Review: 2021 Yamaha Tenere 700

As sport bike sales in Canada continue to plummet, the dual sport segment conversely just gets hotter, more crowded, and competitive. The recent pandemic has only accelerated this trend, as people are looking at creative ways to stay active and entertained whilst also safely socially distancing.

Given that we were privy to our first taste of the new Yamaha Tenere 700 nearly five years ago, its arrival has been long awaited and highly anticipated. Named after the Tenere Desert in Africa – an iconic stage of early Dakar rallies – it was designed to be a simple, nimble, go-anywhere adventure bike. There are lots of cues that Yamaha has done their homework so it would live up to its namesake, offering up a lot of capability and value for its $12,399 sticker price.

The 2021 Yamaha Tenere 700 starts at $12,399.

The robust skid plate provides added protection for the motor, while the adjustable quad LED headlights brighten the darkness either at night or in a dense forested area. The KYB front 43 mm fork and rear suspension are adjustable, offering 210 mm and 200 mm of travel respectively. The T7 arrives with Pirelli STR M+S tires measuring 21-inches in the front and 18 in the rear. They were well suited to the mix of tarmac, loose dirt and gravel I rode on, but the hardcore off-road enthusiasts among us will likely switch to more aggressive knobbies.

The T7 gets Pirelli STR M+S tires measuring 21-inches in the front and 18 in the rear with enough fender clearance for some knobbies if you fancy,

Perhaps it’s the luddite in me, but oftentimes when I’m introduced to a new technological advancement, I’m skeptical rather than impressed. While some may lament the lack of innovation and features of the Tenere , I consider having fewer things to fix or replace as a good thing; particularly on a bike that’s just begging to be taken off the beaten path. For instance, the only issues I’ve experienced with my current Ford Mustang GT over the last three years of ownership have been faulty sensors. $250 here, $300 there – all to replace the very things that are supposed to alert me when something goes wrong. I digress.

Two-way adjustable LED lightning comes standard.

The 700 of course refers to Yamaha’s 689cc CP2 parallel twin that was derived from the MT-07 street bike. This mill has proven to be a well-developed, reliable motor. It is virtually unrecognizable in this platform due to a unique airbox, cooling system, ECU programming and exhaust – which sounds great by the way. It’s got a nice, hearty rumble at idle. Its 72 hp and 50 lb-ft of torque don’t sound overly impressive, but the gearing combined with a kg 204 kg (452 lb) wet weight mean acceleration feels more than ample. It’s got the torque and sound of a big single, but with less vibration.

Derived from the MT-07, the 689cc parallel twin is good for 72 hp and 50 lb-ft of torque.

Whether navigating tight, technical terrain or passing on the highway, the Tenere was never lacking in power. During my week on the T7, I spent more time on the highway than I would have liked, but I was surprised how well suited it was to the job. Its wide power band allows it to pull hard through all six gears – even when passing at triple digit speeds. It also offers decent wind protection, has a respectable fuel range and the instrument cluster is easy to read. The vertical LCD screen features gear position, neutral, and fuel level indicators, as well as a clock, speedometer, tachometer and odometer. What more to you need?

The vertical instrument screen is easy to read whether standing or seated.

It doesn’t have cruise control and there aren’t any variable riding scenarios, dynamic stability or traction control modes – only the ability to turn off the ABS. It’s simple and to the point. Nothing to distract your attention from the task at hand. Turning off the ABS system merely requires pushing and holding a button until the OFF ROAD light illuminates on the screen. This needs to be repeated every time you shut off the engine or remove the key.

Brembo twin piston 28mm floating callipers grab 282mm dual front discs.

Even at six feet tall with a 32-inch inseam, the Tenere felt high for me when getting on and off or when stopped. The stock seat sits at 87.8 cm (34.6 in), so I was forced to balance on my tippy toes at stoplights. The height definitely helps with the ground clearance though. The suspension soaks up decent sized rocks, roots or moderate bumps without too much fanfare, but is admittedly a bit on the firm side. The Brembo brakes offer a high level of grip with a solid initial bite but also allow for subtle adjustments.

The stock seat sits at 87.8 cm (34.6 in).

The high, wide handlebars and sturdy pegs allow the rider to easily maneuver the bike as needed over rough terrain while standing, but also offer a comfortable riding position while seated. Despite being a parallel twin, the bike feels narrow – making it more reminiscent of a dirt bike than a cumbersome adventure tourer. The handlebars, hand grips and throttle allow for smooth modulation while standing without having to hunch over. It’s easy to manage off-road and it’s more than happy to lean into a turn on the open road.

The seat is adequate for a few hours of riding, but any more time beyond that in the saddle and you’ll be thinking about the aftermarket options. Europe received shipment of the bike before we did, so there are plenty of accessories available to personalize and make your own.

The narrow seat allows for easily maneuverability but is on the firm side when seated for long periods.

Alternatively, you could get yourself into a Suzuki V-Strom 650A with three-level traction control for only $9,699, or the 95 hp KTM 790 Adventure R for $15,499. Both offer additional features which may or may not appeal to you. But if you’re not going to take advantage of the added features, why pay for them? The Honda NC750X is available for $9,399 (or $10,399 with a DCT) but isn’t nearly as well suited to off-road shenanigans. The Tenere is a more than capable bare bones adventure motorcycle that is also just as proficient on the highway or winding backcountry roads. It offers a clean slate for customization at a reasonable price. Nothing more, nothing less.


  1. I got mine at the end of May. Before that bike, I’ve own a V-Strom 1000, a Super Ténéré 1200 and DT 125, TS 200 and XL 600 when I was younger… That bike is the best on and off road motorcycle I’ve rode.
    The one thing that needs to be change are the pegs. At 3 inch and 1/4 they are not long enough. I got some 4″1/2.
    The seat: I taught I would have to find something else after my first ride but it turned out to be really comfortable… Narrow doesn’t mean uncomfortable 😉
    Suspension: Yes really firm but don’t be afraid to bring every thing down and then go up. I’m not agressive off road but I am on the road. I’ve play with suspension that much in the past except for pre-load but I played a lot with that one and I got where I wanted, stable in curves and fun on potholes and bumps.
    The power band is just what I need on twisty roads and superb on trails. The only thing I miss is that little punch the MT-07 has around 7 or 8 000 rpm.
    Why that kind of bike?
    Because here in Montreal it’s a good thing to have a bike that flies over potholes and when I go away from the city, I like to take roads that are not busy and it means often that they are in bad conditions and I don’t care!

    • I have my 1st bike with Cruise Control & it’s the 1st bike since my 2005 Wee Strom, that doesn’t put my hands to sleep (my 07 Wee Strom did however). It’s not an option I ever thought I would want or need on a motorcycle, but it’s one I am enjoying

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