Yamaha’s ex­pe­ri­ence in ad­ven­ture bikes and Dakar rac­ing comes to­gether for the next gen­er­a­tion Ténéré. Bike rides the T7 con­cept

BIKE (UK) - - EXCLUSIVE T7 RIDDEN - By Jonathan Pear­son Pho­tog­ra­phy Ja­son Critchell

FIZZED UP FOR weeks know­ing I’ll be the only per­son in the UK and one of a hand­ful in the world to ride the only Yamaha T7 con­cept bike on Earth, I don’t know what to do with my­self. Wait­ing was like wait­ing for my first born. When the T7 fi­nally rolls up at our se­cret test lo­ca­tion in an un­marked van, just for us, it’s a mad rush to get the doors open. I grab the bars, burst­ing to hold the grips and squeeze the clutch lever I know has been touched by Dakar and Yamaha’s great­est rally racer, Stephane Peter­hansel. With the strik­ing bike out and ready I face a dilemma, how­ever. This is a one-off, a full work­ing pro­to­type of a Yamaha con­cept for a new mid­dleweight adventurer. So do I treat the T7 with kid gloves, or give it the full beans? What if I crash it? Not for the first time I go with my in­stinct and say balls to it. I’ve only got one chance to ride this thing so I’m go­ing to ride it prop­erly. And I’m glad I do, be­cause the T7 ex­pe­ri­ence is fan­tas­tic...

In­stantly I’m in rally mode, stand­ing up in­stinc­tively and find­ing the T7’s pos­i­tive rid­ing po­si­tion se­ri­ously en­cour­ag­ing. High bars, flat ’pegs and a neu­tral po­si­tion on top of the bike to move around lets me take charge. In no time I’m hap­pily throw­ing the T7 around like it’s a rally bike. I’m used to chuck­ing weighty ad­ven­ture bikes around for fun, how­ever the T7 proves to be more fun than most be­cause it is lighter and more re­spon­sive. It looks like a rally bike and does a damn good job of be­hav­ing like one too. The best ad­ven­ture bikes don’t al­ways have re­mark­able en­gines, just re­li­ably torquey ones. Yamaha’s twin-cylin­der mo­tor fits that phi­los­o­phy per­fectly. It’s the ‘CP2’ en­gine used in the MT-07, XSR700 and Tracer, with­out any mod­i­fi­ca­tion ex­cept for mean­ing­fully lower fi­nal ra­tio gear­ing. Our re­cent Big Test of the Tracer (last is­sue) de­scribes ‘a fine serv­ing of torque’ with a text­book flat line of force tank­ing through the rev-range. It’s soft and friendly at the very bot­tom, ris­ing quickly from 3000rpm to be al­ways ex­actly right and al­ways there. Use­ful? Hell yes – I can’t imag­ine how you could make it more so as I en­joy tight turns, steep banks and piles of rocks, with con­trol and feel for rear wheel grip as the sup­ple long-stroke sus­pen­sion soaks up every­thing. For an ad­ven­ture en­gine to work off-road for all-com­ers it needs a gen­tle char­ac­ter, and the T7 re­ally works. The clutch is light too, and if rid­ing ad­ven­ture bikes off road is all about find­ing con­trol and sur­pris­ing your­self with how much you re­ally can achieve on a big bike, the flex­i­ble power of the 689cc in­line twin is a strong choice. Crit­ics of the T7 – yes, there are some al­ready – ask why use this en­gine if it makes only 75bhp? In my view it’s pre­cisely what makes it the perfect ad­ven­ture bike en­gine, and our ride proves it. You can have 125 or even 160bhp in an ad­ven­ture bike, but do­ing so cre­ates a heavy and in­creas­ingly elec­tron­i­cally-man­aged bike, and so an ex­pen­sive bike. It’s not that there isn’t a place for large ad­ven­tur­ers. Of course there is. But this isn’t where the T7 con­cept is aim­ing. I can’t help dream­ing of cross­ing deserts, test­ing the dura­bil­ity of my­self and ma­chine against epic ter­rain as I ride the Yamaha. You can’t help but sense that Dakar-in­flu­enced thread that runs through the con­cept, just as it has through many of Yamaha’s pre­vi­ous Ténéré mod­els. And with such an in­cred­i­ble fam­ily tree it takes no great work of ge­nius to as­sume the pro­duc­tion ver­sion of the T7 will see the word Ténéré on the sides. If ad­ven­ture bikes grew from any­where then it was surely from rally bikes and the most iconic of off-road events, the Dakar. It’s hard to think of the Dakar with­out the name Stephane Peter­hansel and his six leg­endary wins on Yamaha’s YZE750T and XTZ850R mod­els. The XT and Ténéré pro­duc­tion ma­chines they in­spired have be­come cult heroes among ad­ven­ture and over­land rid­ers, with pro­duc­tion and rally ma­chines al­ways feed­ing off each other. The T7 is strongly grounded in this his­tory, yet a mod­ern con­cept born of en­gi­neers, de­sign­ers and prod­uct plan­ners from Yamaha’s of­fi­cial rally team in France, the R&D team in Italy and the project col­lab­o­ra­tors, GK De­sign in the Nether­lands. ‘The ad­ven­ture world needs a new kind of mo­tor­cy­cle,’ says Yamaha of its con­cept. One 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.’ With strong de­sign cues from the cur­rent WR450F Rally bikes which took stage wins in Dakar 2017, the T7’s saucy rally fair­ing and nav­i­ga­tion tower turn out to be no fakes – it’s a gen­uine, work­ing con­sole with han­dle­bar switchgear to match. The be­spoke alu­minium tank looks beau­ti­ful, and baf­fles Bike’s pho­tog­ra­pher with an­gles and glare in the sunshine. The high, slen­der seat and spot-on ’bars de­liver a rally-like rid­ing po­si­tion, stand­ing or sit­ting. These rally com­po­nents are here to show-off Yamaha’s think­ing be­hind the model and noth­ing more. Be­hind the rally mask lies the bike we are fun­da­men­tally likely to see from Yamaha: a ded­i­cated cra­dle-type chas­sis not shared with any other ex­ist­ing model, real long-travel sus­pen­sion, proper trail-ready wheel and tyre sizes, plus the twin-cylin­der 689cc en­gine. I ex­pect the rally tyres, nav tower, off-road bars and top clamps, al­loy tank

and off-road seat to likely be re­placed by more pro­duc­tion-friendly road parts, to give the bike a broader ap­peal and al­low it to suc­ceed as a tourer as well. I have an in­built bias to­wards off-road and the T7 con­cept is clearly of the same mind­set, but Yam know the re­al­ity is most rid­ers will spend most time on the road. It’ll need a com­fier seat for a start… though if it gets one I’ll be dis­ap­pointed. Unavoid­ably the muf­fler will have to change, and that’ll be a big shame. The twin has a docile fluffi­ness to its ex­haust note on other mod­els, quiet enough to lull ba­bies to sleep. But the T7’s Akrapovic can makes the kind of glo­ri­ous sound you ex­pect from a rally bike blast­ing off into the Chilean desert. It’d bet­ter be an ac­ces­sory part. ‘At Yamaha we feel that the ad­ven­ture mo­tor­cy­cle trend of re­cent years – ever-grow­ing en­gine size, power, weight – is not rep­re­sen­ta­tive of the whole spec­trum of cus­tomers,’ says Guglielmo Fon­tana-rava, of Yamaha’s prod­uct plan­ning di­vi­sion. It’s the pitch of the T7, aim­ing at the mid­dle ground where en­gines are smaller and lighter, com­po­nents less so­phis­ti­cated and dual-sport ca­pa­bil­ity is stronger. There’s a preva­lent school of thought in ad­ven­ture rid­ing, maybe bik­ing in gen­eral, that too much elec­tronic in­ter­ven­tion on a bike is a bad thing, and Yam are push­ing this phi­los­o­phy with the T7. It’s de­bat­able of course, but many rid­ers in the rally and ad­ven­ture world fol­low what Yamaha de­scribe as ‘the less-is-more par­a­digm that’s still ex­tremely valu­able to re­duce weight, re­duce dam­age risk and al­low quick re­pairs.’ They have clever elec­tron­ics on ex­ist­ing mod­els, but took a fun­da­men­tal de­ci­sion to use a sim­ple twin in a con­ven­tional chas­sis, keep­ing things un­com­pli­cated. ‘Ac­ces­si­bil­ity should be swift and com­pli­cated elec­tronic sys­tems are more of a worry than a so­lu­tion,’ adds Fon­tana-rava. The best ad­ven­ture bikes should be ca­pa­ble of tak­ing on a proper off-road event with­out mod­i­fi­ca­tions,

ex­cept maybe dif­fer­ent tyres. Its 21-inch front wheel gives the T7 gen­uine skills and so the pro­duc­tion bike should have too, like the de­funct XT660Z Ténéré did. The 660 had an out­dated en­gine for the ad­ven­ture mar­ket, but was a very good trail bike. With the T7 as our guide we as­sume Yamaha will pitch the pro­duc­tion ver­sion in the mid­dle ground hand­ily well be­low Su­per Ténéré ter­ri­tory. It’s a place where weight, size and softer per­for­mance are mean­ing­ful, and where dual-sport, go-any­where cre­den­tials make off-road rid­ing a very re­al­is­tic propo­si­tion. Trad­ing on for­mer glo­ries is a trick Honda used with their Africa Twin, and there are many par­al­lels you could draw be­tween it and how the T7 has been pre­sented. But Yamaha are con­tin­u­ing a strong Ténéré blood line here; a line that needs the cred­i­bil­ity of the T7 con­cept and rally race bike her­itage to be a true Ténéré. Though Yamaha say the T7 sits alone we’re clearly in Tri­umph Tiger 800, BMW F800GS, Africa Twin and KTM 1090 R ter­ri­tory; how­ever, if this con­cept trans­lates any­where close to a pro­duc­tion bike then, as a true adventurer, the Yamaha will be laugh­ing. The T7 looks in­spir­ing, has a chas­sis that’s def­i­nitely as up for it as I am, and its re­li­ably ver­sa­tile en­gine is the key to a very ca­pa­ble ad­ven­ture bike. If the pro­duc­tion ver­sion can keep the de­sign cues and dirt abil­ity of the rally bikes and this T7 con­cept, while of­fer­ing real tour­ing po­ten­tial, it has to be a hit. We await the show­room­ready re­al­i­ties with baited breath and fin­gers crossed…

‘If the pro­duc­tion bike keeps the de­sign cues and dirt abil­ity, while of­fer­ing real tour­ing po­ten­tial, it’ll be a hit’

Punchy MT 07 power, snappy gear­ing and great chas­sis bal­ance make this ca­per easy

Yamaha T7, Bike’s se­cret fa­cil­ity, heart of the Mid­lands, July 2017. Such ac­cess is un­prece­dented

KYB forks and proper rid­ing po­si­tion prove their use­ful­ness

Green lane po­ten­tial is fab­u­lous – you could com­mute with­out go­ing near tar­mac

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from UK

© PressReader. All rights reserved.