Moto Makeover / Biulding a Yamaha Tenere 700 for Rally & Motocross // ADV Rider


Despite all the shiny new ADV motorcycles that lean heavily on the Paris-Dakar nostalgia (think Aprilia Tuareg or the Ducati Desert X), riders are still chasing that unicorn bike. You know the one: mechanically simple but smooth; ADV-ready and rally-capable; just the right weight and height; with superior suspension but under $12k; nimble but happy to eat long miles when necessary… the list goes on, and the perfect bike, to this day, just doesn’t exist (YMMV).

That doesn’t mean it isn’t fun to try and build one, though. Tamas Esch, a Hungarian rider and rally-obsessed maniac, admits to recently building a Yamaha Tenere 700 for rally racing and motocross practice for no other reason than that it’s an intriguing project.

Biulding a Yamaha Tenere 700 for Rally & Motocross // ADV Rider

Photo: Courtesy of Tamas Esch

“The Yamaha Tenere 700 is an exceptional base for rally modifications. Its simplicity, both in terms of electronics and mechanics, provides a solid foundation. I embarked on this project with the goal of creating the ultimate rally machine capable of tackling everything from motocross to hardcore offroad adventures, and I know that the unicorn bike doesn’t exist, but it’s so much fun to try to build one,” Tamas shares.

An avid rider who went from exploring local trails to entering rallies like the Dubai Baja, surviving a serious injury, and now competing at European rally races with a reconstructed shoulder and the motto “nothing is impossible,” Tamas loves the nitty gritty of motorcycle modifications. Having experimented with KTM 690, KTM 450, and KTM 500 EXC bikes, he’s decided to see what all the noise surrounding the T7 was about. In the process, he’s trashed his forks on motocross jumps and learned that the list of mods is never finished, but his T7 is now at home anywhere from the TET trails to the start line of the Dinaric Rally.

Biulding a Yamaha Tenere 700 for Rally & Motocross // ADV Rider

Photo: Courtesy of Tamas Esch

From wheels and suspension to fuel systems and electronics, Tamas takes us through the meticulous process of crafting the ultimate rally build for Yamaha’s latest offering.

Tamas, why the T7?

The Tenere 700 has great geometry, a solid gearbox, and a torquey engine, so it felt like the perfect base for what I wanted to do. I love how simple this bike is, especially when it comes to electronics. You can remove the dashboard and the ABS, and the bike still works; it doesn’t use a CAN-bus system, has a regular Bowden/cable throttle mechanism, and there are practically no unnecessary sensors or what I call comfort electronics.

What were some of the most important mods you did?

I did some serious tweaking to the suspension setup. Basically, I stuck with the 43mm fork legs but decided to go all-in and empty them out, swapping in the TracTive X-TREME PRO high-performance closed cartridge system. It’s got adjustable rebound and compression damping, plus manual preload adjustment. This thing, designed mainly for off-road pros, rocks a 35mm piston diameter.

For the rear shock, I got the TracTive X-TREME PRO. This beast comes with a hydraulic preload adjuster and boasts adjustable rebound, high- and low-speed compression damping, a 46mm piston diameter, and a slick PDSII anti-bottoming feature.

But, here’s the kicker – after tearing through about 3,000 km of rally madness and some intense motocross and enduro action, I blew the TracTive X-treme Pro cartridge in the stock 43mm forks.

Biulding a Yamaha Tenere 700 for Rally & Motocross // ADV Rider

Photo: Courtesy of Tamas Esch

Now, I’m toying with the idea of going bigger – upgrading to 48mm forks and a matching triple clamp. Still, I’m keeping an eye out because that might jack up the T7’s height, and I’ve already got the rally seat making things tall. Tackling tricky, hard enduro rides with a towering bike? Not the easiest.

I didn’t mess with the suspension travel length – it’s sitting at a comfy 210 mm in the front and 200 mm in the rear. I’m big on the belief that if you’ve got the right setup for your riding style, matched springs for your weight, and some pro tweaking, you’re good.

I put the setup to the test – jumps on motocross tracks, grinding through the Bosnia and Dinaric Rally with rocks and crazy holes at high speeds, and guess what? I never bottomed out and always had a sweet 1.5-2 cm of spare travel. So, my advice – don’t go crazy on increasing suspension travel unless you’re really tall, and whatever you do, don’t even think about lowering the bike; it messes with the whole geometry.

Biulding a Yamaha Tenere 700 for Rally & Motocross // ADV Rider

Photo: Courtesy of Tamas Esch

For a solid wheelbase, I opted for HAAN wheels with Excel Takasago rims and CNC-machined hubs. The front and rear wheels, sized at 1.8521 inches and 2.518 inches respectively, offer a perfect balance; I wanted to fit mousses, hence the narrower wheels and rim locks. I added a cush drive on the rear hub, and I prefer Metzeler MC360 mid-hard tires for their durability and grip and MEFO rally mousses.

What about your braking system?

I went for the Moto-Master brake setup – got a pair up front and one at the rear, teamed up with their solid brake pads. I ditched the stock brake hoses for some Goodridge steel braided brake lines. Finally, I tossed the ABS system out, rerouted the brake lines between the cylinders and calipers, and said goodbye to unnecessary ABS baggage.

For the rear brake, I swapped out the stock brake cylinder for a Nissin brake pump with an integrated reservoir. It’s sleek, it’s simple, and it cleans up the bike without those extra hoses and a plastic reservoir.

Now, the front brake – I thought about going for a “one-side” brake setup to shave off some weight and simplify the front end. But, truth be told, it’s not a game-changer, especially with the T7 being a hefty beast. Imagine relying on that one-side brake, going hard on the front brake, and bam – it overheats, leaving you high and dry. Not a scenario I’m keen on, so I stuck with the dual setup.

Biulding a Yamaha Tenere 700 for Rally & Motocross // ADV Rider

Photo: Courtesy of Tamas Esch

As for the chain and sprockets, I chose the D.I.D 525 ZVMX X-Ring chain, 124 links strong. Why this length? It gives me room to throw on a bigger rear sprocket. Plus, that extra length allows me to tweak the rear axle position for some performance gains.

Up front, I went with a JT Sprockets 15-tooth steel sprocket with silent rubber coating – not just for reducing noise but ensuring smooth operation too. At the back, I’ve got the ZF Sprockets Dual design – high-grade aluminum on the inside, tough C-45 steel on the outer teeth ring. It’s a 48-tooth sprocket that syncs perfectly with the 525-pitch chain.

Why not jump on the 520-pitch chain for a bit of weight savings? Simple – I’m all about durability and reliability in my Yamaha Tenere 700 rally mods. The slight weight drop with a 520 chain isn’t worth the risk of it wearing out quicker.

Let’s talk fuel systems, exhaust, and tank setup.

First up, I swapped the stock tank out for an Acerbis oversized tank, packing 23 liters (that’s 6.1 gallons for the metrically challenged). This thing brings a lot to the table – it’s lighter by about 2 kilograms compared to the stock tank. And, look, there’s no pressure to max it out; fill it as you like. It’s tough too, built to shrug off impacts and abrasion. Plus, it keeps things sleek with a narrow profile, playing nice with your original fuel pump and level switch as well as the tubular engine guards, crash bars, and fairings.

Photo: Courtesy of Tamas Esch

As for the exhaust system, I bolted on the HP Corse 2-in-1 Racing head pipe, a stainless-steel beauty with no room for a catalytic converter – strictly for the race rebels. I teamed it up with the HP Corse SP-1 Short High exhaust muffler, a titanium and stainless-steel combo topped with a carbon heat shield on the linkage pipe. I strategically parked the muffler high and snug, just behind the OEM exhaust mounting bracket.

Here’s the magic – this setup won’t mess with your swingarm or break the OEM bracket if your bike decides to take a nap. No drama, just pure function. And it plays nice with saddlebags, rackless bag setups, and all your riding gear when you’re out adventure riding.

To me, this system has a great sound. Not overly loud, but firing up the bike will make heads turn. Picture this – the growl echoing a V8 Mustang coming from a two-cylinder parallel 700 cc engine. I was surprised.

Biulding a Yamaha Tenere 700 for Rally & Motocross // ADV Rider

Before the HP Corse muffler stole the show, I tried the MIVV Dakar Exhaust for a couple of months. It’s like the understudy that almost steals the spotlight – matching parameters, size, positioning, and that sweet HP Corse sound. A solid backup while I waited for the HP Corse muffler.

With the ECU and cables finding a new home under the seat, and the OEM exhaust bracket trimmed down, I got a clean canvas on both sides of the rear subframe. I’m toying with the idea of a rear fuel tank, maybe a slimmer front tank, and a seat tweak – all to give the T7 that nimble, enduro bike vibe and handling, especially in corners.

Now, filters. In Europe, my ride-or-die choice for a fuel filter is the Acerbis version. It’s a nifty sock-style filter snugly sitting beneath the fuel cap. When I venture into the wild, where fuel gets sketchy – from dodgy plastic bottles to rusty cans – I switch gears to the Guglatech filter. This thing’s a beast – not just filtering out gunk but preventing water from getting in, too. Some places get “creative” with water-diluted fuel – a recipe for engine disaster. To keep your fuel pump and engine happy, go with Guglatech.

As for cooling and air intake, I hooked up the SamCo silicone radiator hose kit for a performance boost in the cooling department. Cooling fluid of choice? Motorex Coolant M5.0, to keep things running smooth.

Air intake got a facelift too. Snorkel? Gone. I swapped the stock air filter for an OTR foam filter and threw in the DNA Stage 2 airbox cover to max out the air intake.

Finally, I added a 15×10 cm slice of air filter foam (oiled up) on top of the DNA cover. Call it pre-filter armor – it catches the dirt and keeps the airflow top-notch. Less hassle, more riding.

Photo: Courtesy of Tamas Esch

What else was on the menu in terms of smaller mods?

I juiced up the Yamaha Tenere 700’s electronics for a performance:

  • The old OEM battery took a bow, and in stepped the BS Battery (BSLi-01, 12v/23Wh/140A) LiFePO4 ultralightweight and compact battery. It’s like a powerhouse in a compact package.
  • TNGK Iridium Spark Plugs instead of stock
  • I decided to declutter the system, so off went the charcoal/EVAP canister with the SmartMoto removal kit.
  • Meeting EURO-5 standards required some dance moves. With extensive tweaks to the air intake and exhaust, I teamed up with OTR for an OEM ECU modification and remapping. Fine-tuning the fuel and ignition maps was the key to unlocking optimal functionality. The cooling fan is now set to activate 5 degrees Celsius earlier than the OEM standard.
  • The ECU found a new spot under the seat near the battery, cables, fuse boxes, and the starter relay.
  • I beefed up the side stand with CamelADV reinforced springs and the OTR side stand plate. Solid foundation. A little side-stand switch modification: connecting wires or using a SmartMoto plug – dealer’s choice.
  • I got rid of the passenger footpegs, replaced by the Kriega footrest eliminator. A versatile stage for a rackless luggage system or bags from Kriega, Giant Loop, or Mosko Moto.

Photo: Courtesy of Tamas Esch

  • I added an OTR grab handle in CNC-machined aluminum to lift the bike, secure small bags, and so on, and got an OTR tail tidy kit.
  • Magnetic oil drain plug (M14x1.5) for hassle-free oil changes.
  • CarbonFox full carbon kit including side and middle panels, rear/tail panel, front fender, and fork covers.
  • WRS darkened windshield and WRS Barracuda headlight cover.
  • Carbonfox bashplate shielding the engine, with a potential backup from GPmucci aluminum bash plate.
  • GBRacing covers for clutch, alternator, and water pump protection.
Biulding a Yamaha Tenere 700 for Rally & Motocross // ADV Rider

Photo: Courtesy of Tamas Esch

  • OTR chain guard and Yamaha radiator protector holding the fort in the rear.
  • Acerbis plastic/rubber frame protection adding grip and control.
  • Acerbis chain guide
  • Initially, I went with Fasst Flexx handlebars, then got Renthal to make space for rally switches and controls. I’ve done modifications on OEM switches to accommodate all the controls.
  • Short, CNC-machined brake and clutch levers.
  • Acerbis Rallye plastic handguards for added protection.
  • Ariete Dirt Zone open end grips – 135mm of soft perfection.
  • OTR adjustable shift gear lever and CamelADV rear brake perdal.
  • Easy-pull clutch arm from AltRider, with a potential switch to the Magura Hymec Hydraulic Clutch.
  • Doubletake adventure mirrors.
  • CrossCountryADV CNC-machined 7075 rally footpegs for extra width, great grip, and the slightly backward and lower position so I have more control of the rear wheel

Photo: Courtesy of Tamas Esch

  • GPR or Scotts steering damper/stabilizer
  • One-piece rally seat from the OEM Yamaha lineup
  • Crosscountryadv rally seat cover – camel humps, grippy fabric, and carbon fiber-style sides crafted by JN Seats.
  • REBEL rally tower, MigTec’s roadbook holder and RNS GFX v2 Pro for navigation
  • OEM dashboard relocated to the handlebar – a twist for convenience and visibility.

 This is a truly comprehensive list of mods. Have you got that unicorn bike out of this build?

Nearly! There’s always more room for experiments, and I’m sure I won’t stop here, but overall, I’m really surprised how well the T7 does in any given scenario. Whether I’m out traveling, entering rally races, or goofing off on a motocross track, this bike happily takes on just about everything I throw at it.

Photo: Courtesy of Tamas Esch

And, yes, I’ve done a crazy amount of mods on it, but because the Tenere 700 is so well built and so simple, just a few changes can take it to the next level. Just the basic tweaks – adjusting your handlebars, levers, and brake pedals can already make a big difference. Next, adjust the suspension with a suspension specialist, get wider, grippier footpegs, install a decent bash plate and covers for your clutch, and you’re just about good to go! Not everyone needs to go nuts with rally mods, but simply adjusting the bike’s ergonomics and suspension to your weight, height, and riding style is already a big step.

Finally, no matter how much you modify your bike, investing in your riding skills is even more important. Just get out there and ride!

Biulding a Yamaha Tenere 700 for Rally & Motocross // ADV Rider

Photo: Courtesy of Tamas Esch



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