One of the most dramatic bikes to be revealed at the Tokyo show this morning was this astounding production three-wheeler from Yamaha, based on the hugely popular MT-09 platform. Aiming to take the aggressive and fun attitude of the MT-09 and combine it with double the front-end grip, it’s the first leaning production three-wheeled motorcycle of its type – while Piaggio have long blazed a three-wheeled trail with their MP3 family.
Yamaha Niken Highlights
- MT-09 based three-wheeler
- CP3 inline triple engine
- Fully adjustable suspension
- Traction control and rider modes
- Confirmed production bike
As a statement of how seriously Yamaha are taking the new model – which is called Niken (presumably a contraction of ‘Ni’ [two] and ‘Ken’ which can mean ‘sword’ in Japanese) – it was unveiled by company president, Hiroyuki Yanagi. But while Yamaha are hoping to make a huge impact with the aggressively styled new three-wheeler, they’re remaining somewhat coy about the details.
An official statement only confirms that: “This large-displacement Leaning Multi-Wheeler (LMW) is powered by a liquid-cooled in-line 3-cylinder engine. This model is equipped with LMW technology to reduce the effects of changing ride environments and to deliver a high feeling of stability when cornering. It achieves excellent performance for spirited and sporty riding on various road surfaces and the capability to freely carve through the continuous corners of winding roads. The body design makes full use of the unprecedented front-end suspension mechanisms pairing 15-inch front wheels with dual-tube upside-down forks to visually accentuate the machine’s sporty performance and create a high-quality look and feel at the same time. New Yamaha Niken. Ride the Revolution.”
The only confirmed specification at this stage states that it uses a “Liquid-cooled fuel-injected 4-stroke, DOHC, 4-valve, inline triple” engine, and measures 2150mm long, 885mm wide, and 1250 tall. No other technical information will be released until November 6, at the Milan motorcycle show.
But we don’t need a spec sheet to be able to deduce a huge amount of detail about the new bike. Ignoring the obvious headline that it’s got two wheels at the front, the rest of the bike appears far more conventional – and exactly what you’d hope for from a crazy MT-09 derivative. See the annotations for our best Sherlock Holmes deductions.
Yamaha also refuse to be drawn on how much the Niken will cost, and when it might arrive – but we can make some educated guesses here, too. The fact that Yamaha have unveiled Niken at Tokyo, and say the full spec will be revealed next month suggest that this is certainly a 2018 model, so we’d expect it to arrive sometime during summer next year. As for price; a standard MT-09 costs £7999, while the Tracer 900 is £8899 – so, with its extra wheel, fork, other materials and manufacturing complexity, we’d expect Niken to cost a reasonable premium over its siblings. It’s seem very unlikely that it’ll be sub-£10k, while it’d price itself out of the market at over £12k. Our best guess would be somewhere in the middle at around £11,250.
Perhaps the marketing line will be: ‘Niken – Just do it. N.’
But would you buy it?
So what do the Niken photos tell us?
You can’t ignore the defining factor – the Niken has two front wheels. There, we said it. The benefit is double the front-end grip, massively improved stability and grip over manhole covers, white lines, grit, gravel and other road imperfections. The front tyre sizes are 120/70 R15, revealing that the front wheels use 15inch rims. Each wheel hangs on a single-side hub from a double fork. The rear is a 190/50 R17, all wearing Bridgestone Battlax Adventure tyres.
Each front wheel is suspended inbound of a double fork which looks no less meaty than a standard MT-09’s. Preload, rebound (both on top) and compression (bottom) damping adjusters are visible on the rearward of each pair of forks, revealing that the set-up is fully adjustable and mechanical – so not semi-active.
Just like the forks, the shock appears to be fully adjustable, with a large remote hydraulic preload adjuster mounted on the left flank, and other adjusters also visible. The load on the rear is obviously no different to t a normal two-wheeler’s, beyond the bike’s total mass.
Face the darkness
Staring aggressively out from the menacing fairing is a quad-LED protector beam arrangement, with a strip of LED running lights on each side. There don’t appear to be any corning lights fitted. At the other end is a super-funky steam-punk rear LED light cluster with neon-style light bars. The indicators appear to be LED all-round.
Run of the mill
While Yamaha haven’t confirmed any specific details of the engine beyond the blindingly obvious, there is a clear stamp on the right engine casing that reads ‘CP3’ – the same designation as the MT-09. That doesn’t mean the engine is identical, but it’s probable that it’s very similar in terms of capacity and output (847cc / 113bhp).
Sitting atop the shift rod on the gear selector is a quickshifter module, revealing that the Niken has at least got a quickshifter for seamless upshifts. There’s no way of telling if it’s also got an auto-blipper for downshifts.
Switch it up
The simple right switchgear just has the combined starter/kill switch already used on other Yamahas, along with a Mode toggle switch and hazard lights. The left cluster hosts buttons for the horn, indicators, high/low beam, cruise control and mode toggles.
Cutting a dash
The LCD dash is a slight disappointment, as we were hoping it would have the full-colour TFT dash from the MT-10SP/R1M. However, it’ll do the job, and reveals the Niken does have three riding modes, multi-level traction control, ABS and cruise control. The redline is set at around 11,250rpm, and there’s a gear indicator plus all the usual bike information. There’s also a rather intrusively obvious 12v power socket looming top left.
The great feature of this three-wheeler is that it leans like a motorcycle, so there’s none of the awkward leaning off fighting recalcitrance of a ‘flat’ trike. This means that it will handle, steer and corner like a normal bike, although it will inevitably be slightly more resistant to inputs, thanks to the two contact patches and mechanical linkage. But it won’t be half as alien to ride as it is to look at.
Stop. Carry on…
There’s no hint of a lock-out system or handbrake visible on the front-end, or bars, suggesting that the Niken will fall over and/or roll away if just get off it. Of course, there could be electronic lock-outs, or a brake, but we can’t see them. There is a sidestand for parking, and presumably you just leave it in gear, as you would a normal bike.
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