KTM and Yamaha have come out with middleweight adventure models that have left consumers thirsting for more. Both have discovered, and now fully embraced, the fact that big, mega horsepower adventure bikes look cool in brochures and social media, but apart from a handful of super talented riders, the lighter middleweight category is where real-world riders tend to gravitate towards.
Hence the KTM 790 Adventure and Yamaha Tenere 700 were born. In a crowded field of similar bikes in the ADV category – the BMW F 850 GS, Moto Guzzi V85 TT, Triumph Tiger 800, and even the Honda Africa Twin come to mind – KTM and Yamaha have carved out a corner for themselves amongst adventure riders yearning for a high-performing motorcycle capable of ripping up the dirt while also being road legal.
Which makes this comparison very interesting. Apart from the fact they are both made with an eye towards riding off road with just a few bits to make them road worthy, the two bikes go about the job of scorching the earth in very different ways. While Yamaha has chosen the path of simplicity and reliability, KTM have gone all-in on technology.
This poses a problem: considering how different these two are, how are you supposed to decide which one is right for you? We’re here to help.
Here, we’re going to take a closer look at the KTM 790 Adventure and Yamaha Tenere 700, broken down into several categories. By the time we reach the end, you’ll have a better understanding of each and we think you’ll have a good idea which one is right for you.
Let’s start with a little bit of history. The Tenere name has been associated with Yamaha for some time, and in fact is still being used with the Super Tenere. However, the Tenere’s roots lie off road, with Yamaha adding more and more bits on it throughout the years to make it legal on the roads.
The last of them was the Tenere 660, aka the XT660Z. A stalwart of the Yamaha dual-sport family, the 660cc liquid-cooled, fuel-injected single-cylinder had four valves and a single overhead cam. It was eventually phased out in 2016 and now the Tenere 700 has picked up where the 660 left off. More on that in a minute.
KTM’s off-road roots need no introduction, of course. With a vast family of motocross and adventure motorcycles, KTM has stamped its name in the off-road world. But it had a glaring hole in the middleweight adventure segment. Hence the 790 Adventure. An all-new project for KTM, the 790 Adventure was built to fill this hole, and it centered around an all-new engine too – a parallel-twin at that!
Which leads us to our next topic…
KTM 790 and Yamaha 700 Engines
Both the Yamaha and KTM use parallel twin engines. Starting with the Yamaha, the Tenere 700 borrows the CP2 689cc twin first seen in the MT-07. It’s a punchy and vibrant liquid-cooled engine, with four valves per cylinder, dual overhead cams, and a 270-degree firing order. Yamaha claims it makes 72 horsepower and 50 ft/lbs. of torque.
Don’t let those numbers fool you. This engine is incredibly fun and lively, and makes very good use of the power it has. If you’re looking for big numbers then look elsewhere, but then again, you’re probably reading this because those bikes with big engines don’t appeal to you (or don’t appeal to you anymore).
The Tenere 700 still uses old-school cables for the throttle and clutch, which might seem dated, but it’s also very simple. And simple is good if you need to make repairs in the middle of nowhere.
The 790 parallel twin in the KTM is an all-new engine for the company, with the focus on being as compact as possible. Like the Yamaha, this new twin was first seen in a road-going model, the 790 Duke.
Unlike the Yamaha, however, KTM co-developed the engine around both the Duke and Adventure platforms, meaning the two have distinct differences to suit their intended environments.
From a performance standpoint the 790 is the clear winner here, with 95 horsepower and 66 ft/lbs. of torque. In contrast to the Yamaha’s simplicity, the KTM goes all-in on tech. Ride-by-wire throttle means you get different ride modes, which could come in handy if you want to have a different set of performance characteristics depending on whether you’re on-road or off.
R-b-W also means the 790 gets adjustable traction control. The flip side of that coin is the complexity of the system and the possible headaches it may cause should you need repair, whether at home or in the middle of nowhere.
Considering both bikes are aimed at exploring the paths less traveled, now is probably a good time to talk about fuel tank capacity. The Tenere 700 carries 4.2 US gallons compared to the 790 Adventure’s 5.3 US gallons. Both bikes should net you well over 50 mpg (depending on your throttle hand, of course), meaning you can travel pretty far before worrying about a fuel stop.
If you didn’t catch on yet, these two motorcycles go about the task of adventure riding in very different ways. The KTM leans towards power and tech, while the Yamaha goes for simplicity. To that end, both tackle off-road settings in fairly conventional ways. By that we mean there’s no electronic trickery in the suspension.
Both bikes use a 43mm inverted fork with varying levels of adjustability, though the Tenere gets slightly more suspension travel up front – 8.3 inches compared to 7.9 inches for the KTM. Both have adjustable shocks with 7.9 inches of travel. Both even use 21-inch front wheels and 18-inch rear wheels with Pirelli Scorpion Rally tires.
Yamaha does go the cheaper route with the brakes, supplying 282mm discs with axial-mounted calipers. The 790 Adventure gets bigger 320mm discs and radial-mount calipers. That’s a big difference in stopping power.
More differences include the KTM’s vast array of electronics, including Cornering-ABS, off-road ABS, an Off-Road ride mode that softens power delivery and lets the rear spin more, the aforementioned traction control, quick shifter, and KTM’s My Ride app.
Meanwhile, the Yamaha makes due with selectable ABS. That’s it. For some, this is actually a major positive in Yamaha’s favor. Others will like all the tech the KTM provides.
The reality is that both bikes will handle on-road riding extremely well. With upright seating positions and long-travel suspension, nothing’s going to get in its way. When it comes to actually riding off the beaten path, the surprising thing is that both experienced riders and newer ones will have a blast on either one. The Yamaha distills adventure riding to the basics, while the KTM is all about the present and the future of motorcycling.
Despite the Yamaha’s inferior suspension, this only becomes a handicap when the pace picks up dramatically. That said, the 790 Adventure is ready to tackle anything right from the start.
Its suspension is simply better, and the longer wheelbase and lower center of gravity (thanks to the underslung fuel tank) keeps it more stable. Upgrade to the 790 Adventure R and the off-road chops escalate to another degree!
All those advantages for the KTM do come at a cost – $12,499, to be exact (obviously more if you want the R model). While you do get a lot for the money, the Yamaha Tenere 700 starts at $9,999, making it a strong contender if you’re looking for a great value for the money.
With a price difference like that, the choice between the KTM 790 Adventure and Yamaha Tenere 700 becomes a tough one to make. What it boils down to is the kind of riding you want to do, how much you want to spend, and what your stance is on electronic rider aids.
The good news here is that there are no bad decisions. Both adventure bikes are sure to provide the thrills you’re looking for.