First impression: Can-Am Spyder motorcycle

Consumer Reports News: June 26, 2009 11:08 AM

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Consumer Reports staffers had a chance to sample a few bikes at a recent driving event outside New York. This is part two of three. Also see our first impressions of the Aprillia 850 Mana.

Can-Am Spyder
The Can-Am Spyder is a three-wheeled bike with two in front and one giant wheel in back. The Spyder is made by Bombardier Recreational Products, which also makes Ski-Doo snowmobiles and Sea-Doo watercraft. It uses a 106-hp, 998 cc Rotax V-twin engine and belt drive, and it is available with either a five-speed manual or CVT automatic transmission. It even has a reverse gear and standard electronic stability control. It weighs 697 pounds.

Base price is $16,199 for the manual transmission model. The CVT adds another $1,500.

Eric Evarts: A Can-Am spokesman told me this bike is meant to attract new riders to cycles. Indeed, as a relatively novice rider, it had looked intriguing to me on the road as a more stable, potentially user-friendly alternative to a motorcycle. But the stability that was attractive standing still turned into a liability in turns. Since the bike doesn’t lean, you really have to. So it’s not an alternative for people with physical disabilities for example. In turns, it’s a really long reach to the far handlebar, and it’s hard to know where its limits are. Clearly, there is a learning curve. Perversely, the new rider in me found it more intimidating than two-wheelers.

Gabe Shenhar: The Can-Am’s width undermines the feeling of riding a bike. The fact that it doesn’t lean further removes the natural flow of man and machine. It is very fast, but only in a straight line. It does not like cornering. In fact it is so reluctant to turn that you have to “help” it by leaning your body outward like on a boat or an ATV, and that requires quite a bit of physical exertion.  To me, there was nothing fun about the Can-Am, or maybe I just didn’t get the point. I was happy to get off of it.

Jim Travers: Riding the Can-Am Spyder is unlike any other vehicle I’ve driven or ridden. The big three-wheeler, with two of those wheels and a lot of weight in front, feels more like a road-going snowmobile than a motorcycle. Fast and powerful, the company says the 106-horsepower engine is good for 0-60 mph in 4.5 seconds. I don’t doubt them. But in spite of lots of grip, I never felt comfortable in corners. I didn’t push it hard enough to activate electronic stability control, but it still felt disconcerting and twitchy. And the faster I went, the more it felt like work. Some of this was undoubtedly due to my inexperience, but frankly, I’d just as soon take my bikes with two wheels.

Also see our first impression of the Brammo electric motorcycles coming to Best Buy.

Read our scooter and motorcycle buying advice and ratings; watch our video scooter buyer's guide; and check our more motorcycle blogs.

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