The XT 500 started a trend in 1976, which soon gained a lot of momentum in Europe. Multipurpose enduro became very successful in most European countries. The dream of adventure and reaching far away places culminated in the Rally Paris-Dakar, with Yamaha Motor France playing a pioneer role entering modified XT 500 rally bikes.
A strange idea?
Of course Yamaha's European product planning picked up on this new market trend. They caused a surprise in the Yamaha Japan headquarters in 1981, when they suggested to produce a replica of the Rally machines with a 30 litres fuel tank and a big single, or even a twin, engine. This was a concept hard to understand in Japan, where the adventure dream had not picked up yet, and nobody could imagine normal motorcyclists wanting to ride around with these big fuel tanks.
But the engineers finally took up the challenge and created the first Ténéré for the model year 1983!
Image and function
Paris-Dakar rally was at the top of its popularity. The Ténéré, named after the famous African desert that was one of the most difficult stages of the Rally, proved to be a new kind of all-round touring motorcycle, able to go anywhere, simple to maintain and sold at an affordable price, while giving the valorising image of a big bike as well.
Soon the bike became one of Yamaha’s bestsellers! In total, 61 000 units of the Ténéré 600/660 were sold in Europe in the first 10 years after it had appeared.
(Including 20 500 in France, being the biggest single market.)
1983: First generation: A new category
XT600Z Ténéré with type code 34L is launched at Paris motorcycle show in October 1982. Its first colour scheme became legendary: white with a red chain blocks as the Yamaha brand colours and blue with black chain blocks which was inspired by the colour of the Yamaha Motor France (Sonauto/Gauloises) racing team.
The first Ténére brought a lot of innovations to the Enduro segment, like a front disc brake when drum brakes were common, and a progressive mono cross suspension with aluminium swingarm that featured a long wheel travel of 235 mm. The front fork was a similar high-spec: 41mm, air assisted, with a stroke of 255 mm. The engine (a bore-up version of the XT 550) had 595 cc, lots of low-end power, and delivered 43 hp with a remarkable top speed of 160 km/h. There was no electric start and only a small head cowl but a huge fuel tank containing 30 litres!
1986: Second generation: Electric starter
At the Paris show at the end of 1985, the second generation XT600Z Ténére with type code 1VJ was launched to an enthusiastic crowd. The new bike was even closer to the factory rally bike although the fuel tank contained now "only" 23 litres. This was partly due to the air filter being moved from under the seat, to under the fuel tank. The electric starter system was a contribution to the bike’s daily use.
The performance was increased to 46 hp as a result of bigger valves, modified carburettors and the new air filter box. Top speed increased to 163 km/h.
XT660Z Ténéré: The legend is back
They did it their way: When the big thumper returned
XT500: Model Evolution
SR500: Model Evolution