Tag Archives: Yamaha T7

Yamaha’s Ténéré travel bikes


I well remember the day in 1983 when I first clocked Yamaha’s original XT600Z Ténéré outside Maxim Motorcycles in Parramatta, west Sydney.
I crouched down for a good look at the machine which appeared to have addressed just about all the deficiencies of my 1982 XT500 desert bike: front disc brake, huge 28-litre tank, monoshock back-end, 12-volt electrics, folding lever trips, oil cooler and a thrifty ‘twin-carb’ set up. And all at around 140 kilos dry. The 34L XT600Z Ténéré, named after the most gruelling Saharan stage of the Paris-Dakar Rally (see below), was desert-ready right off the showroom floor.

‘Tenere’ – What’s that then?


Tenere – or as the French write it: Ténéré – is one of the many Tuareg words for ’emptiness’ or ‘desert’. The more familiar Arabic Sahra [Sahara] means the same thing, but like the Inuit and their snow, the nomads of the Sahara distinguish between many types of desert and regions. The Tenere is a particularly desolate and waterless flat expanse which fills the northeast corner of Niger (left and above right).


In the Dakar Rally’s 1980s heyday, the crossing of the Tenere from Algeria to Agadez in Niger via the dunes of the Bilma Erg, typically decimated the field and helped establish the Tenere’s already notorious reputation of the ‘desert within a desert’.
In 2003 we rode to the famous Arbre Perdu or ‘Lost Tree’ in the northern Tenere (
below) where Dakar founder Thierry Sabine had his ashes scattered following his death during the ’86 rally.


I bought my first Ténéré in London in 1985 to tackle my own London–Dakar adventure. This was the slightly modified 55W version of the original 1983 34L, produced for just one year. The changes were small: front disc brake cover, stronger DID rims, revised chain adjuster, longer, all-red or blue seat and most easily spotted: sloping speed blocks on the tank.

Modifications to my 55W amounted to nothing more than adding thicker seat foam and some Metzeler ‘Sahara’ tyres – a rubbish choice for the actual Sahara, even back then. Using no rack was another mistake which nearly cost me the bike when my baggage caught fire.


In fact, there was so little to do that I went to the bother of moving the oil cooler from next to the carbs up out into the breeze over the bars. And I painted it black because I was still hadn’t shaken off my juvenile Mad Max phase. With my £5 ex-army panniers slung over the back, in December ’85 I set off for Marseille, bound for Dakar via Algeria, Niger and Mali.

My 85-86 route to Dakar in green.

This was my first overland trip which succeeded in actually crossing a few African borders – and it proved to be as eventful as my first Sahara ride on the XT500 (and the Benele quickie which followed). On the way I learned many must-do-next-times as well as several more never-do-agains, all useful material for my Desert Biking guide published a few years later and which evolved into the current AM Handbook.


I met Helmut in Tamanrasset and we set off across the Sahara together. Sadly he crashed and burned, never to reach the Niger border. I also had a smaller fire a day or two later, but was thrilled to have finally crossed the Sahara into West Africa.
As I wrote later, reaching sub-Saharan Africa was like switching a TV from black and white to colour. There are a few photos at the bottom of the page, or you can read the long version of that trip in Desert Travels.
A few weeks later, with many more adventures and worthwhile lessons under my belt, I shipped my charred Tenere out of Dakar and flew on to Spain to catch up with it.

Camped by the Niger river, Niger

Yamaha’s original 34L 55W Ténéré was the first proper well-equipped lightweight travel bikes, created on the back of Yamaha’s success in the Dakar Rally which I encountered on a few occasions out there. That bike was a game changer, with the brakes, range, suspension, economy, power and lack of weight which ticked all the boxes. In Europe they absolutely loved them; over a decade the French alone bought 20,000 Teneres; over 30% of all production. They were never officially imported into North America. From 1987 the only-recently discontinued KLR650 filled the same niche and had the same loyal following. In Europe the KLR was largely ignored.
A good early-Tenere page.


The next Tenere was the 1VJ model (left and above) with kick and electric start, firmer suspension and the air filter positioned, rally-style, under the back of the tank. But costs were cut elsewhere, it supposedly had over-heating problems and it just didn’t seem as durable as the original kickers. Mine sounded pretty clapped-out by the time I returned from a 3000-mile Sahara trip.

Yamaha XT600 3AJ

I never owned one, but the classic twin-lamp 3AJ Teneres (left), was said to be a better machine, even if it had by now gained some 25kg. There was said to be a 5th gear problem common to other 600 Teneres, but only if you rode them very hard and lugged the motor.

Yamaha XTZ 660-5v

The 5-valve XTZ660 Tenere from the 1990s (left) still looked great but by now had gained even more weight and lost some cred. On top of that, poor electrics and other flaws managed to lose the Ténéré mojo in the face of KTM’s dirt-focussed 640 Adventure (right).
After the 5-valve was dropped, for nearly ten lean years in the Noughties there were no Teneres in production. BMW’s 650 Dakar became popular big single travel bike; Teneres were seen as an 80s throwback.


Then, in 2008 Yamaha’s legendary desert bike returned as the XT660Z. Based on the injected XT660R and X produced from 2004, the fuelling was much improved and again, it ticked many boxes, even if it now weighed over 200 kilos and, at times, felt it. Fuel consumption varied widely but averaged 25 kpl, giving a range of about 570km/360 miles from the 23-litre plastic tank.

I bought a barely used one soon after they came out, did the usual kerbside makeover and set off for Morocco to research the first edition of Morocco Overland. Read about that bike here.
By 2016 ever-tightening emissions regs killed off the hefty 660Z Ténéré. Meanwhile, travel bikers round the world have pinned their hopes on 2019’s XT700 Ténéré, based on the brilliant twin-cylinder CP2 motor, as in my XSR700. The T7 is not much heavier than the 660Z and looks like it’ll be another desert-ready hit right out of the crate. Read my impressions here.


Pictures from Sahara & West Africa, 1985-6

XSR 700 Scrambler: the plan

XSR 700 Scrambler index page

jigsawtrackerYamaha’s XSR 700 is my sort of bike: the great motor from the MT07 in a more comfortable and better-looking package, and with the potential to become something more dirtsome, like the Jigsaw Customs flat tracker (right, and in the vid below). Plus I got it cheap so I can afford to experiment :-D
I’m taking ideas from Rally Raid’s innovative CB500X RR I rode in 2015, but am hoping to end up with something more likedezled Ducati’s inspired Desert Sled (left). t77Like many riders my age, that’s a bike that, if I’m honest, appeals to me more than the forthcoming, over-tall, razor-saddled T7 (right) which I’m sure will also be a hit.
Obviously, your superbly detailed, BikeEXIF-type ‘urban scrambler’ (see video below) is not what I’m about. I want an actual scrambler, not just ‘the look’ while dodging the elephant in the bike shed: the huge costs for the huge amount of work required. Note that many, if not all of the bikes and OE parts in the promotional video below were supplied by Yamaha to promote their ‘Yard Built‘ program at the 2017 Wheels & Waves show.

What’s the plan?
Function first – form will be as it comes. The harmless scratches and dents remaining on my repaired bike can stay for the moment. I need my XSR to get me down to Morocco this autumn, run a few thousand clicks leading my tours, then fetch me back as winter sets in over the sierras. The mods that it adds up to are:
• tyres – easy
• protection – advisable
• lift – optional
• luggage – useful
• engine – unnecessary

The XSR doesn’t lend itself to these adaptions half as well as Honda’s CB500X. So the plan is to spend carefully, then if the machine shows promise and I’m still interested, finish the job with a fork transplant and a new wheels.
xsr-derestMy bike is restricted from ~74hp to ~46hp (numbers vary) for A2 license holders. I have a full license so can run it unrestricted but to be honest it runs great at 46hp and a year later I feel the same: loads of satisfying grunt where you want it. It just goes to prove the old adage: ‘50hp is all you need‘.
The way the restriction works on early model XSR/MT07s like mine is mechanical: a simple plate (left) stops the throttle opening fully. I read recently in a magazine somewhere that later model XSRs and MT07s had a detuned ECU, not the mechanical restrictor and which, I imagine, is less easy to derestrict. And in poor old Ozzie they get a reduced power 655-cc learner version. Got luck changing that!
As I’ve never come against the restricted throttle’s stop in over a year’s riding my XSR. Derestricting it by unbolting that plate doesn’t seem worth the bother as there’s no power or torque to be gained in the throttle and rpm-range I ride at. I only wish I could have got cheaper insurance by running it like this.

As the vid above reminds us, anyone can slap on some TKCs, but would you want to corner on a fat, 17-inch front Conti? I recall years ago a disgruntled mechanic told me off; he’d just shat himself taking my Pirelli MT21-shod Funduro (right) out for a spin. You need to ride on eggshells until you get a feel for such tyres. Cool-looking thought it may be, I just can’t see a rear TKC or similar put on a 17-inch XSR front wheel working well on loose surfaces. I’m certain the CB500X RR rode better on road and track with the 19-inch front wheel, so that’s the plan with my Yam. A good old Heidi-Hi K60 will do me.

xsrakanbarProtection and racks
I bought my XSR in a bit of a state (right), but it only took a day or two to fix up once the parts were in (with ‘Woodcutter‘ Kev’s help).
A lack of frame tubes under the engine complicates sump protection, but SW Motech make an alloy spoiler (left; top left; £120). Otherwise I’ve picked up an OE exhaust system which could be extended forward as a sacrificial bashplate to protect the more important sump and exposed oil filter. Doing this will probably lose any height gains from tyre and suspension. And if the OE system gets ruined I have the scratched but fruity Akrapovic which came with the bike. In the end the spoiler never bottomed out and barely scrapped once over a hump, but it fought off showers of stones.
Crash bars from 3Rmoto (above left; top right; £106) look better at protecting the lower engine than offerings from Hepco or SW Motech. Small side pannier racks from Motech (above left; bottom left) could be fitted (or copied without the unnecessary fittings) krigduofor some Kriega Duos bags (right) or similar, with a wider tailrack in the style of the HotRod rack I  had on my BMW XCountry (left).

You can gain clearance with taller suspension or, at the back, modifying the rear linkage. Or it can be raised with taller tyres or wheels. This is the route I’ll follow, along with uprated standard suspension from Ohlins, Wilbers or Hyperpro which ought to maintain clearance and of course control the bike better on the rough. (Hyperpro don’t officially make a shock for an XSR; the MT07 one is the same).
forkpreloaderscartforkOn the front I’m going to try out some inexpensive fork preloaders (left; £28) before probably resorting to an aftermarket spring (Got KTechs in the end, < £100), after which the preloaders will be a good back-up. There are also cartridge fork inserts (right) from the main suspension makers enabling preload and various damping adjustments, but they go for a staggering £500. Like the CB500X, the XSR comes with short springs plus a long plastic spacer. Seeing as aftermarket springs are the same, I assume this isn’t the cost-saving bodge it appears to be. Weight is certainly saved, though you’d think a full-length spring would have a more supple, progressive action,


The XSR/MT07 come  with a preloadable shock with the usual deficiency of  rebound damping that goes back to as long as I’ve ridden Jap bikes. You can now buy used MT shocks on ebay for a fiver. Meantime, I’ve learned the value of a shock with adjustable rebound damping (around £500). I can hardly tell on good roads at normal speeds, but sure can on rough backroads and tracks.
One important point that Jenny Morgan (Rally Raid 500X developer) notes with the XSR/MT07 is that the top of the near-horizontal shock (above left) mounts to a bracket bolted to the crankcase, not a frame member. A very hard 80-xtjumperbottoming-out could possibly damage the crankcase; a very complicated and costly repair. All the more reason then to fit a good shock, keep preload and tyre pressures on the high side (as I tend to do anyway), and where possible, resist jumps as pictured right.
The Hyperpro on the WR (right) had rebound wr-hpadamping as well as low- and high-speed compression damping, though adjusting all these permutations, I got in a twist on the last big piste in Morocco while heavily loaded. I think what was actually needed was the maxed-out HPA (hydraulic preload adjuster) collar screwing down the shock body a bit to reset the preload at a higher rate. Turn-knob HPAs are great; give me one of those (or a mechanical version) any day before three types of damping and different coloured springs. An HPA replaces C-spanners and skinned knuckles; when I jacked up my XSR I made sure I wore gloves.
linkersAmong others, at the ordering stage only Wilbers offer varying shock lengths to modify standard ride height (most want a lower bike). With other shocks once you’ve spent your £500 you’re stuck with the length. You can get ride-lowering ‘dogbone’ linkages on ebay or, for the 700s, the Arm-relay‘relay link’ (right) in an array of anodised colours (left). Fitting looks quite a faff and again, like a longer shock, you’re stuck with what you’ve got.
IKLX1 - 10f taking this route I much prefer the idea of variably adjustable links, aka turnbuckle links (left). I first came across them on a KLX250 I had in the US in 2016.  They’re only made in the US by this lot, afaict, and cost four up to times more than a fixed link. And the problem is they only make them to go standard or lower by lengthening the link. To gain ride height you need to shorten that link, which requires chopping maybe 10mm off the body and perhaps 5mm off the threaded ends too. One flaw with messing about with linkage length it that it also messes with the carefully calculated progressive action of the whole system. Rally Raid noticed this shortcoming early on in the 500X’s development and after some calculations, milled a new ‘relay link’ for the Honda.
Up to a point, clearance could also be improved by making the sump shallower and/or rerouting the pipe. The latter is actually the lowest point, but moving it is complicated and expensive. As mentioned, a used OE system can do the job providing the sump’s protected. With the sump, every 10mm less sump depth loses about 280cc or 10% oil capacity, raising temps and reducing oil life. Maybe OK for a racer; not so good on a travel bike, let alone the fabrication effort involved. Better all round to fit solid protection here and achieve / maintain lift from wheels and suspension.

Small jobs already done
My old Spitfire screen fitted, as you can see. I’m getting my money’s worth out of that one and again, I’m amazed how securely the basic fitting works at up to 90mph. The screen can be removed in a minute.
xsrbarSomething was bent up front, but it wasn’t the forks, tfft. I bought a new/removed OE bar, but a closer look showed on of  the bar risers was a little bent; they’re both part of one block (£80). The so-called Yamaha accessory knuckle guards (£160!) absorbed the impact. It’s actually a pretty good fatbar, 2 inches taller and narrower and only 90g heavier than my Renthal fatties (right) which still wait to make their debut.
ledlamperxsrlampersThe headlamp shell was caved in and the rim was gouged. That’s about £130 quid’s worth and many agree, the OE lamp is not a great look. Instead, I bought a 2000-lumen LED off ebay, and some steel, fork-rubber-mounting brackets for £25. Removing the OE headlamp mounting frame, the cast alloy indicator brackets and a couple of other fittings saves weight overall but leaves nowhere to mount the indicators. I knocked some up from some scrap formica to get me home, but later got the lamp brackets remade properly in alloy with holes to fit the indicator rubbers.
evotechI’m tempted to fit an Evotech tail tidy (using OE indicators) as I know well that running on corrugations and rough tracks can stress taillight mounts which way out back.
xsrtankThe ‘tank‘ is ally panels covering a 14-litre steel reservoir. One of mine was dented; I tapped it out with a hammer. Right now I get 200 miles to a tank. A little morestrapon would be better and looking underneath it appears it would be quite easy to enlarge the tank but really, for 2-3 extra litres I’m better off with some £10 fuel cans.

bolt-xvs950rFirst main job: fit the wheel off a 2016 XVS950R (right). Spindles are the same diameter, but almost certainly new spacers will be needed as well as probable brake caliper spacing to line it up with the V-Max rotor. Luckily the ABS ring may fit – a benefit of using parts from a similar/same era bike. One disc you say? All will be explained.

At the 2016 NEC bike show

At this year’s Motorcycle Live bike show at the NEC I had a chance to see the bikes I speculated over a couple of weeks back from Milan’s EICMA. This is what caught my eye.

nec-rallinec-raliThe Honda CRF250L Rally (left and right) was attracting a lot of attention, and quite right too. Who’d have thought it’s only a 250 kid’s bike. I have a soft spot for the ‘Rally’ look. After all, the original ‘adventure smt-xlmbikes’, not least the 650 Africa Twin, XL600M (right) and the Tenere were all based on the looks of big-tanked Paris-Dakar nec-crf17desert racers. As for being a useful travel bike, acres of plastic apart, the 10L tank will be good for 300km and, away from the gloss black, I did notice a bigger sidestand foot. Good thinking, Honda. You wonder if the rear subframe might have been beefed up a bit, too. A mate of mine in Switz has already ordered one for February delivery.
The regular 250 (left) looks less flash but has the same slight power increase and ABS for Europe which will put it up to 150kg+. We’ll probably be riding these new CRFs on next year’s Morocco tours.
nec-b310nec-bm311The BMW GS310 also looked great in the flesh. I predict this bike will be a hit, just like the full-size GS. With an 11-litre tank, 19-inch front  wheel and a low seat 310spexheight, it’ll be a comfy road bike, but officially weighs a staggering 169.5kg dry so  may be a handful in the dirt. Sounds like a chip off the old block then! Detailed official specs on the right.
nec-kawaxOver on the Kawasaki stand, the new Versy-X 300cc twin also looked promising in real life. The spec board was incomplete bar the £5149 starting price, but the fuel tank is said to be a huge 17 litres which, again, will easily manage 400km, and nec-kawazxkerb weight is 170kg, same the BMW 310 dry. Seat height and power were unlisted but ought to be similar to the BMW, with the twin cylinder motor being a bit smoother. I don’t just make this stuff up, you know!
nec-klxSidelined in the shadows alongside the new 300 was the venerable KLX250 (left) getting it’s annual rearrangement of the green-black-and-white paint. For four grand in the UK, there’s nothing wrong with this 250 (as I can attest)  – but no one seems to notice it.
versyxthaiExcepting the enduring cult of the KLR650 in North America, of all the Jap dual sporters, Kawasaki are the least popular travel bikes, certainly in Europe. I’ve never seen one in North Africa. Sometimes I wonder if it’s because Kawasaki never officially (and rarely privately) contenec-vstrom250sted the Dakar Rally or similar events. Doubtless in domestic circuit racing their KXs are on par with RMs and YZs, and as flat trackers Kawasaki do alright too. More VersyX pics here.
Loaded with lots of plastic luggage isn’t a great look to me, so the Suzuki V-Strom 250 twin (right) appeared a less sprightly than the similar VersyX, but maybe the mini-tourer look will catch on with some. Of the two the 300-cc Kawasaki looked a bit more like it.
nec-swimnec-swmmOutfitted in a similar clunky touring set up rather than as a lithe overlander, SWM’s Super Dual didn’t seem to be a triumph of Italian design, and to finally see it was a disappointment. Nineteen incher on the front and laden with crash bars and plastic luggage, it’s a long way from the sporty TE630 whose expote630motor the Dual uses. Expedition Portal did a overlanding rs550makeover on a TE (right) in 2015 – that’s what I hoped SWM might have done. In fact the same-engined RS650R (left) looks much more like it, especially with a claimed 144kg dry weight. Tank is 12 litres and it’s only £5700, but reviews call it ‘agricultural’. As it is, all the accessories help pile up the Super D’s weight up to a claimed 187kg so it’s not the new XChallenge, more like an XT660 Tenere, but I liked the rear shock remote preload knob. Price is £7599 with Givi luggage. Me, I’d save two grand and 40 kilos with an RS.
nec-himnec-kotsThe Enfield Himalayan had it’s own exclusive sandy stage behind their well-known modern vintage bikes. They’ve elected to bring it in to Europe with ABS nec-himbiyaand fuel-injection to achieve compliance. They do things differently in India, which is refreshing – I like the tankside storage but I can’t help thinking that by the time they’ve emissioned the motor down husky17to Euro 4, there won’t be much left of the 28-hp.
The 2017 Husky 701 was also on show (right). I was riding a 2016 model in Morocco last week – impressions here. Next year’s model has a lot more power – the last thing it needed, IMO – but does it look better?

The adventure world needs a new kind of motorcycle that can offer the genuine long distance versatility and pure durability of the original Ténéré, combined with contemporary design plus cutting edge engine and chassis technology. Yamaha T7 promo-blurb

nec-t7The T7 Yamaha – a Tenereised MT07 concept bike – looked great, an agile, rally-styled bike. But it’s not a serious Dakar contender so what’s it for and will it happen? I’d pessimistically imagined the new Tenere twin would be closer to a Tracer than this T7, with all the unwanted weight that entails. t77In other words, a disappointment. All that in exotic alloy and carbon made me merely assume it was just an experiment rather than a prototype but the latest issue of Bike magazine is much more confident: ‘… make no mistake. This is going into production and you’ll be riding one in 2018’. I’ll take their word over mine.
2017_yam_t7-conceptJudging from Yamaha’s page, it looks like Yamaha are imitating Honda’s gradual seeding promo strategy of the Africa Twin – and that didn’t turn out too badly. I loved the engine when I rode an MT-07 last year. Fitting it in a light, ‘180-kilo dry XT700Z’ sounds a bit radical for the Japs, but it will be like a a blend of Rally Raid’s CB500X and the CRF1000L Africa Twin – both very popular machines whether you’re a traveller or not.
So it does appear some of us are getting what we wished for – lighter, smaller adv bikes with genuine off-road utility for regular riders, not tank-wrestling stuntmen. It will be interesting to see if any of these shape up to be potentially good travel bikes in the next few months.

nec-girderEnec-tronye-catching apparitions elsewhere included a Tron bike and on the right, a distinctive girder-framed overlander with a positively subterranean saddle height and jerrican panniers that were clearly copied off my 1982 XT500 desert bike.
hy-bajahanec-ducscramIt has to be said Ducati’s Desert Scrambler (left) has something going for it with some serious off road intent, not just retro looks. It brought to mind the similarly cool-looking Husqvarna Baja concept (right) of a few years ago. Make one of those with a detuned 701 motor, please.
nec-krigAs for gearKriega’s new but as yet unnamed plate-on-rack-mounted panniers were on show, but not for sale yet. I had a close look at them a while back and may be trying a set later.
nec-aspecNearby, Dave Lomax showed me Adventure Spec’s new meshy desertwear (right) – a breathable kevlar mesh jacket similar to Rev It’s Cayenne and Klim Induction. I had a couple of guys on the Morocco tour wearing these sorts of jackets, but they did do a lot of stopping to put on or remove layers. I get the feeling such jackets are for full-on, high summer or tropical riding where even with all the vents going, you don’t want Cordura, far less a waterproof/breathable membrane.
nec-klimKlim are about to ditch their Overland jacket – a new look Traverse is taking its place, or an altogether new Carlsbad (right) with an integrated hip belt to help take the weight of the jacket (seemed to work) and velcro-free arm cinchers. Price will be around £600 they say, and it’s not all black! Must say, klimpoxnow I’ve added some mesh ‘drop pockets’ inside (right), I’ve grown into my functional Overland which may still be going for just £300 at A Spec if you’re quick.
nec-bellsAnd finally, over at Bell Helmets, no great surprise to see they brought back the Moto III lid from the 1970s and early 80s (right)bell84. But now of course it’s being pitched as hipster/retro wear, not a proper dirt biking helmet. Trying it on it’s a lot more comfy that the original brick – not hard to do – and I must admit I like the plain widget-free exterior. Made of fibrelass, it costs £280 and comes in a bunch of snazzy colours.