While leaning trike motorcycles have not exactly set the world on fire, manufacturers continue to flirt with the design to try and spark interest. Kawasaki’s recently released patents show a new, simplified design that appears to be easier to implement into current single-track vehicle configurations. Will a lower cost, more conventional looking design hit the right buttons with riders?
Kawasaki previously submitted patents in 2019 showing a complicated leading-link, monoshock tilting-trike system utilizing rods and linkages for steering. In comparison, this new patent appears to bolt on to the fork bottoms of a very conventional looking motorcycle front end. Assuming the existing steering head geometry and strength is suitable, this new design could conceivably be adapted to any existing motorcycle design that has space for the new mechanism to operate.
Without the need for a completely re-designed front end, as Yamaha had to do when converting the Tracer 900 into their tilting-trike Niken, Kawasaki could potentially reduce development and manufacturing costs considerably with this new design. Additionally, this latest design also eliminates any linkage and rod system from the steering operation, which maximizes steering feel and eliminates complication and sources of wear.
Kawasaki already has some experience with a production version of a tilting-trike design similar to this, with their Noslisu cargo e-bikes. Although the two products are seemingly dissimilar, the basic principles of engineering the chassis and steering geometry will not differ considerably, and lessons learned from the leaning trike e-bike project could easily be applied on the motorcycle side.
If there is a future for tilting trikes in the motorcycle marketplace, Kawasaki may have hit upon a cost effective solution to reduce costs and complication. Having ridden the Yamaha Niken on track, the benefits of the design are clear – significantly increased front end grip and confidence, especially in slippery conditions. If Kawasaki can bring a properly marketed and priced design to fruition, it is possible the leaning trike market may catch fire.
Sources: CycleWorld.com, Kawasaki