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“HE RODE OFF A CLIFF?”

Yamaha’ s 2023 Ténéré 700 World Raid reviewed – properly.

WORDS BY BORIS MIHAILOVIC & AARON CLIFTON

IMAGES BY GREG SMITH/iKAPTURE

It’s a handsome beast and most fetching in blue.

“Borrie rode off a cliff.”

“What? Like a real cliff cliff?”

“Yep.”

“Is he dead?”

“No.”

“Is he maimed?”

“No.”

“Is the bike destroyed?”

“The mirror is broken.”

“So it can still be photographed?”

“For sure. Not like the one whatsisname wrecked when he put his head through the screen this morning.”

“You’re sure it was a cliff he rode off?”

“Yep. It was pretty much where we thought he’d die if he was planning on dying.”

“He wasn’t being a dickhead?”

“He doesn’t have the skills to try being a dickhead.”

“So he’s not dead, he’s not maimed, and the bike is not wrecked. Must be a pretty shitty cliff.”

“Oh the cliff is serious. He’s just the luckiest bastard in the whole world.”

“That’s got to be the last of his lives.”

“You’d think so…but who knows?”

This is RideADV’s mancave HQ where we assembled the night before to be told not to die.

This was not a conversation I was privy to when it took place, but I do know it took place. But it took place maybe ten kilometres from where Crash, Lincoln, and myself were using ropes to haul the afflicted World Raid back onto the track I had thrown it off.

 

My cliff-jumping happened directly in front of Crash, RideADv’s intriguingly-nicknamed sweep rider. RideADV had been contracted by Yamaha to run the Australian press launch, and Crash had drawn the short-straw to be the last rider, also known as the “Sweep”. So he was my witness in later discussions.

This is Greg Yager – a man worthy of following into battle. He is explaining why we will not die.

The long-straw for lead rider went to the man who looked like he fought bears. According to his T-shirt, Ride ADV’s Greg Yager was the Trailboss, a fact I found hugely comforting, given Greg outweighs me by at least 30kg and looks like a Viking war-leader. The men one follows into battle need to look just like that.

 

Lincoln, whom I knew from back when I did a story on Yamaha’s finest factory mechanics – and who now works for Chris Watson Yamaha in Newcastle – was the actual trailblazer. He rode ahead of Greg and the rest of us, presumably to attract any errant wildlife, falling trees, or sudden cracks in the earth’s crust. It was Lincoln who came back to see what had happened – and it was good he did, because Crash and I simply lacked the strength to haul the World Raid back on the track.

Aaron was on his first press launch. He is doubtlessly wondering which part of him will be eaten first.

That’s the thing with cliffs. You can’t stand under the bike to push. There’s nowhere to stand. The only way we were going to haul it out was with ropes and an extra bloke. The two of us were simply insufficient to the task.

 

The cliff-event was all my fault. I will own it. I was proceeding downhill, and I was aiming to traverse a deep rut, but a large rock – perhaps the size of an enemy’s head – was in the place where I subsequently put my front wheel…and up and over we went. Yes, I should not have traversed the rut at that time. Yes, I knew better. Yes, I did it anyway. Can we move on now?

It was only right Aaron got to ride the World Raid first…

As the World Raid bounced into the air and off the track, it became one of those: “Shit, this is it for me…” moments. I understood I had just ridden off a cliff. I had been riding next to the bastard for a while, so I knew it was there. And it seemed obvious this was the end of all things for me. Luck is all that saved me.

…while I reacquainted myself with a normal Ténéré .

Then the front wheel hit a big rock, and the bike stopped. I somersaulted over the handlebars, and whomped into a tree, and then I stopped. Everything was in stasis. But I was not dead. The bike had not crushed me. So it and I just lay there for a few seconds. I was assessing my injuries. It was silently condemning me for riding like a worthless arsehole. Both were important things for different reasons.

 

Everything seemed to still work as far as my bones and organs were concerned, so I slowly clambered up the cliff, like a fat Goretex-clad spider, and emerged on the track, where Crash had stopped, doubtlessly in awe, right after I’d trowelled it in front of him.

The twin tanks sit appreciably lower down from the headstock than the normal Ténéré’s single tank. And there’s that beaut steering damper.

“You OK?” he asked very calmly, which is exactly the right way to ask such important questions.

 

“Yep.” I nodded. My knee hurt a bit, but not enough for me to whine about.

The lights are excellent.And the screen is higher.

“Have a rest,” he said, and when I went and sat on another rock (there were lots of them around), he got out his sat-phone and made a call.

 

After a few minutes, I felt we should attempt to haul the bike back onto the track. So we tried. Very hard. I was convinced it was a write-off, but we could not leave it there. We grunted, we heaved, we tied ropes to it and grunted and heaved some more, but it would barely budge.

It got rather jungley for a bit.

Which is when we heard Lincoln coming back. He was just the ticket. The three of us managed to haul the World Raid onto the track, and checked it over. The mirror-glass was shattered, and there was a small scuff on the tank, but that was it. I pressed the starter button and it instantly whirred into life. Seemed like my ride was not over.

 

“Bloody Yamaha,” I muttered. Later that day, Greg and I were chuckling over the event – because this shit is always funny if no-one dies – and he observed that riders of Euro machinery on the tours he runs are forever pressing their starter buttons at strange times to see “if it will start”. Yamaha riders do not do this. The blue bastards will always start. It’s how they’re made. When the world ends, only cockroaches, fridges, and Yamahas will remain.

Somehow, a little air appeared underneath me.

So I rode on, viciously berating myself for what happened, because I hate being “that guy”.

 

Anyway, up until that point, Aaron and I were engaged in something no-one else on the press launch had even considered. We were swapping between a normal Ténéré, and the World Raid version, because that seemed like the valid thing to do in order to provide a proper assessment of the differences.

Aaron is so much better at this than me.

So let’s first understand why Yamaha’s Ténéré is the biggest-selling mid-sized Adventure bike in Australia. It’s brilliant. That’s why. It’s more dirt-biased than many Adventure bikes, but gives nothing away to any of them when you put it on the bitumen.

 

But rather than rest on its laurels, Yamaha went to the next level and created the World Raid. It is the Ténéré, but with hairier dirt-balls, thanks to some changes that make it even more viable as a serious off-roader. And not one iota of its sealed-road ability has been compromised.

And then I did this.

 

Which looked like this from another angle. Neither of which does the steepness any justice.

 

This is what it looked like from the track.

 

Right in the middle of this image is the rock that launched me off the track. Yes, I know. I should not have hit it when there was so much space around it. Did anyway.

The differences are significant, and most obvious when you look at the hell-sexy 23-litre twin-tank set-up. You will get at least 450km of range. Some have said there’s 500km there if you take it easy. The tanks sit lower on the frame, thus lowering the bike’s centre of gravity, and thanks to some electronic solenoid voodoo, the amount of petrol in either tank is always equal. Yes, you have to fill them both independently, but that’s kinda cool if girls or other Adventure riders are looking.

 

Then there’s the suspension. Kashima-coated suspension. Yes, I am glad you asked what that is. You only ever see Kashima coatings on Factory race bikes, and it’s a hard-anodising treatment for fork-legs and shock bodies, which reduces friction, corrosion, and scratching. The World Raid also has 20mm more suspension travel front and rear, boasts a new bash-plate, an Öhlins steering damper with 18 settings, and a few other bits and bobs Aaron was far more interested in than I was.

Mmmm…Kashima…

I’m sure you’re keen to know how this all translates to the actual ride, and how it compares to the normal Ténéré. Aaron and I rode both, turn and turn-about. But I will let him tell his own story.

 

As far as I was concerned, the Ténéré is precisely what I would be looking for in a true Adventure bike. And a true Adventure bike has always been what the Ténéré was – and now it had hairier cags.

Clever crash-bars built in to protect the twin tanks.

So the Ténéré is utterly true to its calling – and has been from the beginning. A big part of that purity is it’s not electronically complex in terms of rider aids or modes – you can turn ABS off on the normal Ténéré with the push of a button, or decide if you want to leave the front ABS on if you’re riding the World Raid. When you turn off the bike, it defaults back to ABS on, but that is a legal requirement in Australia, and the way around it is just to stall the bike and not turn off the ignition if you’re only pausing briefly.

 

Both versions have this insane ability to just chug seamlessly along if the going is really technical or rough, and that makes them very easy to ride, even if you’re a dirt-muppet like me. That MT-07 engine is a true marvel and one of the best donks ever wedged inside any motorcycle.

I bounced a whole lot of stuff of this marvel.

I found the seat on the World Raid a touch more luscious than the normal Ténéré’s saddle, but I only noticed this when I was already tired and emotional. Both seats are good for long hours, and interestingly, the World Raid’s weight distribution made it easier to ride the dirt sitting down than the normal Ténéré. Not that you should do that, and I normally don’t, but like I said, I was tired and emotional by the end of the first day after my cliff experience.

 

We rode all kinds of roads – including bitumen – and dirt tracks that varied from, “This is cool! I can do 120 on here!” to “I am going to murder Yager if I ever make it off this damned hill!”. Both Ténéré’s cake-walked everything the whole time. Nothing seemed to stress them out.

Very nice layout, and that bar is hugely stable and you can hang your phone off it.

I was the only one stressed out when I was called upon to complete the final descent into the Hunter Valley at the end of the day. What had been a perfectly reasonable fire trail, had morphed into two blasted and deeply vicious ruts, overgrown with weeds, which made it very hard to see any specific dying spot. But my tired and overheated brain knew there were many such spots. The taste of dust had long been established in my mouth – it was a very hot and dusty ride – my knee ached, and I had just given the last of my water to the bloke who’d put his head through the screen earlier that day. I am not usually given to mercy, but he was unable to stand on his feet each time we stopped and kept begging for water. But no-one cared overly much. Our bear-killing leader had assessed his needs were not life-threatening, and his girl-like keening was to no avail.

 

But I was much gladder than he was to finally reach our evening’s accommodation. I was not injured, per se. But I was very sore. And bound to get sorer as the evening wore on. That’s the nature of these things.

Command central. Really simple.

I bailed on Day Two’s events, which involved taking all the 220kg Ténérés to a Motocross track and throwing them into the air. As I had been a little brutalised in my off, and when all that stuff had had time to cool down and seize up, I found I could not stand on the pegs to ride. And if I can’t stand on the pegs to ride dirt, I can’t ride dirt. Of course, I am every bit as competent as Aaron and the other dirt-beasts when it comes to throwing bikes off jumps and hard-cornering on berms. I just utterly fail at being able to land those jumps or exit the corners, which is a personal failing. But I’m good with that – I have always been a man who is aware of his own limitations…especially when I am confronted with them.

Aaron got to cut loose the next day.

The bike? It’s everything I expected it to be, and wanted it to be. You go fitting twin petrol tanks to an Adventure bike, and coating its suspension in exotic Factory unguents, then you’d better be sure the bike can back its bullshit up.

 

And the World Raid certainly can – even while it’s also backing up yours with ease. And you can ride it off cliffs.  It is adventure incarnate.

 

SECOND OPINION BY AARON CLIFTON

 

“I’M NEW AT THIS…”

 

This was my first ever press launch. Borrie told me the only reason I was even there was so he could eat me if we got stranded in the bush.

 

I felt I might be good for two days. Borrie can eat a lot.

 

So I resolved that stranding would not happen.

 

The launch of the new Yamaha Ténéré World Raid was not the hill I was going to die on. Or be eaten on.

I would have died right here.

I’m not new to riding. I’ve been doing that for 30 years, but in the quite distinct disciplines of motocross and road-riding.  I’ve also done the odd bit of enduro, and I never really found it that appealing, but this adventure thing wasn’t anything I’d done before. And just like a virgin I was very excited to see what it was all about.

 

I was really hoping it wasn’t about Borrie turning me into bacon.

 

The new Yamaha Ténéré World Raid has seen some significant changes compared to the normal Ténéré model, which is still being sold. The world Raid comes with upgraded suspension complete with Kashima coating for reduced internal resistance and durability, the forks and rear shock are fully adjustable including preload on the forks, and both front and rear suspension boast 20mm more travel. There’s also an adjustable Öhlins steering damper, a new five-inch TFT colour screen with Bluetooth connectivity, a new bash plate and and bigger foot pegs. But the most notable difference is the new 23-litre dual fuel tanks, which according to Yamaha and whispers around the Adventure riders, now give you a range of 450km.

 

The ride was set to go from Ourimbah on the NSW central coast over the mountains and bound for the Hunter Valley. It would consist of fire trails and tighter single-trail terrain, with surfaces ranging from everything from hard-packed clay, to gravel and sandy tracks.

Ben Grabham, in the Oneal kit, doesn’t care how good anyone thinks they are.

I immediately felt at home on the Ténéré and it was fair to say I was playing it conservatively. There was no way, hell or high water, I was crashing this thing. I just didn’t want to be “that guy” =- especially on my first press launch.

 

It didn’t take long before we were out of the suburban areas of Ourimbah and making our way off-road up the mountain. It’s worth noting the Ténéré was fitted with full off-road tyres, and the bike was still perfectly at home on the bitumen, so much so that it felt odd to be taking it off-road and for the first few hundred meters on the dirt I had a feeling saying “It can’t be right to take a road-bike off-road…”

 

I had to remind myself it was not a road bike or even a real dirt bike. It was an Adventure bike. And the Adventure thing perplexed me. I always imagined it was a mix of both road and dirt, and those two things being so opposed to each other you would sacrifice the best of both of those worlds to end up with an adventure article. But this is NOT the case at all.

I found this out only a few hundred meters off the tar when I encountered our first hill that consisted of water wash-outs, ruts and rocks about the size of a lunch boxes.

I can do this. I just can’t land it.

I can’t take this bike up that, I thought and still kept riding because everyone else was.

 

I was wrong. You can indeed take the World Raid up that stuff, and you can do it with great ease. The more time I spent on the World Raid the more I warmed to this adventure thing, and it boggled my mind.

 

The World Raid not only exceeded my expectations, but it blew them away completely. A 700cc parallel twin with a wet-weight of 220kgs and an off-road front tyre should not handle so well either on or off road, but it does, it so bloody well does! A very compliant motorcycle not reacting harshly or unexpectedly to otherwise unforgiving terrain and yet responding well to rider inputs.

 

Most of the time I just drew on on my motocross experience, ie. Stand in the correct position and allow the bike to do its thing underneath me, and not once did the World Raid give me a moment that tightened my sphincter. And all this on stock suspension. I couldn’t help but wonder how good this thing could be with a tailored suspension set up.

 

I had the chance of riding the Ténéré and the Ténéré World Raid back-to-back on this ride and it was a privilege, because I had the ability to compare the changes in real time.

 

The standard Ténéré is a great bike in its own right. It is narrower than the World Raid and so it gave the impression it was also lighter and would handle better, but I found this wasn’t the case. It’s not that the Ténéré handles poorly. It doesn’t. But the World Raid gave a more confident or sure-footed feeling from the front-end even though it’s carrying the extra weight of the dual fuel tanks.

 

When a manufacturer talks of changes like adding weight but not sacrificing handling ability because “We kept the weight down low”, I get cynical. They’ve made an effort, but adding weight is adding weight no matter where you carry it.

 

I was wrong-again. it actually works on the World raid. And I don’t believe it’s only due to the fact the fuel load is carried low. I believe it’s the sum-total of many things; the improved suspension, the added steering damper, and the improved seat-and-rider triangle. All these things together make for a heavier bike that seems to handle better than a lighter one, and I think in the case of the World Raid it actually almost hides the extra lard it carries. This bike, in my opinion, does not feel like it weighs 220kg wet.

 

Still don’t believe me? I had this thing on a motocross track.  Sure, I didn’t “send it” like I would my 450 motocrosser, because it’s not designed for that, but I did jump it, hit berms, rollers, and deep sand sections with deep ruts, and the Ténéré World Raid did it all, and took it in its stride.

 

And maybe what also helps hide the weight with is this nifty little solenoid valve set-up Yamaha uses to equalise the fuel load in each tank to avoid you having more fuel on one side.

 

Even when belting through sandy corners, the bike never once felt unbalanced. Keep in mind though, that when you fuel up you do have to fill both tanks separately. But when the starter switch is turned on and the side-stand is up, it equalises within a few minutes and the fuel gauge adjusts to suit.

 

The Ténéré is obviously not a motocross or an enduro bike. Nor is it a pure-bred road-bike. But it is by the truest definition an Adventure bike, and if the Ténéré World Raid is any indication of what adventure riding is, sign me up.

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Boris Mihailovic

Boris is a writer who has contributed to many magazines and websites over the years, edited a couple of those things as well, and written a few books. But his most important contribution is pissing people off. He feels this is his calling in life and something he takes seriously. He also enjoys whiskey, whisky and the way girls dance on tables. And riding motorcycles. He's pretty keen on that, too.

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