YAMAHA TENERE 700 GATEWAY EXPERIENCE
BY MIGUEL SANTANA
As I was driving down the twisty Colorado State Highway 141 to Gateway Colorado knowing I was in for a treat. The highway navigated the sandstone country passing widely spaced ranches along the Dolores River. I was invited out by Yamaha to experience a beautiful, little-known part of the Colorado-Utah border country and we were going to do it on the Yamaha T7. Gateway is a fairly remote location in Colorado, and its proximity to Utah’s Manti-La Sal Mountains is an ideal location for launching an adventure into the high country’s iconic mountain range; the backdrop to the famous outdoor playground of Moab, Utah.
As I pulled into Gateway, I felt underwhelmed. A fairly typical American small-town. Quaint, simple, and charming. Not a single man, woman, or child was to be found on the streets—the HBO series, The Leftovers first came to mind and I wondered, “Where have the residents of this community disappeared to”. It really is one of those places where if you blink your eyes you’ll miss it. In an instant, you are at the far end of town, where an out-of-place, Gateway Canyon Resort takes shape. It felt out of place in this remote part of Colorado, everything on the resort perfectly placed and presenting the guest with an idyllic getaway with all the amenities of a 5-star hotel, where being pampered is the goal of your visit. Not the location I envisioned for launching an off-road adventure—clearly Yamaha was looking to make an impression.
After quickly checking in and dropping off gear, I hurried to the Gateway Auto Museum where I was greeted by the Yamaha team. I have never attended an experiential event on the media side. During a very relaxed dinner, getting to know others from the media and hearing stories of motorcycle adventures, it became clear how being part of the media has offered a privileged life of travel and exploration. Once dinner was complete it was time to get the highlights on the latest Yamaha T7. It is not a new model nor has it had any major changes since its arrival on the adventure motorcycle scene in 2019. The presentation was short, which in exchange offered time to tour the Gateway Auto Museum. The museum collection numbers around 50 vehicles encapsulating automotive history and personal transportation, amazing to find such a collection in a far-flung location. After touring the museum I headed off to my room to prepare my gear and rest for the upcoming events ahead.
The plush accommodations allowed for a ‘recharge’, while the next morning I suited up for the day and made my way to a hardy breakfast at the resort restaurant. After getting my fill I met up with the Yamaha team and shuttled over to the staging area Yamaha set aside where I would look over my steed for the day. Now, I drank the KTM Kool-Aid long ago and don’t have enough experience with many other brands, so everything was viewed through orange lens. I was excited to try something new, throwing a leg over the blue magic that Yamaha has to offer. I instantly felt comfortable with the seat height, cockpit feel, and arrangement. The Tenere is also pleasing to the eyes with clean lines, it's what an adventure motorcycle should look like.
It was finally time to head out into the mountains and get a true impression of the Tenere. The general plan was to make our way from Gateway Colorado over the La Sal Mountains and into Moab for lunch. The entire media group was bookended by the Yamaha lead rider and sweep crew who would be there for us if we had any issues with the T7. Almost immediately after leaving the resort we went from blacktop to dirt road and rapidly gained altitude as we pulled away from the town of Gateway. I quickly became comfortable with the T7. The sandstone canyon truly felt like the gatekeeper to the high country as we were ascending from exposed red slick rock into high alpine vistas with snow-covered peaks in the distance. The road up into the La Sal Mountains is well traveled with wide sweeping twisties. Remember to ride right as UTV and Jeep traffic can be around any bend. Along the way, we took time with the Yamaha media team to get a few photos. As a photographer, I don’t have many photos of myself riding so it was a welcomed change and I did my best to help make a few shots without looking like a squid. I was enjoying myself on the Tenere, the motor was smooth and the suspension kept the bike planted. The road was not rough, so I still didn’t know how it would handle when things got dicey. We moved on from the photo session to Bull Canyon Overlook and Dinosaur Track Site where we stopped for a snack and a quick look at the dinosaur tracks.
After spending some time at an overlook we continued to Moab via blacktop with some great corners. La Sal Mountain Loop Road was the first opportunity to feel how the Tenere would handle the streets and it was fun mixing it up a bit with the dirt and pavement sections. The pace quickened on the road as we made our way to Sandflats Road and then back to the dirt. Sandflats Road takes you through Sand Flats Recreation Area where the terrain turned to what most people imagine Moab looking like. Lunch was close and the group moved at a steady pace to reach The Spoke on Center in downtown Moab. We spent some time talking about everyone’s experience on the T7 thus far and the consensus was that the T7 is a quality motorcycle with proper adventure motorcycle chops. I was enjoying my time but was hoping that we would be taking the T7 on a bit more technical terrain.
It was time to make tracks, so we geared up and headed out since we were only at the halfway point of the ride. At an advanced pace we got onto the Scenic Byway U-128 along the Colorado River, which gave us the opportunity to stretch the Tenere’s legs. A serpentine-like, 45-mile rip to Onion Creek, balancing your attention between riding and taking in the visual distractions—made possible through the millions of years of erosion by the Colorado River. This felt like a trip through time and continued as we split from the pavement back onto terra firma heading east. Before heading into the canyon you are treated to an amazing view of Fisher Tower to the north and Castleton Tower to the south. Once in the canyon, we encountered multiple creek crossings, as the road rose and then dipped back and forth across shallow running water. I lost count after the first few but never lost the giddiness of splashing through the creek. The tracks that climb away from the canyon are worthy of a stop to look back at the scene left behind.
Reaching the Hideout Canyon junction we stopped to regroup, quickly ensuring that we had not lost anyone in the group. Our shadows grew longer in the afternoon sun as we continued to climb away from the desert floor. Connecting one mesa after another through rocky dirt tracks, we encountered the more technical part of the ride and the Tenere handled it in stellar form. The Yamaha team made it a point to stop often enough for us to take in the views and really appreciate the journey. Reaching Polar Mesa Road I knew we were closing in on the main road back to Gateway. The route turned out to be a giant lollipop and, being somewhat familiar with the area, intersections were starting to feel more recognizable.
We landed at an intersection we had passed earlier in the day and were on the home stretch with the town of Gateway less than an hour away. We began to descend towards our final destination and there were signs that there had been a significant rain a short time before our arrival. Unfortunately, this changed the road conditions from dusty to a coat of grease that could easily put a moto down, but had very little impact on our ride since the Tenere felt light and handled the conditions well.
As we moved along, closing in on our basecamp we came across three riders on their overloaded BMW GS1250s, only to make it more challenging on themselves was poor tire selection. One of the elephants was lying on its side taking a dirt nap and the three riders were in need of a bit of help as we approached. First things first was to move the GS to the side of the road, but that turned out to be harder than it seemed. Tracks from 4-wheel vehicles had created ruts in the road and the big GS was trapped in a 6-inch deep rut and its road tires had no bite to free itself from the muddy trenches. It took a few of us to free the bike from the rut and then slide it to the side of the road. The GS owner asked if it was possible to hitch a ride back to Gateway to find someone with a pick-up to rescue the stranded BMWs. It just so happened the Yamaha team had a UTV acting as sweep and was able to give one of the riders a lift back.
The end-of-day encounter with the heavily laden group of GS1250 owners gave me an unanticipated appreciation for the light feel of the Tenere and how well-suited it was when traveling more technical terrain. We had covered significant ground in a day, and the Yamahas carried us across a variety of conditions with relative ease. What it must have been like to travel this wide-open landscape ages ago? How much time it would have taken humans to navigate this vast canyon country on sheer will and primitive navigational skills? Being able to spend time on the Tenere was a privilege that further engaged me to keep an open mind to other adventure motorcycles options. The future is bright in adventure riding and the amazing travel that awaits us all.
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