Review: 2019 Yamaha Niken GT
Three-wheeled thrill ride
THE PROS & CONS
- What’s Good: Dual front wheel grip, sporty performance and “hey, look over here!” novelty.
- What’s Bad: Needs a powered windshield, better bags.
And now for something completely different!
The 2019 Yamaha Niken GT was introduced to Canada late last year as a touring-equipped follow up to the original Niken that debuted in other markets previously.
The Niken name takes it origin from “two swords” in Japanese. And, like the advantage of a second blade in battle, this bike builds in the performance edge of a second wheel up front for the enhanced cut and thrust of “a new corner carving experience”.
Other three-wheeled experiments, from sidecars to Slingshots, from rear two-wheeled Harley Tri Glides to front two-wheeled Can-Am machines, were built mainly for upright stability.
The Niken GT, on the other hand, with no self-balancing system to keep it upright at a standstill, follows the lead of the Piaggio MP3 and other experimental models, incorporating Yamaha’s evolved Leaning Multi-Wheel (LMW) and Ackerman steering technology.
So, yeah, it still leans, counter steers, rides and feels just like a motorcycle.
In fact, the experience is so similar, if you were able to teleport directly into the saddle of a moving Niken GT, you probably wouldn’t be able to tell that you were riding a three-wheeler.
Except for the fact that dual 15-inch front-wheels offer a bump-smoothing 410 mm track along with combined contact patches for greater front grip, better cornering and sharper braking, not to mention a hair-raising lean angle of up to 45-degrees.
Dual upside-down front forks feature a front guide tube and rear suspension tube with adjustable compression and rebound damping.
The KYB link Monocross rear suspension offers 124 mm (4.9 in) of travel and allows adjustment for damping and spring preload.
A hybrid carbon steel and aluminum frame mounts an adapted version of the familiar 847 cc three-cylinder CP3 engine shared with the MT-09 and Tracer 900.
Yes, the extra wheel and extra bulk results in up to 40 kg of added curb weight compared to, say, the Tracer 900 GT tourer. But there’s still plenty of punch when you twist the electronically-controlled YCC-T throttle.
An electronics suite offers three riding modes and three levels of traction control. And a standard quick shifter allows for clutchless upshifts through the six-speed tranny anywhere above 50 km/h and at 4,000 rpm or higher.
Following up on the original Niken motorcycle (not available in Canada), the 2019 Niken GT adds touring cues and comforts – a taller, wider windscreen, a roomier, specially-designed, long haul comfort seat, quick release semi-soft 25-litre ABS side bags, a rear carrier for a top box and with passenger grab handles, a centre stand, heated grips and a secondary 12V power outlet.
Other features worth noting include four-pot LED headlights, LED taillamps and an LCD multi-function gauge display. And the 18-litre aluminum fuel tank should allow for some touring range.
The seating position is nicely upright, the wide handlebars provide easy leverage for the dual front wheels and the ergonomics are comfortable enough although the wide tank requires a little extra man-spreading (or woman-spreading as the case may be).
I might whine a little for a powered windscreen and bigger, more practical hard shell sidecases for practical luggage room but there’s not a lot of other nitpicks to be found.
The one-choice Phantom Blue is a handsomely deep, lustrous colour and the Niken GT’s MSRP rings in at $20,999.
Yes, there are more affordable two-wheel options within the Yamaha lineup including the aforementioned touring-comparable Tracer 900GT $14,599.
But, on a global stage, the Niken lineup, has proved adept at handling everything from European cobblestones to rain-slick roads in soggy climates.
So, it might seem a natural fit for all-weather conditions here, maybe especially suited for Canada’s rainy coast riders in B.C. or the Maritimes.
And, for early adopters looking to blend those performance factors with occasional “what the heck is that?” novelty double-takes, this revolutionary three-wheeled sport tourer might just be a uniquely eye-catching answer.
2019 Yamaha Niken GT
ENGINE: 847 cc three-cylinder CP3 engine (113 hp, 64 lb/ft estimates).
TRANSMISSION: Six-speed with O-ring chain final. Standard Quick Shift System (QSS).
FUEL ECONOMY: As tested 5.2L/100km (comb).
SUSPENSION: Front 43/41 mm dual tube inverted fork (109 mm travel); Rear adjustable link-type, single shock (124 mm travel).
WHEELS & TIRES: Front dual 120/70R15, rear 190/55R17.
BRAKES: Front dual 298 mm single discs; Rear 282 mm single disc.
SEAT HEIGHT: 835 mm
WHEELBASE: 1,510 mm
CURB WEIGHT: 267 kg
COLOUR: Phantom Blue