Video: Underneath Yamaha's Niken tech updates

Latest insight from the factory on Yamaha's wild three-wheeler

One thing we're really looking forward to this spring is a spin on Yamaha's new MT-09-based Niken three-wheeler. It's not often we get a whole new type of vehicle to lark about on, and the evidence suggests the Niken might be like nothing else out there.

We've spoken to some factory insiders, and Yamaha has also released a new tech video this week, giving some more detail on the ins and outs of the front suspension system. And we have to say, the more we find out, the more interested we get.

First up – this is not like the three-wheeled scooters some of us have ridden already. Yamaha's aimed the Niken at motorcyclists looking for something new, rather than commuters scared of falling over at traffic lights. Indeed, the Niken will fall over if you let go of it, without putting it on the sidestand. The front end is totally 'passive', which is to say, there are no hidden hydraulics or electrics governing how it moves. There's no switch to 'lock' the front end in an upright position.

If you lever the Niken up onto the sidestand, with the front end in the air, the two wheels will move up and down freely, with no friction. As one goes up, the other goes down, the parallelogram linkage under the steering head providing a natural motion. Cunning geometry in the Ackermann linkage setup keeps the two wheels in line, and the same distance apart, all the way through the bend, enhancing stability and steering feel.

We also got an insight into the dual fork suspension setup. The front fork tube doesn't have any springs or dampers inside – it's there just to keep the wheel pointing ahead. The rear tubes have all the suspension function inside them.

What's the point then? Well, apparently, the front end feel and grip in a corner is something else entirely. There's not quite double the amount of traction as you have on an MT-09, because the front wheels are 15-inch rims rather than 17-inchers, so the contact patch of each tyre is slightly smaller. But we're told there's about 80 per cent more front end grip…

The 15-inch rim size is important, since it's the same size as on the TMAX 500 super-scooter, and that means there's a huge choice of rubber. The TMAX is so popular in Italy, there are even race tyres available in its 120/70 15 sizes – giving the possibility of *two* super-sticky hoops on the front end of a Niken, for trackday fun like nothing else. We're also led to believe that the Niken can wheelie, but once the front end is off the deck, the movement of the two wheels isn't totally predictable. Depending how the front comes up, the wheels might stay level, or one might stay down low and the other lift up even higher. Witchcraft man…

We don't even know what a stoppie could be like. Minds are blown.

So, we're sold. And we'll be riding the Niken in May, probably in the mountain roads of Austria. But we're not the only ones – once Yamaha has finished the press launch, it's loading all the Nikens onto an HGV, and taking them round Europe on a test ride roadshow. We've not got exact dates yet, but sometime in June, you'll be able to go to Niken roadshow events here in the UK, and check out this mad new beastie for yourself…

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