The wait is over—for the European market at least. Yamaha's Ténéré 700 is ready to be unleashed upon the adventure motorcycling world, starting with those lucky enough to be located in a country that will receive the models rolling off the production line in France. Here in the United States, the wait will continue until the second half of 2020, where we will see the Ténéré 700 as a 2021 model. It's agonizing for those that have been ready to buy since 2016, but at least Cycle World was invited to join the world press launch held in Tortosa, Spain. So should you keep that deposit? Should you keep that cash squirreled away until 2020? Probably. But not absolutely.

Yamaha Ténéré 700
While Europe will be seeing the Yamaha Ténéré 700 in dealerships soon, American adventure riders will have to wait another year.Yamaha

Yamaha claims the Ténéré 700 is bringing back the essence of the Ténéré philosophy of a pure, sporty, lightweight machine that can go anywhere. Affordability and accessibility were also key factors in the development of the Ténéré 700, along with creating a motorcycle that is just as good off road as it is on. Yamaha outlined three target customer types or groups; just about every rider in the ADV world would fit into one of these groups. And when a motorcycle is designed for everyone, it can be great and not so great at the same time. This is the case for the 700 Ténéré.

Great is the best descriptor for Yamaha's plucky 689cc CP2 engine that finds a home in the new Ténéré 700. Unchanged mechanically from the crossplane 270-degree-crankshaft parallel twin used in the MT-07 and XSR700, this iteration gets revised EFI mapping, a Ténéré-specific airbox, and a new muffler to create a broader spread of torque that comes in earlier and trails off later. Toss in a gearing change for a lower overall final ratio and you have the most snappy response yet from Yamaha's versatile parallel-twin powerplant. On the street, the snappy delivery makes for a lively, cut-and-thrust ride, with plenty on tap for passing traffic on the twisting Spanish mountain roads we were experiencing. I daresay it's more lively in power delivery on the street than the MT or XSR.

Ténéré 700’s crossplane crank CP2 engine
The Ténéré 700’s crossplane crank CP2 engine is perfectly suited and calibrated for adventure motorcycling.Yamaha

In the dirt, the snappy power is a hoot, but without ride modes and traction control, Yamaha has left some dirt dominance on the cutting-room floor. After becoming accustomed to dirt-specific TC and ride modes from just about every other serious adventure motorcycle, you must retrain your wrist and mind to find the traction to move forward. A vigilant finger or two on the excellently communicative clutch lever tempers rear wheelspin and damps the ever-present snatchiness of Yamaha’s crossplane twins and triples that upsets the applecart in slow corners.

689cc parallel twin
Keeping the 689cc parallel twin hooked up and moving forward takes some clutch work as the lack of traction control leaves it up to the rider.Yamaha

Undeniably the addition of ride modes and traction control and all the electronics that come with would add to the cost, but working your wrist and body to find rear tire hookup does take more energy and concentration. Weighing on your personal cost-to-tech scale is the final determination whether electronic rider aids are needed, but Yamaha has placed its bets in the ADV world on a lower cost. A safe bet for mass-market appeal is a lower price tag—a tag that has yet to be finalized for the United States.

Pricing in Europe is 9,300 euros; just doing the most basic of math would put the Ténéré 700 right round $10,400, but more than exchange rates determine the price tag of a new model in each market. Volume, margins, and economic forecasting often push MSRP above the simple math. For those expecting to dish out for a new Ténéré, $10,999 would be reasonable estimate.

2021 Ténéré 700 riding in Spain
Estimations put pricing of the 2021 Ténéré 700 in the $10,500 to $11,000 range.Yamaha

Keeping the cost of an adventure motorcycle with long-travel suspension below 11 grand is no easy feat, and with it comes more compromises than the omission on electronic rider aids. Braking hardware of the Ténéré at first glance looks to be top shelf: Brembo four-piston calipers clamp dual 282mm front rotors matched to a Brembo master cylinder and single-piston caliper at the rear. But the performance is less than. Slowing the 450-pound fully fueled (claimed) Yamaha on the street finds the front brake lacking initial bite, and power doesn’t ramp up as the lever is squeezed harder. It’s not really wooden in feel, but there is little sensitivity and outright power is lacking. Perhaps the non-Brembo master cylinder combined with rubber lines that seem to give way to hydraulic pressure are the culprit here. Even in the dirt, where softer initial bite and gentler brake performance can be a benefit, power is lackluster. And that’s the good end of the brakes.

At the rear, the lever has a long take up before a light-switch-like actuation. In the dirt this means the rear brake lever is only good for slides and not much else. On the street, it’s mush followed by pulsing ABS. Simply put, the rear brake is nearly useless. After some time, you reset your internal braking computer to allow more time to slow the Ténéré, but every so often a surprise finds you wanting more power, feel, and, well, power.

Ténéré 700 wheel slide
The light-switch-like actuation of the Ténéré 700 rear brake makes locked rear wheel slides a common occurrence in the dirt.Yamaha

Thankfully, ABS can be turned off, though on or off are the only “settings,” so to speak. After Yamaha’s long history of not offering switchable ABS on the larger Super Ténéré, we applaud Team Blue for offering the choice here. ABS-on is the default anytime the key or kill switch is engaged, as would be expected in our litigious times, and to turn off the system a five-second press of a dedicated button on the low-tech, vertically oriented LCD dash. Calibration of front ABS is excellent (though the system isn’t lean-angle sensitive), only accuating to save your hide in the slickest and most dire situations. The rear is more of a formality thanks to the light switch between your right toe and the wheel.

Yamaha Ténéré 700 LCD dash
Switching the ABS is easy as a long press of a button on the low-tech LCD dash.Yamaha

Sprinting through the mountain roads of Spain, the Ténéré 700 is surprising in its combination of nimbleness and stability. Despite running Pirelli Scorpion Rally STR M+S tires wrapped around 21-inch front and 18-inch rear spoked wheels, the Ténéré has uncanny road feel and traction. An implausible scenario considering the running gear, undoubtedly, but we attacked a final stretch of road on day one that seemed to be dropped from heaven for supermoto hooliganism; the Ténéré hustled through each hairpin with quickly flicking from side to side with minimal input and manners more befitting a naked sportbike than an adventure. Yamaha nailed the on-road performance and it’s crystal clear that much testing was done on European roads.

Yamaha Ténéré 700 on the street
The Yamaha Ténéré 700 is exceptional on the street.Yamaha

Adventure motorcycling is much different in Europe than here in the US. The opportunities for off-road travel is much less, and often true off-road capability takes a back seat to on-road manners. Yamaha touts the Ténéré’s off-road capability and rally heritage, but in the dirt, things were not as magical as on the street. With a full fuel tank the 700 has a 48/52 percent front-to-rear weight bias in order to keep the front end light, but perhaps it’s too light. Vague front tire traction and feel lead to frequent pushing on fire road corners. Adding five clicks of shock preload got the bike further up on its nose for more bite on the side of the tire, but it just never was completely confidence inspiring. Perhaps more aggressive off-road tires will help this.

Ténéré aggressive in the dirt
More aggressive tires might help with front tire confidence in the dirt.Yamaha

Rear traction was also scant, especially with that torquey CP2 engine wanting to go-go-go. Constant body movement was needed to find traction and keep the Ténéré hooked up and moving in the right direction. The bike is supremely stable in most regards, just finding the right angle of attack on the front tire while managing the rear track is not the set-it-and-forget-it operation that modern ADV riders have become accustomed to. Ever ridden a big thumper with worn-out knobs? That’s the experience here. It’ll go, just not as efficiently as it should or could.

Banging through rock-strewn and chopped-up fire roads highlighted the initial plushness of the KYB fork’s 210mm of travel. It eats up without issue the annoying square-edged hits that could cause deflection and tank slappers. Smooth and steady, the 200mm-travel shock also glides right over the small stuff. A high-speed section with 18- to 24-inch-tall water bars across the trail found the limits of the Ténéré’s suspension where just a small amount of airtime caused both ends to find the bottom of the stroke. When it did, however, the chassis took it in stride, remaining composed and in control—good to know should you get a little overzealous. Adding some compression damping at both ends helped slightly, but then took away some of that initial plushness. Overall, it’s a great start for most, but we hope that Yamaha will have a more capable suspension setting for aggressive off-roading when the bike is delivered in the second half of 2020.

Ténéré 700’s Kayaba suspension
The Ténéré 700’s Kayaba suspension is plush in rocks and roots but does bottom easily once the airtime increases.Yamaha

Two full days proved the Ténéré 700 to be plenty comfortable. Only after a few hours did my posterior tire of the firm and flat stock seat. Sampling the taller accessory Rally seat for a stint between a photo stop and lunch had me wishing that my test unit was equipped with the same. While it adds extra altitude to the 34.6-inch stock seat height, the Rally seat cwould be negotiated as a deal sweetener at the local dealership. The handlebar bend is spot-on for sitting or standing. The bike is exceptionally narrow at the front of the seat and beginning of the 4.2-gallon tank, but as you move forward on the tank while standing it does get a bit wider between your knees and calves, but not egregiously so. It does make the footpegs feel narrow side to side, and often I felt that my Alpinestars Tech 10s didn’t have full purchase of the peg while standing and riding aggressively.

Leaning in to the Ténéré 700
Standing up and leaning forward make the footpegs feel small on the Ténéré 700.Yamaha

At the end of two days of varied terrain, on and off road, I was left to ponder if I would recommend that a potential buyer wait another year for the Ténéré 700. Would I personally hold onto my cash or keep my spot in line? For 90 percent of those adventure buyers, the answer is yes, keep your spot in line. The Ténéré 700 is capable for nearly every situation, has the best CP2 powerplant to date, and will leave plenty of cash in your account to travel and customize your machine. That other 10 percent who is looking for the ultimate off-road adventure? This is not your machine, the lack of electronic rider aids, less than stellar brakes, and softer suspension will leave you wanting more—or spending more as you look to the aftermarket to upgrade. The Ténéré 700 is a good, actually a great, midsize adventure motorcycle that is expected to undercut the competition on price, but at a cost to its overall performance.

2021 Yamaha Ténéré 700 adventure
The 2021 Yamaha Ténéré 700 is a great adventure motorcycle for the masses.Yamaha

2021 Yamaha Ténéré 700 Specifications

ENGINE: 689cc, liquid-cooled, DOHC parallel twin, 8 valves
BORE X STROKE: 80.0mm x 68.6mm
CLAIMED HORSEPOWER: 72.4 hp @ 8,000 rpm
CLAIMED TORQUE: 50.2 lb.-ft. @ 6,600 rpm
FUEL SYSTEM: Electronic fuel injection
CLUTCH: Wet, multiple disc, cable operation
FRAME: Double cradle steel-tube chassis
FRONT SUSPENSION: 43mm Kayaba USD fork fully adjustable; 8.3-in. (210mm) travel
REAR SUSPENSION: Kayaba shock fully adjustable; 7.9-in. (200mm) travel
FRONT BRAKE: 4-piston caliper, dual 282mm discs w/ ABS and Off-road mode (disengaged)
REAR BRAKE: 1-piston floating caliper, 245mm disc w/ ABS and Off-road mode (disengaged)
WHEELS, FRONT/REAR: Spoked wheels w/ aluminum rims, 2.50 x 21 in. / 4.50 x 18 in.
TIRES, FRONT/REAR: 90/90-21 / 150/70-18
RAKE/TRAIL: 27.0°/4.1 in. (107.8mm)
WHEELBASE: 62.6 in. (1,590mm)
GROUND CLEARANCE: 9.4 in. (240mm)
SEAT HEIGHT: 34.6 in. (880mm)
FUEL CAPACITY: 4.2 gal. (16L)
CLAIMED DRY WEIGHT: 412.3 lb. (187kg)
CLAIMED WET WEIGHT: 450 lb. (204kg)
AVAILABILITY: Late summer 2020
2021 Yamaha Ténéré 700 available in the second half of 2020.Yamaha