Give me a simple shed and a 660 Ténéré


For reasons the evening news always seems to reinforce, Henry David Thoreau’s words keep bouncing around inside my skull. “Our life is frittered away by detail,” he said “Simplify, simplify, simplify!” I’m starting small by his standards, just trying to figure out what sort of motorcycle would fit best into a more streamlined, post-recession lifestyle. Luxo-barge tourers and street-legal Superbikes are right out. Transportation takes precedence over pure recreation, so a dirt bike is out. I’m thinking some sort of adventure touring contraption just might fit in.

As much as I like em, BMW’s omnivorous twins are too big and, more to the point, too expensive. Trouble is, there aren’t simpler alternatives available in American showrooms. If my two-car garage in the Antelope Valley became a cozy shed somewhere in the UK, it would be a different story. I’d trudge down to the local Yamaha shop and cozy up to an XT 660Z Ténéré. I know it’s not quite the serious Sahara Desert contender Yamaha’s styling department portrays it to be. The liquid-cooled 48-horse single-cam lump has been around for a while, pushing proletarian means of transport like Yamaha’s Euro-spec MT-03, Aprilia’s Pegaso and the mercifully forgettable Derbi Mulhacean. But you know what? I like it anyway. The silhouette strikes an effective balance between form and function, and that 5.7-gallon fuel tank is perfect for crossing long stretches of California desert or traffic-choked freeway. It could stand to loose a little weight and gain a few horsepower. It’s no KTM 690, but that’s not all bad.

Maybe you can think of another relatively simple do-it-all motorcycle with as much visual, technical and functional appeal. I can’t. But for the moment, the only way I’m going to get one is to trade this California garage for that little shed in Northern England or Wales or Scotland or somewhere. Yamaha hasn’t deemed the Ténéré fit for American consumption, and if things keep going the way they are, it won’t be showing up here any time soon. But there’s hope. Thoreau said something else: “Things do not change. We change.” If that shed in the Pennines doesn't pan out, I can always pick up a clean Honda Trail 90 on EBay.