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Kawasaki Three-Wheeler Coming? Four Years On, Kawasaki Re-Introduces J Concept

This illustration was issued back in 2013 representing the optional, upright position of the Kawasaki J Concept.

We know that Yamaha has a three-wheel future with the production Niken due to arrive later this year, and the recent acquisition of three-wheel related patents from Norway. Now, Kawasaki has published a video re-introducing the J Concept three-wheeler originally unveiled at the 2013 Tokyo Motor Show.

The new J Concept video (below you will find both the new video, and the video introduced back in 2013) demonstrates high production values, and certainly leads one to conclude that Kawasaki is serious about manufacturing something similar in the future. A number of questions remain unanswered, however.

We don’t know when, or if, we will see something similar to the J Concept in dealer showrooms, or whether a production machine could really implement the shape-shifting feature highlighted in the videos. Nevertheless, Kawasaki is known for pushing the envelope when it comes to both design and technology, and we don’t think they would put this kind of effort – separated by four years – into the J Concept without some sort of production version under development. Time will tell.

Optional “attack” position.

See more of MD’s great photography:



  1. Scott says:

    Just so we’re clear… Everyone realizes we’re talking about a cartoon, right? I mean, this isn’t a concept bike or even a plastic model, and we’re harping about what’s wrong with it.

    Shall we discuss all the discrepancies in the design of the X-wing fighter from Star Wars? And how about those flying cars in The Jetsons? I mean, come on, what was that about, right?

  2. turnergande says:

    Looks as if the rider hit the front brakes too hard he/she would go flying frontward clear off the machine. Maybe seat belt would be a consideration? Same problem if machine had a head on with a less movable object? All in all, does not look like a comforting ride. A solution looking for a problem?

    • Jeremy in TX says:

      Pretty sure motorcycles have those same problems.

      • turnergande says:

        I always felt comfortable hanging on to fixed handlebars and the fuel tank positioned well above the seat; kind of locked you right in. The first photo of that contraption shows a clear void / emptiness in front of the driver. Off you go into the wide blue yonder! Like a catapult.

      • turnergande says:

        If driver departs contraption in a forward manner during accident but slightly off kilter it looks as though a long tapered hand control could impale such driver. Maybe time to add one of those exploding safety air bags? If driver is hit hard from the rear that funny tail like feature might just ream the driver’s rear end. Minor design concerns I suppose, all easily fixed (?).

  3. Dan says:

    Need to be able to lane split here in CA

  4. MotoMaster39 says:

    Unless they add some kind of power steering system, you’d probably have to be as strong as the Hulk to ride this thing. The controls looks seriously awkward and arm pump inducing.

  5. beasty says:

    All it needs is a mower deck and some knobby tires and you’d have a nice high performance zero turn.

  6. Mark says:

    Old news. It’s already been done. Anybody remember the Piaggio MP3? No? I thought so. Just goes to show you how popular a three wheeled motorcycle is.

    • Jeremy in TX says:

      Seriously? MP3s are all over Europe. CanAm Spyders are all over North America. That third wheel may be the secret sauce the motorcycle industry has been looking for to jumpstart growth again.

      • Norm G. says:

        re: “CanAm Spyders are all over North America.”

        can’t throw a rock with a slingshot without hitting…

        (wait for it)

        a Slingshot.

  7. Mark says:

    Holy Head Bearings Batman! Did you see the complexity of that thing? Try not to hit any bumps lest you have to take out a second mortgage to have the thing fixed. I’ll pass, simple is better.

  8. viktor92 says:

    Someone that wants more than two wheels should look a car

  9. Scott says:

    Oh no! Something different! It doesn’t look exactly like the bike I rode in 1975! Nooooooooo!

    • William says:

      That’s funny. Good comment. I get bored of the same old thing. I am also open to something different than was offered in 1975.

  10. Mick says:

    Motorcycles are two wheeled vehicles. I don’t care about this legal description of that. They have two wheels. One in front and one in back.

    These additional wheels are only showing up as new and more ridiculous excuses for how embarrassingly heavy street bikes are.

    • Dave says:

      “Cycle” does not imply wheel count. In order to establish that, you’ll have to call your motorcycle a “motor-bicycle”. Something tells me that you’re not up for that, are ya’…

      • Mick says:

        No. I reserve the right to be sane. If you want to confuse the meaning of the word “motorcycle” in your own mind. You go right ahead. You’ll never confuse me as to what a motorcycle is or is not. The above contraption is NOT a motorcycle.

  11. mechanicus says:

    Nahh, nope.


  12. Grover says:

    I would t get too excited about this this concept bike as it’s mostly just a response to YAMAHA’s latest 3-wheelers that have left Kawasaki with nothing to show. The video above is about 5 years old and nothing in it has changed. More complicated and more expensive….is that the future of motorcycling?

    • Bob S. says:

      Re: “More complicated and more expensive….is that the future of motorcycling?”

      If the technical advances of the last 20 years is any indication of the future. The answer is yes. After 55 years of riding and purchasing new bikes, I’m no longer a candidate for the purchase of any new motorcycle.

  13. Norm G. says:

    well if they DO eventually build 3-wheeled kit i suspect it was based of someone originally in Kawasaki America relaying back to Japan that there was a kids toy in U.S. culture called the Green Machine (circa 1975). those Parker Bros lads that did the TRON bike, actually built a full size version of this also, cause oddly that’s what this J-concept seems to evoke. only a few MD OG’s may even remember this…

    • Scott says:

      Front wheel drive AND rear steering…

      Oooohhh, they missed it by *that* much!

    • John A. Kuzmenko says:

      I remember that toy being sold, and I think I remember the TV commercials.
      Nice plastic racing slicks, and designed by Karl Marx, too.

  14. jimmihaffa says:

    It’s certainly conceptually interesting as an alternative mode of unshrouded transportation. Still, this design seems to raise more questions than it solves. What I can see as beneficial includes the high degree of ability to adapt riding position/posture to the road requirements (lean at speed, upright in traffic) as well as to alleviate fatigue. The three wheel configuration appears to achieve the stability of a car without compromising the thrill of centripetal lean and turning dynamics of a motorcycle. My biggest concern is the relation of human biomechanics with the mechanism of steering which requires asymmetric vertical arm movement that pushes against resistance and lifts against gravity. Even with a good deal of power assistance, I foresee this as becoming quite exhausting after numerous turns and steering corrections. Conventional horizontal handlebar steering or even vertical handlebars with wrist rotation for steering may be better alternatives.

  15. Joe says:

    What’s with all the naysaying ?!
    Did you ever think you’d see a 296hp motorcycle from a major manufacturer ? ( forget the fact that’s it’s track only. )
    I think Kawasaki has tasted the public excitement generated for their brand with the ridiculously radical H2 and H2R and they’d like to keep it rolling.
    I think they see that kind of forward thinking as a very important hook for their future..
    It appears we’re getting leaning trikes and they want to be riding the crest of that new wave, yes , hopefully with a firm standing on their heritage

    • Rhinestone Kawboy says:

      …Public excitement generated by the H2 and H2R? Not in this area, in fact the largest bike dealer in the area (which is a multi-million in inventory dealer) won’t even get one in unless they are already paid for, and of that he said he had only one taker. The H2 and H2R are just too expensive to buy for many, and no doubt, worse yet to insure. So, at least in this area, they are a non-starter. Don’t think this 3 wheeler would be any better.

      • PatrickD says:

        There was plenty of excitement for the H2 & H2R, and the 2018 H2SX will see lots of that technology and cool feeding down to mass consumption.
        Fair-dos to Kawasaki for delivering on a concept.
        Not sure when we’ll see this one, but I didn’t give the yamaha 3-wheeler much of a chance until it actually happened.

  16. Buzzard says:

    It’s not for me. Kawasaki can do better than that. It’s only concept. I do give credit though, it doesn’t hurt to keep trying and receive constructive criticism. In time they’ll have a winner. They’re a great company.

  17. WSHart says:

    More turdpole than tadpole trike. Sheesh! Looks like the motorcycle equivalent of vaporware If Kawasaki wants to raise their profit margin in the near future they need to look more to their own storied past. W850 with tubeless spoke wheels, 5 gallon tank, triple disc brakes with ABS standard.

    500cc triple homage to their own triples or a new GPz550, either one made modern with a standard seating position to go with standard triple disc brakes and ABS. 5 gallon tank.

    And for Buddha’s sake, update the KLR650 with fuel injection at the very least. Talk about being cheap?!

    Make a Scrambler 350 to 450 (do NOT go bigger, it’s NOT needed in the real world except by egotistical priapic babies) based on one of your own but with modern tech! And every bike made for the street should have ride-by-wire STANDARD. There’s plenty of older riders out there that remember their childhood and Scramblers from every marque would do just that. WTF none of the Japanese have so much as dipped a toe in that cash-stream?

    Small bore motors are anything but boring and a Scrambler would be an E-Ticket to a lot of guys past. Such a bike, if made with attention to detail (no TUBES) no dinky tanks (anyone else remember having to put a “desert tank” on their bike to get some range?) and style that is not a knockoff of some other manufacturer.

    If you want to do a three wheeler, fine and dandy but that’s not your bread and butter. Your history will fund your future a whole lot better than that fugly Tronish thing you’re showing.

    Kawasaki and Suzuki could easily get the jump on Honda and Yamaha by doing this. Or they can keep on putting this thing out there for a few to fawn over and the rest to ignore. The 900RS is a wheel in the right direction.

  18. Rae says:

    Looks pretty much a CGI vision. Not quite sure how the track shifting from the right side rear tire to the left side rear tire when turning is going to work for great handling.

    Shape shifting – not on my want list!

  19. ABQ says:

    It looks like it would make a nice jazzy scooter for the disabled.

    • Grover says:

      If it’s electric you could ride it straight into Walmart in the upright position and insert a shopping cart between the front wheels. Who said there’s no market for such a machine?

  20. steveinsandiego says:

    sigh, just don’t see my le–, um, arms wrapped around a three-wheeler.

  21. william says:

    I have experienced what I think is the original point. In college I would be walking back from campus and a guy I knew had a motorcycle. During some times of the week he would always pass me by and we lived in the same complex. He pulled over to give me a ride one time and I took it, but I had no helmet. He actually started to put an extra helmet on a strap later. We both preferred to have helmets, but you have to plan ahead, and I had no helmet. It was not convenient for him to have that extra helmet there.

    The other point made above is very important. A rider on the back that does not sit still or moves at the wrong time can be a terrible thing, and can make you crash. Giving a ride is a risk.

  22. Norm G. says:

    re: “Kawasaki is serious about manufacturing something similar in the future.”

    but wait, it’s 2018 and 5 years later so the future is NOW innit.

    K-Heavy please tell me there’s something you want to show us besides more CGI video…?

  23. Crazyjoe says:

    Attack mode? Whatever happened to the giving someone the finger? I get it. Someone cuts you off and you give him about a quarter mile then switch to attack mode while accelerating to 120 and avoid rear ending him in the last split second. Avoidance optional depending how angry you are. Awesome.

  24. Tom R says:

    Coming to the next Tron movie.

  25. william says:

    My theory: Kawasaki thinks Yamaha is trying to get advertising and make a show that they are going to create a new 3-wheel vehicle or that Yamaha is leading the industry. So Kawasaki thought they had to respond by releasing some information about their own 3-wheeler. But Kawasaki has no intention to actually make one, and has little designs complete to even be able to release anything. Whether Yamaha is all for show I guess we have to wait. I can hope Kawasaki is not all for show because I have bought their stuff before and liked it, but I think in this case their 3-wheeler is all show.

  26. gsbeliever says:

    Couldn’t be moe pleased that Kaw and Yam are developing 3 wheelers with tilting front ends, these models will keep more baby boomers riding. As for Bill’s comment, I cringe every time I see a helmet less motorcyclist, especially in this era of distracted drivers. Best and safest way to get people riding is to start them off road riding.

    • Hot Dog says:

      I think the best riders are the ones that grew up on dirt bikes. They seem to develop a sense of balance, handling and response earlier than those that just start out on pavement.

      • MGNorge says:

        Those are my thoughts but then I grew up riding in the dirt first. I’ve always felt that off-road presented more challenges in bike control under more varying conditions than road riding does. Get that under your belt and road riding is just tacking on defensive driving/riding techniques plus self preservation skills. In other words, bike control and handling will be more second nature while you’re watching out for the other guy!

  27. Bill says:

    If I were a young person now , I don’t think I would be tempted to buy a bike. The helmet laws have made it too hard to give a friend a ride to the store and get them hooked on how much fun riding a bike is. This has created a divide between riders and non-riders. This is just my opinion.

    • Austin ZZR 1200 says:

      and that is relevant to this story…. how?

    • Randy D. says:

      That is just your opinion and I think it is stupid. Anyone considering to ride a bike, scooter, trike, quad of any kind with no rollbar or roof should be aware doing it w/o a helmet is very dangerous. If I bought a Spyder or CanAm trike I would wear a helmet.

      • Bill says:

        I thought the general discussion was growing the rider base through new and different designs. I did not mean to imply that riders should ride without a helmet; only that it is harder to share the fun of riding with a non-rider when you have to carry a spare helmet with you if you want to give someone a ride. JMHO

        • motowarrior says:

          So, I guess there is no fun involved in riding when you wear a helmet. Not much fun involved either when your new passenger, who has zero experience riding pillion, either falls off or makes a move that causes you to crash, leading to them receiving a traumatic brain injury. Not a great way to grow the rider base.

    • MGNorge says:

      We rode mini-bikes (illegally) on suburban city streets and in the dirt without helmets and a few paid the price when they found how vulnerable one’s head and face are. I think most all of us learned that lesson even before riding motorcycles. It’s really as much a comfort thing for me as it is protection. A well fitting helmet is comfortable and goes a long way toward keeping the wind sound pressure from hurting the ears. I finish it off with some good ear plugs and I’m good for hours. I may end up with a bad case of helmet hair but that’s more of a branding than a problem. I couldn’t imagine riding without a helmet.

      • EGS says:

        As kid we also rode mini bikes and we thought it was cool to wear helmets to be like our racing idols. They were football helmets but better than nothing I suppose. Those of us who graduated into motorcycles also graduated into proper 3/4 helmets and goggles. Who didn’t want to look like those cool guys in On Any Sunday?

        And as far as the concept, I’ll pay more attention when it’s something more than a CGI video.

    • Jeremy in TX says:

      I think his point is that fewer people are exposed to what it might be like to ride a motorcycle for this reason. He doesn’t condone riding without a helmet or flip two fingers at helmet laws. Lighten up, peeps.

      Despite what you may think of that opinion, I’ve lived many years in states that do not have helmet laws. I have met several people who started riding because someone gave then a ride on a motorcycle. Whether they took their first ride with or without a helmet or whether the lack of legal restrictions created opportunities for those first rides, I can’t say. That is in fact how I got interested myself. There could be some relevance to his opinion.

      • mickey says:

        When I started street riding in 1965 we didn’t have a helmet law in our state (and as of 1978, those who have an mc endorsement for a year still don’t have to wear them.) Almost no one wore helmets then (or now for that matter). In the 50’s and 60’s, some of the Harley guys wore these little boat captain looking cloth hats with leather bills. The ones that did wear helmets wore 1/2 helmets. Open face were available with flat or bubble shields but weren’t very popular but became commonplace for those that wore helmets in the early to mid 70’s. Full face helmets hadn’t been invented when I first started riding and really didn’t come into their own until 15 years later. what I’m saying is in the early-mid 60’s EVERY kid in Ohio got their first motorcycle rides without a helmet.

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