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First up, in my humble opinion, I can´t see the value in going for a 1,000cc plus motor as an overland choice (well, perhaps unless you are riding in a group where everyone is using the same larger capacity machine - and where people are available to help you lift the thing up - or unless some generous soul gifts you one). Idris´ 660cc single thumper pushed out more than sufficient horses for me. And while there were times on longer motorway type stretches where a larger capacity machine would have done the job better (and easier), I didn´t feel that the 660 was being strained at any stage.
Idris also proved capable of hauling me in relative comfort (once the sheepskin bedded in) along with my luggage and gear. I think I will have a look at modifying the mounting of my hard panniers a little lower to bring down the centre of gravity a little (I went for the ease of a flat surface across the pannier tops and rear seat - which resulted in quite a high carry position for most of my gear). But, again, that wasn´t a major issue.
The 23 ltr tank was a boon, and with reasonable quality fuel I was able to return over 500kms on a tank on a regular basis. In fact, I averaged 72mpg over the 20,000+ mile trip. Incredible - and that saved me quite a few pennies. It was also impressive that the machine ran well on fuel from 84 to 97 octaine - with the only notable difference being the tank range, rather than throttle response. Equally, I had no issues in riding the machine at altitudes over 4,500 meters. Again, impressive.
As the bike is a single, maintenance was very simple and cost effective - though in truth I didn´t need to do that much. I changed out the oil and filter every 6.000 miles or so. I changed a few light bulbs, tyres, the OEM chain and rear sprocket, and cush drive rubbers (which are now packed out with inner tube). The bike always started first click - hugely reliable. The only mechanical issue I had, really, was the need to rebuild the OEM shock. It had gotten all gunked out with fine fesh fesh in the desert and had lost its damping. The rebuild did work, however, and I´ve since done some 6,000 miles on it without issue. It now needs a good service and the thottle is sticking open a tad from time to time. In short, if I needed to take it a distance - I wouldn´t worry about packing up and heading off again overnight.
And, while reporting on the positives, the bike also still looks pretty cool. I think the red and grey helps, and the colour seems to stand out in photos even when the thing was actually pretty dirty. This also helped attract attention almost everywhere. And from those who knew their bikes it attracted a little envy too, and often sparked the question as to why Yamaha don´t routinely supply the XT660Z across the Americas. I´m afraid I can´t answer that. I know they are pushing the 1200 as the overlander of choice - and that is a very impressive machine - but the 660 has a lot going for it too, particularly if you are travelling solo.
But are there any downsides to taking this machine on a major trip? Yes, hand on heart there is one. Travelling around the world´s waistband would be less of an issue, but it seems to me that in both the north and south extremes there lives a whole lot of wind. And wind at a level where you probably want to be a low down as possible. On an XT660Z you ride high - great in traffic and in other country areas - but in the high winds of Patagonia, for example, I often felt like a sail! It is very tiring. At a fuel stop on Tierra del Fuego I noted that a chap who was more or less the same hight as me was sitting on his GS1150 a head lower! I can´t help thinking that this was a distinct advantage in the land of the wind.
That said, if I went on another big trip, would I take Idris? Yes, without a second thought. This bike got me out of trouble quite a few times - and it has soul. It gets under your skin in a way that only some bikes do. And if you are going to spend months travelling together, then that quality is essential.
well tested this weekend and big group ride up from gloucester to oulton park on the scenic route and back via a different scenic route and finally into heavy rain for last leg home. points; 1. at 50 to 70 in the group i felt like i was getting sucked in and having to push away from the bars(makes for achey shoulders)engine was smooth drives amazingly well and the T.C. is nice too had to adjust myself forwards to get the right feel from front overall use a tank bag to to stopp the swirl and getting sucked in similar feel to a pan with the screen up.2.dirt tracks at the race track easy t.c. kicked in but drave great thing it could handle a little mor than a fire trail with right tyres.3.fast ride home now when its legs get stretched omg it shows how good it is 85-90kph tight and twisty long flowing straights at these speed the aforementioned suction disapears and gets more comfy silky and stable everywhere no complaints at all.4.in heavy rain and lightning hummm dont like riding in lightning makes you flinch at at proper motorway speeds but stayed fairly dry due to the bubble you get so that was nice protection but 2 up a little vortex pulls the rain between you and so got a nice wet bum doh!!! also noticed at these speeds my normally quiet x-551 gets quite a roar.... hit a major puddle at speed and it didnt twitch aquaplane great and stable
so happy bunny with it
tho it should be no higher than 2nd gear through town or you can kiss your licence goodbye lol
I bought my XT660Z Tenere new just over two years ago, in April 2010, from Webbs of Peterborough.
I’d looked at the Tenere the year before (in 2009) but was put off by its imposing saddle height so settled on a new XT660R instead.
In the summer of that year I undertook my first ‘long’ ride from Lincolnshire up to Fort Augustus, touring around Loch Ness and Inverness.
It rained every day and I got soaked everyday, but the B&B owners always helped me dry my sodden riding gear at the end of every day… but I’d caught the ‘bike touring bug despite the atrocious riding conditions.
And that got me thinking as I rode back south (and yes it was still raining) from my Edinburgh-based in-laws to home: I want to do this again, but go further afield and preferably overseas.
Over the autumn/winter of 2009 hardly an evening went by when a well-thumbed touring map of Europe wasn’t spread out on the dining table and I’d just paw over it… north, south, east or west?
Finally, on New Year’s Day 2010, I decided… north, as far north as it’s possible to go in Europe. Nordkapp in northern Norway. Land of the midnight sun, in the treeless Arctic tundra. Setting off in mid-May.
My plan was to take the DFDS North Sea ferry crossing from Harwich to Esjberg in Denmark, then head eastwards through Denmark across the Oresund bridge/tunnel (made famous in the English-language episode of Wallander that featured a ‘bike-riding drugs runner and, most recently, the Swedish/Danish crime series ‘The Bridge’) into southern Sweden.
This would be followed by the long haul northwards via the central spine of Sweden to Nordkapp, with the return leg eastwards into Finland before riding the ‘Polar Route’ down south to Rovaniemi and back into Sweden following the Bothnian Sea coastline and back across the Oresund crossing back to Esjberg for my home-bound overnight ferry crossing.
The plan was to cover just under 5,000 miles, door-to-door, in sixteen days.
But the more I looked at the maps and my Garmin Satnav the more I worried about the XT660R’s fuel tank range and fuel availability in the more remote regions of northern Sweden and Norway.
I toyed with the idea of carrying an emergency fuel can, but what with the hassle of securing this additional load as well as my tent and supplies… and that niggling worry over the 660R’s small tank anyway, well, I thought it best to re-look at the idea of a ‘bike more suited to covering huge distances straight ‘out of the box’.
I didn’t want a BMW (very able, but too big, too expensive and too many of them around if I have to be honest).
A KTM 990 Adventure?
Hmm, yes, very nice and very exclusive. But no, show some self-control now.
I might hate the whole idea of ‘adventure’ touring and that would tarnish the image of my ‘dream’ through no fault of its own. Besides, the 990 Adventure isn’t exactly a cheap bike either.
No, but relatively speaking, the Tenere was.
So, a phone call to Webbs of Peterborough mid-week in early March 2010.
Did they have a new Tenere in stock?
Yes, two: a blue one at their Lincoln dealership and a black one in Peterborough.
Great, I’d come over on Saturday morning to look at the black one and give it a second chance (remember the elevated saddle height).
I’d gained a lot of confidence clambering aboard the 660R over the past year, so suddenly the Tenere’s elevated saddle height didn’t seem such an insurmountable problem.
As soon as I set eyes on the Tenere I wanted it, I just loved its rugged, purposeful looks.
And, yes, it was soooooo imposing. All the better to be noticed by car drivers!
It had decent wind protection. The 660R’s fuelling glitches have been eradicated with the Tenere. Factor in the good sturdy frame, somewhere to mount the Garmin and, most importantly, the huge fuel tank.
I literally dragged the saleman back to his desk so I could pay my deposit there and then. And would I be able to collect it the following weekend?
I explained my urgency, but was reminded to get the 600mile service done before embarking on my trip.
The ensuing weeks were taken up putting on the miles, ordering Hepco & Becker pannier frames and Alpos boxes and wiring in a 12volt socket to power the Satnav, my camera and phone.
The big day finally arrived.
Panniers, a waterproof rollbag, my tent and sleeping bag plus a tankbag.
The Tenere felt as thought it weighted a ton, but it was manageable.
So, seventeen travel-hardened and slightly saddle-sore days later, my impressions…
Luggage, rain, three days of snow and temperature extremes that ranged from minus 10c to a 26c heatwave on a two night stopover in Rovaniemi (right on the Arctic Circle!!!). Even fully-laden I was struck by the Tenere’s stability and the stopping power of its twin disc brake set-up when dealing with the numerous Elk(and reindeer)-avoidance stops.
The Tenere was bloody marvelous.
Add to that the huge 23 litre fuel tank’s very useful 300mile range. It’s just a shame the filler isn’t offset to one side (as on the KTM 990) because it meant unclipping the tankbag at each fuelling stop.
I’ve been a long-term fan of Yamaha’s big 660 single, what with the XT660R and my earlier MuZ Scorpion 660 Sport.
Sure, never in a month of Sundays, can the big single compete with the likes of Yamaha’s own XJ6 in-line 4, for example, for silky smoothness. But any big single (or twin) has a unique sound, feel and low-revving timbre unique to the species that anyone not brought up on them just can’t understand.
Two years on, have I any thoughts of changing the ‘bike?
Have I decided what I would replace it with?
No, because there’s nothing else that comes close to delivering what the Tenere delivers.
It may not be the fastest adventure bike available, but that doesn’t concern me one jot: the ‘adventure’ bike ownership experience is far more than just speeding to your destination ASAP, rather it’s about the extended experience of travelling and, yes, finally arriving at your destination.