Are You Ready for Three Wheeled Motorcycles?

Come on, let’s admit it. Us bikers can be a bit old-fashioned, resistant to change, leery of new concepts.

I’ve heard it all so many times:

“Automatics? Pfft. Not a real bike.”

“ABS? Not for me. I like to be in control.”

“Traction control? As long as I can disable it.”

“Electric bikes? Ugh. Just get a Prius.”

Well, if any of that sounds like you, you may wish to turn away now, and work out some frustration by kick-starting your 500cc thumper (don’t forget to turn on the fuel tap, and give a tug on that manual choke). For I’m going to make a bit of a bold prediction here: I think we’re going to see an uptick in three-wheeled motorcycles.

Honda Valkyrie TrikeNow, I’m not talking about trikes here. Oh no, that’s so twentieth century.

Yamaha Niken three-wheeled motorcycle I’m talking about this.

Yamaha Tricity scooter, Yamaha Niken bike and a blurred mystery bike in the middle. It seems that Yamaha are banking on that prediction coming true, for having recently announced the release of the Yamaha Niken to join their Yamaha Tricity three-wheeled scooter, they have today hinted at a mid-sized three-wheeled motorcycle coming down the pipe.

Of course, I’m just guessing about the new bike being a mid-sized going by nothing more than the blurred image here, but it would certainly make sense to smooth out the range.

But first, let’s talk about the whole concept by examining the Yamaha Niken:

The Yamaha Niken

Yamaha Niken three-wheeled motorcycle Going by my most basic Japanese, gleaned from my career in martial arts, I would translate Niken as “Two swords”, which would seem to be a fitting description for the most startling part of the new design.

From the tank backwards, we seem to be looking at a regular motorcycle, very reminiscent of the Yamaha FZ-09. In fact, it uses the same engine (actually, the MT-09). Up front, though, things get quite zany. Double upside-down forks are paired with steering linkages, which means that the bike turns and leans just like a regular bike, but offering twice the grip up front. In Yamaha’s words, this “doubles the amount of available grip for exceptional stopping power, cornering confidence and rider comfort, especially over uneven pavement and poor road conditions.”

Yamaha refers to this class of motorcycle as LMW (Leaning Multi-Wheel). I can do no better than quote from Yamaha themselves when describing the chassis:

Class-Defying Leaning Multi-Wheel Chassis

Yamaha’s advanced LMW (Leaning Multi-Wheel) chassis is the result of countless hours of engineering and testing to create a unique motorcycle control system that provides unparalleled rider confidence no matter what the road conditions. With two front tires leaning in unison, the NIKEN doubles the amount of available grip for exceptional stopping power, cornering confidence and rider comfort, especially over uneven pavement and poor road conditions.

Unique Double-Tube/Dual-Axis Steering Design

The radical front end of the NIKEN uses paired fork tubes for each front wheel and steering linkages to provide ideal steering geometry and natural steering feel. The system turns and leans like a conventional motorcycle, but with twice the front tire grip. And, like other Yamaha sportbikes, this system provides adjustable compression and rebound damping for a highly tunable ride.

Compact, Sporty Design

Front wheel track is only 16.1 inches, making NIKEN no wider than traditional motorcycles and ideal for congested, urban riding conditions, with maximum lean angle at an impressive 45 degrees. With a rider aboard, NIKEN offers a perfect 5050 weight distribution for neutral handling. And the seat design, fuel tank width, and other dimensions are all set to work with the qualities of the compact 3-cylinder engine to achieve a sporty handling character, an upright riding position and a narrow body at the seat/tank junction.

Hybrid Frame Design

Connecting the LMW system to the rear wheel is an all-new hybrid frame that utilizes steel castings and tubes with a lightweight aluminum swingarm pivot area and swingarm. Balanced for rigidity and steering response, the NIKEN chassis provides superb handling and natural steering feel.

Adjustable Horizontal Monocross® Shock

The rear suspension features a linkage-type Monocross® shock, mounted below the seat with an almost horizontal alignment. This unique positioning contributes to mass centralization and a slimmer body design. The rear suspension is also fully adjustable for spring preload as well as compression and rebound damping.

High Performance Tires

NIKEN uses paired 15-inch lightweight alloy wheels with LMW-specific 120/70R15 tires. Developed in concert with the chassis, these tires feature sportbike-style profiles and construction, for high levels of grip, wear resistance and wet-road capability. Out back, the rear wheel mounts a massive 190/55R17 rear tire for a combination of style and traction.

Powerful Triple Disc Brakes with ABS

Mounted outside of each front wheel are disc brakes with four-piston radial calipers, matched to a large rear disc brake, complete with Yamaha’s responsive ABS. With paired front tires and the security of ABS, NIKEN riders are able to brake with confidence across a hugh range of road conditions.

Yamaha Niken on the road Aside from the radical chassis design, the Yamaha Niken comes with Ride-by-Wire, their D-Mode system to choose your preferred engine characteristics, adjustable traction control, cruise control, LED lighting, and a factory quick-shifter.

Despite all the wizardry, the front wheel track is only 16.1 inches, making it no wider than traditional bikes.

The news is that the Yamaha Niken will be coming to the US later this year. As yet, no pricing has been given.

What are They Like to Ride?

Having test-ridden this category of motorcycles, I can attest that they feel no different at all to a regular bike. You are able to lean just as before, and, once rolling, I could discern no difference from a regular two-wheeled bike. It is, however, comforting to have the extra surety of two sets of rubber up front!

I’m excited to hear what the mystery mid-sized model is going to be. You can be sure that you’ll know as soon as I do.

Are You Ready?

In the meantime, what are your thoughts? Are you ready for a three-wheeled bike? I am. But then again, I’d even be open to an electric three-wheeler. Beam me up, Scotty.

These are exciting times, and I’m open to change. What about you? Let me know in the comments below.

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