- The Washington Times - Friday, June 12, 2009

When people see the 2009 Can-Am Spyder Roadster, built by Bombardier Recreational Products, the question they ask me is, “What is it?”

It’s a little bit motorcycle, a little bit trike and a little bit roadster. It is a motorcycle, at least in spirit and in concept, and it’s not really a trike in the traditional sense. The Spyder comes with its two wheels up front and the single wheel trailing aft acting as the drive wheel. A trike positions two wheels out back, positioning one up front. The Roadster moniker comes into play due to its open air driving position and car-like stability features.

Why a reverse trike principle that places two wheels up front and a single driving wheel in the rear? According to Marc Lacroix, Spyder Roadster product and public relations manager, BRP is noted for innovative paradigm shifts, notably sit-down vs. standup personal watercraft (Sea-Doo) and the snowmobile (Ski-Doo).

The styling and design of the Can-Am Spyder Roadster is both contemporary and futuristic, while appearing different from everything else on the road. It may best be described as a “rider-active” vehicle with a large streamlined, watertight trunk located in the nose.

Power for the Can-Am Spyder Roadster comes from a Rotax 990 cc, DOHC, 8-valve V-Twin, liquid-cooled motor, with electronic multi-point fuel injection. The motor mates to either a sequential five-speed manual or an optional, electronically controlled, clutchless five-speed automatic, which still requires shifting up through the gears.

The unique 990 cc Rotax motor mounts in a steel frame. The front suspension consists of a double A-arm with adjustable cam, anti-roll bar and 5.67 inches of travel, while the rear suspension features a single swing-arm with mono-shock, adjustable cam and 5.71 inches of travel.

The front wheels are not articulated and do not lean into turns. There is no traditional hand brake on the Spyder; instead, a foot-actuated, fully integrated hydraulic three-wheel braking system with dual discs forward, single disc aft, handles halting duties. Foot controls (brake and shifter) are mid-mounted on the manual gearbox version Spyder. Shifting gears on the automatic transmission equipped Spyders is accomplished by a toggle lever by the left-hand grip.

Confidence-building safety technologies include: an anti-lock braking system; Electronic Brake Force Distribution; Traction Control System; Bosch version 8 Vehicle Stability System (the same used by Audi automobiles); and Stability Control System with roll-over mitigation. There’s even Dynamic Power Steering with variable assist.

My test Spyder Roadster was an SE5 automatic with a base price set at $16,099. Adding several options and features available for personalization and functionality enhancement could conceivably drive the final sticker to an average point in the neighborhood of $17,500.

SUMMARY: Hardcore sportbike riders may or may not take to the Spyder. After all, how much fun could it be with all that stability enhancement technology on board, interfering with high-speed canyon carving? Well, you can still enjoy the “twisties,” but with a different riding style and technique. Riding the Spyder Roadster can be both fun and relaxing - perhaps not at the same time - but try tooling around town at low speed and see how much fun or how relaxing it is.

Non-bikers should have no problem learning to master the Spyder Roadster; in fact they may even have an advantage. Experienced traditional bike riders on the other hand, will have some adapting to do. Counter-steering is out, there’s no hand brake and with the optional electronic shift version, there’s no clutch lever either. Leaning into a turn requires a different technique as well. Oh, and you don’t need to put a foot down when coming to a stop.

The Spyder definitely feels different, especially in the steering department. As for technology intervention, BRP has done its homework. The Spyder is capable of smoking the rear tire for days off the line with the manual gearbox Roadster (keep in mind though that replacement rubber can’t be found in just any tire store) as long as the vehicle is kept in a straight line and the yaw doesn’t change intentionally or otherwise.

Categorize the Can-Am Spyder however you want, this unique and innovative Roadster is entertaining and should open the door to a simpler kind of “wind-in-your-face” motoring for many who have been put off by the perceived potential perils of two-wheeled cycling. Enjoy the ride and dare to be different, with less to worry about.

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