First there was the Piaggio MP3, a three-wheeled leaning scooter with two wheels in front, a marvel of engineering that provided hellacious front-end grip. Now, a decade later, Yamaha has unveiled the Niken Leaning Multi Wheel (LMW) motorcycle, which also has two front wheels and leans with added stability.
Taking its name from the Japanese word for “two swords,” referring to the 17th century origination of the two-sword style of swordsmanship, which apparently revolutionized combat, the leap Yamaha wants us to make is that the Niken’s two-wheels-in-front will revolutionize the motorcycling experience. Although the two-wheels-in-front trike configuration has been popularized more by BRP’s non-leaning Can-Am Spyder than Piaggio’s MP3, the ability to lean—the heart and soul of motorcycling—with added grip and confidence really is a unique experience.
Looking like a vehicle from “Star Wars” (especially in the photo above with the Stormtrooper-like rider clad in white), the Niken is built around the lively 847cc Crossplane Concept in-line triple that powers the FZ-09, FJ-09/Tracer 900 and XSR900 and a hybrid steel-and-aluminum frame. Compared to the FZ-09, the Niken has a longer swingarm and the rider sits more rearward, which provides roughly a 50/50 front/rear weight distribution with the rider aboard.
The focal point of the design, obviously, is the dual front wheel setup, which is capable of a 45-degree lean angle thanks to the Ackermann dual-axle steering mechanism and a cantilevered suspension system mounted to the outside of the wheels. The double “external” upside-down front forks are adjustable for rebound and compression damping, and—according to Yamaha—the “relatively narrow 410mm track contributes towards the Niken’s natural steering feel, as well as keeping overall width to a minimum.” The double 15-inch front wheels are fitted with grippy, all-weather 120/70R15 V tires developed for the unique requirements of this leaning trike. All three wheels are fitted with 298mm rotors and disc brake calipers. The rear wheel is 17 inches in diameter and the rear shock is fully adjustable with a remote preload adjuster.
The Niken’s 847cc in-line triple gets special performance-oriented fuel injection mapping and a redesigned crank that is said to improve drivability and smoother acceleration from a stop. It is equipped with throttle-by-wire, riding modes, cruise control, traction control, an assist-and-slipper clutch and a quickshifter that allows clutchless upshifts.
Naturally, a motorcycle as radical as the Niken has aggressive, angry-robot styling and its sculpted aluminum, 4.8-gallon fuel tank is made using the same advanced production technology as the YZF-R1 and YZF-R6. It also has an LED headlight and taillight, YZF-R1-style mirrors with integrated LED turn signals, a fully digital LCD instrument panel and a 12V power outlet.
The 2019 Yamaha Niken will be available in Granite Gray and will arrive in U.S. dealerships in the second half of 2018. Pricing is expected to be around $16,000.