Writing about bikes for 20 years. Published in dozens of titles on five continents. Mildly obsessed with discovering how things work.
Yamaha already previewed the new NIKEN leaning three-wheeler at the Tokyo Motor Show at the end of October and it’s used the EICMA show in Milan to reveal some more technical details.
While some of the specifications are still unknown, not least the final power output for the MT-09-derived 847cc triple, which has been retuned specifically for the NIKEN, we do know a bit more about it now.
The frame, for instance, is of course a unique design. Yamaha has combined a cast aluminium rear section around the conventional motorcycle-style swingarm pivot with a cast steel section at the front where the crazy parallelogram front suspension bolts on. The two parts are connected via steel tubes.
At the back there’s a 552mm long swingarm, 15mm longer than the MT-09’s while the rider also sits further back by about 50mm. The combined effect is that when there’s a typical rider on-board, the bike’s hefty front end is counterbalanced, giving a 50:50 weight distribution.
Yamaha says that the NIKEN’s front suspension design, with two fork legs for each wheel and a pivoting system that allows the whole bike to lean, can reach up to 45% of lean angle. That’s more than most of us will ever reach on the road, so the firm’s claims that the NIKEN is a sports bike may not be too far-fetched.
The engine, while retuned compared to the MT-09, still has ride-by-wire, multiple riding modes, cruise control and two-mode traction control. New elements include revised fuel injection and a different crankshaft. The crank is claimed to give ‘excellent driveability and smoother starts’ - that tells us it’s probably heavier than the two-wheeler version’s.
Importantly, Yamaha says that the bike’s front track – the distance between the centrelines of the two front wheels – is 410mm. That means it won’t fall into the same loophole as the Piaggio MP3 LT, which can be ridden on a car driving licence in some European countries, including the UK, as long as the rider is over 21. The law specifies that if the front track is less than 460mm (the MP3 LT’s is 465mm), then the wheels are considered to be ‘twinned’ and legally considered as one wheel. That means, despite the clear evidence to the contrary, the law sees the NIKEN as having only two wheels… And riders will therefore need a full motorcycle licence to operate it.
Key things that we don’t yet know include the official power figure. If it’s less than 95hp, then it will be legal to restrict the engine to 47hp and use it on an A2 licence, but that would be a big drop from the MT-09’s 115hp from the same basic engine design. We also don’t know just how heavy the NIKEN is.
The final questions hang over when we’ll be able to buy them and how much they’ll cost. Yamaha says it will create a special online ordering system but that the opening date for that system and the price will be announced ‘in the coming months.’