Having had a number of requests lately to road test something affordable, something different and something unique, this incidentally is always quite difficult to determine as our readers never put forward a copy of their W2 to see if the 599GTB that resides in their garage is something they consider affordable. To others, something different could be the new radical F150 SVT 6.2 liter Raptor (I am trying to get a test in it as we speak), but unique… now that’s a challenge. A reader from Sacramento, Paul R suggested the new Porsche GT3 RS, another Steve G from Seattle suggested the new 2011 Land Rover LR4 and Barry H from Illinois the latest Avalon from Toyota, Erich B from Cologne in Germany the new Audi A8, all of which I intend to pursue.. But having taken a little leapt of faith and kept the literal criteria, for our latest road test I reckon I have nailed all three.
So at this point you have seen the pictures and already began reading the editorial so I hope I’ve already sparked some interest in this new Can Am machine called the Spyder Roadster RS which is truly unique, affordable to most and something mildly extreme. So if unanimous approval has been reached, then folks read on!
The Can Am Roadster Spyder RS spied for the first time, is indeed something very different. I can see the appeal, its open aired motoring similar to a bike, with trike like stability. Its visual aesthetics, distinctive from almost every angle.
My initial impressions then, having seen a number already on the roads of California, range from what is it and how does it ride to, is it a bike or a trike? The Can Am team, of President Jose Boisjoli and Mihai Raisidescu, VP of Product Engineering, had both suggested that this vehicle has the Y factor. In the first instance I wonder then, that using the word ‘vehicle’ and not bike, has even them confused. Or is it more likely in an age where companies are trying to capture business from inventing unique marketing initiatives, that early in the design the team where set on a path of creating a special type of vehicle and with it inspired this new ‘niche’ market for their Can Am Roadster. Well, we can all agree this ‘vehicle’ sure looks different from anything else out there at the moment. The specs suggest that it has a number of unique advantages over bikes by having better stability with two wheels up front as opposed to one. The world renowned team at Rotax has in their words “put together a reliable special V twin engine for the Can Am Spyder project”. A capacity of 991cc with 101BHP and 80 ft lbs of torque should provide enough power to have some fun with on the standard Spyder, that weighs in at around 780lbs, but it might be a slightly dulled experience for the RT model that when equipped with all the bells and whistles has to carry an additional 380bls.
In an effort to ‘fly’ the safety card banner and inspire confidence for its customers, the vehicle features ‘VSS’ (Vehicle Stability System) designed in partnership with Bosch and provides a small safety barrier to keep things in check when pushing on. But more importantly the question perhaps should be, is this type of vehicle to ‘push’ anyway, or is it more for the business commuter? Is it for the older ‘ex biker’ for a relaxed journey out to the country on a beautiful sunny day with the missus? Or is it just as one of our readers put it, a glimpse into the future of the commuter machine?
You can see then, that I had a number of unanswered questions when I turned up at Mission Motorsports, Can Am’s premier dealer in Irvine California. George Steele one of the dealer’s top salesmen had the white Spyder all ready to go, but it was sometime before I actually got onto the bike because there is actually a lot of detailed safety information particular to the Spyder before you can cock a leg over it and go ride. This particular Spyder had the optional semi-automatic paddle lever type clutch-less gearbox. Use of the paddle lever to go up the box, but no necessity to use it on the way down. No front brake lever on the handlebar initially freaked me out because I am so used to it being there, all the brakes incidentally are linked into the right side traditional bike style footbrake. A parking brake situated behind the footpad on the left of the vehicle, which must be for set prior to starting and be released after engaging 1st gear. So by the time I rode off, the thought that the Spyder might just be a bike with an additional wheel at the front had completely disappeared from my mind. My determined route already sorted, I set off down the road. The first thing I noticed is this vehicle is very stable, in fact when turning it kind of reminds me of a snowmobile with wheels or a quad with three, though there are differences. You cannot really use your body to turn it, and it doesn’t initially appear to lean into the corners so it certainly took me some getting used to. But as the mileage rolled on I started to relax and get a little more used to it. The Can Am in its Spyder guise is certainly brisk; hardly an R1 then again I guess I never thought it would be. There’s little vibration to speak of considering it is a V twin and in top gear its quiet and torque. You could hustle it through the corners much faster than I expected and in a short time felt confident enough to accelerate out of a long flat corner using full throttle. My ride came to end in all too quickly and I am sure George back at Mission was wondering where I had got to.
So to sum up then, the Can Am is an interesting alternative to most other vehicles. I confess while it took a little time for me to become comfortable I really started to enjoy the Can Am Spyder. For sure it’s no motorcycle, that said, it’s no trike either. It is however a machine that you could comfortably commute on every day, that’s easy to ride and ultimately safer than a bike. The Spyder is also cool enough to take on your Sunday road trip and can offer a lot of fun for the buck and the missus will be happy too, especially if you dig a little deeper and buy the RT model which you could use as a proper tourer, even add a really great looking trailer option too if you need some more storage, my only reservation would be on the RT is if 100bhp is enough for it when fully loaded.
I don’t think you are going to see someone ‘chopping in’ his or her Fireblade or Ducati to go buy a Spyder RS but it would certainly capture as much interest if you were to pull up outside The Rock Store at the base of the Malibu foothills ready for your Sunday morning assault up Mulholland and its quick enough if you tried to put a smile on your face. This RS looks great especially in the pearl white that I had. My demo machine came equipped with standard sports wheels and even its own special luggage, a small suitcase which fitted directly into the small lockable trunk opening at the front of the bike under the headlamp. A base price of $13000 isn’t inexpensive so it won’t be a purchase for everyone though it is a unique machine and I am sure it’s easy to live with, the only disadvantage I can see is clearing enough space in my garage for it to fit in.