Riding the Spyder (Can Am that is)

Finally had a chance to sample one of those 3-wheeled motorcycles today. I have a little trouble calling it a motorcycle because while it shares a few similarties with it’s two-wheeled bretheren, there are some pretty radical differences also. We could argue forever as to the catagory this machine belongs in, but the fact is that most jurisdictions consider it a motorcycle, and it’s popularity, means here to stay. (Kinda like when skiers first po-poed the snowboarders)

Hangin out in Culpeper

 I’ll have to preface all my observations with the caveat that I’ve never ridden a trike or a motorcycle with a sidecar, or even one of those ancient death-trap ATVs, so I have no point of comparison with this type of machine. But after reading several favorable reviews, I’ve wanted to sample one for myself. The actual opportunity didn’t present itself until recently when I looked-up a former acquaintance. We’ll call her “Roxy”.

Anyway, I played passenger first while she demonstrated the various methods and controls. I don’t like to hop on such an unusual machine without some kinda demo, since a lot of AFV $10,000 winners seem to fit into this category, especially when unfamiliarity and a motor is involved.

To quote the owner: “this thing kinda drives itself”; not far from wrong when compared to a traditional motorcycle. A long time ago, I predicted motorcycles would do away with the clutch/gearshift combo and one of the brake levers. Well, apparently we’ve arrived. The clutch and front brake levers are GONE and the gearshift is a plastic paddle to the side of the horn button. It downshifts automatically as you slow down, which is both cool and disconcerting as it “blips” the throttle automatically when going down through the box (weird, because you hear and feel it blip down without any accompanying motions on your part). It still requires you to upshift, although I’m not sure why? I found the smoothest upshifts were accomplished by holding the throttle steady and just stabbing the shift paddle. Rolling off at all seemed to add a bit of herky-jerky to the affair. You can downshift if you like, but what’s the point, except maybe to get some additional RPMs for a pass.

This thing has reverse, which it needs because of it’s weight and size. But it’s also just plain fun to back out of a parking space with your feet already up on the footrests 🙂 You have to have to hold the shift paddle forward and push a special “R” button, but it only required a couple iterations to sink-in. After reversing, you have to double tap the shift paddle to get to first gear because neutral is at the bottom of the batting order, not between first and second. It only has 5 speeds, but that’s plenty. Also because of it’s heft, it has an emergency brake, which is probably a good idea when parking on even a slight slope. And failure to activate it results in lots of warning histrionics. Also, the start-up screen asks the you read the Owners Manual before you ride (before every ride? PLEASE? Lawyer scum!) but fortunately Bombardier incorporated an easy defeat to this message so you can get underway quickly.

The Rotax 60 deg V-twin displaces just under a liter (I’m guessing it the “old” Aprilia Mille engine) and has plenty of poke to pull this somewhat weighty rig around. And if you are willing to exercise the tach near it’s 12K redline, it’ll scoot!

There is a trunk under the “hood” that holds a good bit of stuff including your helmet. It was relatively comfortable, not much different from the riding position on a typical naked bike. It had decent wind protection but still has that “out in the breeze” feel which most of us prefer. And this thing gets the “looks”, young/old, male/female, motorcyclist/not, Harley/sportbike, everyone wants a closer look. And you get a lot more waves from folks by the side of the road too.

My biggest complaint about riding this contraption was the fact that it felt real “busy” even when cruising in a straight line on a smooth road. The slightest camber in the road causes it to wander downhill, requiring constant correction, if not brute force to keep it tracking between the lines. I feel that either a geometry change or some kind of self centering mechanism would make this much less annoying. With 3 staggered wheels it almost impossible to avoid objects in your path, like road-kill. so you hit a lot more stuff than you would on a traditional motorcycle. Cornering seemed much more “forced” (like you have to fight it a bit) rather than “flowing”, which took away a lot of the feel I look for when riding. I don’t know if I just wasn’t doing something right, or if it would always be awkward (it seems cars corner better, maybe it’s the 3-wheels thing)

My traditional motorcycle reflexes gave Roxy the giggles on several occasions: like when I’d put my left foot down at all stops, when I’d toe-up the next gear where there is no lever and also when I’d reach for the front brake when slowing. It reminded me just how much we are creatures of habits

After only an hour or so on the machine, I was getting comfortable as an operator, and it seems like it wouldn’t take much time to convert over (kinda like getting used to the turn signals on a BMW). But I would NOT recommend having a traditional motorcycle and one of these at the same time, because it would be really hard to go back and forth.

Would I buy one? Potentially in the future, if I thought balance would be a problem. But for now I’ll stick to my single-tracker. But I was impressed enough with the technology, feel and integration to move it from the “never” category into the “possible” one.

But that’s just my opinion,



About rhinomotorcycleblogger

Affliction: Moto-nutcase Geography: Born and raised in the Washington D.C metro area, moved to Daytona Beach, FL for 3 years then Salt Lake City, UT for 11 years then to Tucson, AZ for 2 years, back to VA for 4 years and finally landed back in Utah since 2006. Born: 1959 (damn I'm old) Occupation: International Playboy (and part-time Visual Simulation Engineer) Street Riding since: 1980 (30 years), Dirt Riding since: 1995 (15 years), Track Riding since: 1990 (20 years) Credentials /Courses/ Licenses: MSF ERC 11 times Trained to become MSF instructor (1997), then opted out to do more riding! NESBA Intermediate (upper mid-pack on a good day, can barely get out of my own way on a bad one) Current bike(s): '05 Suzuki Bandit 1200, '97 Ducati 748, '98 Yamaha R1, '02 KTM 640 Adventure, '07 Yamaha WR450, '05 Suzuki GSXR 750 Anniversary Edition, '06 Yamaha R1 Limited Edition, '08 Aprilia Shiver SL750, '86 Suzuki RG500 Gamma Previous bike(s): '78 Kawasaki KZ200, '81 Suzuki GS1100E, '90 Yamaha FZR1000, '91 Ducati 900SS, '92 Ducati 900SS, '96 Suzuki DR650, '97 Suzuki GSXR750, '98 Gas Gas EC250, '98 Suzuki TL1000S, '01 KTM MXC520, '03 KTM 990 Adventure, '00 Aprilia RSV1000' Mille, '82 Suzuki GS1000S Katana, '99 Yamaha R1, '03 Suzuki SV650, '06 Moto Guzzi Breva 1100, '97 Suzuki Bandit 1200, Dream bike: Somebody please give me a Britten!!!!! Also maybe a 51 Vincent Black Shadow, 30 Scott TT Replica, 14 Cyclone BoardTracker Favorite roads: No way I'm givin' up my Gold, find it yourself! Scare yourself on Angeles Crest or Deal's Gap if you dare, but stay the hell out of Utah, the roads are terrible. Other hobbies & interests: Competitive Swimmer (35 years), Road Bicycling, Jet skiing (gotta love water motorcycles!), Snow and Water Skiing and Graphic Design (nickname: StickerBoy) Words of wisdom: Always remember when you're on the road, you ARE the Invisible Man. Quote: "It's not tragic, if you die doin' what you love" Bodie (Patrick Swayze) in the movie Point Break
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One Response to Riding the Spyder (Can Am that is)

  1. Bob Robinson says:

    I know you couldn’t push it too hard since it wasn’t yours, but I’d be real interested in which mode it fails when you push it too hard in a turn, I’m guessing massive high-side. I’ve ridden both racing and street sidecar rigs and they’re a real handful when the side car is unmanned, especially on right turns (assuming the side rig is on the right).

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