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Yamaha NIKEN three-wheeler | Manufacture News | News

Remember Yamaha’s 01GEN concept bike from 2014? Or the MWT-9 concept that followed it at the end of 2015? Well finally the production version is here: the Yamaha NIKEN.

Revealed at the Tokyo Motor Show, the NIKEN will get its full launch including all specifications and details at the EICMA show in Milan next month. However, Yamaha has released the basic information about it.

The engine is straight from the MT-09. It’s the same charismatic 847cc three-cylinder, and presumably will churn out the same 85kW although Yamaha hasn’t given a power claim for the NIKEN yet. In fact the whole back end of the NIKEN (or MXT850, to use its more familiar-feeling alphanumeric nomenclature) is pretty conventional. There’s a 17 inch wheel, aluminium swingarm, steel trellis frame. But the front third goes crazy.

Up front there’s a pair of 15-inch wheels, each attached to two upside-down fork legs mounted side-by-side like a double-barrelled shotgun’s barrel. The top ends of those forks are bolted to a parallelogram tilting system similar to that on Yamaha’s Tricity scooter. The result is a leaning three-wheeler that should ride and handle like a conventional bike but offer much more front end grip and stability.

Of course Piaggio’s MP3, and more recently the Tricity, have already established the market for this sort of thing when it comes to scooters. This just scales it up to full motorcycle size. It’s more than a decade since the MP3 was launched, so there may well be a whole group of riders out there who are, by no, so comfortable with the tilting three-wheeled idea to want to upgrade to something faster without giving up their extra wheel.

If Yamaha has played its cards right, there could be an additional bonus in Europe, where leaning three-wheelers above a certain width are considered ‘powered tricycles’ and can be ridden by holders of a car driving licence, with no need for a motorcycle entitlement. Piaggio’s wide-track MP3 LT cashes in on this loophole, as do non-leaning, wider trikes like the Can-Am Spyder. However, the NIKEN could well be the first thing with real motorcycle performance and handling that – in some countries at least – avoids the need for a motorcycle licence.

By Ben Purvis