Yamaha is about to unveil a high-performance, sports-oriented tilting 3-wheeler called the Niken, which appears to be a full production bike. This thing is going to be absolutely awesome to ride, with surreal levels of grip and confidence at the front end. But can it wheelie?
Ever since we first tested the awesome Piaggio MP3, I’ve been 100 percent sold on the idea of tilting 3-wheelers.
With two wheels at the front, grip feels just about unlimited, stability is frankly amazing and the riding experience feels something akin to a regular motorcycle that counter steers with ease – except you can lean more or less as far over as you like, no matter what the road conditions are like, in total confidence.
I came away from riding the MP3 thinking “if only somebody would make one of these with a bigger, hairier set of balls, we’d have something really special on our hands. And everywhere else.”
Yamaha has been teasing us for a decade now with the Tesseract and the OR2T, which extended the concept to include twin rear wheels as well. Then came the MWT-9 3-wheeler concept back in 2015, which has now been developed into a full-scale production machine in the 2018 Yamaha Niken.
Details are scant at this point, but it looks like it’ll run the excellent, high performance and super torquey inline triple engine from the MT09 platform, a series of bikes I love without shame or reservation. Length is 2,150 mm and width is 885 mm, making it 7 cm wider than the MT09’s 815 mm, but still hopefully relevant in traffic.
Where the MP3 looked and felt like a humble, friendly scooter, the Niken is designed from the ground up to look like a frickin’ beast. Its wide, flat, angry front panelling looks a bit like a squashed Triumph 675 fairing, and the distinctive twin forks supporting each 15-inch front wheel look absolutely wicked.
If anything can get your typical stodgy, conservative biker to get over the stigma of riding a 3-wheeler, it’ll be this beast. And my experience with the MP3 is that pretty much everyone who rides one will understand its unique advantages immediately. Massive cornering grip will be one, but it should also stop harder and more securely than any two-wheeler on the market.
Those small wheels will help make this thing turn super quick around town, but it’ll be really interesting to see how they handle fast sport riding and high lean angles.
How far over can the Niken lean before the outside wheel lifts off the deck? Why the twin forks on each side? Does it wheelie? Who knows, but we’ll have full details from EICMA on November 6, and this thing looks absolutely production-ready.