We’ve asked the question before – are two wheels better than four? That may be true – but what about three wheels?
As The RiotACT‘s resident motoring writer, and one of few staff members who have a valid motorcycling licence, I was recently invited to review the remarkable Can-Am Spyder.
If the name doesn’t ring a bell, you’ll likely recognise these as the pretty tough – if a little odd looking – three-wheeled machines, that will have turned your head if you saw them on the road.
Not quite a traditional bike, and not really a trike (trikes usually have two wheels at the back and one in front – this is the other way around), the Spyder is referred to by the manufacturer as a ‘roadster’ and was first launched in 2007.
In reality, it’s a fairly ground-breaking type of vehicle that looks a little like a snowmobile on wheels – which makes sense when you realise it’s made by Bombardier Recreational Products, or BRP, the same company that makes the Ski-Doo and Lynx snowmobiles as well as various models of ATV and the Sea-Doo personal water craft.
I was a little nervous when I stopped by the Canberra Motorcycle Centre (CMC) in Fyshwick to collect my new ride, but after a few minutes talking through the bike’s features and operation with CMC General Operations Manager Kane Piper, I was definitely looking forward to the ride.
By the time I steered out of CMC’s driveway and straight into peak hour traffic through Fyshwick, I was feeling confident, comfortable, and excited.
After a full week of riding the Spyder all around our region, here’s my rundown.
About the bike
The model of Spyder I rode is the F3 Limited and it retails for around $35,499. This model is toward the higher end of the range though – there are plenty of more affordable options, including the brand new learner-legal Ryker, for those who are just starting out in their motorcycling career. At 600cc, it retails from just $14,899 ride away.
This Spyder runs on a three-cylinder 1300cc engine and a semi-automatic transmission. That means that gears will change down without any help from you but you have paddles at your fingertips to change as suits you. It also means it’s as good as impossible to stall.
It even has a reverse gear, which makes manoeuvring an absolute dream.
The Spyder has seats for the driver and passenger, plus storage to rival a small hatchback. Try two pannier compartments, a top case and a glove box, as well as a very handy front trunk or ‘frunk’.
What it’s like to ride
You do need a motorcycle licence to ride the three-wheeler – in all states and territories except South Australia, that is.
Whether or not you have experience riding, there are a few differences you’ll notice on the Spyder.
To begin with, because it feels a little like sitting in a larger vehicle, it feels strange to not be wearing a seatbelt – not a feeling I ever encountered when I was riding regular motorbikes.
Secondly, the steering takes a little getting used to. Kane warned me that it was a bit like turning the steering wheel on a bus, and he was right. It was a few days of riding before I got the hang of tight turns.
Kane has also warned me that – try as they might – none of the experienced team at the CMC was able to get the Can-Am to life a wheel off the ground. It’s just that stable.
This gave me a great deal of comfort as I headed out into – predictably – pouring rain.
Also, this is a vehicle that attracts attention and turns heads. Prepare to have cars slow down alongside you and lots of people stopping to chat in parking lots and service stations.
Sadly, however, the Spyder has yet to earn the affection of many die-hard motorcyclists. ‘But it’s just not a real bike,’ is an often-heard comment.
Having said that, an experienced rider friend of mine who initially had reservations, took it for a spin, and he was very pleasantly surprised. Just as importantly, his partner was much more comfortable as the passenger as well.
Remember, the Spyder has had more than 12 years of market experience and development now to get things right, so it might be time for some of those die-hard traditionalists to take another look…
What about comfort and safety?
In addition to the added stability, the Spyder has an impressive range of safety features.
Unlike your traditional motorcycle, the Spyder offers a full suite of safety options you’d usually expect to find in a car: from stability control and traction control systems, to power steering, fog lights and anti-lock brakes.
Motorcyclists are regularly placed at serious risk because – due to their smaller size – car drivers simply don’t see them. But being a bigger vehicle that takes up more room helps reduce the chance that you’ll be missed.
You’ll be comfortable while you’re cruising along as well, with heated seats (yes, really!) and passenger grips, self-levelling suspension and cruise control as well as a huge clear dashboard display and even an in-built stereo.
Bringing it all together
As I cruised along the Monaro Highway on my way to work each day, sitting comfortably at 100kmph, and smelling the rain and the fresh scent of eucalyptus in the air, it was absolutely clear to me: the Spyder really does offer most (if not all) the fun of a motorcycle, with many of the benefits of driving a car.
The Spyder really does combine the best of both worlds. It’s the ease and security of a car, with the thrill of a bike.
It’s also ideal for those who are just starting out riding, maybe getting a bit older, as well as those with physical limitations.
And as an added bonus, after a full week of riding, I’d used about $30 worth of fuel.
My verdict is, I genuinely loved it. It’s not the cheapest toy to buy, but as I told Kane, there’s a red hot chance I’ll end up buying one of these one day.
If you’ve ever wanted to ride a bike but been a little nervous or wary; if you ride occasionally and you’re ready to step it up; or if you’re a regular rider who’s ready to try something different, I’d really recommend you check it out.
Interested? You can see the Can-Am Spyder range right now at the Canberra Motorcycle Centre.