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7 Things You Need To Know About The Yamaha Niken - Reviewed

30w ago

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Words: Shaun Pope Images: Oversteer Photography

I've had the Niken in the garage for the last two weeks, covering nearly a thousand miles of dry, rain, wind, and a touch of snow - so this is as comprehensive a review as I can give, both positive and negative. So without further ado:

1: It'll still fall over

There's been lots of hearsay about the Niken. Is it a bike for disabled riders? Will it stand up on its own? In short - no. Its just like any other bike, there's no locking mechanism to hold it in place and all 263kg of it WILL fall over if the side stand isn't down correctly. I learned this the hard way when I stumbled in the slippery garage, thankfully throwing myself under the bike (it's still classed as a motorcycle) to prevent any damage. It's quite a top-heavy bike with a wide seat, making tiptoe stops at traffic lights a necessity. Meanwhile I was pinned until help arrived (cheers Huw). Let's not talk about that again...

2: It gets more looks than anything this side of a supercar

I can't count how many occasions I saw people double taking at the Niken, usually whilst mouthing "what the f*ck is that thing?". I've never seen another one on the road, so I've no idea if Yamaha have actually sold many, which is a shame.

It's also one of the most divisive machines to come out of a factory in a decade or so (if you can think of anything else, put it in the comments)

If you're wondering how to pronounce the name, it's Ni-Ken (not Ny-Ken). It means 'Two Swords' in Japanese.

Social media followers generally HATE the Niken, questioning its purpose, as well as its ability. I'm sure these commenters would change their opinion after riding one. Which brings me to the next point.

Not fat! Pockets and jumpers underneath. I'm a racing snake. Honest...

3: You can hunt sportsbikes on it - it's über capable

Without blowing my own trumpet, I've ridden most modern litre bikes out there, from BMW HP4s to Panigales and everything else in between. On a twisty road, even with just 115bhp from the MT-09 triple motor, and that large weight figure, it'll out-handle just about anything out there. The front-end grip is just phenomenal, even if the front wheels are wrapped in little 15 inch scooter tyres with a regular 180/17 on the rear. I never experienced a slide or moment from the front and the limiting factor was pegs scratching the floor.

A handy rider on a Niken will decimate your average power ranger on a busy weekend. I didn't have a single bike pass me during the entire duration of the test, and that was with the 129mph speed restrictor in place.

If you were plonked on the Niken blindfolded and told to ride it, you wouldn't notice the extra wheel, it'd just feel like a very, very stable front end. Like riding with a super sticky, hot racing tyre up front.

4: It'll wheelie!

Ok, so these aren't what you'd call 'proper' wheelies. I could only get the Niken on the back wheel from very low speed in first gear, with a lot of clutch and a steady throttle hand. Akin to riding the back of an angry hippo without a saddle, holding it by the ears. You're not quite sure how it'll work out, but there's a high chance of getting hurt. Plus the vast majority of weight is over the front. Not recommended! Thankfully we found a private road for these shenanigans...

5: There's a couple of small gripes

Ugly? You decide

Due to the small wheels, the discs have also been shrunk, which gave the brakes a rather disconnected feeling. Perhaps a set of sintered EBC HH pads would work wonders, but as standard the initial bite and overall braking power isn't great. It'll still stop, but perhaps the ABS system being complicated causes this distant feeling at the lever. Other Niken owners I've spoken to have said theirs have shown no problems, so maybe this one had rubbish pads.

Then there's the engine, the 847cc triple from the MT-09. Great in the MT, but when you add 70 or so KG to the chassis, it makes the Niken more sluggish. It'll still demolish most fast cars, but I kept dreaming of a Niken with an MT-10 engine. Now that would be the perfect combination. If you ride late at night on wide open (private) sweeping roads, the 129mph limiter is also a bit annoying, but I can understand why it's there, and can be removed with a reflash.

Ridden flat out, the wind protection also isn't ideal, but a larger screen is cheap and easy to replace.

6: It comes with lots of toys

The Niken comes as standard with cruise control and a quickshifter. There's also heated grips as an option which I've had on full the last few weeks (a Godsend) and you can choose to turn the traction control on or off, as well as various riding modes. See the Yamaha accessories page for the full options list

Development wise, it must've cost Yamaha millions to refine and perfect this totally new platform, and we commend them for that wholeheartedly. For them to take it from drawing board to showroom floor shows a bold confidence that other manufacturers are lacking. In short, Yamaha has grown some balls lately, and they're not afraid to try new things.

Not fat. Just lots of jumpers. Honest.

7: Try one!

From April, Yamaha says they hope to have a Niken Demonstrator in all of their dealerships. Many Yamaha dealers haven't had a Niken on their demo fleet, which is a real shame as the more people who ride them, the more they'll sell. It's one of those bikes that you'd never dream of owning until you get the chance to experience it. That level of confidence from the front end is a real selling point, and perfect for new riders or someone returning to bikes who wants that extra level of grip to back them up a bit in the corners.

If you filter a lot and and worry the Niken isn't up to the job, then fear not. Even though it looks as fat as a heifer, it still filters 90% as well as a normal bike. Hardcore London filtering will require mirrors folded in, but other than that you're golden, it's not an issue and I've done my fair share of lane splitting and filtering.

I can honestly say you don't need 200 horsepower to have fun. The Niken has given me endless smiles and if an MT-10 engined version was available, I'd even consider dipping into my own pocket for one.

For more information visit Yamaha's Niken page. If you go touring, there's also a Niken GT with panniers, luggage and a larger touring screen. This is where I think the market is, for those who want to tour and have fun when they reach their destination of twisty mountain roads of the Alps.

Learn more about how the Niken works here.

Price: From £13,499

Finance options

Finally, another big thanks to Oversteer Photography for the images. He hangs out of car doors, inches off the floor for that perfect shot. He can shoot your pride and joy for an affordable sum, with various packages to choose from. Please give a 'like' to his facebook page and instagram. Thanks.

Almost perfect. an mt-10 engine would earn it five stars

Gear worn:

EDZ Under layering one piece

Draggin' Chino Jeans

ARMR Moto SHWP940 gloves

EDZ Yeti jumper (like wearing a polar bear)

TCX RT Race Pro Air boots

HJC RPHA11 Monster energy helmet

Jacket - ARMR Moto

Trousers - ARMR Moto Totorri Evo

Went commando on the underwear front

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