Yamaha Niken Three-Wheeler Takes On The Alps

The On Two Wheels team talk trikes, sidecars, and three-wheeled wheelies

Yamaha's new three-wheeled Niken isn't a new concept. Ever since motorcycles were invented, people have been adding a third wheel. Sidecars are arguably the first idea that caught on—bolt a passenger compartment with a wheel to the side of a regular motorcycle and you have extra transportation for a person or cargo. Over time, three wheelers have taken many forms, from adding an axle to the rear end of a motorcycle (like the Harley-Davidson Servi-Car or Tri Glide) to essentially having an automobile with one front wheel (like the famous Reliant Robin).

The reasons were just as varied. In times of war, sidecars were small and easy to manufacture, but could carry soldiers and equipment efficiently. In some parts of the world there was a time when a three-wheeled vehicle was much cheaper to insure and own—meaning if you could pay less but still get your family to church without getting wet, it made sense. Whether it was making ends meet in austere times or pushing the enemy line back for another day, three-wheelers have been hauling people and ideas for more than a century now.

With Yamaha's Niken, the motivation to add a third wheel boils down to one word: grip. This three-wheeler isn't about cargo capacity or saving on registration or insurance or even getting new riders to hop in the saddle. The Niken is the result of a goal to build a bike with loads of front-end grip. Was Yamaha successful? We headed to Austria to find out, and returned with this On Two Wheels video review.