Yamaha Tricity: The power of three
TRICITY IDEAL ANSWER FOR COMMUTING, PARKING AND ERRANDS
Affordable city-friendly scooters are the Toyotas of the two-wheeled world: useful everyday appliances, but generally nothing to get excited about. Yet there are always exceptions, and this one’s Yamaha’s Tricity.
As you can see, it delivers an unusual recipe, and not just because of those two wheels up front. After all, Piaggio put its 244cc three-wheeled MP3 on sale here in 2008.
The hint comes with that front number plate — yes, you can ride it on a car licence, despite its 125cc rating being well above the usual 50cc limit. Yamaha New Zealand says the NZTA LE2 licence covers it as a tricycle, and to fit the regs it has manufactured its own front plate holder.
You still need to wear a helmet and the usual safety gear — you remain more vulnerable than you are in a car. But less vulnerable than on a standard scooter, at least over lumps, bumps and slippery surfaces of a typical rainy-day Waitakere commute, where it was tested by deliberately tracking the gnarliest lines.
Those front wheels lean in parallel, but operate independently, so one can be rising while the other’s dropping. That makes for confidence on off-cambers and over humps and holes — and means if one wheel hits a slick patch, the other may be unaffected, so there’s no loss of stability.
Each wheel has two fork legs, one for suspension, one to prevent twisting, but despite the extra hardware, all you need is a slightly firmer pressure on the bar to turn than on a similar-capacity conventional scooter. At 152kg wet, this scooter is 31kg heavier than a Beewee 125, but the extra heft is barely noticeable, and the 50-50 weight distribution helps impart this Tricity’s confident feel.
The brakes are good — the discs are linked, so the left lever operates both front and rear, while the right adds more up front.
There’s an auto transmission to apply the Tricity’s modest power to the back wheel. The 125cc liquid-cooled four-stroke feels perky enough round town, and it’ll easily keep up with 70km/h traffic and indeed held its own on a busy motorway, albeit mostly in the slow lane. Speed did drop off when climbing the Waitakere Hills though — especially up the admittedly extreme slope en route from a coffee-stop visit to sample the Piha Store’s Sunday baking. That said, no one’s going too fast on this bendy road, and Tricity held its own where the 50cc alternatives otherwise available to a car-licence scooter buyer would have trailed to a halt.
As for practical matters, the seat height seems designed to suit the widest range of riders. It’s broad and well padded, and hidden beneath it there’s a capacious cargo area that will fit some designs of full-face helmet, and will certainly swallow student books or accommodate a run to the dairy for bread and milk. And the Tricity is overall no wider than any other scooter.
That Yamaha could produce a trike which is both relatively light and nimble, and easily useable, isn’t a surprise when you realise who developed it. Kazuhisa Takano was an engineer on Yamaha’s Moto GP racing division, and worked with Valentino Rossi. His wife helped test this new concept, despite — or more likely because of — the fact she’d done very little riding. Low weight was important to both of them, for slightly different reasons, and so was agility — and practicality.
That it manages what it does at this $4499 retail price is quite an achievement, and one which could see Tricity storm the sales charts. That it keeps up with traffic, unlike a traditional 50cc “car licence” scooter, was the icing on an already appealing cake.