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Mike Stevens | Feb 6, 2009 | 5 Comments
 

Can-Am’s intriguing Spyder is in a class of one…

Just above the Can-Am Spyder’s instruments is a small tab marked: “Safety Card”. Pull it out and you’re presented with a list of cautionary advice – it’s the sort of stuff that seems to accompany any new product of two or more moving parts these days, in this ever-litigious world of ours.

However, after taking the Spyder for a spin through Melbourne’s CBD in lunch hour, it became quickly apparent that one important warning was missing: the one about the accidents the Spyder causes. These occur becuase onlookers instantly forget what they’re doing in their efforts to catch a better glimpse of this jaw-dropping machine.

Can-AmSpyder 089

In over a decade of reviewing motorcycles, I’ve never – I repeat, NEVER – ridden anything that’s provoked an even remotely similar reaction. Cars accelerate to drive alongside you. Truckies honk their horns. People on the footpath openly point and stare.

Yes, the Spyder is unlike anything else on our streets – so what exactly is it, anyway? It’s an entirely new concept from BRP (Bombardier Recreational Products), the global firm which owns Can-Am ATVs, Sea-Doo PWCs (Personal Water Craft) and Ski-Doo snowmobiles. It’s a road-going three-wheeler, but with two wheels up the front, and the drive coming from the single belt-driven wheel down the back.

Can-AmSpyder 047

It’s powered by a Rotax 990cc V-twin – the engine that’s also found success in Aprilia’s RSV1000 sportsbike. The three disc brakes are actuated by a single right foot pedal, and there’s a bike-style clutch and a sequential five-speed gearbox.

Right, that’s the basics. But there’s also a wealth of electronic wizardry available to help you on your way. You’ve got VSS (Vehicle Stability System), which incorporates ABS (Anti-lock Braking System), TCS (Traction Control System) and SCS (Stability Control System). So, you can’t lock the brakes up, you can’t spin the rear wheel up (much – it’ll still let go if you give it a handful in wet conditions or on a dirt road), and you can’t spin it out of control.

Well, you can, but the SCS constantly monitors proceedings, and if it thinks things are going pear-shaped, it individually brakes wheels and adjusts engine torque to bring it back under control.

Instruments RearBelt

That’s the theory, so what’s it like to ride?

In a word, different. On the road it behaves like nothing else I’ve ever sampled – two, three or four-wheeled. After a few days taking in city streets, open highways and tight, mountain roads, I was left with the impression that it’s incredibly easy to hop on and ride sedately, but it takes significant skill to ride at speed on a twisty road – and to develop that skill will take time.

The V-twin is a perfect match. With abundant torque, there’s plenty of go on tap here to keep you entertained. My demo Spyder featured a number of optional factory extras, one being a performance exhaust. Its throaty growl sends a tingle up the spine – somehow a vehicle like this just isn’t meant to be quiet…

Other options on our ride included a sports screen, custom wheels, caliper covers, a trunk liner and a custom seat skin.

Action3

The ride position is easy and relaxed, the seat broad and plush. Pillions are catered for well, with an equally-spacious perch and superb grab handles.

Power steering makes light work of low-speed maneuvering, but you’ll need to put some muscle into it when attacking a sweeping corner in anger – it’s all part of the fun.

At first I found it twitchy, and this didn’t instill confidence at speed. But with more kays under the wheels I grew accustomed to its characteristics, and the more I got to know it, the more I liked it. By the end of my time on the Spyder I was lifting the inside wheel a tad through corners, my grin matching the width of those two front wheels.

Trunk

The front ‘bonnet’ lifts up to reveal a storage trunk, with enough space to take an overnight bag for two. The instruments are informative and look great, and the Spyder’s overall finish is a class act – BRP has certainly dotted the ‘i’s and crossed the ‘t’s.

The Spyder retails for $25,990 plus ORC, which to me seems like a fair ask for the fun and quality on offer here.

SpyderLogo2

Who will buy it? Time will tell. Apart from the gearbox and engine it’s completely different to a motorcycle, but then it’s nothing like a car or an ordinary trike, either. It’s a Spyder. It’s unique, and I think it’ll attract true individuals who, like BRP, aren’t averse to blazing a trail.

It’s a thumbs up from me, and a big thumbs up for BRP for having the guts to see this innovative machine through to production.

Automatic for the people

The base model Spyder was recently joined by the Spyder SE5. It’s essentially the same machine but comes equipped with a semi-automatic transmission, instead of the standard clutch and sequential gearbox. Retailing for $27,990 plus ORC, Spyder SE5 riders will be able to flick through the gears via a pushbutton system located on the handlebar, which should appeal to those who don’t have a motorcycle background.

At the time of writing (January ’09) you still needed to hold a full motorcycle licence to ride a Spyder SE5, but BRP says it’s working on that and hopes that in the not-too-distant future it’ll be possible to take an SE5 for a spin on an ordinary car licence – something that would undoubtedly unlock the door to more sales.

Gallery

Specifications

Engine: Liquid-cooled, 998cc, DOHC, eight-valve V-twin
Power/torque: 79kW/104Nm
Transmission: Sequential five-speed (with reverse)
Weight: 316kg (dry)
Suspension: Front double A-arm, rear monoshock
Price: $27,990 plus ORC
Competitors: None
Website: www.can-am.brp.com
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