Yamaha First impressions: 2018 Yamaha Niken

Yamaha Niken

Al’s just back from riding Yamaha's new three-wheeler round the Austrian Alps. Here’s his first thoughts...

“Well. This has to be one of the trickiest ‘bikes’ I've ever had to try and work out. It’s not even a ‘bike’, is it? Motorbike is short for ‘motor bicycle’, meaning two, not three, wheels. But it leans over, so isn’t a trike either. Terminology aside, the Niken looks like nothing else on the road.

“Now, while it doesn’t feel quite as weird as it looks, it’s definitely a bit strange. For the first few miles, I thought it felt like a big scooter, then a mega-tourer like a Gold Wing, and even a bit like an adventure bike, thanks to the wide bars. Yamaha took us round a massively wide selection of roads, from real narrow first gear hairpins, to fast sweeping A-roads, with surfaces ranging from poor to perfect. The aim being to show how the Niken copes well with anything.

“On the really tight hairpins, the Niken felt ponderous though. The front brakes are also a bit underpowered. And it seems that both of these things are caused by the compromises made to have the front end – namely the extra mass (it’s 263kg wet), and the small brake discs needed to fit into the 15” wheels. That mass is in a non-ideal place too – high up and out front.

“When the roads opened up, it was a lot better, and it does work like a normal bike, leaning, and changing direction in a fairly normal manner. The front mechanism doesn’t get in the way, but it does seem to mute the feedback and communication from the front a bit, a little like some other unusual front ends have in the past. You could push pretty hard though, even when it turned wet and cold up in the high mountains, with plenty of confidence that the front wasn’t going to let you down. Weirdly, Yamaha’s fitted Bridgestone A41 ‘Adventure’ rear tyres though, so the rear would break traction fairly easily if provoked. Fun, but strange."

“Away from the front end, it’s essentially an MT-09, with all the good stuff that brings. Cruise control, quickshifter, nice torquey engine. It’s comfy too, though the seat is a teeny bit too high  and wide for my stumpy 28” inside legs, making car-park paddling a faff."

Once Al’s finished cogitating on the Niken, and assimilated all his impressions, he’ll have more – much more for you…