Highlights from the 2014 LA Auto Show

Yamaha announces narrow, light and very affordable Tricity tilting 3-wheeler

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March 26, 2014

Yamaha's Tricity 3-wheeler

Yamaha's Tricity 3-wheeler

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Regular readers will know that we’re big fans of the tilting 3-wheeler platform here at Gizmag. Narrow track vehicles are evolving and sprouting up all over the place, but Yamaha’s brand new Tricity represents the first production effort by a major motorcycle company – and it seems to be focused in all the right areas to make it a huge success.

Motoring giant Yamaha has thrown its considerable weight behind the tilting three-wheeler concept as a traffic-busting personal mobility solution with its launch of the 125 cc Tricity in Europe. Let’s take a look at where the market’s at for these kinds of vehicles and what makes them a good option.

Tilting narrow-track vehicles: as traffic worsens, these things look sure to take off

Why a tilting three-wheeler?

If you think traffic is bad in your city right now, it’s going to get a lot worse. Populations are on the rise, and the trend in most countries is toward urbanization. The daily commute is already a nasty part of our day, and travel times are on the way up. Asia provides us with a bit of a petri dish as to what comes next. Cities like Shanghai and Bangkok are massively overcrowded and cars move like molasses – they’re just too big.

Motorcycles are vastly more practical in these types of cities, especially for solo travelers. And most car commuters ARE solo travelers – the average occupancy of a car on an Australian road, for example, hovers between 1.2 and 1.3 people.

Motorcycles are quick, fuel efficient, very easy to park and skinny enough to filter through gaps in traffic. This is great for the riders themselves, but just as helpful for other drivers. If a motorcycle sits in line with traffic, it acts almost identically to a car in terms of its impact on traffic congestion, but if it filters through traffic, it’s almost as if there was no vehicle on the road at all. So filtering bikes are a huge benefit to pretty much everybody on the road.

Of course, bikes have their own issues, safety being one that’s at the forefront of the mind's of many potential motorcycle commuters, and weather exposure being another. You can get hurt on a bike, they tend to fall over every now and then, and you get wet when it rains.

And this is where the strength of the three-wheeler can show itself. A tilting three-wheeler need not be much wider than a motorcycle, and yet it’s got double the grip at the front end where you really need it, and the added stability of a triangular footprint on the road.

We’ve spent a good deal of time with the first of these jiggers to hit the market – Piaggio’s excellent MP3 250cc – and while the looks and the concept of these strange-looking trikes tend to rankle the sensitivities of battle-hardened bikers like ourselves, nobody in the Gizmag family who rode the thing got off with anything short of praise about the platform’s handling, grip and general riding feel. They’re really that good.

But it’s not sports riders these things are targeted at, it’s the commuting masses. And in terms of ease of use, a feeling of road security and the ability to cover over mistakes that could be catastrophic on a two-wheeler, the three-wheeler platform knocks it out of the park. I’d put my Nanna on one.

Narrow track tilting vehicles are going to be huge in the coming decades, and it’s very significant that a relative giant like Yamaha is throwing its hat into the ring at this early stage. Let’s take a look at some of the other significant examples on the scene to see where the Tricity fits.

The Can-Am Spyder non-tilting 3-wheeler

Can-Am Spyder

I’ve included the Spyder simply to demonstrate how NOT to design a practical 3-wheeler. It’s as wide as a car and doesn’t tilt, therefore unifying the disadvantages of cars and bikes in one fell swoop. Of course, traffic busting is not Can-Am’s aim with this machine, it’s more of a sports tourer.

Honda's proven Gyro platform

Honda’s Gyro Canopy

A massive success in Japan, the Gyro is a tilting three-wheeler with two wheels at the rear end, plus a giant windscreen and a roof. These extremely efficient 50 cc trikes have been around for more than 30 years, having debuted in 1982. Many have large storage boxes on the back, making them outstanding urban delivery and courier vehicles.

Piaggio's MP3 YouUrban

Piaggio’s MP3

Our first experience with the 3-wheeler revolution, the sharp-handling MP3 now comes in several different flavors, including the compact YoUrban 300cc (pictured) and a hybrid electric. The MP3 series appears to be Piaggio’s primary focus at this point, the twin front wheels making easy and secure work out of the many road surfaces you find in European urban centers.

Peugeot's Metropolis: available now

Peugeot’s Metropolis

Peugeot has been experimenting with tilting three-wheelers for a long time now, its hybrid 3-wheel-drive Evolution looking all but production ready back in 2009. As it stands, the 400cc Metropolis is Peugeot’s entry into the market with a conventional rear wheel drive, but the company has also been experimenting with roofed-in concepts to further appeal to car drivers.

Nissan's Land Glider - electric concept

Nissan’s Land Glider

First shown in 2009, The Land Glider comes at the problem very much from the car side of the equation. A 4-wheel, fully enclosed and fully electric tilting narrow tracker, the Land Glider has yet to materialize as a production vehicle.

Toyota's i-ROAD concept: close to production

Toyota’s i-Road

If you want to bet on any company getting it really right and setting the goalposts for the next wave of 3-wheelers, Japanese auto giant Toyota might be a good place to look. Its i-Road concept is looking very close to production, and being tested in several countries. Fully enclosed and electrically powered, the i-Road has a modest 50 km range, but is unique in that it’s automatically self-balancing so that the rider (driver?) never needs to put a foot on the ground when it’s stopped. It’s probably the closest thing on the horizon to a driver-friendly narrow track car alternative that’s set to take advantage of Toyota’s absolutely vast international distribution and manufacturing channels.

Yamaha's Tricity 3-wheeler

Back to the Yamaha Tricity

So in that landscape, where does the Tricity fit? For starters, don’t be confused by the clearly electric-sounding name. The Tricity is powered by a simple 125 cc scooter motor. It features a tilting parallelogram front suspension geometry not unlike the Piaggio platform, and a unified braking system not unlike what Honda rolls out on its larger sports tourers.

Its key points of differentiation in this developing market are its light weight (just 152kg when fully fueled and ready to roll), its apparently very slim front profile, and its affordable price – less than €4000.

The slim front profile is significant. The Piaggio MP3 was wide enough to make us think twice in many lane filtering situations, but the Tricity looks a lot thinner. And when you consider that lane filtering is one of the key attractions of these narrow track vehicles, that could be a very important feature. It’ll be interesting to learn exactly what its dimensions are but the eye test puts it several inches slimmer than the MP3 or Metropolis.

Yamaha's Tricity 3-wheeler

But the price tag is equally important. The Piaggio and Peugeot retail for double what Yamaha is asking, and that’s no small consideration for consumers looking for a cheap, quick commuter.

The Tricity should debut as the narrowest, lightest and cheapest 3-wheeler on the market, backed by Yamaha’s excellent reputation and broad networks. It has an excellent chance of really shaking things up. We look forward to getting our hands on one!

About the Author
Loz Blain Loz has been one of Gizmag's most versatile contributors since 2007. Joining the team as a motorcycle specialist, he has since covered everything from medical and military technology to aeronautics, music gear and historical artefacts. Since 2010 he's branched out into photography, video and audio production, and he remains the only Gizmag contributor willing to put his name to a sex toy review. A singer by night, he's often on the road with his a cappella band Suade.   All articles by Loz Blain
25 Comments

> Cities like Shanghai and Bangkok are massively overcrowded and cars move like molasses – they’re just too big. Motorcycles are vastly more practical in these types of cities, especially for solo travelers.

Even more practical for most uses: A simple bicycle. If it's too hilly, an electric-assisted bicycle.

Doesn't use any gasoline and causes much fewer accidents because of their lower speed.

Freyr Gunnar
26th March, 2014 @ 03:36 am PDT

The Can-Am Spyder hasn't even been on the market that long and I see them everywhere in rural Pennsylvania. They aren't effective at lane splitting but with no real competition in the US their sales seem to be doing pretty well.

The Tricity is a different market but also less than a 3rd of the price. These are meant as city commuters but after seeing the bicycle the other day with 2 front wheels intended for sand etc. I can't help but wonder how well this setup would do off road. I think they would probably fare better in the rain too.

@Freyr bicycles are also kind of impractical means of travel for people who have commutes longer than 4 or 5 miles and they can be a nuisance for automobiles if in the road because they travel under the speed limit.

Daishi
26th March, 2014 @ 05:21 am PDT

I disagree with the comment about the Cam Am Spyder not being a practical three wheeler. IMO, it is very practical. I also consider it be very nice looking.

I believe the tilting is only really need at higher speeds. At lower speeds - like driving in a city - it would not be really needed.

BigGoofyGuy
26th March, 2014 @ 06:05 am PDT

I admit I've only got 58 years of two wheeling behind me, but I'm currently riding my Honda Reflex 250cc in groups with several MP3 Piaggios. and I don't see any advantage to them at all except not having to put your foot down, a trivial non-problem for any low seat bike.

The front end is quite complex, the wheels are still small, and I wonder what the result of a flat in front at speed would be.

For absolute simplicity and economy, the 125cc low line bikes and scooters, like the Honda 150, seem the best idea. From there, it seems just personal esthetics and willingness to pull off sheet plastic Tupperware to get to anything.

I don't think the three wheelers are any safer.

Ormond Otvos
26th March, 2014 @ 03:02 pm PDT

Being retired, I no longer commute, but I do need to go into town quite often. Living out in the countryside causes me to need a vehicle that not only gets me into town, but allows me to shop there too. And having shopped, bring what I have bought back home. My dog's weekly food requirements alone would tax the load carrying capacity of nearly all of the vehicles discussed.

While I can understand the benefits of having the extra grip at the front end that the reverse trike arrangement delivers, I would still feel that the tilt mechanism would allow the thing to slide from under me before I could catch it if I hit a particularly slippery patch. At least with a car, I stand a chance of catching it before it falls over. Whilst being physically old, I am still young enough mentally (circa late teens, I reckon) to enjoy deliberately doing so when conditions allow - it provides one of the very few plusses from the winter's snow.

In short, you would not catch me on any tilting vehicle in winter conditions, or, if it doesn't have weather protection, even when it rains. In short, these vehicles are not really much of a traffic solution in countries that are far flung from the tropics, and not much use there either in the monsoon season.

Mel Tisdale
27th March, 2014 @ 02:52 am PDT

Two wheels at the rear is not a good idea, except posibly when you have a burst or rapid puncture.

There are a large number of vehicles that demonstrate this, from the famous APE mini van to certain of Reliants "cars". The weight transfer on cornering needs increasing resistance to outwards tilt at the front which isn't easy to produce in the normal motorbike way unless the rear wheels give virtually zero resistance to falling over when stationary.

amazed W1
27th March, 2014 @ 05:29 am PDT

I will go with Piaggio ....... beautiful. Oh, I am sorry am I suppose to look at the vehicle?

anmufti
27th March, 2014 @ 06:16 am PDT

i bought one of the first MP3's in Boston area...it is way above any two wheeler in terms of stability and cornering ability. The yamaha model is a knockoff for sure..nothing new there...but yamaha is a great company. i'd buy one... but i want the enclosure and 500cc....room for me and da Dog.

cheers,

hdm
27th March, 2014 @ 08:14 am PDT

The price is around $5,000 that not very "affordable",

Vincent Singleton
27th March, 2014 @ 08:20 am PDT

I've ridden 2 wheelers (bicycles and motorcycles) for 40 years. I've lost traction with the front wheel on both and had the resulting road rash and emergency room visits. From what I read, the two wheels in the front design does a lot for stability in marginal situations and considering all the crap on the road in cities, that is a good thing. I'd love to ride an MP3 just to see what it's like.

I have ridden a CanAm Spyder for a day and did not like it. My 2 wheeler sensibilities rioted in curves at speed and I did not enjoy the experience. The orange one in the picture above is not to my taste, but some other versions look much better in my eyes. The MPS looks a little insect-like in person, even with a beautiful woman astride it, but as with most vehicles, you really don't see much of them when you are going down the road. How it feels at that point is the important thing, not how it looks. When you get off and are admiring the thing, that's when it's looks matter.

Thomas Boles
27th March, 2014 @ 08:39 am PDT

Still prefer Nick Stotter's 4 wheel leaning bike - but maybe that's because I've never ridden a powered 2 wheeler.

JPAR
27th March, 2014 @ 09:22 am PDT

A parallel 800 cc or so twin for Los Angeles type commutes, going to WalMart/Costco from the ranch, ect...might be a serious vehicle for 50 mile or so one way rides. Being a three wheeler, avoiding DOT regulations for 4 wheelers will save thousands of $s.

PerryRObray
27th March, 2014 @ 10:14 am PDT

As far as I know lane Splitting is illegal in Canada at least it was in Ontario when I used to ride there. As for the tilting feature it actually makes your cornering safer albeit encouraging faster speeds which defeats the purpose. As for the poster that equates Delta set ups to Reliant cars, this is like comparing a Model T to a Corvette. Bad design doesn't work whether it is Delta or Tadpole & there are several Tilting Delta designs that out perform the best Tadpoles on the market.

Glen Aldridge
27th March, 2014 @ 10:24 am PDT

The British motorcycle industry were selling a tilting 3-wheel moped (albeit with one wheel at the front) over 40 years ago, the Ariel 3.

http://www.users.globalnet.co.uk/~pattle/nacc/arc0510.htm

One of its "interesting" design features was that the front half with the pedals and front sprocket tilted and the rear sprocket didn't, with the expected result if you tried to rotate the pedals when it was cranked over.

I actually had a ride on once...

Catweazle
27th March, 2014 @ 10:31 am PDT

So this is what I saw last week! It looks good close up. All else aside, the bigger engine makes it more attractive to me than the MP3. Can-Am is marketing their vehicles toward late middle age & older. Rather like the 3 wheeled Harleys but less pretentious.

theotherwill
27th March, 2014 @ 01:33 pm PDT

Motorcycles occupy as much space as a car? WTF!!

Perhaps in AR, rule obsessed cities like Sydney, but NOT where i live and travel daily. And for sure not in BKK or SHA!

3 wheelers may initially appeal to the 'balance challenged' but have no place if you actually learn how to ride, and i can't see these taking off in the market anywhere.

Tim Collins
27th March, 2014 @ 02:07 pm PDT

I used to commute 20 miles to work on So Cal freeways; It would take an hour in the car and 30 minutes on my motorcycle. When I rode the motorcycle, freezing in the morning cold, I was always imagining ways to make an enclosure that would keep me warm, only it wouldn't be possible to be totally enclosed because you have to be able to put your foot down when you stop. If I had one of these enclosed skinny 3-wheelers at the time, I would have loved it!

jeffrey
27th March, 2014 @ 04:02 pm PDT

All I can say, I love my Piaggio MP3...

Piaggio has not shipped any MP3's to the US since 2010.

If Yamaha brings them into the US, and they are 400cc or larger, I sure would consider making a switch.

Keith LaBorde
31st March, 2014 @ 05:09 pm PDT

Modern bikes have ABS which counters any perceived extra grip in a three wheeler, and potholes don't like the smaller wheels. They look like an improvement over a scooter though

A canopy would have visibility advantages, but with rain swirling in from the sides spray and fogging could be a problem.

Spyders are an expensive joke that tries to throw you at speeds; why not just buy a convertible so you don't have to wear a helmet? I was breifly stuck behind one and way under the speed limit he had to hang off it like a racer.

Ozuzi
1st April, 2014 @ 03:57 pm PDT

@Diachi

Bicycles are impractical over 5 miles?

How are they any more of a nuisance to cars than cars are to them?

C. Walker Jr.
6th May, 2014 @ 01:02 am PDT

When this went on sale here in Oz recently, I thought finally an alternative to the underpowered MP3 250 and 300 your ban. Imagine my dismay after realising they had opted to go down to 125cc. Distances are pretty big here, and while they might flog a few to inner city commuters generally this elastic band powered three wheeler just doesn't cut the mustard. Harsh, I know, but until they upgrade drastically power wise I predict a big flop. At least in this country.

Terence Munro
8th September, 2014 @ 05:24 pm PDT

I love this concept except for one thing .Engine should be 750cc .At the formula one GP in Melbourne there are lots of support races.There is a lot of money spent on cars that have no value toward improving traffic flow.Why not have a race of these? With the exception of a 750cc power plant instead of the minuscule 150cc automatic.I pose another question .Would variable down force work as a matter of stability on these ?

Mark Benson
13th September, 2014 @ 03:51 am PDT

Adding some much needed streamlining would solve a few problems,increase the range,allow a higher cruise speed, while adding some safety.Craig Vetter has proved that you can double the range of a motorcycle with streamlining.A 250 cc narrow tilter with some streamlining could easily return 125 mpg USA while being able to cruise all day at 75 mph,a 125 cc 200 MPG USA.Small doesn't have to be uncomfortable,unsafe,your foolish to believe that,BMW proved you can build a safe,comfortable motorcycle or ,tilter with they're concept vehicles the Clever and Simple.Those vehicles reconfigurated with a modern day tilt system would perform really well.

Thomas Lewis
12th October, 2014 @ 08:27 am PDT

I'm surprised to hear a few comments about tilters only advantage is you can keep your feet up.How about a extra wheel[more rubber on the ground],more braking power[another brake rotor in the front].I have no doubt,Yamaha's tricity and its larger cousins will sell very well,especially if they improve on its safety,fuel mileage,comfort , which will open up even a larger market.

Thomas Lewis
12th October, 2014 @ 08:53 am PDT

The MP3 came in to the American market at a very high price,I really think the market is here,a 250 cc, or 200 mile range electric ,maybe with a little more body work,etc would really do well.Yamaha has been around a long time, we tend to put a little more trust into they're products,not to say the MP3 is inferior product,just that few people in American have ever heard of Piaggio.I love the simplicity of the Yamaha,but love the idea of a fully or partially enclosed aerodynamic narrow track tilter,wouldn't that be cool.I like choices and we don't see much in the showrooms.

Thomas Lewis
22nd October, 2014 @ 09:54 am PDT
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