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Queue the haters – Yamaha Niken: First Ride

Queue the haters – Yamaha Niken: First Ride

I can’t think of a bike in history that has or will divide opinions quite as much as this bike… I’m absolutely amazed!

Following the official launch of the Yamaha Niken in May this year, there have been several appearances of the new machine and we had a fantastic opportunity to learn more about the new Yamaha 3 Wheeled machine and take the bike out for a test ride on the fantastic roads in Derbyshire.

Yamaha has more often than not been at the forefront of new idea’s and new technology in the motorcycle world, and they’ve continued to do so with the new Yamaha Niken. They’ve been developing the bike and its new ‘parallelogram steering system’ for some time, perfecting, tweaking and really refining the system before throwing it out on the market.

The unique system allows the bike to lean correctly using the ‘Ackerman Steering Geometry’ theory which keeps the wheels pointing in the correct direction during lean and stops the leading wheel from dragging round the bend. The large steering system is hidden partly by the larger front farings of the motorcycle which give it a very unique look, to say the least. It’s important to note at this point that this bike is NOT self-levelling or balancing, it rides and leans like a standard motorcycle.

By no means is the Niken the most beautiful bike to look at, but with the way that the bike is designed and the technology they’ve squeezed into it, I feel that the look they have created is absolutely spot on.

Now, specifications wise, there is obviously the front end set up which comprises of 2 smaller than normal 15″ wheels on a dual set of forks on the front comprising of 2x 41mm and 2x 43mm on with those famous blue spot 4-pot brake calipers either side. The front forks of the assembly are there simply to locate the wheel hub and the rear 43mm forks do the work. This combination certainly feels different when riding the bike but also gives great stopping power with very little fork dive on the front.

They’ve included the Yahama D-Mode system to allow the rider to choose their preferred options depending on where they are riding. The rider can choose from three throttle valve control maps (Standard Mode, “A” Mode, and “B” Mode) for different throttle response characteristics at the push of a button. This is selectable from the switch controls on the handlebars and you can see everything you need on the tidy LCD display.

While the rest of the bike is actually pretty damn wacky, the rest is pretty conventional and standard, they’ve pulled the liquid-cooled inline 3-cylinder motor with a slightly modified crankshaft, swingarm, electrics and back-end from the MT-09, bolted into a bespoke steel tube and alloy swingarm pivot-plate frame and morphed the front end on to this setup which all helps deliver around a 50/50 weight distribution with the rider. And the results, well, they’re fantastic…

When you first jump on the machine you notice that in fact, it doesn’t feel at all dissimilar to most motorcycles, it’s not over heavy or un-evenly balanced, it felt like a normal motorcycle. But it’s not until you get to that first bend that you realise that Yamaha have created something different, something that makes you realise just how much thought and technology has gone in to this machine. I’ve been riding for a number of years now, but I’ve not taken a motorcycle out which has given you such an automatic feeling of confidence on a corner or on a set of new tyres as quick as the Niken did. We took a fairly adventurous route through the Derbyshire roads with plenty of sharp and long winding bends, even uneven farm roads covered in dirt. And the Niken chewed them all up. The front end on the Niken delivers turning capability straight out of the box that lets you lean right over but still maintain a fantastic amount of grip across the two front wheels. It’s a sensation you can only tell people to try for themselves.

During the brief we received from Yamaha, they told us that they wanted us to deliberately ride in ways that you would not do on your own motorcycle… aim for the bumps and lumps and potholes (within reason) on the road and feel the difference that the leveling system on the Niken delivers before the suspension even kicks in. So I did just that, and the results were great, it delivered a great ride all round no matter the surface under the wheels. There was no lack of power either, the MT-09 engine powered Niken delivered all the right power in the right places as you would expect. Yamaha has also fitted a quick shifter on the Niken which worked really well – I’ve found that in a lot of cases that some manufacturers don’t refine this enough when fitted and it can be a bit clunky.

I could probably go on about the ride experience of the motorcycle for a number of hours, but what really astonished me was the way that the Niken felt so ‘road ready’… Normally you need a good few miles to get used to the feel of a bike when you first take it out, but the Niken felt like it was ready for anything as soon as you pulled away. Yamaha is due to release a selection of extras for the Niken soon including an Akrapovic exhaust system which will only transform the already great sounding machine into an even better sounding one.

But… who is this bike for? I’ve read some previous reviews saying that this bike is for the more advanced rider who is perhaps looking for something more and different to add to their collection of bikes or riding experience… but I disagree; I believe this bike is one that is for any rider – be it an experienced one or not. The bike delivers a great feeling when riding, it is bags of fun to ride and gives you that confidence in leaning the bike over.

Would I own one?… I personally wouldn’t add it to my collection, but that’s because I’m more of an adventure bike guy and it was fun to take this out, but this is going to fill the garages of many many riders in the UK and every single one of those riders are going to have a grin from ear to ear every time they take it out.

The Niken starts from £13,499 and you can order yours now on the Yamaha website here. I expect to see alot of these on the road throughout 2018/19.


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