YAMAHA Tenere 660 top ten highs

We’re still waiting for the next generation 700cc Project T7 (Ténéré) to become a production machine – and it can’t arrive too soon – but in the meantime we thought we should honour this one last time the last Ténéré, the XT660Z (2008-), for it has been something quite special.

Despite, over the years, only ever enjoying a few sporadic rides on Yamaha’s XT660Z Ténéré here at RUST, it’s been on our list of top-10 adventure bikes (possibly top-five) ever since its arrival in 2008. It’s not perfect (what bike is?) but Yamaha really did get so close to answering a lot of long distance road-less-travelled travel riders’ prayers with this model. An engine of admirable simplicity, reliability and durability. A rock-solid chassis. All day ergos. Mega fuel range. And real off-road chops (although she’s a heavy beast if you do get stuck in a mud hole).


So many adventure bikes answer to what we want, but the Ténéré is all about what we need. It takes some pluck to adopt the KISS principle in bike design, but Yamaha gave us a truly iconic and world-circling success with the Ténéré. So here’s our run down of what we think are its ten strongest attributes.




It’s a proper – simple – adventure bike

Today, the motorcycle market is inundated with high-tech offerings under the adventure banner. No question, they’re great bikes, but few hit the brief of a travel bike with such honesty as the Ténéré does. Modern adventure bike have become mobile Christmas trees given the amount of electronic gizmos they now sport. Great, so as long as they don’t go wrong – and positively disastrous if they go wrong outside of the first world. So in the (real?) world of back-to-basics fix-it-with-a-hammer travel riding the Ténéré is almost unique. Yeah, we said almost…


Long-range tank as standard

This shouldn’t be a thing, after all BMW place big tanks on their GSs, and KTM do on their big-capacity Adventures too, but in the 600-650cc capacity range OEM big tanks are surprisingly rare. Notably KTM/Husqvarna have marketed the 690/701 Enduros as trail (or dual sport) bikes, not adventurers and that’s left those two potentially very useful adventure bikes with limiting 13 litre tanks, which means a big spend (on a big tank) for anyone wanting to travel on one. Even BMW’s Dakar/Sertao 650s maxes out at 17-litres. So the Ténéré’s 23-litre tank is a segment leader (to adopt the marketing spiel), making for a fuel range of up to 225 miles (365 kilometres).


A simple motor

Fuel injection (and a catalytic converter) is as trick as this motor gets. And fortunately that FI has proven rock solid dependable, so we’ll not call for a carb on this account. This is a 659cc single overhead camshaft single cylinder four-stroke, with a four valve head. Yes, it is water-cooled, and it’s a dry sump unit (so the oil is also carried in the frame), but the whole ethos here is simple and reliable. We’re talking just 48bhp where the Husky 701 makes a claimed 67bhp, so you can see it’s super under-stressed. Combine this with a very generous 2.9-litre oil capacity (just 1.7 litres on the 701) and you can understand both the extended 6000-mile service intervals and the motor’s monster durability.


Long travel suspension

Yep, there’s 210mm of travel on the forks and 200mm on the shock. For adventure riding – particularly gnarly adventure riding – that’s bob-on. Now it’s not the most sophisticated nor plushest travel you’ve ever tried, in fact it’s sub-standard, but at least the length is correct (which also means so is the ground clearance at 245mm), so with an upgrade on the internals on both ends, you end up with a very competent set-up.



The best fairing?

Fairing or screen? Actually the Ténéré’s design and styling is so well executed it’s a bit of both. And it’s just the right size. Not too big, not too small. Given in adventure riding we shouldn’t be screaming along any faster than 70mph (only on the best highways) this is all we need. It’s slim, we love the crash protection pads on the flanks of the tank, and the level of integration is excellent. Ten years after its launch, that the Ténéré still looks so modern, so right, says it all.



Great riding position

It’s not easy to create the ideal riding position, but the Ténéré starts in the right place, being pretty damn comfortable for extended riding whether sat or stood, for just about everyone. For standing, the pegs are well placed, the tank is just slim enough and the bars are just forward enough. Taller people will like to fit a modest bar riser (say 15-20mm) but otherwise it’s good. Now the stepped seat isn’t the best off-road set-up, and for long distance seated rides you want more space to move around, but actually it works well enough and is more comfortable than you might first think.



It’ll take big loads

You can load the Ténéré up, with panniers, pillions and more and it won’t break. That’s because its built like a tank; everything is solid and durable, the sub-frame could have been designed by the engineer behind the Forth Bridge (a big cantliever-span bridge in Scotland) it’s that over-engineered. The wheels too are HD kit, and there’s a set of twin discs up front that while not the most spectacular units at least don’t buckle under the pressure all that weight brings.



It can be ridden on a learner licence (in some countries)

This is very useful for the young and new rider who’s having to struggle his or her way through the super-restrictive EU licensing requirements. The fact the Ténéré squeaks under the 35kW and power-to-weight restrictions means the new rider gets to ride a bona fide adventure bike (without restrictors) on what is a mid-grade licence. Similarly, in Australia (for example) the Ténéré is LAMS approved for learner riders.


You want accessories?

Every adventure rider wants stuff to add to their bike, be it crash bars, panniers or a comfort seat. Having been with us ten years and recognised as a super travel bike from the start then rest assured there are more bolt-ons available for the Ténéré than most have the bank balance to cope with. Better news is the Ténéré doesn’t call for much, so spend a little wisely and you’re sorted.



It’s affordable

Adventure biking has become big business and top of the range bikes are now hitting nearly £20k in the UK, €25k in Europe and $30k in the US and Australasia. That’s a lot of money and for the real travel rider, considering purchasing a Carnet de Passage, a big ticket bike is going to call for a big ticket Carnet – just massive costs. Now in Australasia you can still buy new Ténérés for $13,990 while in Europe Euro4 killed the model off after 2016. There is, however, a good eight year supply of Ténérés so even modest mileage Tens can be picked up for around £3500-4500. World-circling capability never came so easily, so cheaply.

The Ten’s top-ten misses

It can’t be all-good, we understand that. Here’s what isn’t quite up to scratch with the Ténéré. Not that they outweigh the top-ten hits by any means…

1 You can’t buy one in the US.

2 Too heavy – 208kg (460lbs)! Yep, built like a tank means it weighs like tank

3 Damn those exhausts – too restrictive, too heavy (easily remedied)

4 Too tall – it really is; okay for JB and others, but shorter peeps will struggle

5 Skinny footpegs make standing painful, easy fix: fit modern pegs

6 Basic suspension with poor damping (again, can be fixed)

7 Stepped seat – it’s the compromise needed to get your feet down

8 Rim locks would help for off-road, but hey…

9 At low speeds the fuel injection isn’t perfect (stalls and stutters)

10 You see rusty spokes and flaking paint on older examples – yeah, there was some cost cutting…  

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