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?
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.
STUFFED AND THIRSTY
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.
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.
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.
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.
2011 Can Am Spyder RT Limited
Four-stroke dohc, 60-dgree V-twin,
100 hp @ 7,500 rpm
80 lb-ft @ 5,500 rpm
EFI with 57mm throttle bodies
Five speed semi-auto with reverse, belt drive
Two 250 mm discs with four-piston
Single 250 mm disc with single-piston