We’ve reviewed the quirky-looking 2019 Yamaha Niken GT a couple of times, and comprehensively covered the technical side of the three-wheel motorcycle. Based on the intriguingly positive comments from anyone that rides one, I decided to try out the GT with some very precious cargo—my better half—as a passenger.
My reasoning is based on safety, and the upside of the Niken’s unusual front end is virtually unlimited front-end grip. Imagine that for a moment. It’s not that the Niken cannot be crashed—of course, it can.
However, every rider’s number one fear—losing the front and sliding off—simply becomes a non-factor with this machine. If you do indeed manage to crash, it will be because of something else, not because the front end washed out under hard braking, or because you encountered unexpected dirt, or water, or oil in the middle of a corner.
So, because front end slides are now almost impossible, the Yamaha Niken allows the rider additional brain bandwidth to focus on things other than the road surface, which, let’s face it, usually takes up a lot of our attention. On the Niken, I’m able to concentrate more on lines through a corner, my speed into and through a corner, and whatever traffic or other obstacles might suddenly do to jeopardize my safety—riding becomes much safer.
Having ridden the 2019 Yamaha Niken GT for many miles, I get it. Interestingly, it feels and handles exactly like a conventional motorcycle; there simply is zero difference in the riding experience. No, the steering is not heavier, and, yes, the Niken turns as quickly and neutrally as any other good handling motorcycle out there, including its almost identical sibling, the Yamaha Tracer 900.
The double-wheel front-end does not affect the bike’s handling in any way; therefore, it does not improve (or worsen) the handling at all. The Niken (like the Tracer) is a sweet-handling motorcycle, with neutral, yet fairly fast turn-in. It has nice firm damping paired to pleasantly firm springing, so the Niken handles road bumps and ripples with aplomb. The ride is very sporting, very comfortable, and even barely adjusting the multi-adjustable suspension at either end, the Niken GT proved to be a superb riding machine across every type of road surface.
The sport touring 2019 Yamaha Niken GT it is beefier than the typical supersport machine. At 580 pounds, it is about 100 pounds heavier than the Tracer 900 GT, yet 70 pounds lighter than Yamaha’s excellent-handling FJR1300. So, the Niken GT falls smack in the middle of the sport-touring weight range.
Adding a passenger’s weight—140 pounds in my case—the Niken GT’s handling is no more compromised than on any other motorcycle. In other words, turning is slightly slower and heavier, especially when slaloming through a series of quick twisties. However, the motorcycle still turns neutrally and quickly and feels very stable in the corners.
I did turn the rear-spring preload up by three full turns using the useful knurled plastic knob on the left side, and that stopped the Niken GT’s mild wallowing when being ridden hard. Even with the additional weight of a passenger, I never felt the need to stiffen the front at all; the Niken GT’s exemplary KYB front-end and soaks up all the bumps and yet stays compliant enough that the bike doesn’t get thrown off-line if something is in the center of the turn.
From the rider’s perspective, it is impossible to tell that there are two wheels at the front from the cockpit, as they cannot be seen while riding. So, I was constantly reminding myself that I had virtually unlimited grip at the front. This is a huge comfort when riding in the winter on mountain roads.
The only adjustment I have to make with this machine is, if there is a large rock or another obstacle on my line in mid-corner, then I have to ride around it on the Niken. On a two-wheeler, it’s easy to slip past the object with minimal change of line.
In normal riding, I find myself going into corners a little harder than I would on a more conventional motorcycle, as I’m that confident in the front end. Whether fast or slow, sweeping or tight, all turns are fair game on the Niken, and I haven’t been able to upset it yet. The maximum lean angle is quoted as 45 degrees, and I’ve come close to that a couple of times as the footpeg has touched down.
The lean angle seems very extreme at that point, and at least as much as I’d carry on a standard motorcycle. It’s huge, crazy fun trying to explore the Niken’s limits, and I haven’t even come close to reaching them as yet.
Leaving aside the unconventional front end, the rest of the Niken GT is typical Yamaha. The build quality is exemplary, and the Matte Phantom Blue paint is particularly attractive to me. The three-cylinder 847cc motor is a slightly reworked version of the MT-09 sportbike—more durability and torquier—and it is charismatic and peppy. The throttle connection is nice and linear, so it’s easy to ride the Niken GT fast and smoothly, and that keeps my passenger happy.
Electronic niceties such as cruise control, up/down quickshifter, and different riding modes are appreciated, and the additional safety given by ABS and traction control are always good insurance to have as well. Accessory power ports are provided at the front for the rider, and in front of the passenger footpeg so the pillion rider can plug-in.
Riding comfort is excellent. The GT rider’s seat is firm yet somewhat plush, with a thicker, comfier seat than the standard Niken. The handlebar and footpeg relationship allows a relatively upright riding position that doesn’t contort the back or cramp the knees. However, the Niken is very much a sporting motorcycle, so if you ride hard—and with this much confidence in it, why wouldn’t you—then, it’s easy to tuck behind the non-adjustable windshield ( larger on the GT) and get aggressive.
As far as passenger comfort goes, I’m told the GT’s rear seat pad—also thicker than on the standard Niken—is pleasantly firm but still very comfortable after a long ride. It’s relatively wide and long, so there is plenty of room. The footpeg placement is excellent, so my 5’ 7” lady’s legs don’t get cramped or overly stretched. The passenger grab handles fall easily to hand and are very useful, especially during hard braking.
From the rider’s perspective, I enjoyed the roominess of the Niken GT’s seating, so my passenger can lean back a little and avoid placing any weight on me. The two zippered hard fabric bags are convenient and carry more than one would at first suppose. However, they will not house a full-face helmet.
Overall, the 2019 Yamaha Niken GT is a fabulous motorcycle. It performs extremely well as a sport-tourer, and absolutely brilliantly as a sportbike. I can ride it ridiculously aggressively in the corners; a lack of fear of losing the front will do that to a rider, and that is fun taken to the next level.
I keep trying to decide whether I think the Niken is ‘different’ looking, or just plain ugly. Seeking for some perspective, I think about those high-neck choppers that were such de rigueur 15 years ago. They were also ‘different’, and I never liked the look of those. However, I’m a performance fan, so form follows function. If it works well, it must look good. Based on that line of thinking, high-neck choppers are ugly and the Yamaha Niken is beautiful.
Either way, everyone seems to fall into one camp or the other concerning the Niken’s unusual appearance. Having had lots of non-moto people comment when out and about, it seems that almost everyone has an opinion. In the final event, I applaud both Yamaha and the chopper’s single-finger-vertical gestures to the establishment. Both embrace motorcycling’s rebellious spirit, and I like that.
However, for the 2019 Yamaha Niken GT, it will ultimately appeal to those who want something a little different. It should also appeal to those riders with perhaps a little less experienced, or those who are a bit more cautious, both of which will value the Niken’s extra safety. It is arguably the safest motorcycle manufactured today and, for that alone, Yamaha should receive massive kudos.
Photography by Don Williams
RIDING STYLE (Rider)
- Helmet: Arai Corsair-X Van Der Mark Frost
- Communications: Sena SFR
- Jacket: Dainese Tuono D-Air
- Gloves: Dainese Mig C2
- Pants: Dainese Delta 3
- Boots: Dainese Torque D1 Air Out
RIDING STYLE (Passenger)
- Helmet: Arai Corsair-X Van Der Mark Frost
- Communications: Sena SFR
- Jacket: Dainese Racing 3 D-Air
- Gloves: Dainese X-Run
- Leggings: MotoGirl Moto Zip
- Boots: Dainese Nexus Lady
2019 Yamaha Niken GT Specs
- Type: Inline-3
- Displacement: 847cc
- Bore x stroke: 78.0 x 59.1mm
- Compression ratio: 11.5:1
- Valvetrain: DOHC, 4vpc
- Transmission: 6-speed w/ quickshifter
- Clutch: Assist and slip
- Final drive: DID 525 V11 chain
- Frame: High-tensile steel tubes w/ cast steel headstock, plus aluminum subframe and swingarm
- Front suspension; travel: Fully adjustable inverted 41mm and 43mm KYB forks; 4.3 inches
- Rear suspension; travel: Linkage-free spring-preload and rebound-damping adjustable shock; 4.9 inches
- Tires: Bridgestone Battlax Adventure A41
- Front tires: 120/70 x 15
- Rear tire: 190/55 x 17
- Front brakes: 298mm discs w/ 4-piston calipers
- Rear brake: 282mm disc
- ABS: Standard
DIMENSIONS and CAPACITIES
- Wheelbase: 59.4 inches
- Front track: 16.1 inches
- Rake: 20 degrees
- Trail: 2.9 inches
- Maximum lean angle: 45 degrees
- Seat height: 32.9 inches
- Fuel capacity: 4.8 gallons
- Estimated fuel consumption: 42 mpg
- Curb weight: 589 pounds
2019 Yamaha Nike GT Color:
- Matte Phantom Blue
2019 Yamaha Niken GT Price:
- $17,299 MSRP