2019 Yamaha NIKEN 3 Wheeler: Our Dystopian Future Never Looked So Good

Mars sure is pretty this time of year.

Originally shown at the 2017 Tokyo Motor show in October,Yamaha confirmed during the EICMA show this week in Milan that they are indeed going to release the 2019 Yamaha NIKEN. ETA right now is summer of 2018 so that gives you plenty of time to study Mars’ climate and geology. You may want to trim it up a bit as well if you want to fit into that old space suit you’ve been storing in the closest.

“I wonder how long it will take to get to the Olympus Mons from here?”

Leaning 3 wheelers are not actually something new.

Piaggio was actually the first to market a leaning 3 wheeled scooter over 10 years ago.

Piaggio released the original MP3 in 2006

Doesn’t look much different today compared to it’s original release in 2006

When the original MP3 was released in 2006, critics and the general public were not even sure what they were looking at or what Piaggio was even thinking. There was a lot of speculation at the time as to whether Piaggio was answering a question that nobody ever asked. I am usually the first to criticize the Piaggio group of brands for their lack of evolution and always playing it safe with their product lines. Year after year it’s basically just BNC (bold new colors) with the occasional special edition thrown in for good measure but honestly they really hung it all out there when they released the MP3. That risk clearly reaped them the rewards as now they are the forefather of a whole new transportation category.

Why didn’t Piaggio release a motorcycle based on the MP3?

If you really think about it, the Piaggio group (vast and far reaching as it is) does not have any brands where this type of a machine would have fit. Can you even imagine a Moto Guzzi 3 wheeler? How about an Aprilia? Ok, that second one is a little less of a stretch and they certainly could have done something with Aprilia that incorporated some really aggressive styling. So why didn’t they? the technology was already there and tested in their successful range of MP3 models. Pair that with an Aprilia engine, design some bodywork and Bob’s your Uncle.

Yamaha Enters the Leaning 3 Wheeler Market

Enjoy this crazy video depicting samurais, skiing on pavement and the NIKEN:

I have already read quite a few articles about this decision and it definitely hearkens back to the same response Piaggio got when they released the MP3. Critics unfamiliar with the MP3’s release are already asking if Yamaha answered the question nobody was asking and I can’t blame them. The idea of a 3 wheeled motorcycle or scooter is still odd to me and I have had years to get comfortable with the MP3 being a thing.

What cannot be disputed is that the MP3 has been a success. People that might never have ridden a motorcycle or scooter are now carving the canyons with the best of them and people that thought they would never ride a 3 wheeled motorcycle or scooter are now among it’s loudest supporters. So given that information, I can only speculate that the new 2019 Yamaha NIKEN will also share in that success.

Yamaha has been interested in adding an extra wheel or 2 to motorcycles for a number of years

This curiosity goes all the way back to the 2007 Tokyo Motor Show when Yamaha unveiled the Tesseract, a 4 wheeled motorcycle using an electronic hybrid V-twin engine.

The Tesseract is wild even by today’s standards!

After the Tesseract, they moved into 3 wheeled vehicles using 2 wheels in the front ala Piaggio’s MP3. The first foray into this was 2014’s Tricity. Yamaha actually produces and sells this around the world, it’s just not sold here in the United States.

Well that’s a more familiar design.

Once the Tricity was out, Yamaha was clearly gaining momentum designing multi-wheeled platforms. The very next year at the Tokyo Motor Show Yamaha unveiled the MWT-9 concept, a multi-wheeled and leaning motorcycle:

Clearly Yamaha was getting serious with this one.

And now here we are in 2017 with the NIKEN

Yamaha confirms the NIKEN will be released in the 2nd half of 2018

2018 Piaggio MP3 Sport ABS vs 2019 Yamaha NIKEN

MP3 owners looking for something bigger will enjoy the incredible power on tap from Yamaha’s 3 cylinder 849cc liquid cooled engine. This is basically the same engine Yamaha uses in it’s FJ-09MT-o9, XSR900, Tracer 900 and Tracer 900 GT so yeah, you will want for nothing with that engine. For those that have never enjoyed the power characteristics of a proper triple cylinder engine, you are going to be in for quite a treat.

Both the NIKEN and the MP3 enjoy fuel injection and liquid cooling, which is basically the standard on all new motorcycles and scooters trying to meet Euro 4 standards.

MP3 Owners will also notice Yamaha’s rather unusual fork layout up front. Instead of using a single shock on each of the inside wheels, Yamaha has chosen to slap 2 adjustable inverted forks on outside of each tire.  The reasons for this are beyond my puny earthling’s understanding but I can tell you that dialing in 4 front forks is going to be a real treat. I will also note that servicing and rebuilding said forks will be no small or affordable task but it looks cool and knowing Yamaha, it probably works fantastic.

Stopping this monster are 2 4-pot radial front calipers and 1 on the rear, all utilizing Yamaha’s ABS system. I am sure it will have no trouble slamming it to a stop although I wonder if giant 3-wheeled stoppies will be possible like they are on the MP3? Not sure I want to be the one to find out but I certainly would enjoy watching it… Piaggio does not even list the type of calipers they are using on the MP3 as they probably believe most buyers are not interesting in how it stops but only care that it stops.

Front wheel size on the NIKEN is 120/70R15 compared to the MP3 500’s 110/70-13 so not too much of a variance between them up there. The back tire for the Piaggio uses a 140/70-14 compared to Yamaha’s choice of the 190/55R17. Outside of tire sizes, this biggest deal here is Yamaha’s use of Radial tires vs Piaggio still running Bias ply tires. You would think that by now Piaggio would be using Radials like the rest of the world but I guess they have to keep the price down somehow…

It should come as no surprise to anyone that the Piaggio is putting it’s power down using a CVT transmission while the NIKEN utilizes a 6 speed transmission and chain drive. Based on the styling, I believe Yamaha is leaning this machine towards sport so using a chain to drive the rear tire is only logical. I would not have minded seeing a shaft drive for ease of maintenance, especially considering the complexity of everything else but chains are simple and they clearly had their hands full designing everything else.

Lighting on the NIKEN is modern LED’s throughout, which is a nice feature. Piaggio is still kicking Halogens on the front with LED daytime running lights. That is a step in the right direction at least.

Both the Yamaha NIKEN and Piaggio MP3 are running some form of traction control. I think this is important and nice to see both companies making sure they are employing it on their respective models.

One thing I picked up on during Yamaha’s promo video was their use of electronic cruise control on the NIKEN. That is definitely a huge plus for me and anyone else who has been known to really get out and eat miles.

My biggest question out of all of this is if Yamaha was going to use a lock-out on the front end like Piaggio does. I think that is a major advantage on the MP3 for ease of starting, stopping and parking. I have dug through the darkest corners of the internet and have yet to find any mention of this on the Yamaha although I really can’t imagine it being without it.

Here is another video outlining the majority of features that we currently know about:

Yamaha Categorizes it As a Touring Motorcycle…

3 Wheeled Motorcycle Touring?

Not sure what that’s about as Yamaha has a Road category as well. I wonder if that means will are going to see some touring accessories become available for it before it arrives? That definitely makes it an even more interesting machine as the MP3 is definitely limited in what is available for longer distance touring. Scooterists are a clever bunch so it’s not like they are not willing to improvise. Underseat storage is always on the menu for any scooter and the MP3 has lost. Underseat storage is basically off the menu on any motorcycle so don’t be surprised that the NIKEN is any different. Some model specific touring accessories would definitely be a welcome addition to the NIKEN and it certainly would not kill Piaggio to offer something outside of a rear trunk. At least Corazzo makes Panniers for those so there are options.

Both machines have a place on the mean streetz of North America

I can definitely see the benefits of a 3 wheeled leaning motorcycle or scooter. Piaggio proved this when they originally released their’s over a decade ago. The MP3 is definitely much better equipped for urban riding environments as all scooters inherently are. The 2019 Yamaha NIKEN on the other hand will most definitely be vastly superior on the freeways, faster roads and for any type of multi-day touring. I can definitely see why I should really have both in my garage right now. Can you?




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