By Lee Bruns
I arrived at Evolution Motorsports in Watertown, S.D., unsure of what to expect of the Spyder. I’m not unfamiliar with multi-track motorcycles having ridden sidecar rigs over a 100,000 miles and spent time on a few HD based trikes. This however was my first ride on a machine that is not a conversion but was instead designed and built to be exactly what it is, and it shows. The Spyder F3-S in Steel Black Metallic would look right at home in the Bat-cave. Every Bat-fan needs one. Its styling is modern, aggressing and original. It comes factory shod with modern block faced automotive style radial tires on 15-inch 6-spoke alloy wheels. Many people love the look, a few hate it, none are undecided.
The first thing you see when throwing a leg over the bike is a fantastic set of gauges featuring a large analog speedometer and tachometer on each side of a digital multi function screen. The speedo goes to 200 and the tach redlines at 7,500 rpm. I toggled through a few of the options on the data center and then left it set on speed, with a lower indicator of time and one of the three tripmeters. The switchgear is familiar with the addition of a button on the left side for reverse and cruise control on the right side. The cruise control was a real luxury on the interstate part of the test. The fly-by-wire throttle works flawlessly, no overly abrupt or lazy throttle feel.
The “Ufit” hand and foot controls are adjustable to custom fit the ergonomics to each rider. The unit I rode was set up with a foot-forward ‘cruiser style’ and would need the pedals brought in more before I’d want to ride a thousand mile day on it. The dealer-installed accessory windshield on the test bike is height adjustable and flows air better than any windshield I’ve ever been behind. Even on its lowest setting I was able to keep my face shield open all day long with zero buffeting.
Once underway the handling is more sidecar than motorcycle. Turn right to go right and weight the inside peg to hold a tighter line through the corners. Hanging off the bike isn’t always needed but is more fun when the road map looks like a malaria germ. The electric power steering is speed sensitive giving the F3-S a light feeling at parking lot speeds without feeling twitchy at interstate speeds or above. The coil-over shocks are preload adjustable only. Cornering is consistent and predictable. Only when the suspension is pushed to its limit does bump-steer come into play. If you do manage to over-cook a corner though, the traction control kicks in. It is very subtle, just taking enough of the power away to keep all three wheels on terra firma, nothing more. It does however make spinning cookies in a field of clover near impossible. Not that I tried.
Trail braking helped settle the chassis in on-off throttle transitions. The single foot brake pedal controls all three brakes. Up front is a pair of Brembo four piston calipers and out back is a single piston Brembo. All three grab on to 270 mm (that’s a little over 10 5/8 inches) rigid-mount rotors. The whole works is managed by a proportioning and anti-lock control system. It would be nice to have the option to turn the anti-lock system off for even more hooligan behavior, but for civilized and most uncivilized riding it works great.
Under the tank is a 1330cc inline three-cylinder engine with hydraulic valve lash adjusters that never need checking. The new-for-2014 engine pumps out great gooey gobs of torque peaking with 96 foot-pounds at 5,000 rpm and a peak 115 hp at 7,250 rpm. The big fun though is the complete lack of any real “peak” to the power output. At most speeds you have the option of three gears to choose from in the 6-speed gearbox, all under the 7,500 rpm redline. BRP also offers the Spyder with a semi-automatic electric shifter that does away with the clutch lever entirely. Upshifts are done with a thumb switch and down shifts are automatic. There is never a need to downshift to pass though, just twist the throttle and point it and go, depending on what noise you want the engine to make. And it’s a really cool noise, more of an animal-like growl with a hint of something that sounds like a turbo spooling up. It is quite addictive.
Eighty miles per hour indicated a sedate 4,700 rpm in 6th gear. Feel free to drop a gear if you like, the power is the same, only the engine sound changes. If you’d like to improve your fuel economy, there is an “Eco” mode that can be engaged. As tested, I saw 41 mpg on 250 miles of spirited riding with and without an adult sized passenger.
The standard factory warranty is two years, but an extended warranty is available. In the accessory catalog we see everything from alternate mufflers to hitches and trailers in anticipation of buyers doing some long rides.
In all fairness though, I do need to point out the shortcomings of the F3-S. The front trunk is a bit small, only slightly larger than a full-face helmet. And the turn signal indicator is too small and hard to see in bright sunlight. That’s the complete list of things I could find to nit-pick on the F3-S. The engineers at BRP took notes from the previous generation of Spyder and made all of the changes needed. The fit, finish and function of their product is top-shelf.
So the question is: “Who is the customer for this crazy thing?” Truth is, there are a lot of two-wheel riders who would really enjoy a Can-Am Spyder if they would give one a try. As well as cross-over ATV riders, snowmobile riders, sidecar riders or anyone who is presently riding a conventional-styled trike with a single front wheel.
Thanks again to Evolution Motorsports in Watertown SD for letting me spend the day on such a fabulous machine.
By Guido Ebert
Canada-based manufacturer BRP launched the Can-Am Spyder in February 2007 and recently built its 100,000th unit. Sales ramped up quickly and the company began moving approx. 5,000-
6,000 units in the U.S. annually.
Since its inception the Can-Am Spyder has had a truly divisive design, immediately deemed either queer or cool depending on whom you’re speaking with. Buyers have typically been motorcycle converts, existing power sports vehicle owners and, to a lesser extent, folks new to open-air motorized vehicles.
While existing power sports vehicle owners can feel the nuances the Spyder shares with ATVs or snowmobiles, and newbies don’t know what they don’t know, motorcycle converts seem to have taken issue with the relatively upright seating position and electronically restrained performance dynamics inherent to the original Spyder family of vehicles.
BRP appears to have listened to those concerns, and late last year introduced the Spyder F3/F3-S ($19,499/$20,999).
The folks at Minneapolis Motorsports in Golden Valley were kind enough to offer us a few days with the F3-S (which differs from the standard model due to its cruise control, colored tubular frame, machined wheels, fenders with LED lights and black suede seat with red stitching).
The F3’s most obvious visual difference from earlier Spyder models is its foot-forward seating position. Mount the trike as you would a snowmobile or ATV. Seating position with no obvious pressure points suggests this is a vehicle that could provide long-haul comfort. The wide, well-bolstered seat proves spacious for the operator, and the operator foot pegs – mounted to the chassis tubing – are three-position adjustable. Up top, positioning of the bars can also be adjusted fore or aft via a standard four-bolt riser. BRP calls this modifiable operator positioning its “UFit System”.
As for motivation, the F3 runs on a ride-by-wire 1330cc Rotax ACE triple cylinder engine that delivers 96 lb. ft. @ 5,000 rpm and 115hp @ 7,250 rpm. At 70 mph in 6th gear the engine was whirring at 4,000rpm. Twist the electronic throttle control. The engine spins up instantaneously, the rear end squats upon power delivery, and you’re squirted into the future (or an electronically limited 115mph).
With great power comes great responsibility. Nevertheless, compared to previous Spyder models, BRP appears to have relaxed the nanny aids – er, Vehicle Stability System – for the F3. This proved obvious during a couple days worth of wet weather commutes. Dynamic power steering still eases bar movement at slower speeds and becomes less pronounced at higher speeds, and trustworthy braking is still supplied by three 270mm discs, Brembo monobloc calipers and an electronically linked ABS system utilized by a hydraulically activated single right foot pedal, but the traction and stability control systems seem to have both been set to offer a more … exciting ride.
As it is with any motor vehicle, the key to cornering well is a matter of controlling your speed and setting your line. Unlike on a motorcycle, however, cornering on a Spyder will have you pointing the front wheels in your target direction as you set up for the turn, hold course and gently roll on the power. You’ll want to apply pressure to your outer footpeg to aid body lean to the inside of the turn, and I found myself utilizing the palm of my outer hand to cup the bar-end like a GNCC ATV racer.
With 4.5 inches of ground clearance, the Spyder F3 rides low and offers stiff pitch and yaw, which is pretty much what you want with a vehicle featuring these chassis dimensions. The front is outfitted with double A-arm suspension featuring an anti-roll bar and premium Fox Podium shocks, and the rear is suspended on a Sachs stand-up monoshock. Feedback through the suspension is noticeable, but both ends nevertheless offer great damping against roadway obstructions – important when at least one of the three wheels on the vehicle is likely to roll over an oncoming impediment.
I found the real magic to be in the F3’s transmission, though. Both the F3 and F3-S are available with your choice of a 6-speed manual or 6-speed semi-automatic (both with reverse). The F3-S we were on featured BRP’s 6-speed semi-automatic. That super trick transmission features a twin paddle system operated by your left hand. While it is necessary to upshift using the paddle adjacent to your left thumb, the system offers the possibility of automatic or manual downshifts. For instance, when in a higher gear and approaching a red stoplight, you can press on the brake pedal and either A) use the paddle adjacent to your left index finger to drop down through the gears or B) allow the transmission to downshift automatically. Either way, the engine automatically rev-matches for downshifts – which, together with the burble-rich Akrapovic exhaust system from the Can-Am Parts & Accessories catalog, makes the F3 sound “rally” cool.
I do have one word of warning about the F3, however: Despite its size, this is a vehicle that, like supersport bikes, isn’t designed for passenger comfort. While the trike’s passenger perch and handrails are twice the size of the pillion pad and grab bar found on the average sport bike, the vehicle’s performance capabilities may have your passenger utilizing more muscles in their quest to remain upright than they’ll use in an attempted yoga Firefly pose.