Yamaha first introduced its outwardly wacky Niken touring motorcycle in 2018. From the headstock back this 850cc triple powered machine was relatively conventional, but upfront the Niken was far from normal: two 15in wheels, four forks, leaning multi wheel steering providing 80% greater contact patch than a conventional solo wheel.
On paper and in action the Niken delivered exactly what it claimed but, for many, the bike’s overtly visible tech, unusual looks and high price tag (£13,499 in 2018) were too much to tempt them off two wheels.
Sales have been slow (somewhat inevitably), but those who’ve ventured past the Niken’s looks and experienced what the front end can do, really love them.
So much so, Yamaha has seen fit to address the areas where the first bike didn’t hit the mark and extensively remodel much of the chassis, engine and ergonomics, moulding the latest Niken – the GT – into the true sport tourer it probably always should have been.
In terms of chassis updates, there’s not much that hasn’t been tweaked. The frame has been completely reworked to accommodate the new, larger capacity Euro 5 compliant CP3 triple (see engine, below). Said engine now tilts 5° further forward in the frame to increase weight on the front end and therefore improve grip, but the overall balance remains at 50/50 front/rear so say Yamaha.
The back end has also been extensively reworked, having been the original bike’s Achilles Heel – the rear tyre would all too easily break away, especially when cold, and the rear shock’s damping performance and characteristics were way behind those of the front. A new, lighter shock linkage, plus firmer shock damping give more control to the back end and increase the tyre’s engagement with the road.
Ride quality & brakes
Reworking the Niken’s chassis – particularly the back end – has really paid dividends. Front end grip, feedback and confidence is as strong as ever (it really is astonishing how far and hard you can push the Niken into a corner; it just grips, turns and goes.
The rear is now a match, or as close as you’re going to get, to the front, with more refined and controlled damping evident particularly on poorly surfaced roads. A two-stage traction control system, that can be turned off altogether if you prefer, definitely helps too.
At 270 kilos fully juiced the Niken is no lightweight, and yet the brakes are more than enough to haul it to a rapid and controlled stop. Twin 298mm front discs gripped by Yamaha’s latest one-piece four-pots and a 282mm rear disc and two-pot caliper, both ABS assisted, provide the deceleration. Despite the bike’s overall mass, the brakes never felt wanting.
The 847cc triple in the first Yamaha Niken has been replaced by the latest 890cc CP3 unit that also powers the latest Yamaha Tracer 9 GT+ among others. Euro 5 compliance forced Yamaha’s hand but it’s a welcome upgrade because the new unit provides peak torque 1500rpm earlier (7000rpm), making off corner drive and overtakes that much easier.
Peak power is a claimed 113bhp@10,000rpm and torque is 66.8lb.ft@7000rpm. While the engine is fine for most situations it lacks the zest of the Tracer 9’s. Will be see a litre-plus Niken in the future?
Reliability & build quality
How the many moving parts in the front suspension will last over time remains to be seen – the system runs on two huge bearings that won’t be cheap when replacement beckons and there’s the cost of two tyres (they’ll wear quicker being a smaller diameter), brake pads that are worked harder by the weight, plus the extra fork seals. The CP3 engine is a proven unit, however, so big mileages from that won’t be an issue.
Value vs rivals
The Niken doesn’t have any direct rivals – there’s nothing else like it, but if you’re talking sub 1000cc sports tourers you’d have to pitch it against Yamaha’s own Tracer 9 GT+, the similarly triple cylinder Triumph Tiger 900 GT and the V-twin Ducati Multistrada V2.
Even then you’re forcing a square peg into a round hole. You either get and want a Niken or you don’t. There’s no middle ground. At £16,210 the Niken GT isn’t cheap, but it is a lot of metal for the money and it works brilliantly.
Now officially a proper sports tourer, the Niken GT benefits from a host of useful tech and equipment updates, including a new adjustable screen (with 70mm scope for adjustment), cruise control (available in the top three gears from 40kph), a new 7in TFT display with smart phone connectivity and compatibility to Yamaha’s myride app as well as Garmin’s Motorize app, updated and easier to use switchgear, a more comfortable seat and colour-coded 30-litre panniers as standard.
SpecsEngine size890ccEngine typeLiquid-cooled, 12v, DOHC, inline tripleFrame typeTubular steel diamondFuel capacity18 litresSeat height825mmBike weight270kgFront suspension43/41mm, forks, fully adjustableRear suspensionMonoshock, fully adjustableFront brake2 x 298mm discs with 4-piston radial calipersRear brake282mm single disc with 2-piston caliperFront tyre size120/70R x 15 (x2)Rear tyre size190/55 x ZR17