In December 2018, Yamaha Motor announced its “ART for Human Possibilities” slogan and long-term vision, and formulated a new medium-term management plan aimed at implementing it. Yamaha’s new growth strategy encompasses three fields of focus: “Advancing Robotics,” “Rethinking Solutions” and “Transforming Mobility.” Among the three, one part of the “Transforming Mobility” field includes Yamaha’s lineup of Leaning Multi-Wheelers (LMWs).
Following the release of the NIKEN large-displacement sport model, Yamaha unveiled the 3CT, a new 300cc commuter prototype LMW model, at the EICMA 2018 show in Milan, Italy. In this issue, we take a look at how Yamaha is furthering product development to expand and grow the LMW category.
Originality: Multiple Leaning Wheels
Motorcycles offer fun and exhilaration when you lean them into corners. However, that exhilaration comes with an inherent risk of falling, something unique to two-wheeled vehicles. Yamaha Motor has been working for some time on innovative new technologies that can reduce that risk without sacrificing that inherent fun of riding.
One of those efforts began in the mid-1970s with research into a three-wheeled vehicle that was capable of leaning with a good feeling of stability. This project was carried out in parallel with development of 50cc scooters that Yamaha believed could potentially spark new demand among women, young people or others previously unfamiliar with motorcycles. Although the model did not make it into production, a wealth of data was gathered and many patent applications were filed. Further advanced development followed, and at the 2007 Tokyo Motor Show, Yamaha unveiled a leaning 4-wheeled prototype called the Tesseract as an example of a sport-oriented multi-wheeled vehicle.
Yamaha was conducting R&D into a two-front-wheeled LMW prototype with the Passol, a 50cc scooter that heralded the “step-through” frame style (1977).
Then, after many years of research and effort, results were finally seen. The initial aim was to address the societal issue of chronic traffic congestion often seen in European countries’ urban areas. The project proposed a new type of next-generation personal mobility far more compact than a car, yet very different from existing motorcycles and scooters. Though still in the planning stage at that point, researchers saw strong possibilities in how useful having two front wheels could be, and a move was made toward full-scale development.
The outcome was the Tricity 125, which debuted at the EICMA motorcycle show in Milan, Italy in 2013. Its most standout feature was its two front wheels with independent suspensions, which employed a parallelogram link mechanism for the chassis, allowing it to lean like a two-wheeled machine, but with the possibility of a nimble yet stable feel when cornering.
For Yamaha, a machine with three or more wheels that leans while cornering is called a Leaning Multi-Wheeler (LMW), and technology that uses a steering and suspension system with a parallelogram link contributing to both agility and a feeling of stability is referred to as “LMW Technology.”
The first production LMW model was the Tricity 125. Featuring two front wheels, it was launched in Thailand in April 2014.
Advantage: The Fun of Leaning with Peace of Mind and Comfort
As of 2018, Yamaha’s LMW lineup is comprised of the Tricity 125, Tricity 155 and the new NIKEN sport model. All three feature two front wheels and a single rear wheel, and their LMW properties are essentially the same. This brings us to the question of what are the specific benefits that the LMW platform offers to riders, and in what situations is it useful?
The first and most critical is a feeling of stability. As the chassis features three wheels with a single one in the rear, directly after starting out from a stop and just before coming a stop there is a noticeable lack of front-end wobble, which gives confidence and peace of mind to the rider. In addition, the two front wheels share the load of tasks that would normally be handled by a single wheel, meaning that more braking power can be applied to the road and, thus, shorter stopping distances are possible.
Find all the details on how LMW technology offers advantages when riding on rough roads like cobblestone streets, uneven terrain, or when cornering or braking, and more on our technology website: Seeds of Creation: Waza and Sube
If one of the front wheels loses grip when going over a wet manhole cover, cobblestones of a street or a patch of sand, the remaining wheel can still continue to grip and avoid a fall. This means that rough roads with dips or bumps and the like are easy to traverse because the two front wheels move independently to grip the road, resulting in good road-holding performance and a more enjoyable ride overall.
Also, while cornering the left and right front wheels can retain solid grip in relation to the lean angle, which allows the rider to enjoy a feeling of confidence in the ride. In use, LMWs offer a unique quality to the ride that is light, agile and enjoyable and with nothing unnatural in feeling compared with that of a two-wheeled machine.
With the NIKEN, the maximum lean is deeper (up to 45°), so the front steering and suspension system uses specially designed LMW Ackerman steering geometry to prevent inconsistency in the trajectories of the inside and outside front wheels, thus enabling smoother cornering performance.
NIKEN: The first sport-oriented LMW was developed with the theme of “comfort and excitement.”
The Future: New Mobility Exceeding Imaginations
LMWs will play a pivotal role in achieving the aim of “Transforming Mobility” that is part of Yamaha’s new medium-to-long-term-growth strategy. The 3CT, a new 300cc prototype scooter that follows in the footsteps of the Tricity 125/155, was unveiled at the EICMA 2018 show and takes a stance geared toward making inroads into the volume zone of the global market. However, Yamaha will aim to expand the number of customers even further through the application of attitude-control technology, offering new value by realizing the goal of combining high levels of safety and stability with fun.
As one example, the Tritown, a compact electric vehicle with two front wheels that’s ridden standing up, was introduced as a reference model at the 2017 Tokyo Motor Show. Also, a four-wheeled LMW vehicle, the MWC-4, and others could be viewed as other possible examples.
In addition to these, the possibilities for new LMW machines is set to expand as Yamaha applies the concept to vehicles with various powertrains, from different engines and electric motors to electric power-assist systems, for the road, dirt and snow. Who knows what kind of new products this LMW development will lead to in three or maybe ten years.
With a strong passion for innovation as our guide, we will continue to create Kando* that exceeds customers’ expectations, because that’s what we do at Yamaha as the “Kando Creating Company.”
*Kando is a Japanese word for the simultaneous feelings of deep satisfaction and intense excitement that we experience when we encounter something of exceptional value.
Going forward, Yamaha plans to increase its customer base through combining peace of mind and a comfortable ride with fun (according to the long-term vision and new medium-term management plan announced in December 2018).
LMW Technology Verification Video 2018
Message from the Editor
CES 2019, the world’s largest consumer electronics trade show, was held recently in Las Vegas, U.S.A. Yamaha had its LMW technology on display at our booth in the form of the Tritown and NIKEN models, both of which attracted a good deal of attention.
As a matter of fact, I’m a Tricity 125 rider myself and I love riding it as a way to get around town. When you ride it the first things you notice are the feeling of stability and confidence it gives you. I think that in turn adds to your ability to ride more safely and the ability to lean naturally through turns also contributes to that feeling of stability.
If you think about it, it isn’t just motorcycles and scooters that lean when they corner. People, horses, dogs, cats and others do too. Everybody leans!