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Yamaha Tenere 700

YAMAHA TÉNÉRÉ 700 – ÖHLINS UPGRADE

Prior to the latest restrictions RUST got down to the Yamaha Off Road Experience in Wales to test ride their Yamaha Ténéré 700 with Öhlins suspension kit. It proved quite the upgrade, but there’s that big question – is it really worth the £2000 spend?

THE PARTS:

Öhlins FKA Cartridge Kit Adventure                      €1115.34

Öhlins STX 46 Adventure Shock Absorber            €1051.77

The background

We love the Ténéré 700; together with the KTM 790 Adventure R it was RUST’s joint-favourite adventure bike of 2019. We noted, however, it was a different kind of a brew to the 790. It came with less power, at a much lower price point and the focus was more (can we say) ‘leisure’, as against the sporting bias of the 790. We loved it nonetheless.

This ride

Since we first tested the Ténéré 700 the Internet has been overrun with fanatical new owners plastering social media with stories, picture and videos of the upgrades and personalizations they’ve applied to their new Tens. The bike has certainly struck a chord, already a cult following, and it’s wonderful to see such enthusiasm. Naturally most of the owner mods have to do with performance upgrades, making their Ténérés meaner, racier.

And in that respect one aspect that has come to light has been perceived shortcomings in the suspension. Good stuff it is, by Kayaba, but in faster going off-road the factory (soft) settings are a limiting factor, especially the forks which seem quite under-sprung.

Riding a standard Ténéré ‘school bike’ at YORE certainly revealed this. Previously riding tight, slow-speed green lanes in Kent, back in 2019, the standard Ténéré had felt to be plenty competent, but now ridden over fast, rougher terrain in Wales you could immediately appreciate how it’s altogether a bit soft. Hopping over rain gullies would have the forks crashing through their stroke on landing, making something of a clunk when they reached maximum compression. The shock was better than the forks, but not brilliant.

Swapping to the Öhlins equipped bike was a stark contrast. The forks stayed higher in their stroke at all times and gave the front end a feeling of a more assured grip on the slippery wet rock and shale we rode over, and when you hopped over those rain gullies the suspension absorbed the landing with ease. That kind of assuredness breeds confidence and in turn that leads to a higher probability to success when it comes to tackling tricky off-road terrain.

What I really appreciated here, though, was that Öhlins seem to have carefully avoided going for an out-and-out rally setting on these units. Competition rally bikes generally get set up stiff-ish, to work best at high speed (both in terms of velocity and bump impact-speed), the idea being to absorb big sudden hits without masses of under-damped rebound that would send the bike into an endo. That’s good for safety but it can make a bike feel a little tank-like and the lessened suspension movement can slow steering responses. Not ideal for general trail work. With this Öhlins setup, the feel seemed more super-trail rather than rally. So the essence of the Ténéré – such an amenable, easy bike to ride – was still there, only just with the greater assurance of quality suspension.

The question is – is it worth £2000 to achieve this? That’s close to 1/5th of the value of the bike. Now, for sure, this kind of hardware does cost this kind of money, there’s no rip-off going on here. But that extra spend does move the all-up cost of the Öhlins-equipped bike perilously close to that of the KTM 790 Adventure R (especially since the Yamaha has seen two price increases since its launch, now retailing at £9147). The answer probably lies in the kind of rider you are. If you’re using your Ténéré for leisure riding, and riding only at ‘considerate’ pace in the off-road, then the answer is as good as ‘no’. But if you’re committed to riding faster off-road and you’ve got that hankering to ride rallies – big rallies like the Hellas or Gibraltar – then this is very much value for money. And if that’s the case, if you’re hammering along rocky trails for eight hours a day for one to two weeks at a time, then this is money well spent – and your body will thank you each and every night.

So yes, this is a great, if expensive, solution and we’d be the first to congratulate you on a choice well made. However, if ‘two-very-large’ is just plain too much money for you, then stand by we’ve also found a great solution for you. And we’ll let you know more about that in a story we’ll publish very soon.

Technical notes:

The Öhlins STX 46 shock (aka YA818 – also found as a genuine Yamaha accessory) comes with adjustable compression and rebound damping and a hydraulic adjuster for preload – that’s the wee device on the pillion peg mount. The shock is warranted for two years.

The FKA 114 cartridge system brings compression and rebound damping to the forks, with preload adjustment too. Rather alike WP forks, you’ll find the compression damping in one fork leg and rebound damping in the other. Springs and oil are purchased separately and should be custom matched to the rider.

The YORE team had also added a few extras to their Ténérés:

WR450F footpegs

Yamaha accessory skid plate – 4mm HD type (£282.50)

Yamaha accessory ‘engine bars’ (£213.50)

Renthal Fat Bars

Aftermarket handguards / Renthal grips

Dunlop D908RR enduro/adv tyres (street legal)

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