Can Am Spyder Test Ride Review
We take a test ride on Can-Ams three wheel wonder, the Spyder.
The thing you will hear most often in a discussion with a fellow bike rider about the Can-Am Spyder is, “It’s not a motorcycle”. Which is odd, because no one ever says that about quad bikes.
No it’s not really a motorcycle, but it’s a lot closer to being a bike than it is to being a car. And if I couldn’t access a motorcycle again, this isn’t a bad replacement. Holding that thought, you can see straight away how ideal this machine is for those who can’t or wont ride a motorcycle for some reason. Or those who want an extra dimension to the fun that is riding.
What we are looking at here is a 990cc v-twin powered trike, with two front steer wheels. It doesn’t lean in corners, and although it has handlebars they work in an opposite manner to a bike. You pull the bar in the direction you wish to go. Other than that, the most obvious difference is the lack of a handlebar mounted brake lever, brakes are linked via a brake pedal which is in the normal right foot position of a motorcycle rear brake.
So sitting astride the machine for the first time, you’d be forgiven for thinking this is going to ride like a bike, apart from braking only with your foot. How wrong you would be. It starts like a bike, and the Spyder I was on sounded like a bike – a very nice bike too- with it’s Hindle accessory muffler. And the gear lever and clutch action are the same, so it all feels pretty comfy for a motorcycle rider.
That is until you get to the first corner. This is where I discovered Newtons second law of motion, f=ma. The formula means that a force acting on a body is equal to the mass of the body times its acceleration. And given that I really like acceleration, and possess an impressive mass to my body, this meant the first corner I hooked into nearly unloaded me off the outside of the Spyder.
Years of motorcycle riding allows you to relax in corners, the force acting to push you to the outside of the corner just pushes you down onto the seat, as you lean with the bike. Not so on the Spyder, and anyone who has put some time in on a quad bike, or trike, will be familiar with this.
Hard cornering requires hanging off the inside of the Spyder, or in my case, hanging on like grim death. It really is surprising how strong this force is, and takes a while to get used to.
It is this single factor that means most motorcyclists – and I suspect even non motorcyclists – will find a short ride on the Can Am unrewarding, if any kind of hard cornering is involved. But the more you ride it, the more you get into the flow of things, and given enough kilometres, would probably feel normal.
There’s some big upsides to this though, the Spyder possesses the front grip and braking capability of an open wheel race car, the linked brakes soon inspire late braking confidence like you have never experienced. And the whole dynamic is watched over by a sophisticated stability control computer, measuring things such as steering angle, wheel speeds, and throttle.
If you get too out of shape it will make some adjustments to power or brakes to correct the situation. The fun policing extends to anti-lock brakes, and traction control. In a concession to the hoon factor, the traction control does appear powerless to operate as long as the Spyder is going in roughly a straight line. The means straight line burnouts are not only possible, but safe.
Of course our rigorous testing procedures managed to unearth several methods to outwit some of the stability control, but we’ll leave it up to you to figure that out yourself. More fun that way. But it does work surprisingly well, and you would be hard pressed to tip one over or spin one around.
Other noticeable ride factors, an extremely comfortable seat, and a bit of wind blast at higher speeds with the upright seating position.
There’s a mechanical reverse included, and just behind the gear lever is a parking brake.
From the comfy riders seat, you will be looking out over a large pair of easy to read analogue gauges, both speedo and tacho, with an inset LCD screen with the usual electronic trickery such as twin trip meters, temp and fuel gauges, and a digital speed readout. The ignition key operates an immobiliser.
A bit further forward, the sloping nose opens to a 44 litre storage area, you could fit 2 full face helmets, or as we did, cameras, drinks and spare clothing. Very handy.
Can-Am’s parent company is BRP, who also manufacture Rotax engines, so it is no surprise that the engine would be a 60 degree vee twin not too dissimilar to the engine found in Aprilia’s RSV1000.
Tuned for maximum torque and less outright power, the Spyder puts down around 106 horsepower (79kw) at 8500 rpm. Gearbox is a 5 speed, the usual slot for 6th replaced with a mechanical reverse. The test bike was the manual transmission model, an electronically controlled transmission model, the SE5, is also available. That version features a centrifugal clutch, with shifting courtesy of handlebar buttons. Motoaus is yet to sample that variant.
Fuel injection, liquid cooling, and importantly -given the g-force issues – dry sump oiling all feature. The result is a pleasing spread of power, and performance to rival all but the fastest of cars.
Our test machine was fitted with the accessory Hindle muffler, giving it a truly glorious sound. Final drive is by belt rather than chain. The computer casts you a stern glance at speeds above 170km/h, not that we tried it.
You can find a swag of Spyder tests on the net or in print, BRP are certainly on the ball marketing wise. But none of this is really going to tell you if this unusual machine is a match for you, you really have to try for yourself. Unfortunately even the longest of test rides will barely have you into a comfort zone on the Spyder if you are a long time motorcycle rider, due to ingrained habits. Currently Can-Am are running a travelling show of test rides, you can book in advance and take a Spyder for a lengthy run. You can find details on this here: Spyder Experience
You will never be lonely on a Spyder. We were constantly besieged by intrigued onlookers every time we parked the beast. One of the questions we were asked time and time again; can you ride this on a car license? Not at the moment, although in some other countries just a car license is sufficient. Perhaps that will change.
We enjoyed our time with the Spyder, and look forward to putting more kilometres on one again sometime. Just remember to hang on in the corners!
What we thought:
Totally unique riding experience
Huge storage space in the nose
Extremely comfortable seat
Fantastic sound with accessory muffler
Loaded with hi-tech
Not so great:
Totally unique riding experience
Takes some getting used to the riding style
Can-Am also have a range of accessories available for the Spyder, from touring aids like a bigger screen, bags, and extra lights, to more sporty stuff like billet components. Our test bike was wearing the optional 6 spoke wheels, and what we consider a must, the Hindle muffler. The paint job was a one off for this particular Spyders role as a promo machine for the Motorcycle Expos.
998 cc, liquid-cooled, 8-valve, DOHC, V-twin
Bore x Stroke 97 mm (3.8 in) x 68 mm (2.7 in)
Fuel injection, multi-point EFI with 57 mm throttle bodies
Compression Ratio 10.8:1
Final Drive 28/79 ratio, carbon-reinforced belt
Ignition Electronic ignition with dual output coil
Transmission Sequential 5-speed with transmission-based reverse
SE5 available with sequential push button transmission
Brakes/Front 260 mm discs w/4-piston calipers
Brakes/Rear 260 mm disc w/single-piston caliper
Suspension/Front Double A-Arm w/anti-roll bar; 144 mm travel with adjustable cam
Suspension/Rear Swingarm w/monoshock; 145 mm travel with adjustable cam
Length 2,667 mm
Width. 1,506 mm
Height 1,146 mm
Seat Height 737 mm
Wheelbase 1,727 mm
Ground Clearance 114 mm
Fuel Capacity 27.0 l
Dry Weight 316 kg (697lbs)