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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


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110 Comments

  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.

  17. Jeff says:

    Hopefully a larger capacity fuel tank too..

  18. slipjoint says:

    I hope the yamaha engineers learned something when designing it. I know the marketing people will learn very soon that no market exists for it.

    • FatMat says:

      I exist!

      Throw on some shinko 705-ish knobblier tires and this is perfect for adventuring on sketchy surfaces like gravel, sand, mud and even light snow roads that are avoided on the FZ.

      I might even be able to drift a 514lb 115HP bike on broad gravel sweepers like a youtube hero!

      (Assuming +100lbs for 2 more forks and an extra wheel)

    • Norm G. says:

      re: “I know the marketing people will learn very soon that no market exists for it.”

      again, that’s what everybody thought before the success of the Spyder and Slingshot.

      Q: who knew…?

      A: i guess Bombardier and Polaris.

      • slipjoint says:

        Dead end,like everything else requiring a license plate that Bombardier and Polaris have neen involved in.

  19. PatrickD says:

    Hey, with two front tires and a mechanical restriction of the lean angle, you should be able to replicate Marc Marquez’s front end slide-and-save (FP4, Malasia) on the way to work in the mornings!! I’d like to try that!! A quite phenomenal piece of TV, that.

    And this machine has good ideas and potential, especially for riders without full mobility who want a bike to lean. It’s well worth considering those people.
    The MP3 scooters have been marginally successful, going by the number I’ve seen in the past year.

    • Dave says:

      “The MP3 scooters have been marginally successful”

      True in the US, I’m told they’re everywhere in Europe. I can see that. In my experience, European pavement gets icy-slick when it’s wet.

  20. Stan Gale says:

    Confused. How do we go from one set of forks to four sets of forks??? 2 extra sets has to add at least 50 extra pounds to a front end that’s going to be already double the weight no matter what.

  21. motorhead says:

    That will keep my wheelies down. Very cool, bring it on

  22. kjazz says:

    ….uh…..why build this?

    Because we can? I remember the one built on a KTM 690….in the Netherlands…. it looked cool, but I never really understood why.

    So who needs this? Is it just a styling exercise? I’m guessing the number of folks that think a second wheel really changes the math on corners is gonna be very limited. While it’s fun to see new engineering, I think a legitimate safety argument for the double front end would also be an indictment against every other motorcycle Yamaha (and everyone else) makes.

    If there is a hydraulic system that holds the bike up at stop lights (which would get disabled riders back on a bike) then I would applaud that. But otherwise, it’s gotta be heavier, slower steering (or feeling at least), and who wants to buy two front tires…$$…and double the chance for a front flat?

    Having said all that, I would like to have had a confidence boost the other day riding in the Smokey Mtns after hurricane Nate blew through. The road was damp in spots, outright wet in others, and the corners were covered in fallen, wet leaves. Not a surface I wanted to make a long bet on (i.e. high entrance speed). I guess I need to see similar bikes (one of these and a FZ09 or something) with identical tires going into the same corner with challenges on the surface and hitting it until failure. Then we’ll see if there is a reason beyond style and cool engineering.

  23. Ron says:

    I like it. You know it leans well because it still needs a side stand. I would consider the Niken over a stupid looking Spyder or Slingshot. Those aren’t motorcycles, they are hybrids. IMHO, the Niken IS a motorcycle. Still has telescopic forks and will apparently fall over without the kickstand deployed. Seat looks comfy too. The only question is how much weight that biwheel front end adds and how the bike transitions from side to side with twice the unsprung weight and other heavy looking bits in front.

  24. Norm G. says:

    next up, Yamaha fits knobbies creating a Motocross/Enduro version so it can be taken off some “sweet jumps”.

    • FatMat says:

      In all seriousness I believe off-road/adventuring is where this design has the most benefits.

      Anyone who has had the front tire wash out on a sand/gravel/mud corner should see the benefit.

  25. Mr.Mike says:

    I’ve often ruminated that when I got too old to ride I’d look into the Can-Am Spyder, but for the fact that it doesn’t lean – which is one of my favorite parts about riding. This seems like the solution to that problem.

    It would be interesting to see the dynamics of it in an understeer-induced skid on a slippery surface, and how effective it would be in helping avoid hitting the ground.

    I agree with some here that the technology might be better applied to larger machines since you can hide the weight and complexity in an already heavy and complex vehicle.

  26. Tik says:

    Nice exercise of technology but I can’t see this to be practical in everyday life. Keeping front wheels aligned is doable but not cheap, twice as many front telescopes, one additional front tyre to change, and all this for what? More front grip? To be more interesting? I’m for the bike with one-two, max three cylinders, better be air-cooled, with a flat saddle that allows butt positioning on long rides, designed for strong leaning angles. Piaggio MP3’s are meant for town use, it makes some sense: stay straight at lights, park straight, bring in clients afraid of two wheels but in need for some faster moving vehicle in supercrowded streets. Out of town none of theese aply.

  27. Martin B says:

    Finally, Yamaha has thought of the answer to smart ass motojournalists pulling wheelies at every revised FZ-09 intro. Maybe now they can concentrate on getting the fueling right and work on how to engineer out the insectoid ugly. But maybe they like that. A grown up Tricity, with practical real world applicability. In NZ, our roads are a crumbling network of failing British Empire efforts at basic transportation, damaged by forty years of rain, earthquakes and frost cracking. Many motorcyclists are killed by road imperfections. This will be safer.

  28. Harold Klassen says:

    Call what ever you like but it’s still really ugly, I don’t care about it.

  29. ABQ says:

    I am in the target group that this machine is made for. Older, I have some money, and I have an amputated right leg. I currently ride a H-D FLRT FreeWheeler trike. Trikes will do anything that a touring bike will do except:fall over, slide into a sandy corner, or split lanes. But this trike looks like it will split lanes, so I will have to try it.
    One thing that I ask from Yamaha is that since it has more support upfront, use a large gas tank. Perhaps the gas tank from the FJR1300. With the panniers. You may just choose to put that front end on the FJR1300 and call it a Sports touring Trike.

  30. Geoffrey Hill says:

    Perfect for scouring The Wasteland for gasoline. Would like to try one out. Hope price isn’t jacked too much.

  31. Jeremy in TX says:

    Reminiscent of The Dark Crystal.

    I actually like it. Don’t know whether it would be for me or not, but I’d live to give one a rip.

  32. Jeff R says:

    From the VDO at least, it looks like the lean angle will be somewhat more restricted than that of a motorcycle.

  33. Shmitty says:

    I for one, am thrilled to see the level of engineering and risk taking that Yamaha is undertaking on behalf of motorcyclings future. It’s not a foregone conclusion that motorcycles will even be a part of the transportation system in the next 10-20 years. With AI and interactive vehicle management systems on the visible horizon, motorcycling as we know it is bound to change, possibly drastically. The Niken may be a game changer or not, but it’s definitely a commitment from Yamaha to keep motorcycles relevant. The more people that ride the more reason for their integration into future traffic management.

    One other note; there are somethings on this bike that I predict will show up on a revised FJ-09 in Milan next week. Cruise control, dash panel, gas tank, tail section, and taillights. I’m not very good at predictions but what the heck. It’s not like I have anything to lose if I’m wrong!

  34. TunaPete says:

    Is it just me, or does anyone else think this looks like the aftermath of a horrific two-bike accident?

  35. Norm G. says:

    ya know, the more i watch the video the more “normal” this bloody thing looks. everybody thought Can-Am’s Spyder was wonky until we started seeing them all over the place. everybody thought the Polaris Slingshot wasn’t going to sell, but now you almost can’t throw a rock without hitting one (there’s 3 or 4 owners in my area just as i predicted).

    and now Yamaha offers the Niken (soon to be constantly mispronounced as “Nikon”) the 3-wheeler that’s not a scooter for the true motorcyclists who want a more “motorcycle like” experience. i can see a rider buying this just to be “that guy” pulling up on one at the local biker hang out.

  36. Doc says:

    Looks like something made for transporting mini shipping containers at a west coast port.

  37. Hot Dog says:

    I’ve got to say one thing about Yamaha’s engineers and it’s nice that they get to design/build wild ideas. Sure beats designing another cruiser or trying to think up a new name for a paint color.

  38. paul246 says:

    This should not be compared to a typical trike setup, either the rear dual wheel design nor the dual front design such as the Can-Am Spyder. Those machines cannot bank such as a motorcycle, this Yamaha obviously can. There are some big advantages to the fully articulated configuration, especially in wet conditions.

    • Dino says:

      +1
      Dual front tire contact would take a lot of the pucker factor out of the ride when you come into a corner and then see the leaves, sand, whatever that might lose traction. Based on the motor and setup, looks like a really fun ride. I wouldn’t be excited to ride any regular trike, but a leaning three wheeler seems like a fun time.

  39. Denny says:

    Any tricycles should be excluded from motorcycle category. They are cheating, removing the thrill of motorcycle riding.

    • Jeremy in TX says:

      I’ve ridden a number of motorized contraptions, including a trike, a CanAm and an MP3. I’ve come to the conclusion that what makes a motorcycle most enjoyable to me is leaning to turn. While other three-wheelers didn’t do anything for me, the MP3 felt pretty much just like a typical scooter. This Yamaha may feel very much like a typical motorcycle. I would like to give one a try.

  40. RonH says:

    Double the front tire contact patch. Would like to test that.

  41. VLJ says:

    This thing has a side stand, so, unlike a trike, evidently it can still fall over at a stop. That being the case, what advantage over a conventional two-wheeler does this thing convey? I see disadvantages and downsides aplenty, but no real advantages.

    • Jeremy in TX says:

      I imagine front-end grip would be pretty substantial over a typical two-wheeler. Grip available from braking would be noticably more as well. I would also think that low-sides, while still possible, would be less likely.

    • Jason says:

      You almost can lowside it. Say you are coming around a corner and there is sand, gravel, or oil in the road. On a typical motorcycle when you the front tire hits the sand you are on your butt sliding behind your sparking motorcycle. On a leaning trike the front slides, regains traction on the other side, and you continue on your way.

    • Bubba says:

      Well VLJ… it may ride well? Maybe an excellent commuter in the rain, on crappy roads, etc? Possibly some disabled rider advantages? Maybe just more choice for all those interested in getting out on the road? If only simple advantages and disadvantages mattered, we’d probably all be driving mini-vans.

  42. Mark R says:

    My dear, you look ugly and gangly.

    ‘Suppose it is better than a trike because it leans.

  43. Mick says:

    Great! They finally figured out a way to at least give you something, that you are likely not to want, from all the extra weight that street bike always have.

    Color me with pea green puke spewing out of my mouth.

  44. Bart says:

    Yeah, but will it wheelie?

  45. Bubba says:

    Why is everyone trying to slot this thing into a category? Defer judgement until you ride it, if it does the trick for you, buy it. If not move on. Personally, I can’t wait to try it regardless of outcome.

  46. steveinsandiego says:

    uh, no. rode a piaggo once…yep, once was all i needed to decide “not for me”. shrug. would rather have a harley freewheeler (with IRS if you’d lend me few $$$).

  47. kawatwo says:

    I would definitely consider it living in the Pacific NW. This would make a great long distance sporty tourer and commuter and it has a great motor.

    • hh says:

      Kawatwo, I agree and with enough gas range and possible electric models, this may a future of personal touring & commuting bike type vehicles…(may be bye bye can am spyder) and let me add to others, please stop comparing this to sport bikes or any two wheel experience, look at it for what it does and maybe there are folks who will enjoy that.

      • hh says:

        Really think it should be electric powered. Kinda like the ad though, think “ok” touring thru empty highways dressed like a cyborg stars wars storm trooper clone, where importantly no one can see you. And since race leathers or jeans, distressed leather and daytons aren’t going to ride this thing, perhaps cosplay is the way to go or maybe Yama will put robots on the Niken for delivery couriers where drones won’t do.

  48. mickey says:

    I’ve ridden a Piaggio MP3 and was surprised how much it felt like a standard front end scooter. Not sure how it would feel with over 100 horsepower but I’m willing to give it a test ride.

  49. skybullet says:

    It’s a Miracle Drug for a non-existant disease. What does it do better than a two wheel version.. not fall over at stop lights? The ugly bug front end does not help. Got to cost more weigh more too.

    • Max says:

      All modern Japanese bikes are pretty ugly. So what? On a track, the weight may make it sluggish. On the street, it doesn’t make any difference and you get twice the front end grip. Useful on real roads that aren’t as perfectly manicured as European racetracks.

      • VLJ says:

        “All modern Japanese bikes are pretty ugly.”

        All? Not merely some, or even many, or most, but…all?

        No exceptions?

        Yep, there it is, the worst comment of the year.

  50. scarecrow800 says:

    I wonder if the extra stability in turns is offset by the extra weight of another whole front end on the front of your motorcycle. Another extra set of wheels, tires, forks and all of the additional plumbing up front has to add up to a considerable amount of weight up front and overall weight that the engine has to push around. At least it has less tip over potential when parked.

  51. Dave says:

    There is an outfit that does leaning-trike conversions on bikes. I think their model tester is based on a Kawasaki z1000. It’s pretty cool, but they warn that while low-siding is nearly impossible, high- riding is easier. I guess that makes a TC equipped bike a better conversion candidate.

  52. Dino says:

    Could be fun to ride aggressively.. Extreme styling looks like it is going to ask “Are yoo Sara Conner” (Arnold Schwarzenegger voice)

  53. R. Davis says:

    I don’t know if the “Niken” will be classified as a motorcycle or car and I don’t really care! I’ve been waiting for something like this to come along since the creation of the Spyder and Slingshot 3 wheelers. This thing looks like a blast to ride! I don’t know what took so long but it’s about time. A game changer to be sure. I’m sure any qualms about spinning out of control should the rear wheel slip on powering out of a corner will be quashed with electronic interventions(6 axis ECU) and probably different levels of intervention. This is a sport version but just think what a front end like this would do for those overweight full dress tourers out there. Heck, even Harley had a 3 wheeler patent decades ago and did nothing with it. I think this bike opens the door to 3 and 4 wheel leaners on the street. Only more like this will surely come. Front wheel dive “Niken” adventure tourer anyone?

    • Dino says:

      I’d say this is more motorcycle than some other the wheelers out there. At least it leans, and probably a good motor behind it!

  54. Tom R says:

    Looks like a fun ride in the video. That’s the point, right?

  55. Rapier says:

    Does counter steer still apply with these things? Has anyone driven an MP3? I can’t imagine it does. I suppose a few minutes or hours would train your body accordingly. It isn’t very elegant.

    • Scott says:

      “Does counter steer still apply with these things?”

      Yes.

      “Has anyone driven an MP3?”

      Yes.

      “I can’t imagine it does.”

      Yet it does.

  56. Stuki Moi says:

    Wonder what the lean angle limitations is on this thing? Front grip should be fantastic. All the way up until you fly the outside wheel……. For a scooter meant for all weather commuting in lane marking, manhole and leaf intensive cities, three wheels makes some sense. But for more of a sportbike setup, unless the geometry allows it to lean over far enough to drag elbow, I’m not so sure.

    • Tom R says:

      Drag your elbow? Is that supposed to be a legit design criteria?

    • Larry Kahn says:

      Looking at the lead picture not much of a pussy strip on the rear tire and the fronts look like average width strips for a sporty street rider, the difference between front and back looks normal.

  57. Pacer says:

    Would be good tech for larger touring rigs. I don’t think there is enough lean for sportier riding.

  58. My2cents says:

    Bombardier Spyder
    a Polaris SlingShot unrode
    Now a Yamaha

    sorry I can’t make it more interesting than that.

  59. DeltaZulu says:

    Well, makes more sense than a CanAm Spyder, Polaris Slingshot or most of the other trikes to me. At least SOME lane splitting seems possible with this NIKEN. But, it still won’t be for me.

  60. RyYYZ says:

    Sure it’s a motorcycle. It leans through turns, countersteers, etc, so definitely a motorcycle.

    There’s got to be a better way to do the front suspension for a leaning 3-wheeler than that, though – that’s got to be about the goofiest, Rube-Goldbergesque setup I’ve ever seen. The four telescopic fork tubes appear to only be supported at their very tops, which even though they’re paired and tied to each other in the middle, does not look very conducive to rigidity to me.

    • xLaYN says:

      “The four telescopic fork tubes appear to only be supported at their very tops… does not look very conducive to rigidity to me”

      +1

      they could probably improve that with an even more “Rube-Goldbergesque setup” on a second gen.

  61. Alain du Pont says:

    Looks amazing can’t wait to test one on Swiss mountain roads. Might even trade the XSR900! A great time for motorcycles and motorcyclists 🙂

  62. VStrom Pilot says:

    IF t ever goes on sale, I’m sure they will sell a couple……or 3.

  63. Warner says:

    This motorcycle is exactly what I want. I am 73 years old and I ride aggressively. Having two contact patches up front will allow safer high speed cornering, instead of low siding the machine will drift like a car. Tip overs will be a thing of the past.

    • Scott says:

      ^ This!

    • VFR Marc says:

      You get it, Warner. What are the choices for older riders: Trikes? Bleck! Spyders or Slingshots? Car wannabes! On these (I include the scooters here) you’re sitting up, getting the wind in your face, leaning, powering out of corners and grinning. While I (76, btw) am not quite ready to give up on two wheels, these things look like the ticket for me . . . eventually.

  64. richard says:

    not sure i get it..not a motorcycle ? anything with more than 2 wheels is not a motorcycle !

  65. Bill says:

    Seriously I’m not sure who the target audience is for something like this.

    • Norm G. says:

      re: “I’m not sure who the target audience is for something like this…”

      A: ROBOT OVERLORDS.

      B: malcontents complaining about “lack of front end feel”.

      C: answers A and B.

    • Tank says:

      I guess the target audience is anyone who bought an MP3 and got sand kicked in his face.

  66. Norm G. says:

    re: “Yamaha NIKEN: Is…”

    …ENGINEERING GON’ WILD…!!!