Tilting three-wheeled motorcycles look like going mainstream with the showing by Yamaha of a sporting MWT-9 concept at it's press conference at the opening of the 2015 Tokyo Motor Show today. The three-cylinder 850 cm3 MWT-9 concept is described as a "cornering master" and the indications are that it is likely to extend the existing three-wheeled 125 cm3 Tricity scooter into an entire family of three-wheelers.
As Yamaha wrote in it's brief press statement: This Leaning Multi-Wheel (LMW) concept model proposes a new type of category in the realm of sport riding. Under a development concept of a “Cornering Master,” the MWT-9 mounts a 3-cylinder 850 cm3 engine on a seamless and dynamically styled body.
Perhaps the most exciting aspect of tilting three wheelers is their ability to corner faster and safer than two-wheelers due to the extra traction available by two tire footprints at the front.
Yamaha's press release states:The exceptional cornering performance provided by the twin front wheels and the bank angle maximized by the outward positioned front suspension forks enable a high level of performance that lets the rider go freely through twisty roads with ever-changing road surfaces and dotted with tight curves in succession.
Leaning Multi-Wheel (LMW) vehicles have been an inevitability for close to a decade now, mainly because expanding the world's urban road infrastructure is too costly to contemplate, the world's population is moving to cities, and there's not enough room for everyone to have a full-sized car. Toyota, the world's second largest car manufacturer (probably the first again by now given Volkswagen's gross act of corporate malfeasance), recognized this in developing the i-Road (above).
Honda was the first of the Japanese manufacturers to experiment with Leaning Multi-Wheel (LMW) concept models and it's three-wheeled Gyro (aka Canopy) has now been a mainstay of Japanese urban transport for more than three decades. The Gyro has it's two-wheels at the back though and although the bike tilts, the two rear wheels remain flat on the road and the chassis pivots on the rear driving platform.
The first tilting three-wheeler to hit the roads was Piaggio's 125 cm3 MP3 and then followed it up with a 500 cm3 version dubbed the Fuoco (above) and marketed under the sister Gilera brand and a subsequent 250 cm3 version.
Yamaha was the first of the powerful Japanese manufacturers to get into fully tilting motorcycle-like vehicles when it showed the remarkable Tesseract four-wheeled motorcycle concept at the 2007 Tokyo Motor Show.
The Tesseract was designed for Yamaha by Luciano Marabese, the man who also designed the Piaggio MP3 three-wheeled scooter and the Yamaha Tesseract four-wheeled motorcycle shown in 2007. Marabese has subsequently designed a third generation tilting system and has built his own company, Quadro, to market its three- and four-wheelers.
In 2013, Kawasaki showed an outlandish, shape-shifting "J" three-wheel electric vehicle concept, but we've heard little of the concept since and it was only late last year that Yamaha began promoting further evolutions of its three-wheeled design with the 01GEN, then earlier this year Yamaha indicated it was continuing its three-wheeler development.
In March, Yamaha showed two concept three-wheelers, one a road bike and one a dirt bike, both pictured above.
Yamaha was also the first to get an LMW into production with its three-wheeled 125 cm3 Tricity which debuted at EICMA in Milan in November 2013 and has been on the roads since early 2014. That's the latest model Tricity above.
Now it seems the Tricity was just the tip of the iceberg, and with a second three-wheeler shown with an 850 cm3 capacity (directly above), there's plenty of room for a few models in between.
Honda too is getting into tilting three-wheelers and we'll have more on that in the next few hours once the glut of Tokyo Motor Show releases has been cleared.
One final treat is this video of the MWT-9 on Yamaha Europe's facebook page and the thought that the model designation of MWT presumably stands for Multi Wheel Trike, leaving the way open for an MWQ, just like the Tesseract which it began with.