Live With This: 2019 Yamaha Niken GT Long-Term Review

Evans Brasfield
by Evans Brasfield

A motorcycle by any other name...

Ah, long-term test bikes. Oh, how we love them. And then we have to give them back, creating a void in our stable. Well, that time has come for the 2019 Niken GT that Yamaha has so kindly let us hold onto for lo these many months. What have we learned, boys and girls? The Niken GT works great in any job you’d ask of a sport-tourer or a commuter motorcycle. In fact, if you ignore the funny looks from passersby and don’t look down at the wide fairing in front of you, you really can’t tell that the Niken is a leaning multi-wheeled vehicle instead of your standard two-wheeled fare. Just ignore the Doubting Thomases and embrace the Niken as a motorcycle because in every meaningful way – save one, and that’s to its advantage – it behaves exactly like a motorcycle.

What’s not to love about the Niken’s 897cc Triple? It gets the job done and sounds great in the process.

If you live in or plan on spending any significant time in parts of the country where rains are frequent, the advantages of dual front wheels outweigh any perceived disadvantages. Yes, the front end adds weight and cost (The Niken GT retails for $17,299 where a Tracer 900 GT – with waterproof, locking hard bags – will only set you back $12,999.), but that won’t seem like that much when your front wheel loses traction in the wet. Spending two days in the rain at the Niken GT’s introduction won me over. I was able to carry speeds and lean angles in the wet that I wouldn’t have attempted without dedicated rain tires on two wheels. The Niken is that good. You don’t need for me to rehash my opinion, you can read it here.

2019 Yamaha Niken GT Review – First Ride

Associate Editor, Ryan Adams, spent some quality time with the Niken GT, and here is what he thinks about it:

After covering many miles on the Niken GT, it’s a bike that, when in my garage, still leaves me reaching for the keys when heading out the door regardless of what I’m headed out to do.

I’ve commuted through the worst rush hour traffic LA has to offer and lane split my way past much smaller motorcycles with the Niken GT. I came across an industry colleague and friend near Santa Monica on Los Angeles’ treacherous 405 freeway one day and made my way past him. Later, he messaged me and said, “I guess you can lane split on that thing.” Heck yeah you can! It’s no wider than an Indian Roadmaster or other big touring bikes and is much more nimble. When you need to, and you may while lane splitting in LA, you can brake hard AF with the two front contact patches too, which brings welcome piece of mind when some A-hole jumps the double yellow in front of you.

What’s not to love about that cool front end?

Two-up with the wifey, the Niken remains composed and is comfortable for both parties. I’d recommend bumping up the rear preload if you plan on riding or touring with a passenger, which is easily done via a knob on the left side of the bike. I was told the cush backseat was quite comfortable, and aside from lacking a backrest of some sort, my better half commended the Niken’s passenger accommodations.

After watching our videographer, a gimbal-mounted camera in one hand and a death grip on the passenger handle in the other, manage to stay on the back of the Niken GT as our own Evans Brasfield mercilessly blitzed through curvaceous mountain roads on a shoot recently, I think Yamaha’s three-wheeler might even have a job in Hollywood production. Maybe we’ll hold off on that recommendation until we see the video.

Need to stop quickly? Two contact patches help, though the initial bite of the brakes could be stronger.

If there were any major changes I would make to future versions of the Niken GT, it would be a larger motor. Don’t get it twisted, I love the Triple powerplant and have had two of my own previously, but with touring in mind and the weight of that front end in consideration, I would rather have a bit more oomph to propel Yamaha’s Leaning Multi-Wheel System.

Road Test Editor, Troy Siahaan, is the MO fast guy, and naturally, he looks at the Niken GT from a performance perspective. He came away impressed:

If there are two words to describe the Niken (or Niken GT), it would be Confidence Inspiring. With those two wheels in the front, it’s next to impossible to tuck the front, and with the TC engaged, ham fisters will have to try really hard to highside. In short, it’s nearly crash proof! (Legal disclaimer: You CAN still crash on a Niken, don’t think that you can’t.) But for a sport-touring rig, or even a daily commuter, it’s great. You can go miles in total comfort, and that MT-09 Triple will happily scoot you along. Slap an exhaust on it and the three-cylinder song will sound even better. Once the road gets twisty, or the weather turns sour – or both – you can ride confidently knowing it will be really hard to get the Niken out of shape. This makes it a good commuter, too, as panic situations have a lower chance of ending up with you on the ground. Best of all, it’s still narrow enough to split lanes (assuming the practice is legal in your neck of the woods).

While the GT’s saddlebags look nice and are quite useful, one would think that a bike, which has as one of it primary selling points its improved front end traction in inclement weather, would have waterproof bags.

So, our takeaway from the extended loan of the 2019 Niken GT is that it is a great motorcycle – leaning multi-wheeled vehicle label be damned. I struggle to understand why some riders are so resistant to the Niken. Yes, it looks different, but that difference has a purpose. Now, we don’t see that much rain in our SoCal base, but I think that, if I were in the market for a sport-tourer and lived in the Northwest or anywhere in the East (with the weather currently happening), the Niken GT would be at the top of my list.

My biggest complaint with the GT is still the fact that it doesn’t come with waterproof, locking saddlebags. For a bike that has wet weather performance as one of its biggest selling points, this is still a major oversight. The locking, color-matched bags of the Tracer 900 GT are just waiting to be used on the Niken GT. Perhaps this will happen in 2020.

Until then, so long Yamaha Niken GT. Thanks for all the (s)miles.

Evans Brasfield
Evans Brasfield

Like most of the best happenings in his life, Evans stumbled into his motojournalism career. While on his way to a planned life in academia, he applied for a job at a motorcycle magazine, thinking he’d get the opportunity to write some freelance articles. Instead, he was offered a full-time job in which he discovered he could actually get paid to ride other people’s motorcycles – and he’s never looked back. Over the 25 years he’s been in the motorcycle industry, Evans has written two books, 101 Sportbike Performance Projects and How to Modify Your Metric Cruiser, and has ridden just about every production motorcycle manufactured. Evans has a deep love of motorcycles and believes they are a force for good in the world.

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2 of 29 comments
  • John phyyt John phyyt on Jul 24, 2019

    How did front tires wear ?
    Was it even?
    How many miles did you do?
    Can they go out of alignment?

  • Isthatahemi1979 Isthatahemi1979 on Feb 02, 2020

    After owning many toys (if it exists, I've probably ridden the tires off it.). I'm 40 and have a business and enough money to do what I want and buy what I want. Not crashing is a higher priority for me, grinding the pegs off is #2. The Niken is spectacular, comfortable, and the most fun of the plethora of toys, motorcycles, ATV's, sleds, etc that I've ridden. If they discontinue it, I'll buy a spare for when the first one is used up. Don't believe the haters and don't be one. For the hardcore (non-poseur) rider, the Niken is king.