First Ride Review: Yamaha MT-09 & Yamaha Niken

First Rides: Yamaha MT-09 and Yamaha Niken

First Ride Review: Yamaha MT-09 & Yamaha Niken

Today, Maxim Honda Yamaha in Allen, Texas held a Yamaha Demo Days event, where I got to ride the Yamaha MT-09 and the Yamaha Niken. Even with some showers impeding the ride, it was fun.

2019 Yamaha MT-09

2019 Yamaha MT-09 demo bike

I got to take the 2019 Yamaha MT-09 out for a spin this afternoon courtesy of Yamaha Demo Days at Maxim Motorsports in Allen, Texas. Going into this, I had limited experience as I still consider myself a relatively new rider, and this is the first time I rode a bike that I didn’t have the insurance policy on. So, with that in mind, let’s dig in.

The Yamaha MT-09 is an 847cc motorcycle that clocks in at around 425 pounds. My first impressions with the MT-09, from aesthetics, is that it’s out of the future somehow. And then you see the turn indicators, which look like they came right out of the past. Of all the things that Yamaha could have done to cut costs on the MT-09, I think that one was the worst. Does it really cost all that much more to put some decent LED turn indicators on the bike? And that is probably my biggest criticism of the bike. Beyond the looks is the feel. I’m five-seven, and not exactly a small lady thanks to working in computers most of my life, and this bike was quite comfortable for me.

So, for the demo ride, we didn’t get to get the speed up much because of the weather. In fact, they ended up cutting the ride short for safety, something I can’t argue with as everyone on the ride, with an exception of the lead and chase bikes, was on a bike they were not familiar with. Wet roads make that a questionable course of action in the best of times. That said, I felt that I rode enough to give an adequate review of the bike.

Most of the online reviews indicate that the throttle is twitchy. I didn’t get that indication at all. That said, I was riding in “B” mode, which is the most conservative of throttle modes for that bike, but the bike reacted beautifully for me. The throttle does require proper throttle control, so I would not recommend this bike for newer riders. It seemed that no matter where I put it in the power band, I always had power at my call. That bike really wanted to run. Also, given the wet roads, I felt I had a good indication of how it would respond and it felt good on the road. I never once felt like I was losing traction or unstable on the bike. I would love to take the thing on the interstate for a bit, but I do not feel that I would be lacking for power in the slightest on that bike.

So, here’s my thoughts on the bike. On the good side, we have lots of power, smooth throttle that gave me exactly what I wanted when I wanted it, balanced ride, and definitely something fun. The major detractors, however, do not feel major to me, but it needs very good throttle control, it has some problems with aesthetics (why, in 2019, would you still use incandescent turn indicators on a bike???), and there aren’t much in the way of options for luggage if you intend to take it for a distance. (There are a few companies that make luggage for it, but mostly it’s limited to soft luggage, tail bags, or backpacks.) To me, the luggage is probably my biggest problem with the bike, as it puts nowhere for me to stash my purse while riding (unlike the helmet box on the Honda NC700X and the side cases on the Yamaha FJR1300ES). But, as always, your mileage may vary.

2019 Yamaha Niken

2019 Yamaha Niken
2019 Yamaha Niken Demo Bike

The second bike I’ve ever ridden that wasn’t part of my garage is the 2019 Yamaha Niken. The Niken is an interesting bike because it’s a trike that handles like a motorcycle. At least that was the theory when I walked up to it. It is very wide, very tall, and very awkward. And it doesn’t stand on its own, which was a complete surprise. I was not as impressed with it as I was the MT-09. They share the same 847cc inline-3 engine, but the Niken is a noticeable 155 pounds heavier at 580 pounds wet. The demo was drier, which meant we got to take the Niken on the highway for a small spell. Let’s start with the impressions. The bike was too tall for my comfort at over 32 inches tall. Additionally, it has a seat similar to the FJR1300ES, which turned out to be very uncomfortable for that ride height. Even the width of the handlebars felt weird.

The ride itself was a circuit that included some highway travel and some surface street travel. During the demo, I had the bike in the second mode (or the moderate mode), and it felt sluggish. I never felt like the bike gave me the power that the engine promised. The bike was also top heavy, something I did not expect from a trike. At low speeds, it’s maneuvering was a little weird and significantly heavier than any motorcycle I have sat on. Even at a decent speed, I felt resistance from the handlebars, making it awkward to maneuver the bike.

 

My final thoughts are that this bike has potential, but it really needs a much bigger engine, lower ride height, and better handling. Until then, I have to say that this bike is a gimmick bike and no more.