WEIRD OR WON­DER­FUL?

Yamaha’s wild new Niken on the UK’s tough­est test – with 950 miles of road and track rid­ing

MCN - - CON­TENTS - By Michael Neeves CHIEF ROAD TESTER

‘Ha! Is that for peo­ple who can’t ride a real bike?” At the start of the day, none of the Niken’s three wheels have turned in anger and yet it is al­ready get­ting stick. With the nasty man dis­ap­pear­ing in my mir­rors, life on the Niken for the next eight hours and 200★ miles is a lit­tle strange. Its ex­tra front wheel ush­ers in a whole new rid­ing ex­pe­ri­ence and I get gaw­ped at reg­u­larly. De­spite its con­tro­ver­sial looks, more cars pull out on me than in my whole year. What’s go­ing on? How could you miss this ‘pray­ing man­tis on sta­bilis­ers’ (© builder, Cirences­ter) bear­ing down on you? And de­spite see­ing dozens of fel­low mo­tor­cy­clists, not one has nod­ded back. I get the feel­ing most rid­ers treat the Niken with the

same dis­dain as elec­tric bikes and scoot­ers. Snobby bug­gers. Be­ing down on the Niken doesn’t seem fair, be­cause by the time I’ve reached Northamp­ton, fil­tered eas­ily through rush hour traf­fic and at­tacked cold-Tar­mac round­abouts with mid-sum­mer lean, I ‘get it’ – and so would you if you rode one. It’s large to stand be­side and heavy be­tween your knees at a stand­still. At 263kg, it’s a mas­sive 11 stone more than the MT-09 it’s based on, thanks to its beefy steel frame, steer­ing assem­bly, ex­tra two forks and wheel. But though big, it slips through larger gaps in traf­fic just fine and I’m rarely held up; al­though I have to think twice about go­ing for re­ally small cracks be­tween cars. With just 113bhp push­ing along that bulk, it doesn’t have the abil­ity to leapfrog dan­ger as quickly as you’d like. Yes, a two-wheeler is more fun and in­volv­ing, but the Niken thrills in a dif­fer­ent way. You could say it’s just an MT-09 with two front wheels, but it’s also one with more front grip than you’d ever imag­ine; 80% more, ac­cord­ing to Yamaha. And boy does it de­liver. That col­lec­tion of link­ages, joints, forks and wheels is a tri­umph of en­gi­neer­ing and works with breath­tak­ing ef­fi­ciency. The Niken doesn’t wow you straight away, it’s more of a slow-burner. But af­ter time you re­alise you’re get­ting away with lean an­gles that’d have you on your ear on a nor­mal bike. The nov­elty of cor­ner­ing in com­plete safety, like a cheat in a com­puter game, never wears thin.

It might look odd but the Niken rides like a nor­mal bike, too. It has the bulk of a big tourer blessed with lighter steer­ing and sports­bike agility. You coun­ter­steer to ini­ti­ate a turn, then marvel at how it keels to full lean with the per­fect amount of re­sis­tance through the bars; like a mo­tor­cy­cle with per­fectly-set forks. Noth­ing this side of a hot rac­ing slick on a smooth track grips like the Niken’s front end. Throw it on its side and it’ll stick, sim­ple as. And if it doesn’t you’ve twice the chance of sav­ing it.

It’d be fas­ci­nat­ing to see the steer­ing and sus­pen­sion sway­ing and bob­bing when you ride along, but for some it might be a gid­dy­ing step too far. Yamaha have hid­den ev­ery­thing away un­der body­work plas­tics, so your view down looks re­as­sur­ingly con­ven­tional. Con­tin­ued over

YAMAHA NIKEN £13,499

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