Motorcycle.com

UPDATE: We’ve added a couple of shots of the Yamaha Niken from the Tokyo Motor Show.

Yamaha has unveiled a new, interesting three-wheeled sportbike, or perhaps more appropriately, sport-trike, this morning at the 45th annual Tokyo Motor Show. Based on the MWT-9 concept that was revealed around this time two years ago and featuring Leaning Multi-Wheeler (LMW) technology, Yamaha calls it the ‘Niken.’

In Japanese, ‘ni’ means two and ‘ken’ translates to sword, a befitting name of the dual-wheeled front end. The Niken pairs matching 15-inch wheels with inverted dual-tube forks and measures 885mm wide, or roughly 35 inches. In addition to the two wheels up front, the Niken features a conventional rear end and is powered by an 847cc inline-triple derived from the FZ-09’s engine. Three wheels, three cylinders – makes sense.

Yamaha claims that their LMW technology is designed to “reduce the effects of changing ride environments and to deliver a high feeling of stability when cornering.” In theory, with twice the traction up front, the Niken should certainly brake faster (oxymorons, hehe), offer more stability and be less likely to wash out in a turn compared to a traditional motorcycle, however, this is yet to be determined as lean angle is questionable at this point and us moto-journalist types haven’t gotten our greedy hands on one to see how far it can be pushed, yet. With an additional contact patch, forget about dragging knee, I want to see this thing drag its handlebars.

It’s a cool idea and looks well engineered, but do performance sportbike enthusiasts really want an extra wheel up front? No, and that’s not to mention the extra weight and complexity of the whole apparatus.

This begs the question, who is Yamaha targeting with the Niken? Perhaps aging riders who want a ‘bike’ with more stability than a normal sportbike, but smaller and more agile than say, a Can-Am Spyder? Or the younger millennials contemplating taking up motorcycling that might be afraid to learn how to ride a proper motorcycle thinking the Niken will be safer? Only time will tell…

Three-wheeled motorcycles are not a new concept. Piaggio has its MP3 scooters that are very popular, particularly in Europe, where a scooter is considered an all-season, all-weather vehicle.  The added traction and stability in inclement weather in this instance is a major plus. For a sportbike though? The additional weight alone classifies it as less sporty. Perhaps the technology would be better suited for a sport-tourer, but we will have to see for ourselves just how this thing really handles.

MO will be seeing the Niken in person at its official unveiling in Milan on November 6th and we’ll provide all the exciting details as they’re announced. The Niken will be going into production and will likely be the first Yamaha trike coming to the US. Hopefully we’ll even get to swing a leg over this thing one day and throw it into some corners, so stay tuned!