Yamaha XTZ660 Ténéré: the all-purpose thumper now has a middle inlet valve, a
water jacket and revised everything else. Dirt animal Tom Crees went to the
launch in France.
Yamaha claimed the first three places in the Paris-Dakar this year, so they
must know something about off-road bikes. With the Culf war delaying the
scheduled UK launch of the completely redesigned XTZ660 Ténéré single we went to
France where Sonauto, the French Yamaha importer, had some pre-production models
Yamaha have increased mid-range torque and top end power over the 1990 600
Ténéré by upping the capacity to 660cc and, for the first time on a single,
using a five valve head. A bigger single is more prone to heat distortion so to
keep temperatures stable, liquid cooling has been introduced and this also keeps
engine noise down. Bolted to the bottom is a whopping great skid plate that not
only prevents entry to the sump by a foreign object such as a rock, but will protect the engine from
damage in an unscheduled trip down the road on its side.
The motor is a stressed member of the new diamond-pattern frame which, Yamaha
say, increases rigidity. Carrying the oil in the frame dispenses with the oil
tank, allowing a narrower seat area which is also reduced in height by a full
inch to 34'/:>in (Yamaha quote 34.1 — Ed). The cockpit area has a new instrument
panel recessed into a Paris-Dakar style fairing which does a fair job of
deflecting air off the rider. The sit-up-and-beg riding position results in
considerable wind blast at high speed but tucking in behind the screen
The 660 is very comfortable despite the bulbous Ténéré fuel tank, it's
been slimmed down in the rear section to keep 'leg spread' to a minimum. The
seat extends up to the fuel tank in the kind of smooth contour likely to protect
one's gonads in a rapid de-acceleration situation.
The aluminium rear carrier is the business with all the tie hooks and
brackets your bungee straps need. It also has a passenger grabrail which doubles
as a convenient grappling point for pulling the bike out of the mire should you
become over-ambitious in your off-road riding.
As with most big bore trailies the 660 Ténéré feels tall, but once underway
is no problem. The new power characteristics mean a very flexible engine (it'll
pull from 3,000rpm in top without transmission snatch), with little rider input needed to get the best
out of it. Clutchless, first gear wheelies are a cinch when lifting the front
for an off-road obstacle or showing off on the street. There's no point revving
out in every gear; short shifting is the way to go, but if the engine does bog
down a bit and you need some instant zap then a dab of the clutch will have
things back on song.
Mixing with aggressive French drivers the Ténéré proved a formidable tool,
flowing with Paris rush hour traffic in top gear up to an indicated 175kph
(105mph-ish). There wasn't much engine braking so it was down to the single
discs front and rear to haul up 370lb of dry Ténéré (plus varying quantities of
fuel, oil and rider). The front brake was spongy, without much feel to the
action, but it had the desired effect. The rear brake had a good, progressive
feel to it.
The front end had a vague, wishy-washy feeling and above 70mph a weave set
in. It was nothing alarming and didn't increase with speed; simply stiffening
the rear rebound damping cured it, which outlines the significance of experimeriting
with the suspension set-up. Vibration levels were very low due to the
combination of the engine balancer shaft and rubber-mounted bars and end
weights. The mirrors were effective and worked at all speeds.
Fuel consumption worked out at around 40mpg — but that was with hard riding;
I'd expect around 50mpg with more normal use. The 20 litre (4.4 gallon) tank
should therefore be good for over 200 miles.
One gripe was with the non-self-cancelling indicators. Following lunatic
French photographer Patrick Curtet, well know to PB testers for his fluent
riding style and last-second directional changes, I found that life was made
more interesting than necessary by his constant failure to cancel his
Off the autoroutes the Ténéré coped with all situations. Fast, winding,
country roads were gobbled up effortlessly, the quick steering making it easy to
chuck into bends. The Dunlop Trailmax tyres did a fine job and never produced
any awkward moments. Trail tyres are always a compromise, though, so if you
don't ride off-road a smaller front rim and road tyres would further enhance the
handling to make a great scratcher's bike.
The Ténéré is obviously no serious dirt tool but as long as you realise its
limitations a lot of fun can be had. Forest road-type going and trails are no
problem but in deep mud or sand the 660 overheats. This is immediately
counteracted by the electric fan.
The Ténéré makes an ideal all-round, do-it-all motorcycle. Its user-friendly
engine, super handling and multi-purpose abilities should appeal to many types
of rider: commuters, despatch riders, tourers. When I can no longer live with
the potential licence-eating properties of my EXUP then the Ténéré would be the
kind of bike I'd
Source Performance Bike 1991