Can-Am Spyder: Bike, trike, or roadster?

Staff reports
Farm Forum

Jay Leno — comedian, car and bike guy, and discerning collector — owns his very own Can-Am Spyder Roadster, serial number 001, so it must be a cool machine, right?

The most frequent question I’m asked of the BRP Can-Am Spyder is, “What is it?” BRP — Bombardier Recreational Products — explains the answer: Can-Am Spyder is a motorcycle, at least in spirit and in concept.

It’s not really a trike in the traditional sense, since the Spyder puts its two wheels up front while the single wheel trails aft and acts as the drive wheel, while a trike typically positions two wheels in the rear, with one up front.

Why two wheels up front and a single driving wheel in the rear? Marc Lacroix, Can-AM Spyder Roadster product and public relations manager pointed out that BRP is noted for innovative paradigm shifts, citing sit-down vs. standup personal watercraft (Sea-Doo), and the snowmobile (Ski-Doo) vs. dog sled.

Lacroix explained that the vehicle’s purpose was to override potential consumer’s objections toward traditional two-wheeled motorcycles. Vehicle stability, or the lack thereof, with conventional motorcycles is no longer an issue with three wheels planted on the ground.

Riding skills are easier to master with three wheels rather than two, and safety technology is far superior. Licensing is easier where necessary and comfort, affordability, and practicality are other factors enjoying elevated levels with the Can-Am Spyder.

Power for the Can-Am Spyder Roadster is provided by a Rotax 998cc, DOHC, eight-valve V-Twin, liquid-cooled motor, with electronic multi-point fuel injection. The motor mates to a sequential five-speed manual (SM5) with a full mechanical, transmission-based reverse gear, driving the rear wheel via a carbon-reinforced belt. The motor generates 100 horsepower and develops 80 lb.-ft. of torque.

The unique 998cc Rotax motor mounts in a steel frame, utilizing Surrounding Spar Technology (SST), adding to its stability. The front suspension consists of a double A-arm with an anti-roll bar and 5.5 inches of travel, while the rear suspension features a single swing-arm with mono-shock, adjustable cam and 6.0 inches of travel.

There is no traditional right hand brake on the Spyder, instead, a right foot-actuated, fully integrated Brembo hydraulic three-wheel braking system with dual discs forward and a single disc aft, handles halting duties.

A console-mounted, electromechanical parking brake is on the console. Foot controls (brake and shifter) are mid-mounted. An optional handlebar riser is available to accommodate taller riders.

Confidence-building safety technology includes an anti-lock braking system (ABS), electronic brake force distribution, traction control system; Bosch version 8 vehicle stability system (the same used by Audi automobiles), and stability control system with roll-over mitigation. It even offers dynamic power steering with variable assist.

The styling and design of the Can-Am Spyder Roadster is both contemporary and futuristic. It doesn’t look like a motorcycle, car, or trike; it essentially creates a totally new category of its own. It may best be described as a “rider-active” vehicle with a large streamlined, watertight trunk located in the nose.

My BRP Can-Am Spyder Roadster tester was an ST-S model finished in Pearl White metallic, with the base price set at $20,549.

“Dyed in the Wool” sportbike riders may or may not take to the Spyder — after all, how much fun could it be with all that stability enhancement technology on board, interfering with high-speed canyon carving? Well, you can still enjoy the “twisties” — just with a different technique.

Non-bikers should have no problem learning to master the Spyder Roadster. Experienced traditional bike riders on the other hand, will have some adapting to do. Counter-steering is out, as there’s no hand brake and with the optional electronic shift version, there’s no clutch lever either. Leaning into a turn requires a different technique as well. Oh, and you don’t need to put a foot down when coming to a stop.

The Can-Am Spyder definitely feels different, especially in the steering department. As for technology intervention, BRP has done their homework, and the Can-Am is capable of smoking the rear tire for days off the line (keep in mind though that replacement rubber can’t be found in just any tire store) as long as the vehicle is kept in a straight line and the yaw doesn’t change intentionally or otherwise.

Call it what you will, this unique and innovative Roadster is entertaining to say the least, and should open the door to a simpler kind of “wind-in-your-face” motoring for those who are put off by the perceived perils of two-wheeled cycling. The Spyder is equally at home with a solo rider or two-up; for extended trips, it offers 12 gallons of storage in the front locking trunk.