Although it hasn’t been
invented, if there were a company to mass produce such a contraption,
it would be Bombardier Recreational Products (BRP). Take a look at
its CV, proof that this innovative Canadian company knows a thing
or two about building “The Next Best Thing” when it comes
to motorized consumer products. First, it started with its Ski-Doo
snowmobiles, later expanding to the water with its Sea-Doo watercraft.
They made the jump to the off-road world with its Can-Am ATVs, and,
in 2008 moved to pavement with its tricycle, the Can-Am Spyder. Next
year it expands its road line-up by offering a touring capable vehicle
in the form of its 2010 Can-Am Spyder RT
Is it a Car or Motorcycle?
A little bit of both, actually.
Based off the aforementioned Spyder platform, the RT (Roadster Touring)
incorporates both automotive and motorcycle-derived engineering practices
making it a unique touring option unlike anything else currently on
the road. The first thing you’ll notice, next to its three wheels,
is the way they’re arranged—two in the front, one in the
back—an interesting contrast to conventional trikes (if you
can call them that) based off Harley-Davidson Electra Glides and Honda
Goldwings. Its streamlined shape resembles that of a modern European
car, complete with twin projectile headlights, turn signals integrated
in the rearview mirrors, and bright, highly visible LED taillights.
More automotive similarities come in the form of its front double-A
arm suspension, Bosch Vehicle Stability System (VSS), optional semi-automatic
transmission, linked hydraulic brake system, and sophisticated instrumentation.
Like the Spyder, which it is based
off, the RT uses a liquid-cooled 998cc V-Twin engine that you perhaps
may have experienced aboard the Aprilia RSV1000R or Aprilia Tuono
1000R motorcycle. It was selected for a number of reasons, one of
which is that it’s built by BRP’s sister company, Rotax.
The engine features a compact 60-degree cylinder cant, 97 x 68mm bore/stroke
dimensions, a 12.2: 1 compression ratio, and 4-valve DOHC equipped
cylinder heads. Both its fuel and ignition maps were specifically
calibrated for the rigors of the RT and a ride-by-wire throttle control
system (in which the engine and the throttle are linked electronically
as opposed to a conventional mechanical set-up), completes the package.
Two transmission systems are available
(both of which feature reverse), the standard being a manual 5-speed
controlled via a shift lever near the rider’s left foot and
a left-hand operated hydraulic clutch. An optional semi-automatic
gearbox does away with the clutch lever and moves the gear change
process to the handlebar. Power is transferred to the 15-inch rear
wheel via maintenance-free belt final drive.
The engine is mounted behind the
front wheels in the center of the machine inside Can-Am’s proprietary
Surrounding Spar Technology (SST) frame. Constructed from steel, the
Y-shaped frame extends back to a steel double-sided swingarm located
underneath its 6.6-gallon fuel cell. Suspension is comprised of an
automotive-derived double-A arm set-up with an integrated roll-bar.
An electronically controlled power steering system is also fitted
and provides variable assist. Front damping is courtesy of twin gas-charged
shock absorbers, while a solo hydraulic shock absorber is used rearward.
The suspension offers 5.67-inches of travel at each end. The Audio
and Convenience package as well as the RT-S model offer 5-way preload
adjustment via a push of a button.
It rolls on a pair of 14x5-inch
aluminum wheels up front and a 15x7-inch aluminum rim out back all
shod in Kenda rubber (165/65R14 front, 225/50R15 rear). Braking duties
are handled by three rotors measuring 250mm in diameter and 6mm thick,
controlled by twin 4-piston calipers up front and a single-piston
caliper out back. The entire system is linked together hydraulically
with electronic anti-lock system (ABS) and is actuated via a right-hand
side foot lever. It also features an electronically activated parking
In addition to ABS, the Spyder
employs a high-end and fully integrated VSS. Individual wheel speed
sensors provide system with real-time speed data and help mitigate
the chance of the rider losing control during acceleration, turning
and braking. When system detects an abnormal wheel speed parameter
it first reduces engine power, and if that isn’t sufficient,
it will apply the brake to any or all off the three wheels until the
speed value returns within range. The system is always on whenever
the ignition switch is turned on, and, unlike most cars it cannot
be manually disabled.
A full-color instrument display
situated between the analog-style speedometer and tachometer provides
the rider with information including speed, time, temperature, and
trip info, as well as system malfunction alerts. Additionally, the
rider can also set language, time, and unit of measurement preferences.
Audiophiles will rejoice as the Spyder also includes an AM/FM/XM/WB/CB
radio as well as an intercom feature that allows the rider and passenger
to communicate. An iPod adapter is also available. All of its features
can be accessed via a 4-button pad on the left-hand side of the handlebar.
Further electronic creature comforts in the form of heated rider and
passenger hand grips, cruise control and an up/down adjustment of
the windscreen are also standard. Last of all, it comes with a Garmin
Zumo GPS mounting adapter on the center of the handlebar.
Three Wheel Motion
Hop onto its plush saddle and
it feels like you’re inside a car only there aren’t any
doors or windows to isolate you from the outside world. Grab a hold
of its clean V-shaped handlebar and you’ll notice just how close
it is in relation to your torso, a real plus for riders of smaller
stature. Place your feet on the footpegs and forget about the balancing
act typical with a two-wheeler.
The controls are laid out similarly
to a motorcycle with the twist-tube throttle located on the right-hand
side of the handlebar, as is the engine run switch and starter button.
Noticeably absent is a motorcycles traditional front brake lever which
has been relocated to a right-hand-side foot lever. Working the turn
signals, horn and headlight high-beam is all controlled on the bars
Starting the engine consists of
first turning the key switch to ‘on’, flip the engine
switch to ‘run’, depress the mode button on the handlebar,
pull in the clutch lever (those who have the semi-auto transmission
auto skip this step, however, we tested the standard model), and press
the starter button. The engine fires right up. Notch the bike down
into first gear with your left foot, fan out the clutch and you’re
off and running.
First gear is pretty low which
makes launching from a dead stop easy regardless if you’re on
flat ground or slight incline. Twist the throttle and you’ll
be surprised how much ‘oomph its V-Twin engine has. It’s
truly amazing how different this engine feels than when used in Aprilia’s
sportbikes, due in part to its touring-specific engine fueling and
ignition mapping. Specifically its bottom and mid-range are plump
enough that you’re never really going to need to rev it out
to its 9000 rpm redline. Power comes on smooth and is devoid of any
quirky fueling hiccups or power surges; just a smooth, steady flow
of power throughout the rev range. Sure, you’re not going to
win any drag races against any modern 250cc-plus motorcycles, but
it gets up to speed well.
During acceleration, the engine
emits the same charismatic tune as on Aprilia’s Rotax-engine
equipped sportbikes, only in the Spyder it’s slightly more muted.
Most sport-oriented riders will appreciate its sound; however for
a hardcore touring type, it might still be too loud. While some might
complain about the amount of engine noise while riding, you’ll
be hard pressed to find someone who isn’t impressed by how just
how little vibration there is. Equally as pleasing is the way in which
the gearbox moves through each of its five gears. Each gear change
has a very positive feel and doesn’t have any stickiness as
we’ve experienced on other machines equipped with this engine.
The gear ratios are spaced nicely and there’s never a time you
feel between gears. Cruising down the freeway at 60 mph, the tachometer
shows just a hair above 4000 rpm in top gear.
Our machine was fitted with the
optional adjustable electric windshield and it did a phenomenal job
of protecting us from the elements. Our only gripe was that it didn’t
come down low enough for us to get a taste of fresh-air the few times
we wanted it. The rearview mirrors offered a clear view of what was
happening behind us and for the most part the instrumentation is easy
to read. However, the font within the LCD display is too small and
it’s difficult to read it even for someone with perfect vision.
We also would have preferred if the analog-style gauges were ditched
and integrated digitally into a larger LCD screen.
The rider can navigate through
the audio and trip information functions via the 4-button control
pad on the left-side of the handlebar. The menu system is straight
forward and easy to figure out but we weren’t all that impressed
by the outright sound quality coming out of its speakers. We didn’t
get a chance to play with the cruise control at all as it didn’t
function on our machine.
For a motorcyclist, one of the
oddest sensations you experience aboard the Spyder is during cornering.
As opposed to a motorcycle, in which you counter-steer to initiate
a turn, the Spyder requires you to do the opposite. If you’ve
ever ridden an ATV, snowmobile, or a Jet Ski, than you’ll be
familiar with the way it feels when you turn, and, if you’ve
never touched a motorcycle you’ll probably have an easier time
acclimating to its turning manners (old habits are hard to break).
Nonetheless, its power steering system makes maneuvering the Spyder
easy regardless of speed, or even upper body strength. Just a light
touch of the handlebars is all it takes for it to change direction.
On the highway the Spyder occupies
approximately two-thirds of the traffic lane which gives you a fair
amount of room inside your lane. The front wheels have a tendency
to follow the road’s camber, further reducing steering effort,
thereby making the ride more ‘hands-off’ when you’re
racking up the miles on the highway.
We were also impressed by just
how effective its suspension was at absorbing bumps on the road. Not
only does it have almost zero bump-steer, its independent front suspension
sucks up rough in a similar manner as a long wheelbase luxury car,
no joke. We even purposely rode on rippled pavement on the shoulder
which had little effect on the overall ride quality.
But its supple suspension manners
do come at a cost, the cost being measured in firmness and its resistance
to wallowing during aggressive acceleration and braking. During heavy
braking or in situations like a panic stop, the chassis had a tendency
to transfer weight from back-to-front way too fast, thereby upsetting
the chassis and making the machine difficult to control. Our fully-loaded
RT-S machine came with the electronically adjustable suspension which
made a huge difference when set to full hard, but still wasn’t
firm enough to eliminate its aggressive weight transfer. One pleasing
side effect we noticed was how even with the suspension set to full-hard,
the outright quality of the ride wasn’t compromised.
Traditional 3-wheeled vehicles
aren’t known for having the best ground hugging stability. The
Spyder smashes this conception with its VSS. Simply put, it’s
one of the most effective systems we’ve used whether on two
or four wheels. Its ABS function works great during braking with minimal
noise and pedal pulsing, thereby ensuring a quick stop. Similarly,
its rear wheel traction control keeps your inner hooligan in-check
yet still allows you to do a burn-out. And its lateral stability control
function takes the worry out of aggressive or panic steering inputs.
We even tried to get it up on two wheels but the stability control
makes it virtually impossible.
One of my favorite features on
the Spyder RT is its sheer amount of cargo capacity. There are a total
of five storage areas (hood, trunk, right/left side hard cases, and
small cockpit glove box) that allow you to tote a tremendous amount
of gear with you. Even better is the optional Spyder RT travel luggage
(with roller wheels and handle) that neatly fits right into the compartment
allowing for seamless luggage removal when you arrive at your destination.
And for those who literally want to bring their kitchen sink with
them, Can-am offers a pull-behind trailer with a whopping 164-gallon
capacity. It’s so big that I could literally sleep in it! The
trailer features independent coil-over suspension, aluminum wheels,
carpet, interior lighting and separate front and rear lid access.
Furthermore the trailer is set-up to work in conjunction with its
VSS and can be color-matched to your Spyder.