The 2021 Yamaha Ténéré 700 Is a Cleverly-Designed Affordable Adventure Bike

Getting an off-road-capable motorcycle, even an adventure bike, doesn’t have to be ruinously expensive. There are several affordable models to choose from these days; the Royal Enfield Himalayan, for example, only costs about $5000. And for just under $10k, you can get the 2021 Yamaha Ténéré 700. It doesn’t have all the fanciest ADV motorcycle features, but it makes up for it with clever engineering.

What does the 2021 Yamaha Ténéré 700 offer?

A blue 2021 Yamaha Ténéré 700 by the desert landscape
2021 Yamaha Ténéré 700 side | Yamaha

While the Yamaha Ténéré 700 launches in the US as a 2021 model, it launched in Europe last year, Revzilla reports. And it was first shown as a concept in 2016, Cycle World reports. However, despite the lengthy wait, at first glance, the adventure bike doesn’t exactly seem ground-breaking.

A black-clad rider rides a white 2020 Yamaha MT-07 through a stylized night cityscape
2020 Yamaha MT-07 | Yamaha

The 2021 Yamaha Ténéré 700 uses the same 698cc parallel-twin found in the MT-07 naked bike, Cycle World reports. However, in the Ténéré 700, it has a revised ECU—partially due to emissions requirements—a new intake and a new exhaust, Ultimate Motorcycling reports.

It’s rated at 72 hp and 50 lb-ft, Road & Track reports, and is linked to a 6-speed transmission. The MT-07 has the same transmission, but the Ténéré has a different final gear ratio, Rider reports. The Ténéré 700 also has a different frame than the MT-07.

The 2021 Yamaha Ténéré 700's handlebars and dash
2021 Yamaha Ténéré 700 handlebars and dash | Yamaha

The 2021 Yamaha Ténéré 700 is relatively light when it comes to electronic features. It has an LCD screen, quad-LED headlights, Brembo brakes with ABS, a 12V power outlet, and that’s about it. There’s no traction control, stability control, or alternative riding modes, Motorcyclist reports. However, the ABS can be disabled, and the lights are adjustable.

The front half of the 2021 Yamaha Ténéré 700
2021 Yamaha Ténéré 700 front | Yamaha

But the adventure bike makes up for it a bit with its mechanical off-road features. For one, the adjustable suspension has roughly 8” of travel. Plus, it comes standard with handguards, an alloy skid plate, a windscreen, an adjustable-height fender, and serrated footpegs with removable rubber inserts, ADV Pulse reports. Heated grips, engine guards, a center stand, more lights, and a more robust skid plate are available as accessories.

It’s not the Yamaha Ténéré 700’s specs that impress, though, R&T reports. It’s how the bike’s little details combine to make an extremely approachable adventure bike.

The details that make the 2021 Yamaha Ténéré 700 a good adventure bike

2020 KTM 390 Adventure motorcycle sliding through the desert
2020 KTM 390 Adventure motorcycle | KTM

At 452 pounds, the Ténéré 700 is on the lighter end of the ADV scale. The KTM 390 Adventure, for example, is 65 pounds lighter, but it’s down a cylinder and about 30 hp.

That weight, combined with the 34.4” seat height and wide upright handlebars, means the Yamaha Ténéré 700 is easy to control. R&T describes it as a big dirt bike—a major adventure bike complement. And if you do fall over, there’s a hand-grip molded into the rear to make picking the bike up easier.

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Then there are the Ténéré 700’s technical details. Its engine, for example, fires in such a way that it actually boosts rear-wheel traction, Cycle World reports. The parallel-twin also has a relatively high countershaft, FortNine reports. That creates a sharp swingarm angle, which lets the rear wheel push the front wheel more effectively into the road. This counter-acts the rear suspension’s squatting (compressing) under acceleration and causing the front wheel to lighten up. That way, your steering doesn’t disappear.

A close look at the rear wheel and swingarm of the 2021 Yamaha Ténéré 700
2021 Yamaha Ténéré 700 rear frame close-up | Yamaha

Even the final gear ratio change helps to fight against squat. The Yamaha Ténéré 700 is geared lower than the MT-07 because it has a larger final sprocket. This improves acceleration and makes riding over low obstacles easier. But it also lets the chain tension combat the rear-end squat more effectively.

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The Yamaha Ténéré 700 isn’t perfect. Its suspension is a bit too soft for the most extreme trails, Revzilla reports, and its rear brake lacks feedback compared to the front one. And while its standard Pirelli Scorpion Rally STR tires work well on- and off-pavement, mud and sand will require more specialized rubber.

But as an entry-level, easy-to-ride affordable adventure bike, it has a lot going for it.

How do its rivals compare?

At this price point, there aren’t many bikes that can properly compete with the Yamaha Ténéré 700.

Rear-3/4 view of a blue-tanked 2020 Suzuki V-Strom 650XT Adventure with aluminum pannier bags
2020 Suzuki V-Strom 650XT Adventure rear | Suzuki

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The $10,399 2020 Suzuki V-Strom 650XT Adventure comes closest. It has the same 645cc V-twin as the base V-Strom 650, rated at 67 hp and 45 lb-ft, RideApart reports. The Adventure trim adds a center stand, hard-sided aluminum luggage, a handlebar brace, and crash bars to that, Cycle World reports.

The front 3/4 view of a blue 2020 Suzuki V-Strom 650XT Adventure
2020 Suzuki V-Strom 650XT Adventure front 3/4 | Suzuki

Like the Yamaha, it has ABS, LED lights, a 12V outlet, and adjustable suspension, Motorcyclist reports. But, while it has multiple riding modes, low-RPM assist, and traction control, its ABS can’t be fully disabled. Plus, even without gear, it’s 24 pounds heavier than the Ténéré 700, with about 2” less suspension travel, Ultimate Motorcycling reports. It’s arguably the better-equipped touring bike, but it gives up some off-road capability.

A white 2021 BMW F 750 GS on a desert mountainside
2021 BMW F 750 GS | BMW

Moving up a little more in cost is the $10,995 BMW F 750 GS. It has an 853cc flat-twin with 77 hp and 61 lb-ft but weighs about 40 pounds more than the Yamaha, Revzilla reports. However, for 2021, the F 750 GS gets a few extra features, Cycle World reports. It now comes standard with traction control, engine brake control, and upgraded ABS as well as a USB port. That’s on top of the TFT dash and multiple extra options, such as the electronically-adjustable suspension.

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But if you want handguards, those cost extra. And even with the suspension upgrades, it only has 5.9” of travel in the rear and 6.9” in the front. It’s a great touring bike, and can tackle a bit of off-roading, Motorcyclist reports. But if you’re after dirt riding, the Yamaha is the better choice.

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