Trikes. For every half decent one I’ve seen, I’ve seen some right mingers. And whilst I get that for some it’s more of a necessity than a choice, riding around on a stripped-down Reliant Robin with handlebars, smacks of disappointment to me. Even if I used to want one…
…I got over it.
So, back in ‘06 when Piaggio introduced the MP3 backwards trike, my prejudice was more intrigued than excited. Mostly curious to know how “uncrashable” it was. What I remember about my first ride is the dependability of the front set-up, was offset by its cumbersome execution. The weight of the system frankly, giving the 125cc engine too much to do, resulting in a heavy scoot (199kg dry) that offered vague feedback through the handlebars and was ultimately less inspiring than the sum of its trick parts. Kind of like BMW’s 125cc C1 was when that was a thing.
And if you put your back into it, it wasn’t uncrashable either.”
Despite these shortcomings, the concept held water and like ‘ABS’, ‘Traction Control’ and ‘Linked Braking’, better grip at the pointy end is a safety positive, showing those considering taking up riding and those who enthusiastically legislate against riding, that the motorcycle industry takes their concerns seriously. The Piaggio sold and sold very well.
A decade and change later, standing in Yamaha UK’s spotless garage, damp from the weather outside, I was given a walk-around the 2017 model of the Tricity 125cc by Jeff the Marketing man (clever name. Nicely lined up for an electric model). I’d seen a few around but hadn’t done my homework, so all I really knew about it was it’s the newest version and “more confidence inspiring” than uncrashable “Even in the wet.”
Despite Jeff’s assurances, I headed back out into the drizzle gingerly, choosing to use the time it took for me to ride to the A3 to get accustomed to the feedback through the handlebars, and not do anything that might risk skipping my arse across the tarmac. Once on the motorway, throttle back to stop, the gravelly sounding, “Blue Core”, liquid-cooled, 4-stroke engine (same as is in the current NMAX 125) quickly wound its way past 60mph and eventually to a 70mph maximum all the way home. Yamaha says the new motor is more powerful, more economical and spews fewer emissions than the old lump, and what with its Variable Valve Actuation,* is designed to deliver stronger power over a wide rev range. Plus with all of that living in a lighter chassis (147kg dry /164 wet), they say it pulls away more quickly now too.
*Variable Valve Actuation system features an intake cam with two different, separate profiles. The VVA mechanism moves the rocker arm from the ‘low-speed’ cam to the ‘high-speed’ cam at 6,000rpm, allowing the engine to achieve more linear torque for optimal performance over a wider rpm range. The combined effects of the Blue Core technology and the VVA system enable the Tricity to deliver stronger acceleration, a wider power band and achieve good fuel economy.
The next day brought the sun and with it the opportunity for a proper bit of riding. Throttle pinned, pick-up felt a lot more effective in town than it did on a motorway slip-road but I barely had time to fully appreciate this before some cretin driver hastily sped out from a side-road just so she could brake to a crawl, dead in front of me. Brake levers we’re grabbed, ABS kicked in, Yamaha’s Unified Braking System (UBS) didn’t need to kick-in, dual pairs of forks compressed and triple dollops of rubber squished into the road as pads forced discs to slow me right down, right-quick, unnervingly proficiently.
The scooter was nowhere near as bent out of shape as it should have been given the circumstances. Had it been a two-wheeler relying on my skills alone, chances are the whole event would have been more of a rant over a shandy later than the composed non-event it turned out to be. And that there is the rub. You see, the Tricity’s aimed at newbies and not necessarily potential scooter heads. It’s aimed at those rookies for whom the incident above on most other scoots, would have sealed the Yam’s fate to a slot on Gumtree but by taking the scare out of such inevitable occurrences, mild at heart, A1 licence holding new riders might just stay in the saddle.
Uber safe emergency breaking isn’t the Tricity’s only strength either because those wheels up front aren’t like kiddy stabilisers. They’re each an independent running gear working next to one another and being so, they considerably reduce your chances of wiping out on say, a manhole cover, painted lines, oil, loose dirt, spilled aggregate, diesel, fox carcasses and any other random slippy object; relegating those threats from the forefront of your mind. Potholes and speed bumps are still an annoyance but only in the kidney-quivering sense rather than the“Brace! Brace! Brace for impact” sense. You can basically, just get on with riding. Imagine that?
Bells and whistles
And Yamaha hasn’t stopped pandering to rookie riders there because this new, sportier looking model of trike comes with a load of bells and whistles you’d want from a good twist-and-go today. Items like an easy to read digital display, large clear mirrors, power saving integrated LED indicators, head and tail lights. A 40mm longer chassis providing room for a comfortable and upright seating position; the seat itself being longer, flatter, wider and what with the integrated grab bars, good for two-up. Plus, there’s plenty of foot space on the wider, flat footboard, which is good for carrying random gear as is the handy flip-out bag-hook.
As well as being more economically efficient, the Tricity’s fuel tank is nearly 10% larger at 7.2 litres, meaning fewer stops for squirt. The cavernous boot space, accessed via the ignition, takes a full-face helmet (you have to wear a helmet) and has a light that not only illuminates as soon as you lift the seat but is sensibly placed, so it’s still useful with the boot half full. There’s no charging point in there but there is a 12-volt socket in the glove-box, which is big enough for any one of the mega-sized phones about these days. It’s not lockable but who really leaves their phone in their vehicle anymore?There are a load of accessories available too.
Last of the late brakers
Perversely, it’s that “confidence inspiring,” solid front-end that makes the Tricity a bit of a head-scratcher for me. I found myself testing that front rig to distraction, braking later and later at lights, deeper and deeper into bends and in the bend. All of which the bike takes in its stride without a murmur. You know that feeling you get when you take a corner so sweet it’s like the bike’s almost taking it for you? That’s part of the Tricity magic and once you’re dialled into that, it does it almost all the time and without the normal front end feel I was missing, I learned to trust the trike instead.
Thing is, its competence makes me feel like it takes the edge off the rider’s skills and I kind of like that edge. I value learning just how much grip I have and how much brake I need, having learned how to read my bike’s behaviour and appreciate its limits. And whilst the Tricity’s prowess doesn’t make those learned behaviours completely obsolete, leaning the Tricity to the point that you scrape the centre stand and stay on, feels a bit too easy, and as much as the confidence gained from knowing this is possible and not terminal, is a plus to newer riders, riding a two-wheeler feels different. Front-end feedback feels more dynamic and a rider requires the savvy to look out for “a manhole cover, painted lines…”
That said, I don’t want to do the Tricity a disservice by sounding overly cautious. It’s a fine piece of engineering that’s fun to ride and could well be the catalyst to pull new blood into scootering. New blood for whom a gentler introduction could lead to a longer happier riding life, honing their skills as they go along. Could be. It could also be that more three-wheelers with bigger displacements stop my concerns from ever being an issue. After all, Yamaha has already introduced the Tricity 155, and recently unveiled their motorcycle three-wheeler Niken. An 847cc triple-cylindered monster. French specialist builder, LaZareth have also brought us a 3-wheeled TMAX – the MT3, which you can read about here so who knows what’s coming next?
Words: OlaDele Akinsehinwa
Photos: Adam Thomas and thanks to Fabrice Gregoire.
Yamaha Tricity specs
Engine type: Single cylinder, 4-stroke, liquid-cooled, SOHC, 4-valves
Maximum power: 12.069 @ 7,500 rpm
Maximum torque: 11.7 Nm @ 7,250 rpm
Front suspension system: Telescopic forks
Rear suspension system: Unit Swing
Brakes: 220mm hydraulic front disc, 230 mm rear
Tyres: 90/80-14, 130/70-13
Dimensions: Length 1,980 mm, width 750 mm, height 1,210 mm
Seat height: 780 mm
Wheelbase: 1,350 mm
Wet weight: 164 kg (ABS)
Fuel tank capacity: 7.2 litres
Colours: Milky White, Matt Grey
Contact: Yamaha UK
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