A Look at the Yamaha Niken Leaning Multi-Wheel Trike

Two is good, but three is…coming soon.

2018 Yamaha Niken
Yamaha’s new Niken shows off its independent front suspension, which allows the rider to lean into corners as on a traditional two-wheeled motorcycle.Yamaha

Back in the early months of 2017, it was uncovered that Yamaha was finally making a push to refine the design of its large-capacity, leaning three-wheel trike concept. First seen in 2015, and dubbed the "MWT-9," patents began to reveal the skeleton of what Yamaha at the time described as, "A cornering master, effectively merging a three-cylinder 850cc engine with a seamless and dynamically styled body."

Yamaha’s original press statement went on to spotlight the extra traction and cornering stability provided by the twin front wheels, which at the time had already been seen on the company’s 125cc Tricity, a multi-wheeled trike that was unveiled at EICMA for the European market in 2013.

This new leaning trike, however, looks to be far more aggressive than the humble Tricity—and the best part is we’re about to see a production model. Yamaha has now stated that its newest multi-wheeled vehicle, officially named the Niken, will be unveiled at this year’s EICMA show in Italy, and the technical details are beginning to emerge.

Yamaha's new Niken trike will be powered by an liquid-cooled, DOHC, four-valve-per-cylinder inline-triple that's based around the thrilling, feisty FZ-09 powerplant. The Niken will also be equipped with what Yamaha is calling "LMW technology", said to reduce the effects of changing ride environments thereby assisting stability. Yamaha also said the body design will make full use of the front-end suspension mechanism, pairing 15-inch front wheels with dual-tube (yes, you read that correctly) upside-down forks, blending style and function. Exactly what the functionality of the twin-tube fork is remains a mystery, but rest assured we'll have an answer soon.

2018 Yamaha Niken
Notice the two separate tubes on each front fork—the specific details of will be detailed during the official release of the Niken at this year’s EICMA show.Yamaha

Traditional three-wheeled trikes were usually conversions that added a rear axle to an existing motorcycle frame, removing the rider's need to use their feet to stabilize the vehicle at low speeds. During quicker cornering, however, centrifugal force will act against gravitational force, causing this antiquated design to become unstable. Reverse trikes, such as Can-Am's Spyder, aim to combat this by placing two wheels at the front of the vehicle. This shifts mass across a wider area under braking, resulting in better traction.

One of the coolest parts about leaning trikes, however, is the fact that you regain some of the feel of a two-wheeled motorcycle and are able to steer by countersteering. The extra traction of the added wheel mixed with the agility and control mean you can push a leaning trike harder as well. Presently, this is most apparent in Piaggio's MP3, which is currently available on the US market. The rider leans into the corner, and the front wheels both remain on the ground as the scooter's body leans. It feels surprisingly akin to a traditional motorcycle whether you're riding at a fast or slow pace, and rather easy to forget that the third wheel is even there.

Throw a proven 850cc inline-triple engine into the mix, combine that with a manual gearbox, and now you’ve got the basis of Yamaha’s new Niken. We can’t wait to get our hands on one, but for the (hopefully) short while remaining, we’ll have to make do with watching this promotional video from Yamaha that showcases the design and performance of the new machine: