DRIES VAN DER WALT
FRIENDLY SCOOTER: Yamaha's Tricity is a solution for those bike-fearing peeps. Image: DRIES VAN DER WALT
South Africa has almost perfect motorcycling weather and, although our road infrastructure has deteriorated over the last decade or so, we still have fairly good roads. Despite this, motorcycles make up only about 10% of road vehicles.
A big reason for this is the fact that many non-bikers find bikes scary and intimidating.
Yamaha is the most recent among bike manufacturers to try to address this issue with its Tricity, a narrow-track three-wheel scooter (two wheels up front, no need to put feet down when you stop), developed by Kazuhisa Takano, a race engineer who used to develop bikes for Valentino Rossi.
Takano chose his wife, who had very little riding experience, as his development rider. He said: “She was able to tell me what she found difficult."
UNCONVENTIONAL FRONT END
He used her feedback in parallel with his own racing knowledge to design a scooter that was light, agile and remarkably easy to ride... Like Piaggio's three-wheeled MP3, the Tricity uses a parallelogram front suspension that allows the bike to lean as a conventional machine would.
Unlike the MP3, though, the Tricity’s front wheels can’t be locked in the upright position – you have to use either the side or centre stand when you park it.
GALLERY: 2014 Yamaha Tricity
The twin front wheels aside, the Tricity is a conventional 125cc scooter with a constantly variable transmission (no need to change gears) with all the advantages and drawbacks peculiar to the breed. But the unconventional front end caused the bike to attract much more attention than any bike I'd tested.
The question I was asked most often was “Can you lane-split with it?” The answer is “yes”, because the front wheels are narrower than the handlebars. If you can get the ‘bars through a gap you can get the bike through.
In fact, the confidence the added stability gave was sufficient for me to lane-split slightly faster than I normally would.
VIDEO: See how it goes!
Although I was somewhat apprehensive about its handling when I collected the review bike, I soon realised that riding the Tricity was not unlike riding a conventional scooter – so much so that you soon forget about the unusual layout when you are on the road.
The only oddity in the scooter’s handling was the fact that the rear wheel breaks out when you push it really hard into a corner. Since a rear wheel slide is much easier to control that a front wheel one, a novice rider should be less likely to fall when overcooking a corner.
WHAT'S THE PRICE?
The next most popular question bystanders was: "Price?". And therein lies the rub – at R47 950 the Tricity is way more expensive than most 125 scooters. I asked Adrian Bac, Yamaha’s PR manager, about this and he replied: “The pricing is about half that of a top-end Italian brand that sells about 50 motorcycles a month here in SA.
"The Tricity is made to a very high standard of quality and reliability, with the now traditional high service levels that existing Yamaha consumers have enjoyed from the Yamaha dealer network to back that up. Of course, the technology that also comes along with the Tricity makes this product unique in its offering to the buyer, further justifying a very competitive price.”
Bac says Yamaha is looking to open up a whole new market segment by providing a viable, fun, time and money-saving alternative to people now well on their way to feeling the economic and time wastage frustrations of commuting by car.
“The knock-on effect of this is that Yamaha will, it hopes, assist in the conversion of more commuters to the world of motorcycling.”
RETURNED WITH REGRET
As if to confirm Yamaha’s contention, many of my bystanders mentioned that they would much rather learn to ride on something such as the Tricity than a conventional bike. Apparently the appeal of that additional front wheel is greater than we dyed-in-the-wool two-wheel riders realise.
I returned the bike to Yamaha with a slight pang of regret – it was more fun to ride than I had expected and unusual enough to attract attention wherever it went.
I certainly wouldn’t mind having wirth which to run errands.
Type: Liquid-cooled, 4-stroke, SOHC, 2-valve
Displacement: 124.8 cm³
Maximum Power: 8.1 kW @ 9,000 rpm
Maximum Torque: 10.4N·m @ 5,500 rpm
Fuel supply system: Fuel injection
Fuel type: Petrol, unleaded
Fuel consumption: n/a
Final drive: Belt
Overall length x width x height (mm): 1,905 × 735 × 1,215
Kerb weight: 152 kg
Fuel tank: 6.6 litres
Front: Hydraulic disc, linked
Rear: Hydraulic disc, linked
Front: Telescopic, parallelogram link
Rear: Unit swing
WHEELS & TYRES
Tyre, front: 90/80-14 tubeless
Tyre, rear: 110/90-12 tubeless
PRICE: R47 950