At the end of 2019, patents surfaced that showed Kawasaki hard at work on developing its own technical designs for a leaning three-wheeled vehicle. Although the immediate mental comparisons would draw a well-informed rider to consider the likes of the Yamaha Niken GT or the Piaggio MP3, this—this was something else, entirely.
You see, at the time, in Kawasaki’s infinite wisdom, it decided that a front fork setup wasn’t the way to go. Instead, a horizontal link system to connect the two front wheels was under consideration—thus resulting in what appeared to be a suspiciously long wheelbase. It was, as Tanara (also known as the ‘Everybody’s so creative!’ lady on TikTok) often refers to somewhat questionable creations, differently different.
That was four whole years ago, though. Why are we talking about this now? Apparently, the dream of a leaning three-wheeler has been going through various iterations over at Team Green HQ. It’s now March, 2023, and in the course of the intervening five years between the last time we talked about this hypothetical three-wheeler and now, Kawasaki has applied for related leaning vehicle patents with the Japanese, European, and US patent offices.
Kawasaki applied for a slew of US patents related to this vehicle in 2020, which have subsequently been published by the US Patent and Trademark Office in January and February of 2023. Clearly, 2020 is a lot closer to 2019 than 2023 is, but although it’s definitely true that not all patent filings necessarily find their way into three-dimensional objects that we can eventually experience for ourselves, it also seems unlikely that Team Green would file so many patents with multiple international patent offices if it didn’t have at least some level of seriousness behind it.
Lengthy preamble aside, you’re probably wondering what’s in the newest batch of patents. The patent drawings, as you can see, depict a revised and detailed three-wheeler design. While there’s still a horizontal link system in play between the two front wheels, the revised design appears to have a significantly more compact wheelbase.
It also appears to have a type of fork element that connects to the horizontal linkage between the two front wheels, but is located well ahead of the handlebars. In the drawings, the mirrors are located back on the handlebar assembly, while the tops of the fork elements up front extend upward, almost reaching the height of those mirrors. The top-down view of the front wheel assembly shows that the ‘fork’ element would, in reality, be much closer together (and likely smaller in diameter) than forks found on conventional bikes—and also, that it involves three legs in a sort of triangular configuration if viewed from above.
Other recently-published patents relating to this vehicle outline solutions to the problems of lean angle stoppage, braking, disallowing the leaning technology from operating while the vehicle is stopped, suspension behavior, and cornering stability. Particular attention is paid to not scaring off riders who are unfamiliar with the concept of cornering on a three-wheeled vehicle with two wheels up front.
As always, it’s unclear whether the vehicle described here will see the light of day—nor what changes it may undergo before any such production occurs. Is it something we can expect to see in the future, or will it lead to further developments that carry the baton across the finish line instead?