2019 Yamaha Niken GT: An Interestingly Unique Sport Touring Bike

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By Arv Voss

At first glance from a distance, Yamaha’s 2019 Niken GT appears to be two bikes parked extremely close together, which is in reality an optical illusion. Both the Niken and Niken GT are uniquely innovative, in that they have two front wheels. They are not “trikes” despite their two-front-wheel and one rear wheel reverse configuration. They are not at all like the Can AM Spyder, Piaggio scooters or the Slingshot from Polaris. As stated, they are uniquely innovative with some definitely significant advantages. They are genuine Sport Touring motorcycles that are based off the basic architecture of Yamaha’s Tracer 900 GT Sport Tourer, which has but one front wheel.

OVERVIEW

Both Niken models feature Yamaha’s exclusive Leaning Multi-Wheel system (LMW). Why two front wheels you ask, and what are the aforementioned advantages?

The focus of the Yamaha Nikens was not to provide a “training wheel” ride, but rather to enhance rider confidence and improve riding dynamics by delivering an increased dual contact patch with the riding surface, ideal for conquering imperfect conditions such as irregular or rough roads and inclement weather, which is where it really shines. The Niken models serve up superior corner carving capability as well. In fact the Niken, which in Japanese is pronounced NEE-Kin translates as “double carving sword”

LMW SYSTEM

Yamaha’s LMW system makes all this possible, with sophisticated componentry which actually consists of three systems working in combination to serve up improved steering, leaning ability and bump absorption. The elements involved in making up the LMW system include: Parallelogram Arms, dual steering heads, a steering tie rod, dual USD forks and narrow track dual front wheels.

The parallelogram linkage is the heart of, and the key to providing a natural feel, handling and movement by controlling the front end lean angle limited to 45 degrees before reaching lean lock and keeping the track width at 410 mm regardless of the lean angle.

A twin KYB® USD front fork assembly, for each front wheel, with each fork leg providing separate primary functions featuring 110mm of stroke consists of a 41mm leading fork and a 43mm trailing fork. The leading forks are charged with providing alignment and rigidity, holding the wheel and brake assembly, while the trailing forks take care of shock absorption with compression and rebound damping aided by the articulation of the parallelogram linkage.

Ackermann steering geometry maintains consistency throughout the complete range of lean allowing each front wheel to track independently, with the necessary radius minus slip or scrubbing for a natural steering feel in cornering, while increasing grip and reducing tire wear.

Speaking of tires, the front tires are Bridgestone Battlax Adventure 120/70 R15s and the rear tire is a 190/55 R17. Wheels are five ”Y”spoke Black alloy wheels.

POWERTRAIN

Power comes from an  847cc liquid-cooled, DOHC, 12-valve inline three-cylinder motor with fuel injection, YCC-T and mass-centralized three into one exhaust. Horsepower, though not officially disclosed, is estimated at 113.4, while torque is rated at 64.5 ft./ lbs at 8,500 rpm. Energy reaches the rear wheel via a final drive chain with gearing through a six-speed manual transmission with a multiplate assist and slipper wet clutch.

COMFORT AND CONVENIENCE

One’s initial assumption in viewing the Niken GT for the first time, is that it would be cumbersome to ride with a heavy handling feedback. Not so. It is actually quite well balanced and steers with little effort. It corners better at higher speeds and is easier to ride in slow maneuvers. Again, it represents a vast improvement in overall maneuverability when compared to a conventional, two-wheeled sport tourer.

The riding position is ideal featuring properly placed handle bars with heated grips, comfortable moderate height seat position and centrally located foot controls.

There are three selectable (when stationary) riding modes 1-3. Mode 3 delivers a response that is less sharp than Mode 2 for riding scenarios requiring a more sensitive throttle operation. Mode 2 is for a wide variety of riding conditions, allowing for smooth and sporty readability from low speed range to the high speed range, and finally, Mode 1 delivers a sportier engine response in low to mid-speed rage when compared to Mode 2. The last selected mode is retained when the ignition is switched off.

There’s also a Quick Shift system that allows for full-throttle, clutch lever-less, electronically-assisted upshifts above 12 mph.

A multi-function meter unit includes a speedometer, tachometer, clock, fuel meter, eco indicator, transmission gear display, drive mode display, traction control system display, Quick Shift indicator, grip warmer display, a muli-function display and a brightness and shift light control mode. There’s also Cruise Control, coolant and air temperature displays and a Neutral indicator light.

AS TESTED

My test Yamaha Niken GT was finished in Matte Phantom Blue and Black with Gold anodized reversed front forks. The base price was set at $17,299 with an estimated final sticker total of $17,749. The base non- GT Niken costs $1,300 less, but deletes the following: soft Quick Release Side Cases with Locks, Large Passenger Grab Rails with Top Case Mounting Capability, a Tall Touring Windscreen, Comfort Rider and Passenger Seats, Security Alarm, and an Extra 12 Volt Electrical Outlet.

PERFORMANCE

Riding the 2019 Yamaha Niken GT provides not only a unique experience, but a rewarding one. I wouldn’t classify it as an entry level bike, but rather as a genuine sport tourer with easy, friendly to ride characteristics. It is capable of carving corners in superior and stable fashion, inspiring increased confidence. Manuevering is almost ballet-like and the ride quality or firmness may be adjusted to suit the rider and to compensate for road conditions and load.

The front forks lock in two positions, one of which is for parking on a roadway, where the lights are on. Don’t store the bike this way as it is hazardous to your battery’s state of charge. For convenience, there’s both a side and center stand for the GT and a helmet holding cable is located beneath the passenger seat along with assorted tools.

THE FINAL TAKE

Despite it’s initial bizarre and unusual appearance, the 2019 Yamaha Niken GT is a superlative Sport Touring bike that serves well as either an able commuter or for adventuresome sojourns. It draws loads of attention and a host of questions from curious onlookers, so be prepared to spend considerable non-riding time explaining the bike’s purpose and function. The only thing that I missed is self canceling turn signals, and that’s a very small nit to pick.

 

SPECIFICATIONS

Base Price:                          $17,299. Niken GT / Niken $15,999

Price as Tested:                  $17,749. Niken GT / Niken $16,449

Max Ground clearance:    5.9 inches

Fuel Capacity:                     4.8 gallons.

Fuel Economy:                    42.3        mpg

Seat height:                          32.9        inches

 

 

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