A First Look At Yamaha’s Leany Delta Trike

Yamaha looks to redefine what we think of when we hear the word “trike.” We had a taste with Piaggio’s MP3 scooter that used a clever parallelogram to articulate the front end so it can lean into the turns like a two-wheeler. Now we have the all-new Niken (literally: two sword) that brings the leaning trike concept into the realm of full-size bikes. Based on the popular FZ/MT-09, the Niken LMW (Leaning Multi-Wheel) doubles the size (and number) of the front contact patch(es) for greater safety and traction with the proven 847 cc Crossplane Concept engine to drive the thing. With over 100 ponies on tap and its fancy front end with gobs of traction, the Niken seems set to deliver a ride that is limited only by your own skills and testicular fortitude. The Tuning Fork Company has teased us with hints and nuggets over the last year and more, and finally we get to take a good long look at this new way to build a trike. Hopefully the liars, er, lawyers will stay out of it this time.

Continue reading for my first look at the Yamaha Niken.

  • 2019 Yamaha Niken
  • Year:
    2019
  • Make:
  • Model:
  • Engine:
    inline-3
  • Displacement:
    847 cc

Design

As for the front end, it works great, but it's going to take some getting used to the looks for sure.

Yamaha heads into uncharted waters with the innovative Niken design that carries far more equipment up front than we are used to seeing, to say the very least. A short, wide fairing leads the way with a pair of LED headlights that come braced by LED markers/DRLs beneath a spoiler/brow that gives it a slightly pissed-off visage. A stylishly cut vented windshield helps break the weather off the instruments for sure, but it probably does little to aid in rider comfort, in fact, I doubt it’s even large enough to form an air pocket you can tuck into when you really want to get moving. Oh well, so what? A tourbike it ain’t, and there’s nothing wrong with a bit of a raw ride.

The sides of the front fairing come with exaggerated cutouts that look much like wheel wells and fenders on a small automobile, no doubt necessary to make room for the major motion of the front-end components. It’s much wider up front than you would expect with a sportbike, or even a sport-tourer, but falls more in line with non sport-type tour fairings, so while there are definitely some anomalous features to be found on the front end, it isn’t entirely out of shape.

Moving aft from the fairing the lines take on a much more recognizable shape with a typical fuel-tank hump and chiseled seat that sports a slight rise to the pillion to form a dam to keep the rider’s butt from sliding off the back. JC handles and flip-out passenger pegs finish up the pillion hardware, and the taillight comes incorporated with the tip of the tail with small standoff turn signals to complete the rear lighting.

A combination hugger/plateholder contains the spray from the rear wheel and keeps the rear end nice and clean, which is great, ’cause too many manufacturers make a nice-looking bike, then ruin the look with a great-big-honkin’ rear fender. All-in-all, it ain’t a bad look, especially from the handlebars back. As for the front end, it works great, but it’s going to take some getting used to the looks for sure.

Chassis

2019 Yamaha Niken
- image 741651
If you have the nerve and the testicular fortitude to go for it, the 45-degree lean angle provides plenty of agility.

Yamaha is still keeping its cards close to the vest on a lot of details, and a lot of the holes in the picture are centered around the up-front gear. Here’s what we do know; the frame and gull-wing swingarm are a hybrid beast with steel tubing and aluminum reinforcement in the swingarm-pivot area. Sounds backwards, but whatever guys.

A 50-50 weight split and 45-degree lean angle (if you have the nerve) provides plenty of agility with a 16.1-inch spread on the front wheels that provides the static stability Delta-trike riders are looking for. Wheel diameters are also known, and while the 17-inch rear hoop is fairly standard for sportbikes, the pair of 15-inchers up front are pushing the bottom of the range for “proper” motorcycle use.

The details on the quartet of usd front stems are a little thin yet, but a horizontal Monocross shock comes tucked away under the seat with the full array of adjustments to tame the boomerang-shaped swingarm out back. Four-pot calipers bite the pair of front brake discs — one on the outside of each of the front wheels — with a 298 mm disc in back and ABS protection all the way ’round.

One of the things I think a lot of folks are wondering about is how it will handle. Well, I’m happy to report that it countersteers much like a two-wheeler, and thus should have a rather flat learning curve for experienced riders looking to shift to something a little different.

Suspension / Front: TBD
Suspension / Rear: TBD
Brakes / Front: TBD
Brakes / Rear: 298mm hydraulic disc; ABS
Tires / Front: Dual 120/70R15
Tire / Rear: 190/55R17

Drivetrain

2019 Yamaha Niken
- image 741643
It's an FZ-09 engine. Sweet, but that's not the most interesting part of the bike.

Yamaha pushes the Niken with its 847 cc CP3 powerplant. The water-cooled inline-three cranks out something around 115 ponies at the shaft (depending upon whose dyno you ask) at 10 grand, with 65 pound-feet of torque at 8,500 rpm. Decidedly oversquare, the bore and stroke measure out at 78 mm and 59.1 mm respectively with a ceramic cylinder treatment meant to resist wear. Dual overhead cams time the four poppets in each combustion chamber, and the YCC-T fuel injection works with the three dissimilar-length intake tracts for a wider torque band without going to the trouble of building a variable-length intake.

Since it’s a RbW throttle control, you also get some electronical [sic] yumminess in the form of a variable power-delivery feature Yammy calls the D-Mode that lets you cycle between three different modes to allow you to dial in for conditions and preference. A dual-mode traction control provides even more flexibility and safety with varying levels of intervention based on the wheel slip and current mode.

A six-speed transmission crunches the ratios with a slip-and-assist clutch that provides an easy pull at the lever and some wheel-hop protection as well, and the Quick Shifter lets you jam the gears without first rolling off the throttle for truly aggressive acceleration.

Engine Type: 847cc liquid-cooled, DOHC, inline 3-cylinder; 12 valves
Bore x Stroke: 78.0mm x 59.1mm
Compression Ratio: 11.5:1
Fuel Delivery: Fuel injection with YCC-T
Ignition: TCI: Transistor Controlled Ignition
Transmission: 6-speed; miltiplate assist and slipper clutch
Final Drive: Chain

Pricing

2019 Yamaha Niken
- image 741653
Price is TBA for the foreseeable future. Any guesses on what it might be?

Yamaha lists the Niken as a 2019 model, and it doesn’t plan on making it available for public consumption until mid-2018, so the fact that the price is still TBA at this time shouldn’t be a problem for anyone.

Warranty: TBD
Color: Granite Gray
Price: TBD

Competitors

2019 Yamaha Niken
- image 741654
There are a few aftermarket leany-trike front ends out there, and some fixed-front Deltas that don't lean at all, but nothing in the way of a serious competitor yet.

A true head-to-head ain’t gonna’ happen just yet. There are a few aftermarket leany-trike front ends out there, and some fixed-front Deltas that don’t lean at all, but nothing in the way of a direct competitor yet. What about Spyder you say? Well, since the Niken will actually lean and carve, I expect it will appeal to a different kind of rider. Same with the Harley-Davidson Freewheeler; it’s kind of a stoplight burner, but all its performance is in a straight line with nothing in the way of cornering ability, thus making it an entirely different animal once you get past the three wheels they all have in common.

Honda has been teasing with the Neowing for a hot minute now, but it looks like Yamaha has beat them to the punch. Speaking of Harley, they patented a leaning Delta back in ’07, so we may see something from them yet. In short, the Niken has the full-size leany-Delta market all to itself for the time being.

He Said

“Ugly as a homemade mud fence, says I. Not just that, but the front end looks improbable at best even though I know the factory did its homework and the thing works just fine. Nevermind the looks, I feel like the takeaway here is that finally we have an alternative for folks who want/need to ride on three wheels but don’t want to give up the sensation of flying we get when we lean deep into a corner. Even if the Niken is ultimately a flop, it’s thrown the doors open and showed the world what some of the possibilities are. I expect those doors will actually be more like floodgates before it’s all said and done.”

She Said

My wife and fellow motorcycle writer, Allyn Hinton, says, "Oh, I so disagree with my husbands assessment of the looks. I think the Niken is one bad-ass ride. I was disappointed when the Tricity dropped off the planet — okay, maybe that was just out of the North American market — because I thought that was so awesome, and the Niken is even better. I seriously want to test ride one of these. Put me on the list."

Specifications

Engine & Drivetrain:
Engine Type: 847cc liquid-cooled, DOHC, inline 3-cylinder; 12 valves
Bore x Stroke: 78.0mm x 59.1mm
Compression Ratio: 11.5:1
Fuel Delivery: Fuel injection with YCC-T
Ignition: TCI: Transistor Controlled Ignition
Transmission: 6-speed; miltiplate assist and slipper clutch
Final Drive: Chain
Chassis:
Suspension / Front: TBD
Suspension / Rear: TBD
Brakes / Front: TBD
Brakes / Rear: 298mm hydraulic disc; ABS
Tires / Front: Dual 120/70R15
Tire / Rear: 190/55R17
Dimensions & Capacites:
L x W x H: TBD
Fuel Capacity: TBD
Seat Height: TBD
Wheelbase: TBD
Track: 16.1 in
Rake (Caster): TBD
Trail: TBD
Maximum Ground Clearance: 5.9 in
Fuel Economy: TBD
Wet Weight: TBD
Details:
Warranty: TBD
Color: Granite Gray
Price: TBD

All images featured on this website are copyrighted to their respective rightful owners. No infringement is intended. Image Source: yamaha-motor.com

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