The unusual Yamaha Niken GT came to our test. The touring version of the three-wheeled motorcycle caused discussions wherever we showed up with it. Does the elaborate technology really make sense?
The Yamaha MT-09 is a great, all-round successful motorcycle. It's so good that Yamaha never tires of inventing new variants of it. If the MT-09 is a Naked Bike, for example, there is the Tracer 900, which is nothing but the Adventure Bike on the same basis. And then there's the Niken.
The japanese launched the basic model in 2018, our GT variant is new – but therefore no less unusual. Only rarely do you see the Niken in the wild, it is not a great sales success. Well, this can be said of many motorcycles, the exclusivity of the small number of pieces even serves as an ornament for some. However, it can be assumed that Yamaha did not have exclusivity in mind when the engineers came up with the daring idea of bringing a motorcycle with double front wheels to the market. The idea is not new either: the Piaggio MP3 has been available as a scooter since 2006, also with double front wheels.
The most striking feature of the Niken is, of course, the ... Well... Front axle with double wheels. These are rather small at 15 inches, which cannot be said about the actual suspension. Only four massive-acting fork tubes hold the suspension, called "Parallelogram", together in curves. This is also responsible for the impressive weight of the niken of almost 270 kilos as well as the optically massive stem. The rest is MT-09, also the 115 hp, excellent sports engine with three cylinders. The further back, the more conventional the niken becomes.
The new GT variant focuses on touring suitability. Consequently, the developers screwed a non-adjustable windshield, a long-distance and more comfortable bench and standard textile cases to the bike. We will clarify what the Trinity brings on the road. The cost of it is already clear. Please note, because the unusual concept is not exactly a bargain. The MT-09 is available for 8,995 euros from the dealership, the Niken GT is priced at a confident 16,078 euros. 7,000 euros more, in addition to 267 kilos for the GT to the 193 kilos of the naked version.
Then let's go.
The most important thing right from the start: Unlike the Piaggio scooter mentioned above, Yamaha does not use the three wheels to stand upright. If you don't know, the expensive Niken flips over without singing or sound. The ascent itself is trouble-free. The seat is comfortable, but the view to the front is unusual: The massive stem is wide and long and has a plastic look. In order to adjust the low-positioned mirrors, you have to stretch yourself quite nicely.
But: The driver does not see the wheels, the special technology only catches the attention of the passers-by. The start-up works completely undramatic despite the multikilos, by the way, the still extremely committed engine pushes the Niken to 100 in just 3.6 seconds. 3.4 seconds takes the MT-09, so there is hardly any difference here. At the Vmax already: For the Niken it is over at 190 km/h, the naked sister manages 225 km/h.
The Niken, with its unusual construction, is an endless material for gasoline talks. Great or not? We also do not agree within our tes team. The author of these lines finds the Niken rather strangely average. Although 57% of the weight is on the "front axle", it does not even drive above average front load – that is good. The whole technology is already an engineering achievement, no question. But why?
One thing to bear in mind here is that the better grip on the front wheels solves a problem that only exists in hints. Of course, there have already been accidents with motorcycles, because the front axle was smeared away. But how often does this happen? And secondly, the solution itself is part of the problem: the heavy technology in the front construction only reinforces or even creates the tendency to undo, i.e. pushing over the smashed wheels. The two front wheels solve a problem that would not have existed without them or would have existed to a very small extent. Finally, a fact that was felt in the test: on a slippery track, adhesion is improved. But only at the front, at the backhand, the niken becomes light and in tendency to drive more imprecisely.
Dietmar takes the opposite position. The psychological support provided by the double front wheels, which suggest safety, is understandable to him. Added to this is the positive side of the high weight: the driving comfort is extremely good. Overall, he sees the Niken as a highly talented tourer. However, one can immediately ask one another whether the engine is the right partner here. He has nothing to blame, but it's a sports engine that doesn't do anything wrong at the bottom, but shows its high talent only in the upper speed range.
The bottom line is that one thing becomes clear: the target group for the Niken is quite small. In terms of price in the area of Germany's superstar, the BMW R 1250 GS, you have to look for their special qualities in order to sign the contract with the dealer. The fact that she has these qualities as a tourer or in terms of perceived safety, on the other hand, is undisputed.
And finally, one thing must not be forgotten: according to the registration figures, the Niken may inspire only a few motorcyclists. But it could lead to us becoming more. This would happen if the Niken could convince motorists of the advantages of motorcycling thanks to their qualities.
The test bike was provided to us by Motorrad Ruser in Haseldorf.