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Yamaha Niken GT Review | Motorcycle Tests

Yamaha Niken GT Review

See Trev’s standard Yamaha Niken Test here (link)

Niken GT review by Wayne Vickers

‘Yeah she’s a bit different’ has quickly become my go-to response to the inevitable, “what the hell is that?” when people get a first look at the Niken GT. Both riders and non-riders alike are intrigued. Fair enough too I guess – it’s an odd looking jigger. And I must admit I was sceptical.

Yamaha Niken GT Review
Yamaha Niken GT Review

It seemed a bit like an engineering solution to a problem that didn’t exist… and I struggled to understand exactly who it was aimed at. Sure it would have more front end grip, but it’s not a sportsbike, so why bother? I was keen to find out.

First impressions weren’t great to be honest. As I made my way along the footpath after picking it up, the first thing that stood out was that low speed maneuverability is not a strong point… Surprisingly the steering itself doesn’t feel heavy, on the contrary it’s remarkably light when considering the mechanisms and linkages tucked away under that front end, and swinging about underneath the bars.

Yamaha Niken GT Review
The Yamaha Niken GT offers light steering, however the front end does feel top heavy and vague

But the front-end does feel a little top heavy and a bit vague. Due to the amount of damping going on, your inputs are delayed then amplified at low speeds – so I was wobbling about a bit at low speeds when filtering in between cars and needed fine low-speed control. There were some unsavoury words muttered under my helmet…It felt a little awkward, which I guess should be as no great suprise when it is nearly 270 kilograms wet.  It seemed to run pretty hot too when sitting/crawling/filtering in among traffic for extended distances.

It’s positively huge in front of you as you sit on it. I’ve never ridden a snowmobile, but I imagine the view would be pretty similar… Big tall screen providing plenty of wind protection. And the whole front fairing draws gradually into the tank shape in front of you, which sits surprisingly low when you’re on the bike.

Yamaha Niken GT Review
The large seat leaves the rider sitting on the bike, with the Niken GT

You’re very much sitting on the top of the bike, as in the tank doesn’t rise up in front of the seat as I thought it might. Could easily have had room for a bit more height and some extra fuel there actually, but I wonder if Yamaha were trying to limit the amount of weight that’s carried up high. Pity really, as I saw only 300ks range from the 18L tank. So the range isn’t as great as I’d hoped it might be. Quite like the satin blue colour though. Much easier on the eyes than the all black ‘regular’ Niken. If you can ever call a Niken ‘regular’…

It didn’t get much better as I started exploring the do-dads at my fingertips. If the dash on the Duke 790 and BMW F 850 GS were examples of doing it right, the LCD dash on the Niken is at the other end of the spectrum. I found it visually cluttered, hard to read on the go, and reminded me of a cheap ‘80s Casio digital watch I had when I was a kid. Lots of lines and shit going on that actually made it harder to read.

Yamaha Niken GT Review
The Niken GT features the old school LCD dash

Combine that with switchgear controls that were neither well labelled or all that intuitive and it did take some adapting. It took me several minutes of trial and error to figure out how to turn off the heated grips (which have three settings and work just fine), and by the end of the first day I still hadn’t found the distance to empty display on the trip meters. I did find it later – sort of. A third trip meter appeared automagically when the fuel light came on. ‘Trip F’. But it counted up instead of down, as in the number of kays since the fuel light came on, rather than a range to empty.

However, it was once out of town on the highway, that I started to notice how well the front end rides over undulations and bad surfaces. The two 15-inch fronts positively soak them up. I mean, it should I guess when you think about it, with twice the fork and tyre of a ‘normal’ front end. When this became apparent from the cockpit, I started to just maybe understand why they might have gone down the twin front-end path.

Yamaha Niken GT Review
The dual wheel setup on the Niken GT does offer some advantages which become obvious on the highway and over rough roads

At times the ride is so smooth that you could be forgiven for thinking the front end was floating – and as you can’t see any sign of the forks or wheels under that huge fairing there’s nothing to change that impression. From that perspective the front end works brilliantly, and there’s certainly bucket loads of grip.

I’d need more time to explore its full capabilities before I could make a call on whether the compromised low speed issues were an acceptable trade-off for me. But once on the open road it’s certainly a pleasant thing to roll along on. It’s almost unshakable mid-corner, one side can hit a decent sized bump and it’s barely noticed.

It takes a proper whack to get the front end to wriggle, which feels a bit different to a conventional setup, as the wriggle oscillates a little between the three touch points, but to be fair that happened pretty rarely – and only on big hits that would have properly upset a two-wheeler. So open roading gets a tick.

And then came the gravel road.

Yamaha Niken GT Review
Yamaha Niken GT Review – Gravel road edition

Now ‘my’ gravel road, admittedly can be a bit of a sandy handful at times. And it’s awfully dry right now with car tyre ridges that pull you off-line on regular bikes. I’m pretty comfortable on it and don’t mind a bike moving around – after all I do nearly 10 kays of it every day. But the Niken was in another league altogether.

Because the tyres aren’t in a line front to rear, you end up having them hit different parts of tyre ridges – the front pulling one way and the rear the other. Then they’d swap, then both go the same way. It was like riding a bike that was pivoting in the middle like an articulated loader. Especially in bumpy dirt corners, where it would weave about all over the shop like a drunk pirate.

So. If prospective buyers are thinking of doing gravel. I’d avoid it, well if it’s sandy or deep gravel anyway…

The engine is pinched directly from the MT-09 which Trev has covered plenty of times (with only minor tweaks and a heavier crank for the Niken), so I won’t dwell on it too much other than to say it’s a ripper. I love it. It pulls clean and hard all the way through the rev range. Sounds ace too.

Yamaha Niken Engine
The Niken engine comes from the MT-09 with minor changes

Accelerating away from intersections and snicking up through the gears is a proper delight and makes good pace. Both the gearbox and quickshifter (up only) are terrific. Both at full throttle or part throttle the upshifts are seamless and there’s no interference at all on the downshifts via the clutch like some other quick shifters I’ve sampled recently. Lovely.

Up it for the rent and that forward urge drops off sooner than I thought it might given how hard it pulls at any legal speeds, but that might be due to the extra weight and overall frontal dimensions that are being pushed along. Massive tick here.

Front brakes are two single discs on the outside of each front wheel and my initial impressions where that they probably weren’t strong enough for such a heavy bike, but I’ve changed my mind there. They actually pull up the bike pretty well, when I started looking at the distance I was pulling up in. It’s a bit deceptive because that whacky Ackerman front end doesn’t dive much under brakes, so you think they aren’t biting as hard as they actually are… Proper stable under hard braking too. Another tick.

Yamaha Niken GT Review
The Niken GT features the Ackerman front end design, which is stable hard on the brakes

The ‘semi-soft’ luggage fitted to the GT are a simple enough setup – with sturdy zips giving access to 25L storage on each side. And the bike is already bloody wide, so they tuck inside the width of the front. Not sure if they have an option for a top bag.

So. After a 1000 kilometres week on the Niken GT, what do I reckon?

Trev quite enjoyed his blast around the South Island of New Zealand on the Niken, but he’s a nut-bag (love you boss). I’m still scratching my head a bit though as to who’s going to buy them. Mind you I dunno why people by Cam-Am Spyder’s but they do, so taking that into account – this is shit tins better than a Can Am will ever be so maybe it will wedge some wallets open.

Despite the marketing blurb, it doesn’t actually have sportsbike agility, it does almost weigh as much as a cruiser after all… And despite massive front end grip – it doesn’t give a huge amount of feedback, so isn’t nearly as involving for a really sporting rider as you might think.

It also doesn’t have the range I’d have expected either from something being sold as a tourer. But as long as I wasn’t intending to commute on it that included a tonne of lane filtering, or ride it on soft sandy roads, then it could well be a viable often for someone looking for a ‘sports tourer’ with a bit of difference.

Yamaha Niken GT Review
Despite exceptional front end grip, feedback is limited

I reckon it would go fairly well fully loaded up with a pillion and full luggage – including whacking a top box on there. That front end would take it all in its stride and it’d be a fairly simple thing to punt along at reasonable speeds. I don’t do pillions, but having ridden with some fairly quick two-up riders, I wonder if this could be its strength.

From a cornering perspective I found that it seemed to suit it best to just tip it over and lean it in, shifting your weight off the bike very far felt odd and unnecessary – I guess due to the size and weight we’re talking about here – so if you like sitting prone on the bike then this might be right up your alley.

The question is – is it any better than a more conventional sports tourer – of which there’s plenty of options to consider in the low 20s range where this is price-pointed, and many that are considerably cheaper. Yamaha’s own Tracer 900 GT for instance – with the same engine and about 50 less kilos is around five grand cheaper… If you just love the concept, the look, and enjoy the feeling of riding something a bit different then maybe try one on for size yourself. Just that with a lot of my riding taking in a fair bit of city work at low speeds, it’s not really the mount for me. As an open-road touring bike though it does pose a reasonable argument in its favour.

Yamaha Niken GT Review
Yamaha Niken GT Review
2019 Niken GT Specficiations
Engine type 3-cylinder, 4-stroke, 4-valves, liquid-cooled, DOHC
Displacement 847 cc
Bore x stroke 78.0 x 59.1 mm
Compression ratio 11.5 : 1
Maximum power 84.6 kW (115.0PS) @ 10,000 rpm
Maximum torque 87.5 Nm (8.9 kgf+m) @ 8,500 rpm
Lubrication system Wet sump
Clutch type Wet, Multiple Disc
Carburettor Fuel Injection
Ignition system TCI
Transmission system Constant Mesh, 6-speed
Final transmission Chain
Frame Diamond
Front suspension system Double upside down telescopic forks
Front travel 110 mm
Caster angle 20º
Trail 74 mm
Rear suspension system Swingarm, Link type suspension
Rear travel 125 mm
Front brake Hydraulic dual disc, Ø 298 mm (dual front wheels)
Rear brake Hydraulic single disc, Ø 282 mm
Front tyres 120/70 R 15
Rear tyre 190/55 R 17
Overall length 2,150 mm
Overall width 885 mm
Overall height 1,250 mm
Seat height 820 mm
Wheelbase 1,510 mm
Track 410 mm
Min. ground clearance 150 mm
Wet weight (including full oil and fuel tank) 263 kg
Fuel tank capacity 18 litres
Oil tank capacity 3.4 litres
GT specific extras: Semi-soft 25L panniers
GT specific extras: High Touring Screen
GT specific extras: Heated Grips
GT specific extras: Comfort Seat


Source: MCNews.com.au

Yamaha Niken Review | Three legs good..?

Yamaha Niken Trev
Yamaha Niken

The Niken has three wheels. A pair of 120/70-15s up front, and a single conventional 190/55-17 at the back.

Yamaha Niken Forks LHS
Yamaha Niken

Yes it rides pretty much like a motorcycle. There is no long adaption period to feel comfortable, just get on it and ride. 

Yamaha Niken Trev
Yamaha Niken

The riding experience is nothing remotely similar to the non-leaning Can-Am Sypder. The Niken leans, steers and powers out like a motorcycle, unlike the Spyder which rides like, well, a car, and a shit car at that.

Yes it can pull wheelies, stoppies, skid and perform all manner of stupidity, if you’re good enough to do so without dying.

Yamaha Niken Trev Mono
Yamaha Niken

Yamaha quote a 45-degree lean angle for the Niken, and yes you can get your knee down if you are going to hang off it to a ridiculous degree. That said, using a reasonable bit of body English does help keep the pegs off the deck and realise more cornering speed, just like a motorcycle…

Yamaha Niken Trev
Yamaha Niken

Yes you can lane split, and quite easily. The widest point of the bike is still the bars/mirrors and you know once that front end is through then the rear is most definitely going to roll through without a problem. The Niken is 70 mm wider at the mirrors than a T-Max, and 120 mm wider than a Tracer 900.

It does not stand up by itself. The Niken will fall over if not placed on the side-stand or optional centre-stand.

Yamaha Niken Cockpit
Yamaha Niken

Now with that out of the way and for those of you that have an open mind and are still reading, instead of throwing a pretentious little hissy-fit about it having three wheels and clicking away to somewhere else, let’s dig into this leaning three-wheeler business a little more.

I first tried out such a machine more than a decade ago when Piaggio launched the MP3 scooter. I quite liked it, revelling in the incredible front end grip the twin-tyre front end offered. But of course with modest power and a CVT gearbox it was still essentially a scooter. A fun, practical and versatile scooter that I rate highly, but still a scooter.

Yamaha Niken LHF
Yamaha Niken

However, the Niken is a considerably more serious piece of kit.  Even the name carries a bit of attitude to it.  Two Japanese words Ni (Two), and Ken (Sword), is derived from a 17th century dual sword fighting technique. Well the Niken would want to be sharp then wouldn’t it…?

The drivetrain is lifted directly from the MT-09, one of the maddest motorcycles to be released this century.

Yamaha Niken Engine
Yamaha Niken

The Niken gets the full monty 115 horsepower of the MT-09 and while 115 ponies doesn’t sound all that much these days, the slightly uncultured way that Yamaha’s enigmatic triple delivers them makes those ponies feel a little more Clydesale-like. In Niken guise the MT09 engine does carry a bit more crank weight, which is no bad thing, and its throttle response is a little smoother in operation than the manic naked. 

Yamaha Niken Engine
Yamaha Niken

A conventional six-speed motorcycle gearbox complete with quick-shifter, which is unfortunately up only in this application, carries over from its two-wheel siblings, as does the chain final drive. The rear sprocket carries a couple more teeth to help counteract the extra weight of the Niken. 

At 263 kg wet, the three-wheeler is is around 70 kg heavier than the MT-09, and 50 kg heavier than the Tracer 900 GT.  That mass certainly takes some urgency out of the power delivery, don’t expect the instantaneous response of an MT-09.

Yamaha Niken RHF Group
Yamaha Niken

When jumping aboard the low 820 mm saddle and lifting the Niken off its side-stand the machine does not feel particularly heavy. The mass is also not felt at the lights or while manoeuvring at walking pace, the larger foot-print of the twin-tyre front end no doubt helping in those scenarios.

Yamaha Niken Trev
Yamaha Niken

Yamaha claims that with a rider onboard the Niken has a perfect 50-50 weight distribution between the front and rear axles.  I would say that feels about right as the Niken exhibits no untoward handling traits, and feels perfectly natural when scything through bends at speed.

Yamaha Niken Trev
Yamaha Niken

Due to the gyroscopic forces generated by those two front tyres up front it also proves unflappable and affords great stability. Steering effort is light enough, and the Niken only ever feels slightly cumbersome when negotiating really tight sub-20 km/h corners. The longer and stiffer swingarm contributes to a 70 mm longer wheelbase than the MT-09, the Niken is also 10 mm longer between the axles than the recently released Tracer 900 GT.

Yamaha Niken Trev
Yamaha Niken

Front grip is other-worldly. Yamaha claim the Niken offers up to 40 per cent increased front-end grip. It feels like all of that and more, you quickly start carrying entry speeds on less than perfect road surfaces that would be risky, heart-in-mouth type stuff on a conventional motorcycle.

Yamaha Niken Trev
Yamaha Niken

The fact that those front wheels move independently of each other (on a camber, one front wheel can be running at a very different level of travel through its fork legs than the other), is another positive trait highlighted on bumpy surfaces. The Ackermann dual parallelogram front end just copes with any irregularities thrown at it. You are hardly aware of all those extra front end components doing their thing, it just works and is all completely hidden from your view. The unique front-end set-up also feels as though it completely eliminates any semblance of understeer.

Yamaha Niken Trev
Yamaha Niken – See how one wheel can ride at a different height than the other

Of course all this confidence in the front end of the machine pretty much turns your approach to back road corner carving on its head.  When approaching a tight corner on a conventional motorcycle my concentration is predominantly on judging the road surface which, along with testicular fortitude, largely decides entry speed and aggressiveness on turn-in. While coming out the other side, the grip of modern tyres means it is largely a “hit the throttle hard as soon as you start picking the bike up off the rear tyre and see the corner exit” type affair.

Yamaha Niken Trev
Yamaha Niken

From the apex of the corner is when you start really thinking about grip and the Niken’s purchase on the road, particularly when you really start to press on while chasing a skilled local on an MT-10. Here the Niken did not really do anything wrong, but I was certainly starting to get a little apprehensive in regards to rear end grip when attacking both low speed and high speed corners with some real aggression. Out of some of the tighter stuff the traction control was starting to impede progress and reign things in.

I am sure there was plenty of rear grip there, but the mass and the lack of feedback from the chassis in this scenario did not instil the type of confidence that I was enjoying from the front. I guess with less contact patch at the rear that is to be expected. The Niken could never be expected to be a perfect panacea for every scenario. 

Yamaha Niken RHS
Yamaha Niken

In any normal riding of course rear grip is plenty, but I was not game to start trying to drift the rear at lean, it felt as though when it did finally break away it might not have been all that pretty.  I did slide the machine a little on dirt roads, but was certainly much more circumspect than I would have been on a normal two-wheeler, and that surprised me. I think a combination of the different ergonomics providing less response to peg inputs, and that extra weight, was enough to make me a little more cautious than I might otherwise have been. Perhaps a lot more seat time would have me more game to let it all hang out. 

Yamaha Niken Rear Tyre
Yamaha Niken

A pair of 298 mm disc rotors and four-piston calipers do a great job of hauling the machine up, while those two independent front tyres give you the confidence to turn-in late and hard.  When really on it, and I mean really on it, I had those two front tyres squirming into the grey tarmac of the Crown Range descents under brakes. I could feel them walking about a little even before the well-tuned ABS system kicked in. The front Bridgestone A41 Adventure tyres were at their recommended 33 psi, I checked them myself, but if going full nutter again I think I might be tempted to try another couple of pound in them.

Yamaha Niken Brakes
Yamaha Niken

The riding position for normal riding feels natural enough, be that in the city or on the highway. Despite only that tiny little front spoiler above the digital instrumentation, the wind-blast was never onerous and I never once felt any turbulence disturb my Shoei ensconsed bonce. Even with that 847 cc triple turning 8200 rpm in top gear for an indicated 205 km/h.

Yamaha Niken Trev
Yamaha Niken

The seat felt good until I was getting towards the end of a 600 kilometre first day, only then did I start moving about a little to ease the burden on the buns and upper thighs. All up I covered almost 1000 km on the Niken.

Yamaha Niken Seat
Yamaha Niken

A pillion can be carried and the rear KYB shock has a convenient hand-wheel to change the preload, while compression damping can also be tweaked. The front offers rebound and compression damping adustment. 

Yamaha Niken Shock Adjust Swingarm
Yamaha Niken

A GT version is expected next year and will offer more sumptuous seating arrangements along with standard panniers and other changes to improve the Niken’s long-distance touring credentials. The standard Niken does include cruise control.

Yamaha Niken Cruise
Yamaha Niken – Cruise control as standard

The mirror-integrated indicators and trick front lights are all LEDs, and a 12-volt accessory port is provided next to the dash. Unfortunately, like virtually every other motorcycle with this feature it is of the regular Hella/DIN/BMW small cigarette lighter style port which, unless you buy all manner of adaptors, is pretty damn useless. Just give us a simple USB port or two FFS.

Yamaha Niken Lights Mirrors
Yamaha Niken

Unfortunately I did not take note of economy figures, and I would suggest that our strops would not have been all that indicative of what one would experience on a normal Sunday ride or multi-day epic. The aluminium fuel tank holds 18-litres, so you would expect a normal touring range of around 300 km.

Yamaha Niken Trev Lights
Yamaha Niken

The Niken is available now, but only from specialist Yamaha dealers that have undertaken servicing training on the unique beast. These dealers are also required to tool up for front end alignments and minor greases that are recommended every third service. A full re-pack with new grease is required every 50,000 km. Otherwise routine servicing is as per normal and recommended every 6000 km.

Yamaha Niken LHF Group
Yamaha Niken

Yamaha’s initial shipment of 50 Nikens have now hit our shores, and are priced at $21,999 plus on road costs.

If you take one home, prepare to be the centre of attention when ever you hit the road, people will even come up and want to have their photo taken with it.

Yamaha Niken Arrowtown
Ride a Yamaha Niken and prepare to be the centre of attention

Oh, and order the optional Akrapovic full titanium exhaust system to liberate that triple chord symphony, it is just cruel not to. Yamaha dealers are getting their demonstrators ready to roll now, get down there and try one out for yourself. 

Yamaha Niken Lights RHF
Yamaha Niken

Source: MCNews.com.au