A Yamaha Ténéré 700 Adventure from Biarritz, France, to the Bardenas Badlands

The following Yamaha Ténéré 700 adventure story about a trip to beat the winter blues in France came from a new contributor, Jean-François Muguet, and appeared in the July issue of Rider, our second Adventure Issue. – Ed.

Yamaha Tenere 700 Bardenas Reales
After being cold and wet in France, it was hard to believe we’d enjoy such good weather and conditions in January. That’s one of the many cool things about Spain’s Bardenas Reales Natural Park.

At some point, all motorcyclists must admit that winter sucks. Especially here in France. You can dress warmly and put on raingear to stay dry, but the roads will still be soaked, dirty, cold, and slippery. Not the best season for a road trip.

Fed up with yet another bleak winter, I called my friend Robin. He’s a great friend to have. He knows all the roads of the Basque Country and northern Spain, and he owns Rental Motorcycle Biarritz, just south of the coastal resort town in southwestern France. Biarritz is the home of Wheels & Waves, the annual festival that celebrates motorcycles, surfing, skateboarding, music, and art. But W&W is in June, at beach time, which was six months away.

Robin and I have known each other for a long time, and we both needed to get away from crowded places, preferably on motorcycles. We would be joined by another friend, Eric, and our busy schedules afforded us just three days, so we couldn’t go far. Robin suggested a trip to Bardenas Reales Natural Park, a desert badlands area in Navarre, an autonomous region in northern Spain.

Yamaha Tenere 700 Bardenas Reales
We just rode and rode. Almost no speaking, just enjoying.

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Yamaha Ténéré 700 or Royal Enfield Himalayan?

Since we’d be riding off-road, Robin’s rental fleet gave us two options: the Royal Enfield Himalayan or the Yamaha Ténéré 700. We would be logging road miles to get to Bardenas, including small, curvy roads through the Pyrenees, so we opted for the larger, twin-cylinder T7.

Yamaha Tenere 700 Bardenas Reales

We got an early start from RMB headquarters on a gray, rainy day. It was foggy and beautiful in the Pyrenees, the mountain chain separating Spain from France, dividing the Iberian Peninsula from the rest of Europe. We made our way south to Pamplona, the city known for the Running of the Bulls during the Feast of San Fermín. The sun decided to come out and warm us a little bit, right in time for us to hit the dirt.

Related: Yamaha Announces Updated Ténéré 700, Other Returning 2024 Models

Gas On, ABS Off

Yamaha Tenere 700 Bardenas Reales
Declared a biosphere reserve by UNESCO, Bardenas Reales is beautiful.

It was time to press the button to turn off the T7’s ABS, and it would stay off for a long time. After starting our day cold and wet, we welcomed the warm, dry, dusty conditions. We began on trails that were easy and wide, sometimes rocky, sometimes with ruts, but nothing too challenging. We floated through hills and among sandy dunes, and the landscape opened more and more.

Yamaha Tenere 700 Bardenas Reales
Near Pamplona, the landscape opened up as we climbed into the hills.

We’d been riding for hours, and our stomachs started making strange noises, so we left the trails and found a restaurant. We were in Spain, so everything was closed until 2 p.m. because of siesta. But the good news is, once the restaurants open, you can have a starter, a main course, dessert, wine, and coffee for about $12. Some might think it’s unwise to ride dirtbikes after a big meal, but we needed our strength for the rest of our trip.

Bienvenida a Las Bardenas

We continued our ride and entered a huge valley. From the plateau we were on, it looked like the ground had been torn apart. Welcome to Bardenas Reales. It was incredible, tremendous – all ocher, white, and yellow. It was late afternoon, and the sun was sinking low. Time for a picture, then many pictures. We parked the T7s in the grass, which was actually thyme. Each step we took shook the thyme and released a fragrant aroma to our noses.

Yamaha Tenere 700 Bardenas Reales
Robin treated Bardenas Reales Natural Park like his own personal playground.

From the cliff where we stood, we could see for miles. This incredible scenery was cut in two by a serpentine trail, and it was all ours. Our goal was to ride the trail and get to Tudela, where we would spend the night. For the next hour and a half, we chased the sunset through the desert, the yellow and white canyons, sandstone cliffs, and rocks slowly turning orange and then red. It was gorgeous – pure pleasure for the eyes and pure happiness for our hearts.

Yamaha Tenere 700 Bardenas Reales
Riding with friends at sunset in a big, empty desert. That’s the kind of stuff we live for, isn’t it?

It was getting dark, and fatigue was setting in as we finally reached a paved road. The lights of the city got closer as we approached Tudela. We had ridden 170 miles, but the day passed so quickly. Checking into the hotel, we looked at each other and realized we were filthy. We were dirty and tired but happy like little kids, which made the receptionist laugh. We needed a shower and dinner.

Yamaha Tenere 700 Bardenas Reales
Bardenas Reales is particularly beautiful in late-afternoon light.

Ride, Eat, Sleep, Repeat

Yamaha Tenere 700 Bardenas Reales
Our route through the desert offered glorious, endless views.

Day 2 started off slow as we were a little sore from the previous day. This ride would be about 125 miles, with 90% on dirt trails. The sun was shining, but it was still a bit cold in the morning. The first few miles of trail got our blood flowing and warmed us quickly, and we had splendid views of snowy mountains.

Yamaha Tenere 700 Bardenas Reales
Snowy in the mountains, perfect in the valley.

The T7s were roaring along, a pleasure to ride. Robin was leading with the GPS, and Eric and I were just enjoying ourselves. The trails were easy, but we still needed to stay focused. In some places, parts of the trail had collapsed, creating holes where you wouldn’t want to put your front wheel or else you’d learn how to fly.

Yamaha Tenere 700 Bardenas Reales
Robin is always happy to loft a nice wheelie for the camera.

The rest of the day was like riding through the set of a Spaghetti Western like The Good, the Bad and the Ugly. There were no cowboys, but a Spanish military base was nearby. Sometimes we came across soldiers in cars or trucks or saw signs warning that areas were off-limits. But the trails were fun, and the landscape was perfect. Once again, the sunset in the desert was an incredible show. We slept well with colorful dreams.

Yamaha Tenere 700 Bardenas Reales
There is a military base in the middle of the desert, so riding after dark is prohibited.

Ride to Eat, Eat to Ride

As French people, we love to eat. Oftentimes while eating a meal, we’ll talk about meals we’ve had in the past, both good and bad. It might seem strange to people from other countries, but that is what we do.

During the day, we’d found a cheap menú del día at a roadside eatery. At night in Tudela, we enjoyed going to an old-fashioned restaurant called Remigio. Locals recommended it, and it turned out to be great. Always trust the locals. Robin was a chef for many years before he started his motorcycle rental business, so he knows good food. Remigio served us traditional dishes like pig’s ear and snail stew with sausage. It was delicious, and so was the Riojà wine. Robin was like a kid in a candy store.

Yamaha Tenere 700 Bardenas Reales
Robin and Eric compare notes on the Yamaha Ténéré 700, which was perfect for this trip.

Taking the Yamaha Ténéré 700 Home

Helmets on for Day 3. It was time to go back north to Biarritz. Clouds followed us for the first few miles through the desert. We stopped at the spot where you must take a picture to show the world you have been to Bardenas: Castillo de Tierra, a natural column of sandstone that rises up to the sky and was formed by millions of years of erosion.

Yamaha Tenere 700 Bardenas Reales Castillo de Terra
Castillo de Terra is the most famous landmark in Bardenas Reales.

We squeezed as much trail time as we could out of our final day before finally returning to tarmac. We got back on the road near the medieval village of Olleta, continuing north to Pamplona. We summited many passes as we wound our way up and down through the Pyrenees. Before we knew it, we were back in Biarritz.

Yamaha Tenere 700 Bardenas Reales
We stopped often just to enjoy the view.

The trip was fun, and Robin made it easy by providing the bikes and planning the route. He was a great traveling companion, even if he ate more than his fair share of the pig’s ears. And Eric was our third musketeer. The T7s were fantastic on the road and on dirt. And Bardenas Reales was amazing, like a lunar park for motorcycles.

Yamaha Tenere 700 Bardenas Reales
There aren’t many desert areas in Europe, so this is an exotic experience for us.

Those three days passed like a colorful dream – a bubble of fresh air, sun, desert, and fun with motorcycles that provided relief from the doldrums of winter. Exactly what we were looking for.  From April to November, Rental Motorcycle Biarritz rents BMW, Ducati, Indian, Royal Enfield, and Yamaha motorcycles – including the Yamaha Ténéré 700 – with prices starting at 50 euros per day. RMB can provide GPS routes as well as guided tours. For information, visit the Rental Motorcycle Biarritz website.

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