Adventure riders have been longing for “the Unicorn” adventure bike for as long as there have been adventure bikes. What is “the unicorn bike”? It is a lightweight, multi-cylinder, off road biased, adventure bike that can do anything and everything, is as reliable as an anvil, and costs only a bit more than a KLR to buy and own. The newly announced Yamaha Tenere 700 lit a spark in the adventure riding community that “the unicorn bike” was finally going to become reality. The faithful wildly speculated that the T700 would meet the major adventure riding requirements (power, comfort, touring capability, off road capability, long fuel range, long service intervals, reliability, and low cost) all while tipping the scales, with a full tank of gas, at 400 lbs max.
However, Yamaha dashed those hopes when the published specs for the new bike revealed there were multiple areas where the T700 did not measure up against “the unicorn bike”. Things like not enough horsepower or fuel, too little suspension travel, using the engine as part of the frame, a welded subframe, and not being available in the USA until late 2020 were not what the adventure community was looking for in this bike. The death blow was that the new Tenere would weigh at least 450 lbs. The vast disappointment within the adventure community is well illustrated by this quote from cb60130 about the Tenere 700 on advrider.com, “There’s just nothing about another 450+lb adventure bike that would make me want to sell my 450+lb adventure bike to hurry up and buy one. As the old saying goes… “You can put lipstick on a pig, but it’s still a pig”.”
What kind of specs does a motorcycle need in order to at least be a candidate for “unicorn bike”? cb60130 states it very succinctly, “Now… If you up the ante a bit … more like 365 lbs, 200 mile range, 11-12 inches of travel and a Twin engine we’re getting to Unicorn territory.”
What I find interesting is that the unicorn bike almost already exists. In fact, minus the twin engine, the platform for building a bike as close to unicorn status as is currently possible has been in production for the past three years. What bike am I referring to? The 2017 and newer Husqvarna 701 Enduro (and soon to be joined by the 2019 KTM 690).
Before you protest, I realize the stock 701 Enduro shown in this picture is not “the unicorn bike”, not least of all because we already know the unicorn bike doesn’t exist. It is not for sale on any motorcycle dealer’s showroom floor at any price and never will be (but that is a topic for another day). However, as I stated above, it almost exists. What that means is that the platform – the bike from which the unicorn can be built – does exist. You can take the platform – the 701 Enduro – and build your unicorn bike. I will lay out the case for this claim next time.