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Yamaha NIKEN: Is a Leaning, Three-Wheeler a Motorcycle? (with video)

Yamaha isn’t the first to introduce a leaning three-wheel “motorcycle”. Nearly a decade ago, we tested the Piaggio MP3. More weight and more complexity, but two contact patches in front combine for a remarkable level of rider confidence while cornering.

Yamaha isn’t saying much about the NIKEN at this point, but we expect a production machine and all details to be unveiled on November 6 at EICMA.

We do know that it sports a three-cylinder engine … presumably a derivitive of the triple introduced by Yamaha in the FZ-09 a few years ago.  Have a look at the photos and the video below.  We will provide more information after the EICMA launch.

This large-displacement Leaning Multi-Wheeler (LMW) is powered by a liquid-cooled, in-line, 3-cylinder engine. This model is equipped with LMW technology to reduce the effects of changing ride environments and to deliver a high feeling of stability when cornering. It achieves excellent performance for spirited and sporty riding on various road surfaces and the capability to freely carve through the continuous corners on winding roads. The body design makes full use of the unprecedented front-end suspension mechanism, pairing 15-inch front wheels with dual-tube upsidedown forks that visually accentuate the machine’s sporty performance and create a high-quality look and feel at the same time. New Yamaha NIKEN. Ride the Revolution.

Length x Width x Height = 2,150 mm x 885 mm x 1,250 mm

Engine type = Liquid-cooled, 4-stroke, DOHC, 4-valve

Cylinder arrangement = In-line, 3-cylinder

See more of MD’s great photography:



  1. B00bsalot says:

    Let’s see a closeup of that steering mechanism. How the heck do they do that?
    Oh, and, Yamaha – WHY?

  2. Spike says:

    More of a motorcycle than the Can Am Spyder. At least it looks the part….

  3. 5229 says:

    No thanks.

  4. Donald says:

    OMG, what are those Yamaha design boys snorting? That is by far, the fugliest,goofiest looking creation, EVER! If it actually gets produced, I’ll eat my keyboard!! NO WAY!

  5. Ricardo says:

    Ugly machine, build it…and no they will not come.

  6. kjazz says:

    Doesn’t this Yamaha fork design “double” the stiction in the front-end….? So the front end would be less supple than a two-fork design. As mentioned below, a Cannondale Lefty style fork, could be a better answer; though it would probably scare people into not buying it. I get responses like that all the time on my Lefty Slate.

  7. McClain says:

    The Honda Neowing is also pretty badass

  8. McClain says:

    It’s -at least- closer to a motorcycle than any other 3-wheeled vehicle

    I think it’s pretty cool- likely, if well executed, to be faster than an FZ-09 on the track

    The Honda NeoWing is also pretty neat

  9. Jeff says:

    Well it’s certainly interesting. Not sure who Yamaha think the target customer is (looking behind self) but it ain’t me. At 64 I represent an old fart rider so am beyond being able fold myself up on a sport bike, but I still enjoy my 2-wheeled Sport Touring and adventure touring bikes.

  10. William says:

    I agree with the safety comment. Improved safety is good. Its also nice to see new vehicles rather than just an update of the same old thing. The side by sides sure are popular now and many people having fun on them. They got some pushback at the start, but that always seems to happen. If its not your thing to have 2 wheels up front then that’s ok, but I bet its a fun ride. I like the concept. The extra weight may not cause as much trouble with 2 wheels up front compared to only 1. I know people that sure like the scooter with 2 wheels up front.

  11. Gary says:

    Uhhhh ….. no. Just, no.

  12. dave says:

    Why not add another rear wheel, too? Seriously. This will open up the market to a BUNCH who’d never think of a 2 or 3 wheeler. PLUS, grip in the rear to match the front – for true performance. I would DEFINITELY try that.

    • austin zzr 1200 says:

      it would probably lose the lean and gain lots of weight they added another rear wheel

    • William says:

      There is a company that makes a 4-wheeler street motorcycle but the US government defines a motorcycle as having 3 or fewer wheels so its Europe only. So if they want to sell in the USA it has to be 3 wheels or less, unless they change the law. Yet another example of government getting in the way of progress.

      • KenHoward says:

        “There is a company that makes a 4-wheeler street motorcycle…”

        The Quadro-4 leaning scooter? I believe it has been produced since 2013 and I’d guess they couldn’t get it certified for sale in the U.S. ‘Not a bad-looking scooter, though only 350cc, I believe.

    • Scott says:

      They’ve built one of those, too. The Tesseract concept. But they’ve apparently decided three wheels is the way to go.

      I know there are a bunch of engineering geniuses that comment here, but maybe we should give Yamaha the benefit of the doubt that they *might* just know what they’re doing…

  13. Denis says:

    A sport trike (bike) for old farts!!!

  14. Stan Gale says:

    It would be interesting to try out. But how did we go from 1 set of forks to 4 sets of forks?? This has to add at least 60 extra pounds to a front end that already weighs double a normal front end. Wouldn’t any extra traction benefits be “outweighed” by such a huge weight penalty?

    • Dave says:

      My guess would be to achieve rotational stiffness without inventing a new type of fork leg where the lower was robustly “keyed” to the upper (have a look at Cannondale’s “Lefty” front suspension).

      Considering how Piaggio has been accomplishing this for years now, and the recent Honda Goldwing release, I question why sliding fork legs were employed at all. Seems like there were better ways to skin this cat.

      • Norm G. says:

        re: “I question why sliding fork legs were employed at all. Seems like there were better ways to skin this cat.”

        though Yam had been working on their own for some time, i hear/tell there may be some patent issues (held by Piaggio) to get around. not sure, i haven’t seen how Piaggio’s implemented theirs.

      • Bob S. says:

        “I question why sliding fork legs were employed at all. Seems like there were better ways to skin this cat.”

        Hydraulically damped telescopic forks were a direct result of the technology developed in engineering and design of aircraft landing gear used in WWII. Note that they appeared on both sides of the Atlantic right after the war, when there was an abundance of engineers who had worked in the aircraft industry and moved into the automotive field during the post war boom. Their introduction was, at the time, a major improvement over prior designs, but technology moves on and there are indeed now better ways to skin that cat.

  15. John J says:

    With 15 inch front wheels the bump compliance should definitely be crappier than 17 inch wheels (or heaven forbid 19 inch)

  16. edbob says:

    I like it. Smart design if they can make it handle nicely. Anything that introduces a better safety margin is a plus.