A review of the Can-Am Spyder at 10k Miles

It’s been 6 months and 10k miles since I brought home my shiny new black Can-Am Spyder RS so I figure it’s about time to write about it. After all, I can’t stop at a stoplight or a gas station without people giving me compliments and asking questions. Well, here are the answers.

The first point I want to hit is that most reviewers haven’t really done the Spyder justice. There are a fair number of reviews out there available, but most of them are written by people used to riding a 2-wheeled motorcycle who’ve had the Spyder for a couple hours or a couple days at most so they haven’t had a chance to get over how different the Spyder is. 

The big “weird” factor for most motorcyclists is that the Can-Am Spyder doesn’t lean or counter-steer like a 2 wheeled bike or some of the other 3-wheelers out there; but that’s hardly enough reason to dismiss the Spyder altogether.  And for anyone who’s coming from driving a car instead of riding a motorcycle counter-steering can be very confusing.

At the same time, not being able to lean costs you some stability in turns and accelerating into a sharp turn is a Bad Idea.  Your inside front wheel will lift off the ground and it’ll feel like the whole bike is about to roll over on top of you.  If you’re going to ride aggressively like that you need to ride it like an ATV and lean your body way into the turn.

Back on the plus side, on the Spyder you will never lose your balance when you hydroplane on a puddle or hit some oil or black ice on the road.  Motorcyclists who I mention this to often scoff as though their too macho to ever hit an oil slick or patch of ice in the dark, but accidents like that kill or injure thousands of motorcyclists around the world each year.   And while many motorcyclists hate anti-lock brakes because of bad experiences with older ABS systems, the Spyder has really nailed it.  Deceleration is smooth, fast,  responsive, and won’t lock up and dump you when you hit the brake too hard in a panic.  The 3-wheeled anti-lock braking system also gives you a dramatically reduced stopping distance and a lot more control decelerating quickly as compared to a 2-wheeled bike.  You will never fish tail from slamming on the brakes.

The wider stance makes you much more visible – especially if you do what I did and add aftermarket LED’s to your front hubcaps.  The cost of course is that you cannot split lanes.  All in all it’s a fair bit safer then a 2-wheeled bike as long as your careful in the corners.  My wife definitely appreciates that added safety and loves riding with me, which makes trips together a lot more fun then if we had to take a car.

The Spyder RS  is an absolute blast to ride.  The 1000CC V-Twin Rotax engine provides incredible torque and zero to 60 takes only 4.5 seconds.  That’s slow by motorcycle standards but still plenty fast if you intend to drive on the freeway and not a racetrack.  I can get from surface street speeds to 80mph in the time it takes me to merge straight across to the fast lane from the onramp.  And because the Spyder is legally a Motorcycle, I’m always in the fast lane – I’m a carpool of 1.  In Bay Area traffic that’s an incredibly Good Thing.

It’s hard to overstate how smooth the acceleration is, it’s almost too smooth in fact!  It’s really really easy to let your speed creep up from 65 to 75 to 85. The Rotax V-Twin is a high-revving engine whose sweet spot is right around 5-6k RPM and in fifth gear that’s about 85 mph.  On the CA-80 (the freeway I commute on) the speed limit is 65mph, the average speed is 75mph, and as long as you’re going 80mph or less you will never get pulled over for speeding.  85mph on the other hand is asking for trouble.   The difference between a nice safe 75mph and a “guaranteed to get a ticket” 85mph is so small on the throttle it feels like a bit like playing Operation.  I’ve ended up doing most of my riding in fourth instead of fifth because it makes it easier to avoid letting that needle creep up.

All said, the Can-Am Spyder is a great vehicle.  Harley Davidson had a working prototype of a leaning reverse trike years ago but never had the courage or vision to actually release it.  Can-Am was willing to take a risk on something new when none of the established players in the Motorcycle industry would.  That’s a big point in their favor.  But every time I hit a tight corner I find myself wishing they’d taken a page out of HD’s book and made the Spyder capable of leaning into the curve.

For me the decision of which bike to take out on any given morning really depends on what I’m doing.  For night driving, rain, crosswinds, and many other circumstances the Spyder is just plain a better vehicle then my other motorcycles.  And it’s awesome for road trips – my personal max was 14 hours in the saddle in one day, I just can’t imagine doing that on my Honda Sabre or my Street Triple.  But on a sunny clear day riding solo I’m probably gonna take one of my other bikes out instead.

Have questions about the Spyder?  Why am I not surprised?  Everyone else does!  Leave a comment and I’ll respond.  Keep in mind I’m not in any way affiliated with BRP/Can-Am, I’m just a customer who likes a product they made so that’ll be my perspective answering questions.

Edit June ’13: I ended up selling my Spyder recently because, due to a change in jobs, I needed to be able to ride into San Francisco and found myself riding my Triumph Street Triple all the time.  I was surprised as how poor the resale value on the Spyder is – at a year old and with almost $5k of upgrades on it, I got just enough to pay off the remaining balance on the loan.  So I’ll add one last piece of advice – if you’re going to buy a Spyder, buy it used.  They don’t hold their value worth a damn.