A few weeks ago, Maxxmoto sent me a message. “Jean, Niken test. What do you say?” The Yamaha Niken? That three-wheeled creature that got labelled “the Multipla of motorcycles” online? What do I say? Yes, of course! Because I really doubted Yamaha would release such a controversial machine if they didn’t believe in it for 200%. On top of that, the reactions, photos and videos after the first press introduction were very promising. So off I went, together with a dozen of other curious helmet heads, for a speed date with the Niken.
Whichever way you look at it, the Niken has an odd appearance. It’s not easy to get used to those three wheels. So it makes (sort of) sense that people dislike it, based on looks alone. And if you have a motorcycle license, why would you want two front wheels!? Plenty of prejudices, so it’s time to ride!
The first few meters leaving the parking lot feel weird. There’s no doubt that you’re manipulating two front wheels that are guided by a bulky construction including two forks per wheel (which makes four in total!). It’s not just getting used to, you really have to steer that thing in the direction you want.
But as soon as the speed slightly increases, everything changes. And a new world opens up. This is a motorcycle, but a different kind. The front end offers a lot of grip, so you can crack through corners faster than you think you”ll ever do with your usual two-wheeler. When the road is dirty, wet or uneven, the stunning amount of grip becomes even clearer. On the Niken you don’t have to hold back in corners. Nope, just go hard. It’s so easy.
The engine also helps making things easy: with the 115 hp triple that we remember from the Yamaha Tracer 900, the Niken has a phenomenal power source.
The Niken’s rear sometimes has a hard time following. The front’s to blame for that, because it offers you so much grip. As a result, you get a lot of confidence in corners, so you’ll open the throttle earlier and harder than you normally would. As a consequence the rear wheel sometimes steps out. Not a problem, luckily, the front pulls you back into the right track. And if you like a stepping out rear: you can switch off the traction control.
The Niken’s lean angle is 45 degrees, which seems to be enough for sporty riding. But during my 1,5 hour test drive, I leaned deeper than 45 degrees more than once. The scraping of the foot pegs were hard to ignore. Which demonstrates just how fast you adapt to the distinctive riding style of the Niken, and how little time you need to reach its limits (and its foot pegs), even on a road surface where you wouldn’t even consider searching the limits of your two-wheeled motorcycle.
Short recap: I was pretty stunned by the Yamaha Niken. It offers a unique cornering experience thanks to the generous grip of the dual front wheels and the confidence you build. In combination with the 847 cc three-cylinder engine: fireworks guaranteed. I’m very curious to discover how it does on the racetrack (even though it wasn’t built with that purpose in mind) and in a hairpin paradise. Maybe I should try to get one for a longer period and a more extensive review. Hello Yamaha?
Photography: Jonathan Godin, Julien Mahiels.
Thanks to Maxxmoto for the invite.