Spyder RT – Tested

Words: Costa Mouzouris. Pictures: Larry Tate unless otherwise specified.


I’m probably not like most CMG readers; I actually like the Can Am Spyder, more so the touring RT model than the sportier RS.

I’m not going to try to convince anyone about its merits, and frankly, I still prefer a two-wheeler – by a long shot. However, in the inclement weather we endured during the CMG Fall Tour in early October, its superb weather protection, living-room-like comfort, and storage-locker-sized luggage capacity more than made up for its lack of lean-worthiness.

When we first discussed taking the Spyder RT along on our annual fall ride, I was curious as to how it would fare on a long ride in the company of proper motorcycles.

Was it something that could uncompromisingly tag along in unison, or would it somehow hinder the flow of the ride, like the obnoxious drunkard a-hole no one invited to the party but showed up anyway?

The non-leaning Spyder is hard work in the corners compared to a regular bike.

Fortunately, I found out the Spyder RT — the Limited model with all the bells and whistles — was quite capable of touring with proper motorcycles, though it takes considerably more work behind the handlebar to negotiate winding roads.

Following The Grand Fromage on the Yamaha Super Ténéré, at a spirited pace I could manage to keep up, though I had to hang off as if I were riding a snowmobile, and hang on to the handlebar tightly to fight the G-forces through corners.

Even he was surprised I had remained behind him after a particularly twisty bit of road, though I had to admit that there was little reserve left over, and had he picked up the pace just a notch he’d have left me in the dust.


The Spyder LT has all the amenities a long-distance rider would care for.
Photo: Costa Mouzouris

It had enough power to get by slower traffic with relative ease – about the way a 650cc twin would, but passing still proved challenging. You have to plan a pass in advance mostly because of the Spyder’s size; it’s like passing in a small car but with lots of power.


There’s no shortage of luggage space.

But the Spyder RT isn’t about blitzing back roads, it’s about taking the long way to wherever it is you’re going. And it’ll carry enough luggage for two for several days of riding. I carried enough clothing for the length of the trip — rain gear, cold-weather riding gear and my laptop bag — and there was still one saddlebag empty and the other was barely half full.

In fact, when Editor ’Arris needed a lift after we returned the Super Ténéré to Yamaha, there was enough room left in the Spyder’s saddlebags and top case to load all of his gear (believe me, he doesn’t understand the term ‘travel light’) save one small duffel bag he had to carry on his lap.

However, there’s one area that the Spyder sucks compared to a bike — literally — and that’s in the fuel consumption department. It guzzled 8.9L/100 km (33 mpg Imp.), giving it a range of 280 km. By comparison, my Toyota Echo averages about 6.0L/100 km. We cautiously filled the Spyder about every 160 km because the gauge showed near empty by then, though we later figured out the tank was still about half full.

Goldwing level of knobery. Photo: BRP

As mentioned, weather protection was marvellous, and your legs will stay dry in the rain, as they’re hidden behind the Spyder’s wide body.

Of course, as we reached the end of the tour, on the last day, the weather cleared, and that’s when I really missed a motorcycle. Otherwise I was more than happy to alleviate ’Arris and Tate of the misery of having to ride a tripod (they didn’t seem as keen about it as I).

Did I miss leaning into turns? Of course I did, but not enough to take the fun out of the ride. How much I missed two wheels was emphasized, however, after we switched machines and I got on the Guzzi Norge.

You’ve got to look at the Spyder without your motorcyclist goggles on. If you expect it to return the same emotional connection a bike does, you’ll be disappointed. But slot it somewhere between a car and a bike, and it is certainly closer to the two-wheeler in terms of the driving experience.


The Spyder RT might have required higher effort through winding roads, but when the weather soured, it made up for the extra workload with great weather protection.

It’s not cheap by any means, but the Limited model, which lists at $31,999, includes fancy, moulded semi-rigid luggage that’s preformed to fit neatly into the Spyder’s storage compartments, as well as a Garmin Zumo 660 GPS unit, which was used to guide us through New England.

It might not be everyone’s cup of tea, but you certainly shouldn’t exclude a riding buddy who owns one and wants to come along on a Sunday ride — or longer.


Larry Tate

Lots of lighting for those night rides.

Nice engine, great luggage capacity, excellent weather protection. I get the idea of BRP’s (Bombardier Recreational Products) Can-Am Spyder as a device to attract people who like the idea of a motorcycle but are too old/debilitated/scared to ride one comfortably.

And I also get the idea that it might appeal to those people precisely because it’s not a motorcycle – mainly, it can’t fall over when it stops, and it doesn’t lean in corners.

The “not leaning” part is the bit that bugs me. It doesn’t feel remotely like a motorcycle except when you’re riding at steady throttle in a straight line – even the brake isn’t where a bike puts it – and I don’t like that.

While cornering, it’s trying to toss you off on the outside of the corner, and you have to use arm and shoulder muscles to both steer the thing and pull yourself toward the inside of the corner. To me, it feels more like an ATV or snowmobile than a road vehicle, and I don’t much enjoy riding either of those, either.

If I end up too old/debilitated/scared to ride a bike anymore, I’ll look for a used convertible sports car instead and save the trouble of helmets, special weather riding gear, and all that.

Rob Harris

Where’s the barf bag?

However, the brain slowly adapts to such nuances and after 30 minutes I found myself less twitchy, but still struggling to get a smooth, natural line in the corners. The bottom line is that I simply don’t like having to fight a machine to go through the fun bits and as a result I found myself dreading all the stuff that I normally love.

My first 10 minutes on the Spyder left me, well, seasick. Since you have to steer it (no leaning or counter steering) it seemed that every little input had the thing nervously twitching this way and that to the point that I started feeling a little green.

Having said that, if you can get your head around the loss of leaning (though rumour is BRP is working on a leaning version) then it’s a very competent machine. Comfortable, well protected from the elements and the motor has more than enough power for what you can effectively use.

One thing we all seem to agree on is that if this is the type of machine that appeals to you, then you should be quite happy with your purchase, though I do err towards Larry’s conclusion – why not just buy a nice sports car?


Hmm, two testers would prefer a sports car to the Spyder.




Bike 2011 Can Am Spyder RT Limited
MSRP $31,999
Displacement 998 cc
Four-stroke dohc, 60-dgree V-twin,
 Power (crank)* 100 hp @ 7,500 rpm
Torque* 80 lb-ft @ 5,500 rpm
25 litres
Carburetion EFI with 57mm throttle bodies
Final drive Five speed semi-auto with reverse, belt drive
Two 250 mm discs with four-piston
calipers, ABS
Single 250 mm disc with single-piston
caliper, ABS
750 mm (29.5″)
Wheelbase 1,773 mm (69.8″)
421 kg (929 lb)
Colours Pearl white; bronze metallic
Warranty Two years
* claimed


  1. Is there anyone out there that likes the new RT Limited color, S— brown, I haven’t seen it in person, as of yet, but I don’t get turned on by that blah color? Try mid-nite blue w/ the tan saddle or a burgundy w/ tan saddle or a 68 AMC or 57 Chev. yellow w/ tan saddle or a turquoise!! It will blend in on a dirt road so the deer will run into you for not noticing you coming down the road!!

  2. Also the tire pressure is very senstive, the more seasoned riders find that 18 lbs in the front and 28 in the back works the best inspite what the book says. You know that we can’t get canadian AIR, so we have to make do with American air, LOL!!

  3. To the chap in N. Carolina w/ wondering steering problem, you might try getting the toeing adj. checked. This could be the culpert, they can be senstive if not set properly. If I’m not wrong the toeing setting is a negative setting, your service manager can tell you what the setting is, but don’t try it w/ a yard stick, these machines are too hi tech.

  4. The Spyder does have power steering assist up to 30 mph. But here in Colorado we have a lot of winding two lane roads where the normal speed is 50 to 65 mph. One going to Cripple Creek for example. Those are the roads which can tire you out because of the steering effort. I would like to have the power assist at a higher speed but I understand there may be safety concerns since the Spyder goes exactly where you point the steering. The Spyder does require your full time attention, I think that may be what scares some people. Although I do seem to remember my old Indian cycle, 50 plus years ago, was not much different. :grin

  5. Perhaps the addition of power steering as is now available on some of the snowmobiles and ATVs would help in the muscle department ? I’m looking forward to trying out one of the new PS equipped sleds this winter, as I’ve been told it makes a huge difference.


  7. I am asking why coulden’t the Spyder have a handle bar brake on the right side for us bikers and 4- wheelers are use to using in addition to the foot brake? I plan on getting a 2012 LT Limited, as I’m 70 yrs old, and was so busy all my working life, suddenly found myself a old man w/ vertigo so the 3 wheeler appeals to me.

  8. I understand that the camber setting is set to compensate better for the crowned roads, for better handling, for the 2012 models. I also understand that gas milage for 2012 models has improved by 5%. Another improvement, would be the final gear ratio should be higher in order to keep the rpms lower at 70 mph, this would improve the mpg by another 8 to 10%. The final improvement would be the flex front end like the Italian scooter. These are my only concerns at this point, I still like this bike. Does anyone know of any other, 2012 model changes?

  9. Thankfully, Costa seems to understand a point that the other reviewers (and most other cycle mags) missed entirely: This is not an “either/or” situation. Liking a Spyder does not necessarily mean you would trade in your bike for one. You do not need to choose between them. Nor is it even reasonable to compare them to each other. I like riding my motorcycles. I also like riding my Spyder. And I like riding my snowmobile, my jet ski, etc. It’s not a choice, it’s an OPTION. And I can like riding a Spyder without being too old, infirm or scared to ride my bikes. That kind of comment is just plain ignorant.

  10. Something else amazing about the Spyder. I have had two experiences where my back end broke away due to ice one time and sand another. In both instances the stability system kicked in before I could even react and put the bike back on the proper path. On a two wheeler I would have gone down both times.
    Having had over a half dozen broken bones, leg, arms wrists over the past 65 years I just do not need anymore.
    I also still enjoy downhill skiing so riding the Spyder makes it more likely I will be able to continue doing that. 🙂

  11. Just to add to something; I have only owned a Spyder RT for a few months. New England weather is setting in so will have to park it for a bit. I did ride a standard bike over 30 years ago, but my wife was scared to death of me riding one so I gave it up. What we do to make our spouses happy? Anyway, from my point of view a three wheel Spyder is better than no wheels. And I don’t worry about corning at high speeds, I bought it to tour around and enjoy the open air, never am in a hurry that I need to plow through the corners. Not an issue for me.

  12. as an 50y old biker I use this Spyder now more than 40.000 km here in the Austrian/Italian Alps – most time on tour with my wife – it gives us 100% our biker feeling back & is around 1000 times more secure than any 2-wheeler we used – try it side-by-side with a bike on wet roads here in the mountains .. no vehicle has better brakes than this one !!

  13. Richard Snyder wrote:
    > I have also ridden on the interstate when wind gusts were 30-40 mph
    > and virtually no two wheelers were on the road.

    Maybe they were off the interstate on nice two-lane roads?
    I’ve done lots of riding (two wheel) in gusty windy conditions, including some ‘400’ highways. Just takes a little practice.

    My worst two-wheel riding with a BIG wind gust was at very low speed, about 20 kph. Very nearly blew me & the bike right over. A three or four wheeler is better in that case. 🙂

  14. Just to add some more to this discussion. I have had my Spyder up to 92 mph on the interstate, going uphill and passing everything. It was solid as a rock and had plenty of throttle left. That is here in Colorado at high altitude. I have also ridden on the interstate when wind gusts were 30-40 mph and virtually no two wheelers were on the road. Yes, again in that situation you do have to hang-on. If your physically weak than the Spyder is perhaps too much bike for you.
    I have heard others say it “scares” them. I believe that is mainly due to a lack hands on experience with the Spyder. I recently bought an Audi Quatro and found it handled much differently than my previous Nissan Maxima.
    Two “problems” with the Spyder is that the engine is very powerful-0 to 60 in 4.5 seconds and it goes exactly where you steer it.
    But I do agree, if it scares you stay off of it, stick with something you are really comfortable with. The Spyder is most certainly not good for a learner or someone who is overweight or physically weak.

  15. “I seem to recall either CC or Cycle World testing a leaning sidecar rig back in the day. Anyone else recall that? Handled like a bike, or at least like that 3 wheeled scooter thing from Italy. ”

    That would have been me, probably, at Psycho Canada. We grafted an “Equilean” sidecar onto my brother’s XS1100. I’d have to say the handling wasn’t any worse, which isn’t saying much, lol. The company didn’t last very long as far as I remember. I liked it because the passenger was my first date with the lady who I’ve spent the last 30 years with.

  16. “Does it use standard automotive radials? Would experimenting with different rubber make a significant difference? ”

    No, the tires are odd sizes (different front to rear) made specially for the machine by Hankook (if memory serves). Apparently other manufacturers have expressed some interest, but nothing available yet as far as I know.

  17. “Costa did you ride this on an interstate”

    Could two up riding be the cause of the scary handling at highway speeds around truck turbulence?

  18. While I was riding in Sweden :), I met a Italian guy that was riding a Spyder RS. He had lost his right shoulder in a motorcycle crash. With his left arm, he was placing his right hand on the gas but the stearing was only done by is left arm. He was riding fast, passing cars, not slowing down in curves… I had the chance to try the RS before and I was amaze to see this guy drive like that with only one arm.

    And for the record, I ride an old Kawasaki GTR 1000 in Europe and I drive a 12 year old pick-up here. 🙂

  19. “Costa did you try this thing on an interstate?”

    Yes, I did, and at even higher speeds. Didn’t experience anything like what you described. I think tire pressures are very critical as to how the Spyder handles and should be checked regularly, could be a cause.

  20. A friend of mind just bought this model in North Carolina and claims at 70 mph that it is downright scary as it roams so bad! He also claims passing a truck on the interstate is dangerous. The dealer told him not to ride that fast and offered different tires which did not improve it at all. Costa did you try this thing on an interstate?

  21. Everything has its place – I’ll ride anything once – maybe twice if I like it. :grin

    Personally, I’d love to see a cross between the Spyder and MP3 bikes (i.e., leaning). It would be a hoot and not nearly as quick to slide out. Actually an off-road version would really be a hoot!!

  22. We have had our RS for three years now. The one thing I agree with is that the Spyder requires a lot more muscle than does a two wheeler, particularly in turns. Since I am about to turn 73 this suggests to me that a lot of the people who complain about this need to work out and improve their upper body strength. I certainly do not recommend this vehicle to overweight or obviously weak people.
    Otherwise yes, it is differnt, and it takes more that a few days to adjust to the differences. Your two wheeling riding experience does not translate well to the Spyder. It took my wife and I almost a year of riding to begin to feel very comfortable. I did make some major changes to ours including floor boards and a heel-toe shifter, Corbin seat, higher windshield and optional pegs for the wife.
    You can ride with two wheelers and it will keep up much better than any trike or sidecar. Just keep in mind it is different and being different is not bad at all !

  23. To all the “purists” I would ask, does a bike with a sidecar count? A trike conversion? Just chill out, these things are immensely popular, especially in Quebec from what I can see.

    I seem to recall either CC or Cycle World testing a leaning sidecar rig back in the day. Anyone else recall that? Handled like a bike, or at least like that 3 wheeled scooter thing from Italy.

  24. I didn’t … nay couldn’t read the article … I HATE THOSE THINGS.
    I hope to never have to see (cus I won’t read) another test of one either.
    What’s next, an ATV test … and here I thought this was a motorcycle magazine.

    with love and affection, LP

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