Yamaha has some pretty futuristic concepts at the 2017 Tokyo Motor Show, including bikes controlled by robots and artificial intelligence. But perhaps the biggest shock was the 2018 Yamaha NIKEN MXT850 three-wheeled sportsbike.
Twin front wheels have been used on scooters for a while. There’s the 500cc Piaggio MP3. Or the 400cc Peugeot Metropolis. Or even the 2017 Yamaha Tricity 125. But the 2018 Yamaha NIKEN MXT850 will be in another league with the MT-09 based engine and platform.
The 2018 Yamaha NIKEN MXT850 does look a bit like the front end is on stilts. But the first question most people will probably ask is what licence you’ll need to ride it. Which changed a bit in 2013. It will basically depend on the spacing of the front wheels and power output as to whether it’s classed as a motorcycle or a tricycle.
If it ends up as a motorised tricycle and you passed a full car licence before 19th of January 2013, then you can ride away. If it’s classed as a motorcycle, or you haven’t got a full car licence before that date, then you’ll need to be at least 21 and have a full motorcycle licence. Basically if the distance is more than 460mm between the 2 front wheels, it’s likely to be a tricycle, which could open up a new market for Yamaha of former three-wheel scooter commuters and those wanting to ride a bike without any risk of falling over.
That distance requirement is one reason for the slightly spindly and gappy appearance at the front. The other is that the 15-inch front wheels need to be able to lean without rubbing as they tilt with the Leaning Multi-Wheeler (LMW) technology and dual-tube upside-down front forks.
What we do know is that the 2018 Yamaha NIKEN MXT850 uses a liquid-cooled, fuel-injected, 4-stroke, DOHC 4-valve inline triple. Which is either exactly the same as the 113bhp Yamaha MT-09 motor, or it might have been re-tuned as the three-wheeler will inevitably weigh a little bit more and need some extra torque.
Yamaha has released the overall dimensions, with a 2,150mm length, 885mm width and 1,250mm height. That’s actually surprisingly close to the Yamaha MT-09 (2,075mm long, 815 mm wide, and 1,120mm high). And given the similarity from the handlebars back – you’d imagine the seat height will probably be somewhere around the same 820mm.
We also know that it’s confirmed for production, and Yamaha are excited enough by the launch to have had it unveiled by company president, Hiroyuki Yanagi.
So what can we spot or work out?
Well, ‘Ni’ is Japanese for two, and ‘Ken’ means sword, so the fact the official video has a bloke waving two swords about ties into the inspiration for the name. Along with apparently skiing down the road.
And you can spot the tyre sizes are 120/70 R15 fronts and 190/50 R17 rears fitted with Bridgestone Battlax Adventure tyres. The suspension appears to have manual adjusters for preload, rebound and compression.
And there seem to be more similarities, with a quickshifter and switchgear similar to other Yamahas, a toggle switch for three riding modes (revealed by the LCD dash), and the normal modern trio of ABC, TCS and cruise control. The redline appears to be set at around 11,250rpm, so maybe the engine hasn’t been returned for more torque?
There is a useful, if slightly ugly, 12v power socket on the dash. And what we haven’t seen yet is the lock system. The Piaggio MP3 has a tilt lock when parked to stop it falling over. But the Yamaha Tricity 125 doesn’t. So maybe the Yamaha NIKEN will balance well enough that it won’t fall over, and leaving it in gear will stop it rolling away as with any motorcycle. After all, the Tricity was developed by former Yamaha MotoGP race engineer Kazuhisa Takano, so maybe the NIKEN is also balanced enough not to need it.
From the side it looks a Yamaha MT-09 has tried to eat the front of a quad bike. But not in an altogether bad way – it certainly stands out regardless.
And the 2018 Yamaha NIKEN MXT850 three-wheeled sportsbike will handle in a similar way to any two-wheeled motorcycle. It’ll be slightly slower and more resistant to quick inputs because you’ll be overcoming two contact patches and suspension. But it’ll still do what you’d expect, which often isn’t true of two wheels at the back on a trike, or an extra one on a sidecar.
The lights look quite cool with four LEDs at the front, running lights at the side, and a really interesting rear light which will be hard to miss.
Apparently more details will be revealed on November 6th, 2017. So we don’t know when it will arrive in dealers, although it’s obviously likely to be early in the 2018 riding season. And no price has been released – the extra parts and niche appeal suggests more than a standard MT-09 or Tracer 900. So probably somewhere over £10,000.
Whether or not it turns out to be fun to ride, and a big seller will only be revealed in due time. But it’s certainly a brave move by Yamaha to try something a bit different. And given the increasing number of three-wheeled scooters in the same format, it makes sense that someone must fancy the same riding experience but on something that looks and accelerates more like a motorcycle.
It’d definitely make a great all-weather winter bike. And we’d imagine various people are already trying to find out how soon they can take in on a trackday for a laugh…
2018 Yamaha NIKEN MXT850 Three-Wheeled Sportsbike Gallery:
2018 Yamaha NIKEN MXT850 Three-Wheeled Detail Photos:
Still don’t like the all-white off-road armour over clothing look though…