In Europe, the sight of a scooter with two front wheels is not that odd. There are quite a number of manufacturers who have adopted that design and one of them are Yamaha. They produced the 125 cc Tricity that was available in South Africa not so long ago. Now Yamaha has gone and stuck two front wheels on the MT-09 and the result is the radical Yamaha Niken.
The bike has the same three-cylinder 847 cc engine from the MT-09, but I only was asked once what size the engine is. Everywhere I stopped with the Niken, a crowd soon gathered and I had to field questions about the complicated front-end setup. Everyone wanted to know how the Niken handles and rides with it. The answer is simple – just like a regular motorcycle!
Looking at the front, the Niken has four fork legs, two on each side. The leading forks are inert and add rigidity and stability to the front. The trailing set handles the damping. At the top there are two parallelogram arms, attached to the two steering heads. This means that the wheels lean in unison, but they work independently to absorb bumps. The front wheels are only 15” units and each one has a 298 mm disc. The rear of the Niken gets a wider tyre and larger disc at the back to make up for the smaller front discs.
Sitting on the Niken, you are fully aware of the large shroud over the front suspension. At first it felt ungainly, but when I realised that the Niken is only about 4 cm wider than the MT-09, my trepidation about lane-splitting disappeared. My mind was also playing tricks on me. I wanted the Niken to feel different when riding and yet I was only aware of the extra wheel at low speeds. The engine pulls strongly and the quick-shifter worked a treat, provided I was very aggressive with the throttle.
Where the Niken really shines is with stability. You would think that the two front wheels will make the bike planted through corners, and you would be absolutely right. But that is not all. Riding in a serious crosswind, I was surprised at how stable the Niken is. The Niken is fitted with cruise-control and will therefore make a very good sports-tourer. I will just fit a taller windscreen as the standard one is not very effective.
Say what you want about the Niken, but it is an amazing motorcycle that you have to ride to appreciate and understand.
And the price? The Niken would set you back around R275 000.