If you were heading over the south central Sahara Tenere region but you had to get there first, would you choose a 700 or a big 1200? We take a look at the two Yamaha legends... Test: Jeff Ware Photography: Heather Ware

Tenere, a vast 400,000 square kilometre desert that is one of the most extreme environments on earth. If you were going to tackle it, you’d need a bloody good bike. So which would you choose? The Yamaha Tenere 700 or the Tenere 1200? We compare the two…



Ever since I saw this local guy called Gazza pull massive all-gear wheelies on his Tenere 600 back in 1989, when I was just 13 and hooning around on my RM80X, I’ve had a bit of a soft spot for these beasts – I just remember watching him clutch the massive (to me it was!) beast up on one wheel, the sound from the loud pipe, and just thinking it was THE coolest thing I ever saw… I guess I should give thanks to Jean-Claude Olivier and his Sonauto Yamaha Team, and the Yamaha engineers he persuaded, enabling the Tenere legend to be born… read the Yamaha Tenere history here.


Tenere Tragics is a long running get together of Tenere fans and owners that started in 2011 and runs every March, check it out at teneretragics.com.au

Tenere Tragics is a long running get together of Tenere fans and owners that started in 2011 and runs every March, except this year it is August, check it out at teneretragics.com.au – it’s a cool idea and loads of fun for Tenere, err, tragics!

Over the years we have put the Tenere range to the test in just about every way from our own little Tenere 250 Long Termer to the XTZ 660 Tenere, the Tenere 700 and the mighty Tenere 1200. We’ve attended World and Aussie launches, and done our own independent testing. But the question remains, which one is the right one for you? Well, with the 660 gone and the 250 only a replica, we are left with the mighty XTZ690 Tenere 700 and the XT1200ZE Super Tenere ES.



For the full technical rundown on the 1200 and the 700, refer to our previous individual reviews by clicking on the links above. The stand alone tests are in-depth and include all of the info on the chassis, engine, electronics, styling and give a full overview of each beast. For the purpose of this feature, I am going to stick to my seat-of-the-pants ride impression of each bike based on my experience using them as a daily ride for two-weeks each with off road and country trips on weekends during that time…


“Ever since I saw this local guy called Gazza pull massive all-gear wheelies on his Tenere 600 back in 1989, when I was just 13 and hooning around on my RM80X, I’ve had a bit of a soft spot for these beasts”…


Just briefly, let’s take a look at the basics and this will give you an understanding pretty quickly of which Tenere is designed for you. Firstly, the off-road giveaway is wheel size. The 700 has proper 21in front and 18in rear spoked tubed combo, while the 1200 runs spoked tubeless 19in front and 17in rear. This indicates that the 700 is hardcore off-road and the 1200 is a compromise for good road handling and some off-road.



Suspension travel backs that up, with the 700 boasting 210mm at the front and 198mm at the back and the 1200 sporting 190mm at both ends. Tyres are usually Pirelli Scorpion Rally on the 700 and more road oriented tyres on the 1200 but our test bike had Metzeler Karoo Adv tyres.



Ground clearance off-road is 241mm for the Tenere 700 and 190mm for the Super Tenere, while seat height of the 1200 can vary from 845mm to 870mm, and the tall 700 is 880mm. Overall height of the 700 is 1455mm and the 1200 is 1410/1470mm depending on screen height setting. The width of the 700 is 915mm while the big 1200 is 980.


The Tenere 700 is a more off-road focussed bike, basically a big dirt bike. The 1200, on the other hand, a more road bias open tourer that has off-road capability…


Length all up is 2255mm for the big beast and 2365mm for the 700. The 1200 has the shorter wheelbase, 1540mm versus 1590mm. Rake and trail figures are 28º/126mm for the 1200 and 27º/104mm for the 700, so you can see there on specification that the Tenere 700 is a much more off-road focussed bike, basically a big dirt bike. The 1200, on the other hand, a more road bias open tourer that has off-road capability. The 1200 is also shaft drive, the 700 chain.



Now to the power and weight. The XT1200ZE has a cracking big 1199cc 82.4kW/117Nm powerplant that is a real stump puller, but it is hauling a whopping 265kg of motorcycle! On the other end of the scale, the Tenere 700 is powered by a 689cc parallel twin, almost half the size, which produces 54kW/68Nm but is hauling 60kg less, at 205kg wet.


Shannons July

However, as you can see, the 1200 has over 40 per cent more power and torque, but is carrying less than 30 per cent more beef, so it’s clear why it is a much faster motorcycle! By the way, the 1200 carries a massive 23L of fuel while the 700 has a smaller 16L tank capacity.



Another thing to note is that the 700 has switcheable ABS while the linked 1200 ABS is not switcheable for off-road riding (there are a few tricks though, such as running the bike in second gear on the centrestand – check YouTube), limiting the bike somewhat for serious dirt squirting.


RatedR Parts

Anyway, enough of the specification talk, both bikes are seriously impressive with huge pedigree but they are very different motorcycles despite sharing the Tenere moniker, and I think that is pretty clearly represented in the whopping $7400 AUD Ride Away price difference between the more expensive 1200 and the 700. The 1200 is $25,199 big ones, the 700 is $17,799 in notes and coins.

The Tenere 700 is an absolute blast to ride and always put a big smile on my dial, whether it was a trip to the shops (well, buying beer makes me happy) or a longer stint, it made me act silly! This is me on my way to BWS on a Friday!

On the sealed stuff, both bikes are good in their own way. In the tighter, twisty roads you would think that the 1200 would have the edge over the 700, considering the chassis and wheels, however it isn’t the case, at least not on the tyres fitted to our bike.


Yamaha Q2

Despite lazy geometry, long suspension travel (for a road going bike, not talking 300-plus mm like a WR), and off-road tyres, the 700 has flickability and agile handling for a tall, top-heavy machine and despite no electronics to speak of (aside from ABS), the wheels stay inline and the 700 can be punted along quite hard in the turns.

Despite lazy geometry and a really long wheelbase, the 700 will out handle the 1200 in most road cornering situations.

With the big 1200, I found first of all that the Metzeler tyres were sliding very easily and lacked feel. I also felt that neither the Sport or Touring mode were right and a lot of times I just had to roll out of the fun. The best I found though was setting the 1200 up in Sport with one rider setting and leaving it at that after playing around with the settings over the two weeks. There are four preload and three damping settings, but you can go in and use another 7 levels that total 84 options!


Avon Cobra Chrome

The menu in the dash is hard to see and the current active suspension settings of the electronic suspension are not clearly visible on the dash, you have to go into the menu, which can be annoying. It is easy to understand – one helmet, two helmets, one helmet and luggage, two helmets and luggage etc… Then you can go in and add + or – digits to fine tune.

The Tenere 1200 carries its weight low yet still tends to fall into corners, and the front can push. Another issue I experienced often was that the rear would come around when rolling off the throttle into turns at lean, or if trail braking. A few times the rear Metzeler completely let go and the bike went sideways. I suspect the tyre was shot, as it was quite worn out when I picked the bike up. I would image more road based tyres would be much better with the linked brake system, while the knobby tyres did not have the grip.

The Tenere 1200 carries its weight low yet still tends to fall into corners, and the front can push. Another issue I experienced was that the rear would come around when rolling off the throttle into turns at lean, or if trail braking, particularly in slippery conditions. I suspect a tyre issue but I would have to test the bike on new tyres to confirm.

There is a lot of engine braking with the big 1200, so rushing into turns with corner speed is hard on the tarmac, the rear wants to come around with knobbies fitted, the unified braking system exaggerates the problem. But when it comes to straight line braking on the road, the 1200 has it all over the 700.


RatedR Parts

The 700 brakes are only OK but they need a very hard squeeze to pull up and those heart in mouth moments when you think you are going in way too deep are pretty common until you get used to braking early. Overall, they will stop but feel is vague and power not quite there. Bigger rotors would help on the road. Braking into turns, the 700 is miles ahead of the 1200.



On the open country roads the Super Tenere really comes into its own. Select Tour and sit back, adjust the screen to your desired height, switch on the heated grips if you wish and even engage the cruise control while you simply float over even the biggest bumps. Oh yeah, the 1200 is the big comfy mumma of the two and honestly, I could ride the T12 1000km a day on open country roads or highway, day after day, and enjoy every second…


“I could ride the T12 1000km a day on open country roads or highway, day after day, and enjoy every second”…


The the rear suspension that was ungainly and lacked rebound control pushing hard in the corners, is suddenly spot-on and the massive, wide and plush seat, big footpegs and comfortable rider triangle give a tall, commanding and satisfying riding position that really makes you feel like you are King of the road… There are some negatives, like the dash is hard to read, and the tank is pretty wide, but the rest is nice. The mirrors are good, the cruise control is accurate and responsive, the gearbox is smooth and that top-heaviness at low speed fades away.

They don’t call it Super for nothing… Cruising open country roads or eating up long highway miles is satisfying and comfortable on the luxury Super Tenere. The 700, although engine-wise is fine on the open road, does not have the creature comforts or ergonomics of the big brother…

The Tenere 700 on the other hand is a much more basic motorcycle when it comes to open road touring and fast country curves. It will do big miles, and I did a few massive days on the 700, but it feels like exactly what it is – a big dirt bike. The T7 motor will spin along happily and under stressed at 120- or so, and top speed is measured Roland in his review at 200km/h, but with off-road savvy gearing and much less power than the 1200, it is working harder and that means noise, a few vibes and so on.


“It will do big miles, and I did a few massive days on the 700, but it feels like exactly what it is – a big dirt bike”…


The Tenere 700 comes in at a great price, so the sacrifice is there is no screen adjustment, no cruise, no heated grips… you get the picture. It is comfy but not all-day comfy, more like 1.5hrs to 2hrs between a stretch. Plenty of room for luggage and a few hooks there, but not as much room as the Super Tenere. With a 16L tank, there is a potential range of 300km, but the 1200 will do 450  550km. High speed bumpy country road cornering is good, with plenty of suspension control and no wallowing, the 700 is better than the 1200 but a lot of it could have been the tyres of the two bikes…



Around town, the 700 should be much less of a handful but the truth is, it is so tall that the weight advantage is lost. It is narrower for lane splitting but overall, the 1200 is more refined and smoother in traffic and the lower seat is welcome. The only thing with the 1200 I found was it ran super hot in traffic, the thermo fan was almost always going… Neither bike has a quickshifter.



Getting dirty is all part of the fun with these things and your level of off-road riding, and I mean in terms of expectations I guess more than skill, would determine which Tenere is for you (assuming budget is not an issue!). I did the same loops on both bikes and I did them twice. One involved a 48km medium to high speed (40km/h to four times that) smooth dirt road that offers open straights, large esses, tighter esses, cambered and off cambered corners and a hill climb with of course a decent.



The other loop is bumpier, much slower, slippery and is basically a 30km fire trail, with plenty of sidetracks I know well and used to try some water crossings, mud, sand and rocky areas to fully test both machines. In the end though, I could comfortably take the T700 more places than I could the 1200 but I was still amazed at where the 1200 will go given its roadbike bones and weight, being the heaviest and least updated bike in the adventure class by some margin.

No electronics here but the T7 is controllable. The Tenere 700 is easy to throw around and play on in the loose stuff. Just a really fun machine, like the MT-07 is on the road. It looks bloody awesome too if you ask me. This colour is no longer available though, this was a 2020 colour.

On the long dirt road, the Tenere 1200 was like a big comfortable Landcruiser V8. It floats around, it bucks and weaves a little but it goes where you want to go and seems to always have grunt on tap. Don’t bother revving it out though, the power is super fat in the middle and falls away up high, rather, grab another gear and if you have TC disabled, steer with that rear wheel… It loves it.


MNA Airoh

In saying that, leaving traction on is fine too but I prefer to have that option to step it out if I am running wide and the 1200 system is not that high tech like it is on the Pan America or GS Adventure for example… The engine, too, is efficient in power production rather than exciting so don’t expect any thrills from it as it really is one of those engines that is flat, smooth and tractable yet a little boring.

The big Super Tenere floats along dirt roads in luxury but rocky, washed out fire trails and tracks overwhelm the suspension a bit. It is still a blast and highly capable but needs a big update soon, even though that means a price hike.

The 700 on the same fast road is more lively, needs to be worked harder but is serious fun. Where you can sit back and relax on the 1200, on the 700 you need to stand up and take control, using that amazing T7 motor to steer the bike. It is rewarding and you can sit and rest between turns but the overall package likes to have more rider input than the 1200 does so therefore I would say a more experienced off-road rider.



Tight and rocky climbs, sand, mud and tight trails are all the hunting ground of the 700. In fact, there were places I just could not get too on the 1200 due to ground clearance and weight, so if a bit of trail riding is on the cards and exploring off the road, the 700 is more suitable.


NG Brakes

Also in wide open sandy areas, the 700 is going to be much easier to ride, like out in the desert for example. The thing is, getting there is going to be much more comfortable and easy on the big Super Luxury Tenere!

The Tenere 700 will suit those who want more off-road capability with the compromise of long distance touring. It is great that Yamaha customers have had this 700 option the past few years as the 1200 is such a niche motorcycle, even within the adventure segment.

Overall, we have two brilliant motorcycles that, as mentioned, share the same name but are very different. The Super Tenere is a niche within a niche – a mega adventure bike that is more road-oriented than the main big contenders but more off-road than the Versys 1000 for example. It sits in the middle but there are a huge amount of aftermarket accessories available to cater for those who want to take it either further off-road, or stick to the tarmac more… That engine is an absolute star.



The 700 is raw, basic, fun and fabulous and comes in at a good price as well. Like the 1200, there are loads of aftermarket accessories to really make the bike your own. It would not take much to make the 700 a better road touring machine, probably three or four grand, and you would not lose anything much of its off-road capability, whereas to make the 1200 as good off-road as the 700, well, it’d be near impossible. That makes my choice easy, I’d go the 700, but I like to get off-road a fair bit. You might be different and like long miles and just some dirt roads, so the 1200 could be the one….

SPECIFICATIONS


Yamaha Super Tenere XT1200ZE ES

yamaha-motor.com.au

Price: $25,199 + Ride Away
Warranty: Two-year/unlimited kilometre
Colours: 2021 – Tech Black
Claimed power: 82.4kW
Claimed torque: 117Nm
Claimed weight: Wet 265kg
Fuel capacity: 23L


Engine: Liquid cooled, four-stroke DOHC four-valve, forward-inclined parallel two-cylinder, YCC-T, TCS, 1199cc, 98 x 79.5mm bore x stroke, 11.0:1 compression ratio, D-Modes
Gearbox: Six-speed, constant mesh Clutch: Wet multi-plate, shaft drive.


Chassis: Steel tube backbone frame
Rake: 28º Trail: 126mm
Suspension: Electronically adjustable suspension, 43mm USD forks, 190mm travel, single rear shock, 190mm travel
Brakes: Combined/Unified ABS, dual 310mm front rotors, four-piston calipers, single 282mm rear rotor
Wheels & Tyres: Laced-spoke black rim wheels, 110/80-19in, 150/70-17in


DIMENSIONS:
Wheelbase: 1540mm
Seat height: 845mm/870mm adjustable
Overall Height: 1410mm
Overall Length: 2255mm
Overall width: 980mm


Instruments & Electronics: LCD, multifunction display, Traction Control, ABS, Electronic Suspension, Cruise Control

Yamaha XTZ690 Tenere 700 Specifications

yamaha-motor.com.au

Price: $17,799 Ride Away
Warranty: Two-year/unlimited kilometre
Colours: 2021 – Power Black, Ceramic Ice
Claimed Power: 54kW
Claimed Torque: 68Nm
Wet Weight: 205kg
Fuel capacity: 16L


Engine: Liquid-cooled, DOHC, inline-twin, four-stroke, four-valve, 80 x 68.6mm bore x stroke, 689cc, 11.5:1 compression, lightweight one-piece two-into-one exhaust
Gearbox: Six speed
Clutch: Wet, multiple disc


Chassis: Tubular steel twin cradle
Rake: 27° Trail: 104mm
Suspension: 43mm KYB forks, fully adjustable, 210mm travel, semi-adjustable shock, 200mm travel,
Brakes: 282mm rotor(s) (f), twin-piston Brembo calipers and conventional master-cylinder, 245mm rotor (r), single-piston Brembo caliper
Wheels & Tyres: Spoked alloy wheels with Pirelli Scorpion Rally 90/90 – 21in (f), 150/70 – 18in (r)


DIMENSIONS
Wheelbase: 1590mm
Seat height: 875mm
Ground clearance: 241mm
Overall width: 915mm
Overall Length: 2365mm
Overall height: 1455mm


Instruments & Electronics: LED multi-function, switcheable ABS


Yamaha Q2

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