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British Mag Says Yamaha Three-Wheeler Headed For Production

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British publication VisorDown.com published an article indicating company sources have told it the MWT-9 three-wheel concept from Yamaha is headed for production. Unveiled at the Tokyo Motor Show last Fall, the leaning MWT-9 features the 850cc triple from the FZ-09.

We very much enjoyed testing a Piaggio three-wheeler a few years ago, and were very impressed by the grip, and confidence, provided by the two contact patches at the front end. Since three-wheelers can be designed to remain upright when stopped, you don’t have to put your feet down. Together with the front-end grip, we can see these features creating popularity for this design in the future. There is added weight and complication, of course, but powerful engines (like Yamaha’s triple) could make this a non-issue for most riders.

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157 Comments

  1. Bill Pollack says:

    I think it’s a great idea for oldsters like me. I’m in my upper 60s, and am one or two winters away from an artificial hip. For my last four bikes, I went from a BMW R850R (1997-2000) to a Valkyrie Interstate (2000-2007) to a Burgman 650 (2007-2012) to a Victory Cross Country Tour (2012-present). The Victory has a much lower CofG and seat height than the Big Burger, despite being c. 300 lbs. heavier, which is why I can manage that.

    About seven years ago, when Piaggio’s MP3 came out, I managed to rent a 250 while on vacation. (I wanted to try out their then-largest 400, but couldn’t find one.) It was great for city riding, even two-up. I especially liked the button that locks the front geometry when coming to a red light — no feet down requirement. And the stability of the two front wheels was very noticeable, especially in gravel parking lots and suchlike. And the fact that it leans like a bike is a real plus; contrast that to, say, the Can-Am Spyder or Polaris’ car-like SlingShot.

    And keep in mind that I can go either way, in terms of clutches. Shifting is indeed, IMHO, an integrated, visceral, part of the riding experience. OTOH, stopped on hills or in city gridlock, I certainly appreciated the twist-and-go nature of the Burger; no hand cramps with that one.

    All of these are “real” bikes, in my view, if anyone’s wondering. I got the Burger up to a GPS-verified 101 MPH a few times, which is the same top-speed that Motorcycle Consumer News noted on its radar gun. Try to get there on, say, an 883 Sportster.

    And on the big Victory, I took my first track day last year, and easily cracked the ton each lap. And had a lot of fun doing it, and the Vic has a good deal of clearance for its full-boat dresser genre.

    So I’m not quite dead yet, and I like all of these bikes.

    I remember reading a review of the early MP3s that said — what with its leaning, and extra traction and forgiveness up front — something like “it might be the perfect Deals Gap weapon.”

    What I don’t like about the Yammy is the feet-back position. If you’ll take another look at my four-bike history, you’ll see that my leg position has gone from back, to down, to forward, to more forward. This is what happens to a lot of us as we age: riding for hours with knees bent back gets progressively brutal. And I see a market for people like me with this Yammy, but then its foot position seems like an oxymoron. If you’re young and healthy and flexible, you might as well just get the Fizzie 9.

    As it happens, I was at a Piaggio dealer just this morning, and got to sit on a 500 MP3. It’s only very marginally a feet-forward bike — more like feet down. The (two-wheeled) Burger has a lot more leg room, so that was a bit of a disappointment for me. I was examining how I might go about adding highway pegs (and after all, on a twist-and-go, with left and right brake levers, your feet don’t have to be in position to do anything).

    So I think there’s definitely a market for these leaning two-in-the-front bikes, but I think Yamaha is going about it the wrong way (unless there’s a “cruiser” version of this three-wheeler in the planning stages).

  2. Paul G says:

    I,m a paralyzed biker rider that still rides but only at racetracks. This is a fantastic bike for disabled riders. Simply because it remains vertical despite the camber of the road surface. The one problem of using retractable “training” wheels is they need a level surface. Reverse would be helpful for parking and so would a wheelchair rack.

    This machine can also bring non bikers into our world.

    You could do stoppies in the rain with this baby.

    If it is a production motorcycle the thumbs up to Yamaha.

  3. pete rasmussen says:

    its just marketing crap. No other reason for this. A motorcycle is just as fast, near as, to any 4 wheeler so how is this going to make one faster?

    • todd says:

      Actually, I think it would force you to slow down because of it’s cornering limits. Check the video below.

    • Tank says:

      There are several reasons for this bike- older riders, handicapped riders, anyone that rides a lot in the rain (Europeans ride, rain or shine). “Marketing crap” is Polaris selling Indians. At least Yamaha is giving us something different.

    • dicknuts says:

      Pete, I see you never road a piaggio mp3. It’s awesome. So shut your piehole about things you know nothing about.

  4. todd says:

    This video gives you a pretty good idea and view of the front end working.
    https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=bBDlEC04OW8&ebc=ANyPxKoLTwkS0ort4L1xSZzpUoPLwKU0H4NUigvj_lwI-O88LxSgBywCttj2t_CqGGqYoc73VpnYRybLA1MK5XZKww_5PO5ppw&time_continue=52

    It looks to me like lean angle (and therefor cornering speed) is severely limited.

    • Scott says:

      A choppy 2 minute video of an experimental prototype, tooling around at 10mph, inside a warehouse full of pylons, in the dark. And you feel this shows the full potential of what the production machine will do. Okay.

  5. Tom R says:

    For anyone considering this: it might be time for a small sports car instead.

    • Scott says:

      Been there, done that. It’s not the same.

    • Brian says:

      Normally I would agree, Tom, but unlike the other offerings with 3 wheels, this thing leans through turns, which is the only reason I would consider it. (when I can no longer hold my bike up at a stop)

  6. JVB says:

    I’m going to be immature now. Put that front end on a V-max: WHOOOOOT!!!!!!!!!!

  7. Neil says:

    I like it. Too $$$ for me, but I like it. I’ll take the XSR900 myself. Actually with your feet under you like that, I would appreciate putting my feet down now and then. I can see it in places that get quite a bit of rain and you want that extra traction. You could even take it down dirt roads and just cruise along nicely. Plenty to talk about at Bike Night. Just give me some more exciting colors.

  8. Tank says:

    This design actually makes sense when you think of all the work the front tire of a bike has to do as far as steering and braking. It’s just going to take a while for people to get used to the idea of 3 wheels. At least it isn’t another cruiser.

    • Doug says:

      The Adventure touring crowd is already accustomed to weird looking motorcycles where form follows function rather than the other way around. Might be a welcome market there.

  9. Stuki Moi says:

    That is one crazy looking vehicle! If these things take off, wonder how long before BStone releases Blizzak snow tires for bikes as well. And a ‘Stich becomes THE outfit for cutting edge ski bums.

  10. arbuz says:

    Taller windscreen, reverse gear, FJR 1300 motor with 6 speed. ABS. Under 14K — and will absolutely buy it.

    • Scott says:

      Yeah, good luck! ๐Ÿ˜„

      Seriously, if they do build this thing – and IF we even get it in the US – it’ll be priced close to $20k. That’s the reality of the situation…

      • Curly says:

        Being based on the FJ-09 I can’t see why it would be any more than 25% over that bike. That could still give it a retail price under $14k.

        • Scott says:

          It’ll be great if you’re right about that.

          But I figure if it costs $500 to add yellow paint to an XSR900, and they charge, what, $1200 for a set of saddlebags for an FJ, then there’s no way this massively complicated piece of engineering won’t cost several thousand dollars.

          That company that makes the dual front ends for Harleys charges 10 grand for the base model, and 13K for the one that self centers when you stop! I don’t think Yamaha will have to raise the price quite that much, but it’s going to be up there..

  11. Ed says:

    I like this. Yes it’s foreign looking and quite different. The idea behind this is that anything that inspires confidence will improve the ride. This isn’t for old people or for those who need training wheels, this is for people who like to push their bikes on the street with an enhanced margin of safety. I have almost fallen several times in the past, each time was the front slipping or sliding on something and almost washing out. If you ride enough it happens. This addresses the problem brilliantly. Thanks Yammy-hah!

  12. Max says:

    I’ll ride/drive anything once. It may give better traction and still feel like a bike.

  13. Licorice says:

    True, not a two wheel motorcycle. The market is non-bikers wanting a close to bike experience or bikers that have become unable to ride two wheels due to injury or age. The average age of bikers is getting higher !!!

    I may be looking for something like this myself some day.

    • Dirck Edge says:

      Or bikers that dig lots of front end grip.

      • Kevin Newell says:

        I agree this would really be a lot of fun for the street. Iโ€™d also like to see Yamaha make an off road version with something like the 700 Raptor engine or the old Banshee motor!

      • Vern says:

        Or bikers who are handicapped and want to keep riding because the can’t hold a bike up with a bum leg.

      • wjf says:

        I guess it would be pretty tough to tuck the front on this machine…

    • DCE says:

      …or riders that want to ride year-round where bad weather abounds (i.e., in snow, ice and rain).

    • kpinvt says:

      “The average age of bikers is getting higher !!!” Great news. It means old farts like me are not dropping like flies.

  14. Scottie says:

    Too bad they didn’t move forward with the Tesseract.

  15. stratkat says:

    yeah, i see it as “look what we can do”design exercise.
    that said, i never thought the whole Can-Am Spyder thing would catch on. zero interest to me

    • Jeremy in TX says:

      The fact that this machine leans to turn is what makes it appealing to me. That probably more than anything is why I enjoy riding motorcycles on the street. The Can-Am can’t do that which I is why I never gave one a second thought. This is a different animal as far as I am concerned.

      • Scott says:

        Same reason I can’t get into cruisers. It’s all about the cornering for me. Obviously, everybody has their own reasons for riding motorcycles, but carving corners is #1 in my book!

  16. chase says:

    This is a bad idea. Either Yamaha is seeing a market we all just don’t see or they are smoking dope.

    • Stuki Moi says:

      It’s (At least the scooter versions are) bang on awesome for utility riders in locales with highly variable weather and road surfaces. The extra front wheel really adds lots of safety and confidence in that kind of conditions. And, as wide and ungainly as they look next to “real” bikes, they still lane split perfectly fine. In theory, although I’ve never tried it, perhaps even better than a single front bike on Botts dots afflicted freeways.

      For more sporty type riding, I doubt it offers much; as current sport tires, even with a single front, grip well enough to most likely outlean this thing’s front end on dry pavement. And I can’t imagine transitioning from two front wheels to only the inner one and back, does much for consistency nor confidence.

  17. pete rasmussen says:

    All the disadvantages of a car combined with the disadvantages of a bike. Genius.

    • Scott says:

      OR…

      All the fun of riding a motorcycle, but with car-like stability! Half empty or half-full. You decide…

      • andrew says:

        Stability is not car-like! It is definitely improved, but it has its limits… as I witnessed personally on a test ride of Piaggio MP3 when I watched the rider in front of me lose her balance and go down like a brick in a slow-speed manouver. Stability is definitely improved but the steering is very heavy, and that’s because, well, the front is heavy.

        • Scott says:

          Right, but front end traction is doubled, while front end weight is not. Therefore, net gain in grip.

          I’ve seen people in cars crash into stuff during “low-speed maneuvers”, too. Nothing is foolproof!

          • andrew says:

            Oh, sure. And it really does help when you hit an oil slick in a turn! I don’t mean to pooh-pooh it, just bear in mind it isn’t an end-all solution for every problem. In particular, it might not be the answer older and frail riders are looking for – you still need to balance the thing and to push it around parking spots, and you might need to hold up its considerable weight at times.

          • Scott says:

            Points. ๐Ÿ‘

            If they could fit a reverse gear on it, that could alleviate a lot of those issues for the “older” set. Even something basic like an electric motor that could engage the drivetrain. It wouldn’t have to be built into the transmission.

            No, certainly not the end-all. But I do think it’s a very interesting concept with tons of potential and it just might be a boatload of fun to ride. I would be first in line for a test ride!

          • Stuki Moi says:

            Front end traction on uniform surfaces is very, very far from “doubled.” Twice the contact patch area, but also only half the weight per unit of such. And friction/traction varies with weight*area, at least to a first approximation.

            Where the big gains arise, is on non uniform surfaces. Think wet and oily cable cart tracks in the rain, or ever just lane markings. You are much, much less likely to have two wheels simultaneously hit such traps, as you are only one wheel. These are situat8ions where more wheels increase safety super linearly. And, in the parts of the world where motorcycling is secularly growing, most bikes are bought for utility. Not just fair weather play.

          • Scott says:

            Okaaay…

            I’m not an engineer. So explain to me in English how having twice the contact patch area doesn’t double your traction.

            If you’re saying that more weight placed upon the contact patch makes it bigger, sure, but then you’ve got more weight trying to fling itself outside the corner (centripetal/centrifugal, whatever, force), so that’s a wash.

            If you take 100 lbs. of weight off a given bike, it doesn’t hinder its cornering ability because the contact patches are smaller. It corners better because it’s lighter.

            So if an FJ09 weighs 650 lbs. with a rider on board, and let’s say 300 of those lbs. are on the front end, then that front tire is carrying those 300 lbs.

            Now, you modify it with this dual set-up, and let’s assume the whole assembly adds, say, 150 lbs. to the front of the FJ. Now you have an 800 lb. machine (with rider), and about 450 lbs. of weight divided onto two front tires. Now, each tire is carrying a 225 lb. load, which seems to me like you’ve increased your front grip substantially.

            Am I way off here?

          • tom says:

            If you replace a single contact patch with two and with the contact force at each the same as the contact force for the single contact patch, the traction will double. Since this is not happening, because the contact force is being divided between the two wheels, it is obvious that total traction does not double. The increase in weight does not count, because lateral forces also increase in proportion with weight.

            The increase in traction is the same as it would be with a much fatter tire running lower air pressure, where the contact patch area would be twice what it is for just one of the two tires here. Reduced tire pressure is implied with this setup, the same as with a fatter tire, because the contact force is determined fully by the weight being supported, and this force is also determined in the familiar manner by the combination of gas pressure and area, the same as for a piston. In fact, a piston makes for a good analogy. If you take a single piston and double its area, then if there is a requirement for the force to remain as it was, the gas pressure has to decrease by half. If instead of doubling the area of a single piston you replace it with two pistons and require that the total, combined force again remain as it was, then here again the gas pressure will need to drop by half for each piston.

            The actual increase in traction with this two-wheeled arrangement will still be appreciable, but will be attributable to the increase in the total coefficient of friction, for the two wheels combined, the same as will occur with a much fatter tire running lower pressure. The improvement in the coefficient of friction is presumably very significant, but it would not improve in a linear manner. If you keep increasing the area of the contact patch, eventually a huge increase in this area would be needed to accomplish a modest improvement in the coefficient of friction. It isn’t going to be linear, intuitively, but this doesn’t mean that it won’t be a significant, meaningful improvement. Almost certainly it will be. How great it will be, exactly, is not apparent and not discernible from the rudimentary facts. In other words, I have no idea how much improvement there is likely to be in the coefficient of friction, beyond the fact that it seems certain to me that it will not double.

            It also occurs to me that there is another effect by which the improvement will not be as great as it may seem. Because the sliders on the inside of the turn compress quite a bit more than the sliders on the outside of the turn, and because the force at the contact patch is the same as the force of the compressed spring, it is apparent that the contact force will not be evenly distributed between the two tires. As the lean angle increases, the distribution of contact force between the two tires will become increasingly less even. There are just two obvious ways to mitigate this effect, one of which is keeping the two wheels and their respective sliders as close to each other as possible, which conflicts with the goal of the design. The other is to use very long forks with very long springs that are weak. The third (meant to say three) is to use air springs and remote reservoirs. The fourth (meant to say four) is to use air springs and a pipe or hose to equalize the air pressure. Hmmm. Now that I think about it, I am inclined to speculate that the sliders use air springs, at least partly, so that the spring force will equalize across the two sides. But who knows. It’s past my bedtime.