails to push the bike a bit. With all the weight unloaded, the Ténéré 700 is responsive and light on its feet. I was worried that the lightened bike might make the suspension feel too stiff or less impressive, but that was definitely not the case. The more I pushed it, the more it seemed it could handle. The overall height of the T700 still makes slow-speed, off-camber maneuvers a bit challenging. However, with the panniers off, the motorcycle is noticeably less top-heavy.

After getting my fill of off-road exploring, I headed back to the hotel. When I first checked in, I noticed the Happy Hour Bar across the road on the lake—a perfect place to celebrate the end of my first day and to cool off after the hot ride. Turns out, I had been there before and had not remembered until I stepped in. A cold beer and a delicious sandwich capped off the day nicely, and I retired to my porch to watch the sunset.

The next day I packed up the Ténéré 700 to head into Yellowstone National Park. Despite the load, the Mosko Moto panniers securely slipped into the mounting brackets quickly, and I was on my way.

Although parts of Yellowstone had been closed due to flooding earlier in the year, they were starting to open back up when I arrived at the West Entrance. I started early, and the morning ride through Yellowstone was cool and bright. As the sun rose, filtering through the trees, it began to warm. The colors were vivid, and the air filled with the smell of the pine forest heating up.

Normally in the height of summer, the roads in Yellowstone are packed with cars and RVs—not an ideal setting for a motorcycle ride. Instead, the previous road closures had apparently discouraged visitors, and the roads were relatively traffic-free. As I cruised along, the pine smell gave way to a faint sulfur odor as I traveled through the many geysers and hot springs that cover the park. Yellowstone is much more volcanic than I ever realized.

My destination for the day was Jackson, Wyoming, to meet up with some friends. It was a short day, so I took my time exploring Yellowstone, viewing the incredible scenery and wildlife. Yellowstone is truly an amazing and beautiful place, and seeing it on a motorcycle is fantastic. With plenty of turns and a casual, but not too slow, speed limit, the environment suited the 74-horsepower engine perfectly.

Exiting Yellowstone, I immediately diverted through the Grand Teton National Park, which provided breathtaking views of the Teton Mountains. I arrived that afternoon in Jackson thoroughly relaxed and with a renewed appreciation for our amazing National Parks.

The next three days in Jackson were spent exploring off-road routes on the Ténéré, fishing the Snake River, and enjoying old friendships. With all the luggage off, the mid-size ADV bike is impressively confidence-inspiring in all conditions.

At one point, bombing down a gravel fire road, I realized I was doing 60 mph with surprising stability. In addition, slower speed maneuvers in rough terrain, big potholes, and deep ruts were equally handled well by the bike. The star of the show on the Overland Expo Yamaha Ténéré 700 is the suspension. While I did not have a chance to make a back-to-back comparison to the stock set up, the TracTive X-Treme suspension performed flawlessly and seems well worth the upgrade.

I recently spent considerable time on the 2022 Honda Africa Twin, and on this trip, I was struck by the similarities between it and the customized Ténéré 700, even though the two bikes don’t fall into the same category—the Honda has a larger engine, much more sophisticated electronics, higher-end suspension, and a correspondingly higher price.

That said, the feel of the two motorcycles on- and, especially, off-road is surprisingly similar. While the Ténéré gives up a fair amount of power to the Honda’s 1084cc engine, Overland Expo Ténéré’s aftermarket suspension equals and maybe eclipses the Africa Twin. Both ADV motorcycles feel a little like big dirt bikes, which I definitely appreciated.

The final day was a sprint back up to Bozeman. As I approached Yellowstone National Park, I was fortunate to experience Wyoming’s version of a traffic jam—a large herd of bison stopping vehicles as it crossed the highway. At one point, a huge bull stopped and gave me a long and menacing look. Apparently, he wasn’t too keen on motorcycles! Luckily, I was far enough away to not threaten him.

The trek up to Bozeman was only a half-day ride. However, more cars, a slower pace through the park, and the uncomfortable stock seat made the journey less enjoyable.

I came away very impressed with the Overland Expo Yamaha Ténéré 700 and all the modifications Overland and their partners made. While I would not have chosen all of them for my personal bike, they collectively worked effectively. If I were to plan an around-the-globe trip, this custom ADV motorcycle would be on the list for sure!

Photography by John Allen and Freeman Wood

Overland Expo Yamaha Ténéré 700 Review Photo Gallery