For most brands, speccing-up adventure bikes means smarter software and more modes. But not Yamaha
Being an ex-professional off-road racer, I’ve never had much of an interest in adventure motorcycles. When I was racing, I used to wonder why anyone would want to ride those big, heavy-looking dirtbikes.
However, since hanging up the professional racing helmet a good 10 years ago, my opinion and view on adventure motorcycles has totally changed. Especially after just finishing an unsupported 10-day 3500km adventure bike ride from Alice Springs in the Northern Territory to Bathurst in New South Wales. Now I get it. The combination of riding into areas most people will never see, mixed with simple living off the motorcycle is totally priceless.
When the current Yamaha Ténéré 700 was introduced in 2019, I got my hands on one for a day and I was pretty impressed by the overall package. Fast forward four years and, in Yamaha’s words, “the 2019 Ténéré 700 was a game changer in the Adventure landscape. It appeals to Aussie adventure riders looking for a simple, reliable and capable adventure machine. The Ténéré 700 World Raid was created to support our customers in their dream to go harder for longer.”
To achieve this World Raid status, updates to the base-model include an increased fuel tank capacity from 16 litres to 23, there’s a height-adjustable front guard and the front fork is now a higher-spec fully adjustable KYB unit with both reduced friction thanks to a Kashima coating applied to the outer tubes and an extra 20mm of travel. The KYB rear suspension has been upgraded to match the new fork, also gaining full adjustability and 20mm more travel, as well as a new rubber bumper to improve energy absorption in the case of bottoming out.
The new Öhlins steering damper, mounted close to the steering area and perfectly integrated into the design, has an adjustment range of 18 clicks, while the updated ABS system has three different settings to support riders with different skill levels (full ABS, front wheel ABS on and rear wheel off, or full ABS off).
To improve its off-road credentials, the World Raid gets larger, high-grip footpegs with removable rubber inserts and a sturdy three-piece aluminium engine guard to increase protection from side impacts, as well as protectors for both the radiator and the fuel pump, again beautifully integrated.
The instrument cluster is vertically mounted so you feel like Adrian Van Beveren and boasts three selectable themes (Explorer, Street and Raid).
As well as two independent tripmeters, distance travelled can be fine-tuned using the buttons on the left-hand ’bar to match a road book. Bluetooth connectivity manages data exchange with Yamaha’s MyRide App, meaning notifications from your mobile are shown on the display; incoming calls, messages, battery status, etc. A functional and modern cockpit, there’s a crossbar for add-ons such as a GPS, phone or camera, and a USB type A outlet for charging.
The switches have been updated over the standard bike, the windscreen is 15mm higher and there are side deflectors, which are easy to remove and clean. All this, says Yamaha, is the result of an airflow study on thermal comfort.
While a far cry from my 3500km epic, my testing ground for the World Raid was the New South Wales’ Central Coast’s trails less travelled. Led by Ride ADV, which is based in Ourimbah, the crew knows every trail and backroad as far as you can see, so all I needed to do was focus on my riding. The ride was split over two days; the first day we headed northwest out to Laguna and Wollombi then finished up on the outskirts of Cessnock. My favourite part of the day was twisting through the Watagan state forest. The following morning we ventured back through Mulbring and Freeman’s Waterhole – weaving in and out of a lot of my old favourite enduro training areas – before booting back down the coast to Ride ADV HQ. There was dust, water crossings, tight stuff, open stuff, fast stuff, slow stuff, hill climbs, steep descents, jumps, sand – everything really. It was the perfect mix of speed and terrain for me to develop an educated opinion on Yamaha’s latest adventure offering.
I felt right at home in this new cockpit from the minute I sat on the new World Raid. If I’m totally honest, it reminded me of my Dakar Rally bike from 2013. When seated you feel like you sit into the bike and have good control, and when I got to any rough or technical terrain, standing up felt great and made the bike feel safe and planted.
I’m 178cm tall and the screen was the perfect shape to give me a decent buffer from the weather while not restricting any of my vision. My only complaint in the cockpit would be the handlebar grips. While I like their profile and the grip on offer, I am not a fan of their hard/firm compound.
Most likely from my time racing, I am very fussy when it comes to off-road suspension, so the fork on this bike was the first thing that stood out to me. The first time we left the blacktop was onto a neglected off-camber washed-out track with square edges and ruts everywhere.
What caught my attention first was how smooth the front-end felt and its ability to track over everything. I have used a Kashima-coated fork before and can vouch for and was even expecting the smooth feeling, but the fork continued to impress me throughout the ride. On the fast and flowing roads it held up well and gave me great front-end feel. Then, when I happened to find myself on a shitty old motocross track, it even handled the jumps and bumps far better than an adventure-bike fork probably should.
Out the back the KYB shock also performed very well. It doesn’t have the silky smooth feel that the front fork has, however it does provide a compliant ride. Even when I was doing things on the motocross track that it definitely is not designed for, it took the large hits well. I did play with the spring preload adjuster during the ride, to drop the rear-end a fraction and make the overall feel very stable and planted on the flowing trails.
In terms of braking, all three braking modes work exactly as they should. I know it’s required by law, however I am not a fan of the full front/back ABS mode always being activated when you switch an adventure bike off. A few times when we stopped for a chat then charged off down a dirt track I found myself standing on the rear brake pedal and squeezing the front lever with not much happening because full ABS had kicked back in – luckily the Ténéré 700 World Raid can tip into a corner well! My preferred ABS mode for all types of riding is front ABS activated and rear ABS off, which allowed me to skid steer with the rear, while never needing to worry about front-wheel lock ups.
If I was made to choose an aspect of this motorcycle as my favourite it would easily be the engine. Yamaha has really perfected this engine and it’s not surprising given it has used this platform in multiple other models to the tune of 221,000 units in total. What stands out to me is the way the 689cc parallel-twin delivers its power. The whole way through the rev range it provides silky smooth power that always finds great traction. You don’t experience any nasty dips or hits in the delivery. Okay, it may not be the crazy-powerful unit some of its competitors can boast about, but I can confirm it’s easily fast enough to do everything I needed over these days, or even get me thrown in jail for exceeding the speed limit three times over.
The gearbox has a firm sturdy feel when shifting gears that made precise gear changes spot-on, which really enhances the overall experience when you’ve got your flow going.
The exhaust note is something I like a lot, to my ear it kinda sounds like a small V8 engine humming away.
Yamaha copped a lot of flack due to the simplicity of the first Ténéré, but it filled a segment of the market plenty of adventure riders were looking for. And I believe Yamaha is on to another winner with the Ténéré 700 World Raid as it definitely achieves everything the company set out to do – take the Ténéré customer adventure up a notch.
I am a huge fan of how smooth and simple it is to ride. I could definitely see myself loading up on a Ténéré 700 World Raid and heading out into the desert. But if I did, I’d buy the Icon Blue version. Even though I spent my time riding the Midnight Black version, I’d be putting my money on the factory-coloured option – once a racer, always a racer I guess.
Test Ben Grabham + Photography Josh Evans