I arrived at Greater Vancouver Powersports yesterday and noon for my test ride of the 2008 Can-Am Spyder three wheeler. It was a lovely day for a ride and I was extremely excited to give this new motorcarcycle a whirl and terrorize the back roads of Surrey.
To my disappointment, the salesman wouldn't allow me to go out on my own and I got an escort from the sales guy riding a second Spyder. Okay, I'll be good...
My first impression of walking around and inspecting the Spyder is that it looks like a Ski-Doo for the road. You sit on it like a Ski-Doo and it has the overall dimensions of a Ski-Doo. The build quality is very Ski-Doo like. The paint is not the best quality; it looks as if it's painted for the rough and tumble utilitarian recreational vehicle market. It's welds aren't smooth and the plastic fittings and bodywork seems are inelegant.
The 990cc Rotax motor may deliver approximately 100hp but since the Spyder weighs twice the amount of a normal sport bike, power delivery feels on par with a 650 twin, like a Suzuki SV. It has enough torque to get you from stop light to stop light with a sense of urgency but at speeds above 130kph the motor feels like it's working overtime.
What I found extremely offsetting was the handling. Firstly, it steers like an ATV, not a car and not a motorcycle. Instead of countersteering when entering a turn, the opposite steering input must be employed with the rider pulling on the bars rather than pushing. So to turn right, you've got to pull with your right hand and push with your left. What this does is turns your shoulders, making your body lean out to the left awkwardly. It took an enormous amount of pressure and body language to turn the vehicle even slightly. It's wide wheel stance made it much heftier to corner than an ATV. Comparably, it turns twice as slow as any ATV I've ridden.
It's other major handling draw back is the separation of distance of the two front wheels and how the road isn't designed with such an odd ball axle width. When riding a motorbike, the rider can find a smooth part of the lane and stay within it. With a car, the wheels track evenly within the two ruts usually found in any lane. But with the Spyder being a screwball width, one wheel will track in a road rut and the other wheel will be off balance, delivering stability issues to the bars which cause the bars to shake. When the bars shake, it moves your shoulders from side to side, making it feel like the entire experience is not stable and counter efforts turning through corners or changing lanes.
My last complaint is the price for us Canadians. The Spyder is made by Bombardier in Canada. It's base price in the U.S. is $14.9K. In Canada, the base price is $18.9K. The salesman told me that BRP may offer an extra year of warranty and road side assistance to make up for the disparity but in my mind, an extra $4K is not worth the value of an extended warranty. And BRP USA refuses to sell to Canadian customers.
Don't get me wrong, I had fun riding the Spyder and I wish I could have had another hour or two to experiment with how it operates. It's an entirely different road experience than anything else I've encountered. It doesn't ride like a motorcycle, it doesn't drive like a car and it's quite different than ATV'ing but I'm not sold on replacing my 2 wheeler any time soon. As for the $20K price tag, there's motorcycles out there with much better build quality and performance ability that I'd prefer to be making payments on.