Tag Archives: xsr700

Quick ride: Yamaha XT700 Tenere review

t777See also:
Yamaha’s Ténéré travel bikes
Yamaha XScrambleR 700
Yamaha XT660Z Tenere
Africa Twin

In the UK, July’s ABR show was the only chance to road-test Yamaha’s much-awaited XT700 Tenere before it reached dealers.
As a Tenere rider from the very start, and a fan of Yamaha’s proven CP2 engine from my XSR 700 (below right), I’ve been looking forward to trying the XT7. The show’s timing also allowed a fortnight before a ~3.5% pre-order discount expired, bringing the cost down to £8400.

In a line:
With the irresistible CP2 motor and legendary branding, the new XT700 Tenere will be a hit.

Modern bikes from established manufacturers are now predictably brilliant, and recent launch reviews raved about the XT700. No great surprise there; Yamaha took their time getting the new Tenere just right while keeping the price down. We’ve all read or experienced what happens when that doesn’t happen. And like Honda’s Africa Twin of a few years ago, Yamaha chose to dodge a ‘because-we-can’ horsepower and tech-war with the KTM790 Adventure with which the XT7 is being inevitably compared.
The new Tenere shares the same CP2 motor with the MT-07, Tracer tourer and XSR retro. Everything else is new or different. Since being introduced in 2014, all three have combined to make one of the most successful model ranges for Yamaha. By now over 100,000 units have been sold worldwide and the XT700 will add to that figure just a fast as they can bang them out.


They may have saved time by ignoring electronic aids but, crucially, Yamaha didn’t cut corners on the suspension, which often defines budget Jap bikes these days. And the XT includes one of my favourite gadgets: a 26-click  hydraulic pre-load adjustment knob (PLA; left) on the piggyback shock. It means you don’t have to faff about with C-spanners, or more often, hammers and chisels, to alter preload. It may be right under the mudguard collecting crap off the tyre rather than to one side, but this sort of real-world prioritising speaks to riders like me whose eyesight is now too poor to be dazzled by colourful TFT screens, quick-shifters, cornering ABS, traction- and cruise control plus ESA and over a dozen engine modes. Years of hard-won experience have taught us to simply ride appropriately for the conditions and location, be that negotiating a rainy winter’s rush hour, or off-roading alone in the middle of nowhere (left).

Hook up a throttle cable to a CP2 motor and that’s all the traction control you need.

Indeed – just like the old Tenere singles, many commenters (and they are legion) are citing the XT700’s very simplicity including lack of riding aids, as integral to its appeal. It’s kept costs down, doesn’t radically affect the bike’s day-to-day usability, and is one less thing to light up the dash should the electronics play up.
That leaves ABS, which is now mandatory on all new bikes in the EU. Unlike the list above, it’s a safety feature I welcome, and at a standstill, can be disabled for the dirt. (On loose surfaces ABS can cut in too soon and extend braking distances. You don’t want that, though I’ve found at normal dirt speeds ABS on bikes is rarely a problem.)

What they say [source; includes typos]
When you’re riding the new Ténéré 700, your future can be whatever you want it to be. Because this a go-anywhere motorcycle that enables you to live life without limits and experience a new feeling of total freedom.
Driven by a high-torque, 689cc, 2-cylinder engine, equipped with a special optimised transmission that gives you the ideal balance of power and control, this rally-bred long distance adventure bike is built to master a wide range of riding conditions on the dirt
of asphalt.
The compact tubular chassis and slim bodywork offer maximum agility during stand up or sit down riding – and long travel suspension and spoke wheels give you the ability to get to anywhere you want. Just fill up and go! The Next Horizon is Yours.

Yamaha Adventure Brochure

Engine character and response – it’s perfect
• Fully adjustable, plush suspension
• Pre-load adjustment knob
Weighs 205kg (unverified). Same as my 660Z and less than my CB500X RR
• Flat but grippy textured seat
• Brakes feel good, road or dirt
• Brisk and agile on the road
• A display scroll button now on right bar
• 25,000-mile valve-clearance intervals
• Well set up cockpit
• Centre stand – at least an available option
• OMG – no beak!

• Is it such a bargain? Over £2k more than an MT-07
• At 16-litres, the tank could use a couple more
• Top-heavy at a standstill
• Non-adjustable screen
Handguards are all plastic
• Screw-in filler cap
• At 34.5″ (875mm), the stock seat is high (but there are lowering options).
• Tall riders will need bar risers to stand comfortably

First impressions
Compared to the original T7 concept from a bike show back in 2016 (left), the production bike looks as good, but not dazzling. According to a tape measure, it has nearly the same dimensions as an Africa Twin (right); in fact it’s two-inches longer but it sure looks less bulky. (There were loads of ATs at this show. Great to see how popular they’ve become alongside the You Know Whats).

With a 32-inch inseam and workboots, on the standard 875mm-high (34.5″) seat I was able to get my feet flat on the ground, but with little knee-bend to spare. There’s a lowering kit (£228) which includes a link and, combined with a 20-mm fork drop, lowers the seat height substantially to 837mm (32.9″). Plus there’s a higher, rally seat. I noted coming back to the Yamaha stand one normal-sized bloke struggling to manoeuvre his T7 into place; one foot in the air, the other on tiptoe.

I’d definitely consider the lowering kit, even if the seat will probably lose padding and lowering links (‘dogbones’) alter factory-designed suspension geometry. At least the Tenere’s suspension can be easily retuned, should you notice a difference. I also see on this YT video there’s also a two-part seat option (right), and the rear section can be swapped for a rack.

Although the CP2 motor is a slim unit, they’ve maintained that overall impression with a narrow seat and screen. Even the LCD display is in portrait format to suggest lack of width. This is not a wide-arsed GS12 or XT1200Z, and because of that feels less intimidating and more fun to ride on and off road.


The plain LCD digital dash is a rectangular version of the round unit off my XSR: switchable Imperial/metric speed, gear, fuel and time readouts, plus the same range of seven other metrics in various formats, but with only room to display one at a time. On the MT-07/XSR you reached over and scrolled with a button on the dash. The XT700 has a Select button on the right bar (below) which does the same and so makes it much easier to change the display on the move. Cycling the button seven times hits them all. Neat and simple.

• Ambient temperature (C or F)
• Engine temp
• Average mpg (or other formats)
• Current mpg (ditto)
• Odometer
• Trip
• Another trip?

Up here you also have a power outlet plus a place for another one, and a bar above the display for mounting a navigation aid or even a roadbook at near eye level.


The CP2 (left) may be narrow, but it’s a tall wet sump motor which makes it less suited to trail bikes in need of ground clearance without getting too top-heavy; there’s a lot of mass above those piston crowns and a fuel tank too. This is partly why four-stroke trail and dirt bikes are traditionally dry sump, with a pump and an oil reservoir fitted somewhere.


While repairing my XSR I remember wondering if I could have realistically reduced the 3-inch depth of the protruding sump, even though it was fairly well surrounded by the silencer box and header pipes. Some oil volume would have been lost.
On the XT7, under the skimpy 2mm alloy bashplate, it’s the same deep sump, so the longer suspension makes the whole bike top-heavy at parking speeds. It’s nothing new with such bikes, but I did have an … oh shit! moment, lowering the bike onto the stand on an off-camber path to remove dry grass from the hot pipes. It’s a long old way to fall, even at zero mph.


The narrow but steeply raked screen looked like it should do the job. Housed in the rally-style fairing, you’d also hope that, with four-LEDs plus two smaller day-lights, the headlight set-up (left) will do more than just look good once the sun goes down. Sat on the bike, I liked the high, wide but slim feel and, apart from the saddle height and weight, felt right at home on the XT7.

For a bike carrying the Tenere name of the legendary ‘desert within a desert’, only the modest fuel tank capacity spoils the picture. You imagine a sub-205-kg wet weight by any means possible was locked into the design brief, and the easiest way to play with that is tank volume. It’s only 2 litres bigger than my XSR, but if the XT700 averages the same consumption, that will still add up to a range of 420 km (260 miles), or between 330 and 510 km. Right on target for a travel bike.

One easy way of unobtrusively supplementing fuel range on the XT would be to attach flat fuel containers low down to the accessory engine crash bars (right; another 200 quid). Fyi, the bike I rode had recorded an average of 58mpg / 20.5kpl since the tank had been refilled. Not spectacular.


Tenere test ride


The 45-minute test ride – part of the Tenere Tour doing Europe at the moment – was an escorted run. This meant little chance to grab good photos. About eight German-registered XT7s were available, all with a few light scrapes from previous test rides. My bike showed 3800 miles on the clock.
You had to book a time allocation. I arrived before the show gates opened and even then, got on the second or third slot that day. I overheard that by the end of Friday the whole weekend had been booked out.

Initially, the route followed a marked grassy trail around the spacious grounds of Ragley Hall, before taking off on a blast around Warwickshire’s lush, midsummer backroads. I was told all these pre-production bikes were all destined for the crusher (a common practice). No chance of getting an ex-test bike cheap. Sad face.

Tender - 12

On the trail
Pulling away, who can resist the instantaneous grunt of that CP2 engine, characterised by its 270-° crank timing, (left; more here). In the modern era 270 was first used on Yamaha’s TDM900 but has now become almost ubiquitous on big parallel twins. It’s one of my all-time favourite motors, harking back to my XS650 or of course, your favourite 90-° V-twin, whose firing pulse is replicated by a 270-° P-twin crank, but in a much more compact engine. Thanks to revised injection mapping and a new pipe and air box, the XT7’s added low-down torque was noticeable right away and might even have been described as snatchy. The radiator is a little different, too.


According to Yamaha specs, the XT700’s 72hp at 9000 rpm is 5% less than the three CP2-engined road bikes, but it has the same 68Nm of torque at 6500rpm. I imagine the XT’s long, rally-style pipe (left) helps deliver that low-down torque, compared to the stumpy XSR/MT-07 silencers (inset).

The way my clutch was adjusted, initially, the unfamiliar bike was a bit of a handful in the slower sections – or maybe it was just a little snatchy at low rpm. This wasn’t helped by the tall first gear and shallow-blocked Pirelli Scorpion Rally do-it-all tyres on the flattened dry grass with all the grip of old lino.

Tubeless spoked rims (as found on the XT1200Z) would have blown the XT700 budget, but I have a hope that the rear rim has safety beads, which make sealing with Airtight or BARTubeless a possibility. On the front that’s less likely, but safety-beaded 21s are available. As it is, a tubeless rear is more useful, as on the road that’s where most flats occur.


Riding along in first hand off the throttle at the 1400rpm tickover, the bike fuelled cleanly but the speedo registered 7mph. As with so many bikes in this category, that’s normal but too fast for trickling uphill round gnarly hairpins without slipping the clutch, though I recall the XSR managing that surprisingly well in Morocco. Problems may occur doing that for too long in hot conditions, but let’s be realistic: this is a 200-kilo bike. Despite the exuberant promo images (left), the elephant in the adventure-motorcycling room is the belief that bikes two or three times the weight of their pilots are manageable on anything more than smooth gravel tracks. For most, they make fun road bikes with a cool, adventuresome image.


Compared to the MT-07 (and probably XSR), I read here that they’ve added three teeth on the rear sprocket but taken one off the front, ending up with 15/46. That adds up to an identical 0.33 final-drive ratio unless I am very much mistaken, so it may have more to do with chain/swingarm clearance for the longer-travel suspension. It’s actually the taller 18-inch wheel with a 150/70-R18 tyre which increases the overall diameter to raise the gearing. Unless they’ve taken the trouble to modify the internal gear ratios, any mention of ‘… special optimised transmission…’ (as above) is presumably just marketing flannel.


Sat upright, grappling the wide ‘bars, at least the big trail bike’s commanding seating position makes you feel both in control and nimble; ready to respond with confidence to whatever’s ahead. It’s not a new idea, but squidgy rubber inserts in the footrests (right) also mean you get the benefits of comfort and isolation sitting down, with boot soles compressing the rubber and biting the serrated metal edges when standing up.
Doing this, as expected, I found the fatbars an inch or two too low to stand comfortably (me: 6  foot 1). That can be fixed with Yamaha risers or similar, but I did notice that to get the stock bars up, the rubber-mounted bar mounts (left) are even higher than they were on my XSR. Add some risers and that’s getting on for six inches of leverage on the triple clamp mounts when hammering over rough terrain or when the bike falls over (my XSR ones were bent in the write-off crash).


This may be a red herring and only relevant to taller riders who expect to need to stand, but it’s a problem I’ve encountered on projects when trying to convert what’s essentially a road bike into an all-road travel bike – particularly when attempting to Tenerise a TDM (right) a few years back. You can’t just fit some apehangers and hope for the best. At the front, the XT700 is still a low-headstock, MT-07/XSR road chassis (more below).


Who knows what the settings were, but the suspension coped fine on the trail at our modest speeds. It soaked up what few bumps I could find and had it not, there’s preload as well as rebound and compression damping to meddle with. It was hard to make a worthwhile evaluation in our 10 to 15 minutes on the grassy trails, but it’s unlikely the Tenere’s suspension will urgently need the same Rally-Raid treatment which their CB500Xs benefit from. A great motor and good, adjustable suspension is half the battle won.
The brakes too had enough feel plus ABS back-up to inspire confidence and stop you embarrassing yourself. I never knowingly actuated the ABS.
It might be an off-road clearance issue, but Id have prefered a powerful single rotor on the front; it saves weight and worked fine on an NC750X I tried later. The XT660Z single (right) which this bike effectively replaces was unnecessarily lumbered with twin front discs. The front wheel on that thing weighed a ton.


On the road
Truly, there’s nothing more I need from a motorbike engine apart from 100mpg: smooth, ambrosia-like power delivery right off the throttle, but with that sweet, characterful lumpiness of warm rice pudding and which can never be called harshness or vibration. Just as it was on my XSR. I bet the manual Africa Twin and some Triumph twins are similar – a KTM790 I rode wasn’t, and it’s what’s missing from Honda’s bland CB500X. Done up with a Rally Raid kit (as mine was), I’d call the CB a contender alongside the T7, especially with the 2019 model’s 19-inch front wheel.


Once on the highway, the escort riders didn’t dawdle unnecessarily and the XT700 took it all in its stride. Potholes and drain covers didn’t faze the springing, the brakes handled sudden bunch-ups well, and the moto just pulled through it all as fast as you wanted to go. I could have kept going all day.
You’re sitting on 200mm or 8 inches of fully adjustable and compliant suspension with USD forks and the PLA on the back. As it’s so easy, I cranked the knob all the way in to 26: the ride was much firmer – ready for some heavy throwovers and a dusty trail. Back at the normal mid-setting, the feel is of being able to hit irregularities with less wincing while – if you know what you’re doing – tuning the damping in both directions as well as easily setting the sag; the vital metric which is more or less 30% of total travel).
Where 60 to 70mph was possible, the blast from the slim screen hit me at nose level but still gave useful protection. I could crouch and get out of the wind, but wearing a Moto III didn’t help the aerodynamics. You’re riding a motorbike; don’t expect a turbulence-free cocoon. Just as since time immemorial, the mirrors shared the rear view with my arms but were blur-free.


After a while I noticed that the plastic clutch plate and arm cover (right; not present on earlier CP2 bikes) pressed into my right shin – and this was without knee-high boots. Maybe I have fat calves but it was never an issue on the XSR7 and at least two other reviews have mentioned it. I’m not sure what it does – stop boot rubbing? It could be easily removed.


The stock bashplate (left) is skimpy, but it’s a start. For 200 quid Yamaha do an optional version (right) which better covers the vulnerable water-pump and inlet pipes. These components were good and mashed following a low-side on the written-off XSR I bought. The engine bars pictured far below will work with the standard bashplate.

Revised chassis

The potential of lively owners grabbing big air required a heavily revised frame on the T7.Among other things, on the XSR700 etc, the top of the laid-over shock attaches to a lug on the top of the gearbox casing (above right); an expensive repair if that sheers off during a Great Escape (left). The XT700 has a different linkage for a vertically positioned shock which mounts to a chassis cross-member which is better able to contain shock loads.


They call it double cradle, but you can clearly see above left, it’s not a closed loop. The new (red) downtubes meet the footrest mounts because, using the same rationale as the shock, a bashplate is better mounted to a chassis than a crankcase.
I didn’t get a chance to remove the seat and panels to eye up the rear subframe, but again, from the image top left you can see the triangulation is much greater, partly because the silencer needs to hang off it. Round the headstock they’ve added additional bracing.
Is that an alloy sidestand? If so I presume it’s solid cast and will be up to supporting the weight of the lent-over loaded bike when oiling the chain or removing the wheel. They do offer an optional centre stand which, having had one for the first time in years on the Himalayan, is a worthwhile redundancy on a travel bike.


The first batch of XT700s are being assembled in France right now from parts made in Japan. This must mean the MBK Industrie plant in Saint Quentin, south of Lille. A few early-adopters got their pre-orders in July 2019; the rest got them from September onwards when production resumed after the August factory break.
North America gets bikes shipped directly from Japan some time in late 2020 (as will Australiasia and maybe RSA, following late-2019 deliveries from Europe). The official explanation claims it’s: “Due to differing government regulatory standards and factory production line schedules.”
Either way, the wait of a year ought to help eliminate any teething problems, unlikely though they are with the established CP2 engine, at least. And a Japanese-built XT700 might be something to boast about. After all, from 2020 KTM’s similar 790 is said to switch assembly to… O M G.. China!

Summing Up
The XT700 is a hard bike to dislike. It lacks the weight of the 850GS and the added bulk of an Africa Twin, the harshness, blingy complexity and cost of the KTM790R, and the relative blandness and cheap suspension of the CB500X as well as, dare I add, an NC750X. Like the CB-X, it’s a modern-day UJAM, not extreme in any way, be it suspension travel, power delivery, appearance, electronic sophistication or price.
You see reviewers mention ‘only 72hp’ for a 689-cc-engine and you really have to chuckle. It actually makes nearly 15% more power per litre than the 790, if that matters at all, but either way it’ll do 120, cruise comfortably at 80mph, and overtake swiftly uphill and into the wind when needed. How often do you ride much faster, while still being able to hit the trails with confidence?
I came to this test ride fully expecting to love the new Tenere – a bike I tried to emulate two years ago with my XSR Scrambler (left), and which, along with the Himalayan, was one of the most enjoyable rides I’ve had in years.
I was even considering buying one after the test, with all the risks of delayed delivery, teething problems and depreciation. For the price and the weight, nothing else new in the table below comes close once you factor in its genuine off-road ability for its class. But I’ve not bought a new bike in the UK for nearly 40 years; to me it’s just too extravagant with so much good nearly as good used stuff out there. In a way, knowing that it all turned out well for the XT700 is good enough for me. For the sort of riding I still aspire to, I’d be more comfortable with something a bit lower and lighter.

If not an XT700 then…
The man from Honda hinted an 1100 was in the AT pipeline, but right now CRF1000L Africa Twins with about 10,000 miles are going for under £7k. I know, I bought one later. That’s a similarly grunty 270-degree twin (with a DCT option), but in a bigger bike with a lot more weight. BMWs hold their value annoyingly well; used year-old 850GSs with KTM-like tech, tubeless wheels but an AT’s weight currently start at £9k. Meanwhile, there are Rally Raid CB500Xs going from £4300, plain, old-model high-milers from under three grand and 2019 CB-Xs with the desirable 19-inch fronts from just £5200.

A manual AT is 240+ kg

The XT700’s profile and price is pitched midway between the ultra-accessible CB500X and ageing V-Strom, the bulkier Africa Twin and the 790 Adventures and BMs. Even if dynamically you’d assume the 790s must be better out of the crate for hard off-roading (I did try one; not for me), realistically any 200+kg bike can only be exploited by a skilled and fit rider. With talk of a bigger AT, people are wondering if a 7-850cc Africa Twin might spin off from that. Until (or if) that ever happens, the XT700 will have a well-deserved market niche all to itself.


Dawn-to-Dusk: Wales to Scotland via Ireland

• XSR 700 Scrambler index page

Dawn to Dusk: Part 2 Western Isles Tour


It’s about 900 miles from Hay-on-Wye on the Welsh border back to Ullapool near where we were living at the time, and including a detour via Tiree and the Outer Hebrides.
But go via Ireland and it’s about the same, thanks to Stena’s handy Irish Sea ferries, including Fishguard to Rosslare, and Belfast to Galloway in southwest Scotland.
I’d already done the ride up through England a few years back on the BMW XCountry, so after the HUBBUK 2018 meeting in Clyro near Hay, I decided via Ireland would make a great ride back north. The full story was in RIDE magazine’s February 2019 issue. You can read it below with a few extra photos.


It’s just after 4am as the Stena ferry glides smoothly into the harbour at Rosslare, County Wexford. It’s also just a couple of days short of the summer solstice and behind me the sky is already beginning to lighten, dimming the stars ahead of what promises to be a great day’s riding. 

I’d just spent the weekend at the Horizons Unlimited Travellers Meeting near and, looking at the map of the British Isles, there seemed a much more exciting and seemingly more direct route back home near Ullapool. Instead of looking for another new way to dodge the conurbations of northwest England, why not nip over to Ireland, shoot up to Belfast, over to Galloway and then hook up with Calmac’s ferry network, skimming like a pebble to the Outer Hebrides and back to Ullapool – a Motonaut of the Western Isles.

With only a couple of hours sleep on the floor of the ferry’s lounge, I knew I’d not make Belfast Docks without succumbing to an urge to sleep. But I’d given myself a comfortable six hours to cover the 220 miles, which allowed for cock-ups, refills and a power nap behind a hedge.

The XSR’s rorty pipe reverberated through the slumbering backstreets of Rosslare and once I’d picked up the N11 Dublin road and passed Wexford, I could open it up without frightening the horses. By the time it was fully light I’d split off the N11 which soon became a boring motorway. I may have a ferry to catch, but taking the N81 west of the Wicklow mountains was irresistible. If I got behind, at Dublin I could pick up the M1 to the Ulster border. The thrill of the new kept me alert till about 10am when all those well-worn tricks to stay awake couldn’t stop Humpty from falling of his bike if he wasn’t careful. I knew well that just 15 minutes could do the trick, so pre-emptively crashed out behind a barn and rolled into at Belfast docks with an hour to spare.

After snoozing my way back across the Irish Sea, heading along the A77 Ayrshire coast, road signs listed familiar names of towns I’d never actually visited, as well as one of Trump’s many Scottish golf resorts at sandy Turnberry Bay.  


Ever heard of Wemyss Bay? Me neither until the other day, but it was here that the more intricate part of my ride kicked off. Three short ferry crossings via the Isle of Bute saved over 70 road miles via congested Clydeside to reach the Kintyre peninsula which dangles down just 13 miles off the Antrim coast. And now in 2021 there is talk of a bridge to Northern Ireland to help hold the Union together.

From Bute it was a short run up the road to Rhubodach and Britain’s shortest island-mainland ferry back on to the South Argyle mainland and a windy ride around Loch Riddon to Portavadie jetty for the boat over to Tarbert on the Kintyre peninsula.


Around here I was expecting to run out of steam, and with plenty of daylight and spare time to catch tomorrow afternoon’s ferry from Oban to Tiree, I checked in to a bed-sized room in the town’s somewhat dank hotel.

Part Two later today.

Some photos below from Hay on Wye to Tarbert.

westday - 1
HUBBUK at Baskerville Hall in Wales.
westday - 2
Horizons’ founders, Grant and Susan Johnson have an announcement…
westday - 3
… I am honoured to win an award ;-)
westday - 4
After the event I ride in the Welsh rain to Fishguard docks. Will a Stena ferry fit in here?
westday - 5
Oh, wrong side of the docks. What an idiot.
westday - 8
Pole position and the right docks.
westday - 6
I go for a wander. In 1955 John Houston filmed Moby Dick here.
“For there is no folly of the beast of the earth which is not infinitely outdone by the madness of men.
Tell me about it, bro!
westday - 7
A border as soft as a toasty marshmallow. Happy days…
westday - 9
Meet Jonathan – Stena’s steadfast yellow-beaked mascot. We’ll see more of him later.
westday - 10
Stena swings into Fishguard Bay.
westday - 11
Midnight, the horn parps and we sail into the cetacean abyss.
westday - 12
Bloody satnavs. Distance more like 60 miles; ETA 4am.
westday - 14
Four a.m. in Rosslare.
westday - 15
An amber pre-dawn glow on balmy Gulf Stream palms.
westday - 16
Only a few hours to get to Belfast Docks. Better step on it.
westday - 17
But this EU funding for new roads is not all it’s cracked up to be.
westday - 18
I’ve barely slept so I crash out in a cornfield.
westday - 19
Back on the road. It’s good for you!
westday - 21
Alwasy fancied a JPS Commando. JSP Vespa? Not so sure.
westday - 23
Leaving Belfast. Like the Titanic 106 years ago, but with wifi and cappuccino.
westday - 24
Jonathan escorts us back out into the glassy Irish Sea.
westday - 26
Ailsa Crag, an old volcano and source of the world’s finest curling-stone basalt.
westday - 27
Turning round the Rhins (headland) of Galloway.
westday - 28
Bombing up the Ayrshire Coast. I got three more ferries to catch before sunset!
westday - 29
Rats! Just missed the CalMac from Wemyss Bay to Bute.
westday - 30
But it gives me time to explore the amazing Edwardian-era train terminus.
westday - 31
Those were the days my friend.
We thought they’d never end…
westday - 32
XSR gets strapped down again. Might be getting a taste for bondage.
westday - 35
Once on Bute, a short ride up to the end of the road at Rhubodach jetty.
westday - 36
Another short CalMac back to the Argyll mainland.
westday - 38
I squeeze aboard the UK’s shortest scheduled sea ferry crossing – about 420 metres.
westday - 39
Great riding up here, but don’t tell anyone.
westday - 40
View back down Loch Riddon to the ferry terminal.
westday - 41
Waiting for the ferry at Portavadie, Argyle to Tarbert, Kintyre. Sunshine and showers.
westday - 43
Only passenger again across Loch Fyne.
westday - 45
‘Go on, do an Evel Kinevel’, says the ferryman.
westday - 47
Tarbert. Actually still 3 hours of daylight left but I’ve been up since 4am.
westday - 46
So I head for the town hotel. It’s seen better days but haven’t we all.
westday - 48
Next day: backroads to Tiree, Rest of the story shortly….

XSR Scrambler: Part 2 Western Isles Tour

XSR 700: fork springs; pipe; screen

• XSR 700 Scrambler index page

My XSR came with a great-sounding Akrapovic twin-pipe system (right). OK, it was pretty scratched, but so was the rest of the bike. For Morocco last year I was expecting the engine’s low sump to be vulnerable so figured better to let a bulkier stock pipe take the beating than the tasty-sounding but skinnier Akrapovic. Used stock XSR pipes go for £100.


Turns out, thanks to the one-inch lift and the modest speeds I rode in Morocco, the XSR barely scratched the sump. Most of the damage was from flying stones on the front plate of a SW Motech spoiler I fitted (right). The flimsy spoiler doesn’t claim to be a proper bash plate, and as it didn’t do that much I’ve since flogged that too.
Now I’ve decided to keep the XScrambleR for the Sahara Road Trip I figured it might be fun to unleash some of the engine’s characterful sound with a rorty pipe. Maybe I should have kept that Akra, but actually I prefer a stubby stock-style pipe which keeps the back sides slim for baggage.


On the XSR forum a guy shows how to extract a fruity noise from a stock system by cutting open the box, excising a section of tube as shown left, adding a bigger bore out-pipe and closing it all up with weld. I like the compactness and partial protection of the under-engine system, but this was all too much work for me with a junior hacksaw and some Chemical Metal.


TEC’s XSR system is possibly made in the UK and cost just £260 – the cheapest aftermarket pipe for an XSR as far as I can tell. As I learned with my TDM900, aftermarket pipes are pretty much the same [range of] silencers added to bespoke headers with an O2 sensor to fit your bike. There’s no science or research in finely tuning the entire system to fit your particular machine, but as long as the bike runs much like it did before, most are happy enough with the better sound.
TEC’s silencer is straight-through, like an old Conti, and I worried it might be too loud. Turned out it’s just right to my ears; louder than the Akra but loads better sounding than the stocker. It fitted easily enough; one supplied mounting bolt was way too long and the whole thing sits fairly close to the  swing arm. The pipe weighs just over 2.5kg; 4.5kg less than the stock unit which is worth keeping for an MoT.


Running through town I didn’t feel it was anti-social, and at 70 on the motorway you can hear the rumble without being worn-down by the racket (compared to the wind noise and all the rest at that speed). Some talk of getting an ECU re-flash; not even sure what that means but no warning lights came on. Others talk of running it without the baffle; I wouldn’t consider that for a second. There’s a difference between a good, deep sound and an outright, wince-inducing din. Of course the offset beat on any 270-degree parallel twin like the XSR produces one of the best sounds in biking, so you get a free pass from Neighbours Watch, anyway.


Just before going away I rode my now fruity-sounding XSR up to Simon’s who helped do up and then rebuild my XR400 after riding with us in Algeria and more recently in Morocco on the G310GS. Simon (right; more below) likes to engineer and is currently completing an electric-start XR400 as well as a ‘350’ barrel and piston kit’ for a TTR250, his trail bike de choix.


Equipped with a lavish, well-lit workshop and not a humble kerb, he worked out a way to attach the original ABS ring from the XSR front wheel onto my 19-inch XVS950 so the XSR-specific slots communicate via the adjacent sensor and the ECU to make the mildly annoying ‘Warning! ABS-not-working’ light go out. Can’t say I missed ABS, certainly not on the dirt in Morocco, but overall it’s a benefit.


The much reused Spitfire screen I fitted to get to Morocco (right) was too low for long road days and got removed. For the moment Simon mounted a cheapo Puig headlight cowling to cover the wiring exposed by my non-standard LED headlamp. It actually fits pretty well, even if it’ll provide even less protection for the ride down to Algeria this winter. I’ll probably fit something taller or may even Motorail to Marseille, like we used to do.

Those inexpensive fork preloaders worked surprisingly well on the stock springs in Morocco and seeing as the bike was OK on the dirt, I also decided to invest in a set of firmer fork springs. They say MT-07s and maybe XSRs too originally came with springs rated too soft at ‘7.8’ Newton somethings. Later they went up to 88 (on MTs only?) but you’ll also read that 90 or even 95 is best.


TEC sell XSR progressives for about £110 but flog them with fork preloaders which I don’t need. instead, long-established suspension specialists  K-Tech (who we used to fork-up our XR650Ls back in 2003) sell linear-wound coils rated at 9 or 9.5 for £85. For my 93kg I chose the heavier ones.
Fyi and to the best of my knowledge the debate over linear vs progressive springs goes like this: linear easier to reliably fine tune for set conditions (good for road racers); progressive better all round but may be hard to get just right. But all this only matters on rough trails or at high speeds. The humble XScrambleR isn’t really native to those categories.
Other jobs Simon did was hardwire my GPS bracket back in and replace last year’s Formica front indicator brackets with neat, all-in-one headlamp mount brackets (above left) from a new wonder material called m-e-t-a-l. Oh, and he properly fitted the trials fender over the front wheel. Well done Simon. I could now sell this bike knowing there are no bodged up loose ends.


With all this done I got him to reweigh the bike. 186kg is the claimed wet weight which I seem to recall was on the money.
I now have lighter front brakes, a lighter pipe, less weight around the headlight, a heavier front wheel, side stand and probably tyres, plus a tail rack, flyscreen, hot grips and a GPS mount. All that comes in at… 189kg.


Need some work done?
If it’s your bike, not your teeth we’re talking about then Simon’s you man. Born under a combine harvester (the machine, not the pub chain), 10 years overlanding with Bedfords and Mercs and a now a part-time Land Rover mechanic and metal-bending hobbyist. So anything you offer him will be like a cup of warm unpasteurised milk. I’ve found him meticulous, unflustered and inexpensive; finally someone to implement or finish off odd jobs on my odd bikes.
He’s based near Bromsgrove, a mere 31 miles from the geographic centre of England, with space and a farm workshop with all the welding, cutting and tooling gear needed to transform your bike into a galactic battleship or just a street-scrambling hack.
Email him with your needs.


Can’t wait to test out all these mods in June when I ride the XSR from Simon’s over to #HUBBUK18 in Wales, then hook up with my self-styled Marine Highway back to northwest Scotland (right). That, unless I’m very much mistaken, is going to be a great midsummer’s ride.

Quick spin: 2017 Honda X-ADV review

xadv - 14

The reaction to Honda’s category-bending X-ADV ‘X-cooter’ seems to have been positive; most reviewers get it or accept it for what it is. Credit to Honda for trying new stuff, though it’s said good sales haven’t followed, probably due to the £9600 price alongside more conventional maxi-scooters used most commonly as commuters rather than travel bikes. The X-ADV suggests you could do both.


• DCT transmission
• Brakes
• Low-tuned, 270-degree motor
• Reputed economy
• Adjustable screen
• Front fork
• Tubeless spoked wheels

• Pricey
• Tall for a scooter
• Scooter seating position
• Dreary in silver


Under that bodywork and between those small wheels they’ve slung the low-tuned, 54-hp 750cc twin from the Integra scooter and NC range and best of all, the DCT auto/manual gearbox which – don’t ask me how – gives a real neutral plus a more direct drive, unlike a typical scooter’s mushier CVT and belt drive.
And unlike the NC motorbikes, you stash your lid under the seat not ‘in the tank’. On the ADV that space is the air between your knees, though I was a little disappointed there was no ‘glovebox’ in the frontal bodywork – looks like the air filter sits in there.
And getting on wasn’t so scooter-easy; you need to do an awkward frontal leg swing through the mid-section – I could see the plastics here getting all scuffed by clumsy boots. It’s quite high for a ‘scooter’ but maybe a better technique develops with use and some yoga. The 32-inch-high seat sounds low, but with the wide bodywork getting both feet flat on the ground wasn’t possible without shuffling forward.


One the move, sitting with your feet forward or even right forward ‘highway-pegs-style’, means your unfolded legs don’t take much weight so the bum-to-seat interface becomes all the more critical. Despite the X having a generous bucket seat, I can’t say I fully adapted to this position. Like a lot of riders on regular bikes, once in top gear I find putting your toes on the footrests is comfier for long rides; it pre-tensions the legs and angles you forward to take more weight off the butt. On the X you’re sitting upright, feet forward, like on a chair.

xadv - 1

One thing you can’t grumble about is the near-seamless DCT gearbox. You hear the clicks as it changes, but you rarely feel them. What a pleasure it is to ditch all that clutch and foot-changing business. Some say quick-shifting has rendered DCT redundant. Never tried it, but I can’t see how; you still need to work a clutch and a foot-shift lever. With DCT it’s like an auto, with a Sport mode (higher rpm changes) plus a manual override with paddles on the left bar. It’s the cake-and-eat-it best of all worlds. Let’s hope they introduce DCT on some other smaller trail bikes before we all end up riding electric.

xadv - 4

Just before getting on a motorway I pulled over and cranked up the adjustable screen to the max with the easy-to-figure-out knob (left) on a clever parallelogram hinge. Back on the move I can’t say I felt swathed in a hushed bubble of still air, but at 5°C, without that screen and the frontal bodywork keeping the legs out of the wind, I’d have been freezing, even with the heated jacket plugged into the cig plug under the seat. I bet there are wider, taller screens available and anyway, the X-ADV rolled effortlessly up to a stable 80mph which equals just 4000 rpm.
The engine is another one of those characterful 270° twins as on my XSR700 (and ATs, TDMs, Super Teneres, some Triumphs, the forthcoming BMW 850s and 800cc KTM). The biking world has gone 270-° crazy and I’m all for it. It sounds a lot better on its standard pipe than my XSR, even if its twist-and-go acceleration isn’t as crisp. (One benefit of DCT autos over conventional CVT scooters is the reduced ‘rubber band’ lag.)
The Honda has 30% less power than an unrestricted XSR700 (my XSR actually runs 47hp) and nearly 30% more claimed weight.

xadv - 5

Good thing the brakes are brilliant twin, four-pot radials on the front; you want good brakes with a heavy auto. It wasn’t till nearly back at the shop that I remembered the left lever works the equally meaty back brake and is not a locking parking brake (as on my old 400AT Dream, above). That late 1978 bike was a doddle to despatch round town; a neutral + two-speed clutchless box which left the left hand free to operate a radio, eat a turkey and coleslaw bap or wave cheerily at tourists.

I should have taken the X-ADV down some backlanes but didn’t want to get caught out on a sunless icy patch. Even then, you could tell the suspension felt better than my XSR, especially the adjustable cartridge USD fork (I couldn’t see a way to the rear shock which comes with spring preload only, but no remote HP adjuster that I could see).

Oddly, even in official promo literature no mention gets made of the tubeless spoked wheels; shame the AT didn’t get something similar. What some reviewers described as a ‘fully enclosed chain’ is just a wraparound chain guard; more a chain-spray catcher than a proper crud-cover like an old MZ or a CD175.

xadv - 12

There’s plenty of easy-to-read data spread over the digital display which can doubtless be reconfigured. Fuel consumption was displayed in miles-per-litre; not seen that one before but makes sense in the UK; ‘13.2’ (left) adds up to just 60mpg average, but the NC twins are famously more frugal than that, getting closer to 100mpg is possible if really trying.

I’m won over by the DCT just like I was on an Africa Twin a couple of years back. One day I’ll get a DCT bike, but I didn’t warm the X’s scootery layout like I thought I might. It’s not much easier getting on and off – something that increasingly bugs me with tall saddled dirt bikes. Plus I miss that conventional poise which would feel more natural on the dirt, and couldn’t visualise enjoying riding this bike on my easy Morocco tour dirt routes.

I’m not sure that ‘sat-at-a-table’ seating would be comfy on a long ride either – too much pressure directly on the crumbling old spine, although the bars looked like they could’ve pivoted and raised forward without fouling the screen.


I’ve seen accessory front footrests which bolt on behind the boards around the swingarm pivot (left) and which may enable a better road / off-road stance, as well as possibly being able to grip the seat for better control when standing. Interestingly, all the dust-kicking promo shots below and in the link at the end for the 2018 model have these pegs fitted, but as I found on the XSR, this leg-to-bike contact area needs to be well thought out and comfy if it’s to work sustainably.

The bland 2017 silver ‘Mondeo’ livery didn’t really work for me and may have contributed to my tempered enthusiasm for the X-ADV. The red-black-and-whites look much more like it, but silver is clearly popular in Caterham as the shop had two other low-mileage silvers going used, presumably by commuters who didn’t get on with the genre-busting X-ADV.


If DCT is so good but an AT is too pricey, what about the much cheaper NC750X (left; I rode one in 2019)? I’ve thought about that one before, but the only real benefit over my XSR700 would be the DCT. The stock suspension is said to be as basic, and the claimed 220kg weight is 34-kg greater (but 18kg less than the X-cooter), even if it’s positioned lower. Getting suspension right is costly and can be hit and miss.
What would be great is an NC750X-ADV with a 19-inch front and better suspension all round, but that would come too close to an Africa Twin.

Scoot my Dirt
I was recently reminded what would have been fun is a bigger-engined version of the Honda Zoomer or current Ruckus (left). Genuinely hop-on low and light enough to chuck about – sort of in the vein of the fat-tyred Yamaha Ryoku concept.

In fact there was a Big Ruckus 250 about decade ago (right) more here), but at 160kg, it looks as heavy as it is and presumably never proved as popular as the Ruckus.

I was a bit surprised I didn’t take to the X-ADV for my intended use. Perhaps a longer ride on a warmer day may have made a difference. As a road bike it’s fine, but then so are just about all the other road bikes out there.

The 2018 model out in a couple of months will come in a 34-kw A2 license version (6kw less than normal). It will also have the AT’s G-switch (less clutch slip for off-road traction), as well as lower ratios than other DCT Hondas and switchable, two-level Honda Selectable Torque Control (HSTC). The engine’s red line is also set 950 rpm higher at 7500 and it will cost 200 quid more.

XSR 700 Scrambler – some Morocco pics

• XSR 700 Scrambler index page
Tender - 6

A few shots of my XSR700 Scrambler after a month in Morocco, leading three tours. I’m impressed with how it’s shrugged it all off, just like my old Teneres in fact. But then, why wouldn’t it?
All I do is turn off the Tutoro chain oiler for the piste, then wipe it down and turn it on again for the highway.

Tender - 23

The engine is just right. I keep forgetting it’s restricted to ~48hp (bought it like that and liked it). The Heidenau K60 tyres are just right too; letting a couple of seconds out makes a big difference on the piste where I’m glad the ABS is disabled. Could do with a bit more and better suspension at times, and standing up is like pushing a wheelbarrow, but it’s a Scrambler, not a trail or enduro bike. Within it’s limitations, I can now sling it about on the dirt and on road. It turned out well. Riding it home in a week or so.
Full 6000-mile report shortly.

Some pics by Jim B and Jim L.