The Can-Am Spyder is an unusual beast but it’s also an exhilarating ride
I ’ve never quite had the cojones to ride a motorbike, but if I did I’m pretty sure I would be a fair weather biker. I had no such luck test-riding the new Can-Am Spyder “trike” – essentially a motorcycle for people who don’t do motorcycles. The sky was ominously black.
Do you need to borrow some sunglasses?” asked the optimistic Ian Taylor, owner of GS Jet Tech, as he handed me the keys. I had already delayed the test twice due to inclement weather and it was disappointing that it was not going to be the glorious, sunny ride I was hoping for. Maybe as a real-world test on British roads this is a good thing. I’m fairly sure I was offered sunglasses to look the part rather than to keep the sun out of my eyes.
I was riding the ST sports tourer model, the all-rounder in the Spyder range. Its 998cc V-twin Rotax engine pumps out 100bhp and is connected to a semi-automatic transmission, which includes a reverse gear, and drives the big wheel at the back. Shifting up and down is easy enough using left-hand thumb and forefinger, though cleverly the trike will also shift itself down when the engine’s revs drop low enough.
The driving position is a little like a jet ski or a snowmobile, which isn’t much of a surprise: the manufacturer, Bombardier Recreational Products, also makes Ski-Doo snowmobiles and Sea-Doo watercraft. This rang a note of caution: the last time I rode a snowmobile I was racing in the Arctic Circle. I opened the accelerator so much I flipped the snowmobile on to its back pinning me to the ground. It was a schoolboy error, but however accessible the manufacturer of these three-wheelers says they are for non-bikers, I decided I was going to take it easy.
I familiarised myself with the controls and, most importantly, the brake, which is located under your right foot. You move your foot to the left to make it go and otherwise keep it on the footrest. There are no hand-operated lever brakes at all, which throws quite a lot of bikers.
Out on the road, the Spyder felt smaller than I was expecting and was far more manoeuvrable than I’d anticipated. It also feels remarkably safe, so long as you remain conscious of its width. I quickly adopted the mindset that in all manoeuvres girth-related, it is essentially a car.
Steering is the biggest challenge. You may sit in a similar position to a motorcycle rider, and it has handlebars like a motorcycle, but a motorcycle it isn’t. It handles like nothing else I’ve ridden or driven – you steer through the turn, like a snowmobile, which takes some getting used to.
On my test ride, other road users were most definitely aware of me, helped no doubt by the fact that the ST I was riding was bright yellow. I was let out at junctions, and cars slowed to let me change lanes at roundabouts.
Overall, the ride was comfortable and very fast. Acceleration is smooth and the Spyder was able to soak up the bumpy Essex roads. That said, my courage was tested in the wind as I headed back down the M11. Thankfully, the trike has an advanced stability system that includes ABS, traction and stability control which, along with its Y-shape frame, means it is very difficult to flip over; even at motorway speeds it feels very stable. That’s not to say it isn’t an exhilarating and occasionally terrifying ride, especially in the lashing rain. I soon realised that I am indeed a fair weather rider at heart, three wheels or not.
• Thanks to GS Jet Tech in South Woodford for the Can-Am Spyder loan. gsjettech.com.
THE FACTS: CAN-AM SPYDER ST
0-62MPH: 4.5 secs
TOP SPEED: 125mph
MPG COMBINED: 40mpg
DESIGN Four Stars
PERFORMANCE Four Stars
PRACTICALITY Three Stars
VALUE FOR MONEY Two Stars