CanAm Spyder: 3-Wheel Cruiser Or Roadgoing Snowmobile?
A Ski-doo For The Street!
Turn More Heads Than Driving A 24K Gold Escalade With Paris Hilton Strapped To The Hood
Three decades later, Bombardier seems interested in returning to the motorcycle business... sort of. The new Can-Am Spyder is not really a motorcycle, and it's not really a car. The closest I can come to describing it is a roadgoing snowmobile with wheels.
It's wild. Really wild. You couldn't get more attention cruising down the boulevard in a 24K gold Escalade with Paris Hilton strapped to the hood. The seating position and front fuselage is very Ski-doo-ish and as you look towards the rear, it seems to morph into a motorcycle again.
The front end is balanced wide outboard by two custom 165/65R14 tires, mounted to massive spoked aluminum wheels. The suspension curiously does not allow the Spyder to lean so the tires maintain their full contact patch during cornering unlike a motorcycle. The road is rotated by a single Kevlar-belt driven 225/50R15 rear tire mounted on a matching wheel. The combination of up to 600% more rubber on the road than a Honda GoldWing alongside the triangulation of the chassis results in a ride that can only really be compared to a snowmobile. But much cooler. Not in temperature. In "cool" factor.
The Spyder is no slouch. The Surrounding Spar Technology (SST) frame is wrapped around a BRP-Rotax 990cc V-Twin fed by 57mm throttle body multi-port fuel injection and cranking out a claimed 106 hp at 8500 rpm and a Harley-like 77 lb-ft of torque at 6250 rpm. It's no Suzuki Hayabusa, but that power-to-weight ratio should allow the Spyder to snare Dodge Viper V10s into its web and feast on them at the dragstrip.
The Spyder is available either with a 5-speed manual gearbox or... wait for it... a 5-speed automatic clutch version! Both trannies have reverse. And it has power-steering! Mind-blowing. And when it's time to downgear and hit the binders, you'll be glad that Bombardier engineered three 260mm rotors with 4-piston calipers on the front and single-piston on the rear with full Antilock Brake System (ABS) and Electronic Brake Distribution (EBD) to work with the Dynamic Power Steering (DBS), Vehicle Stability System (VSS) and Stability Control System's (SCS) roll-bars. It's an alphabet soup, but the ABS/EBD/DBS/VSS/SCS works in conjunction to keep you from sliding down the asphalt wearing a tipped three-wheeler. If you overcook it into a corner the inside wheel lifts to a point where the SCS kicks in and automatically brakes the other wheel to bring the inside back down. You'd really have to be doing some outrageous stunting to tip this rig. I believe the biggest problem for bikers making the Spyder-Switch is that they will instinctively reach for the brake lever on the handlebars in a panic situation and will find... nothing. The only brake lever is foot-operated like a car. Again, a bit strange and it will take some getting used to.
But there are more initials in the Spyder's repertoire. The Traction Control System (TCS) senses if the rig is starting to head down the road sideways and cuts out the ignition long enough to eliminate the yaw. All of this electronic wizardry is starting to sound like a hot three-wheeled version of a Segway!
Golden Oldie riders like me will really appreciate the fact that we don't have to balance 700 lbs. of metal on one arthritic foot at stoplights, or try to keep the shiny-side up and the rubber-side down on slippery roads. I still wake up in cold sweats remembering the day that I got caught in a snowstorm in the mountains 100 miles outside of Las Vegas on a Kawasaki Voyager XII. Ploughing through the snow-covered curves while balancing over 1300 lbs. of steel and flesh is not for the faint-hearted!
What don't I like about the Spyder? The colour combinations are awful. One looks like a Ski-doo bumblebee and the other like a cheap Batmobile toy. A six-coat lacquer black, silver or dark blue would work wonders. It might even look great in a '79 Pontiac TransAm "Smokey & The Bandit" Black & Gold but please leave out the screaming chicken! Although I love the idea that there is a 44 litre "trunk" upfront, the creases are too noticeable and should blend more neatly into the bodywork. The rear backrest is appreciated but the pylon interferes with a handy flat rack that could be used as a carrier platform for a rear trunk. The handlebars are wide enough but far too low for buckhorn-handlebar veterans like me. The exhaust is too much boy-racer bulky can for my tastes. The rear seat is really only suitable for picking up 16 year old cheerleaders at the high school and wider derrieres need not apply (which is not necessarily a bad thing!) I also am a little wary of the price. Around $15,000 for the manual and $17,000 for the automatic may be pocket change for the "I'm having the Teutuls build my chopper" set, but it's a sizeable chunk of change that could buy a new Ford Five Hundred. I'm pretty sure that anyone attracted to the Spyder wouldn't be caught dead in a Five Hundred, but you'd have to admit that one is a solid, versatile vehicle and the other is really a glorified weekend toy.
Regardless of my reservations, the bottom line is: I want one! Dear Bombardier, kindly inform me when you set up a long-term test-drive review program for bloggers. I'll be the first to apply!
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