Test Drive: The New Can-Am Spyder RT
Ian Lamming is ensnared by the Superman of leisure vehicles, the Can-Am Spyder RT
Riddle me this. Is it a bird? No, yet it flies. Is it a plane? No, yet it carries passengers.
This is going to be harder than first thought. So is it a car? No, yet it has two wheels at the front. So is it a motorbike? No, yet it has handlebars, a saddle which you straddle and a twist grip throttle.
So what in the state of flux is it? It’s a trike, but more specifically a Can-Am Spyder, spelt with a Y no less, and it will put your mind in a spin.
Firstly, you may well need motorcycle gear to ride/drive it. I suppose you could wear tweed or even leather chaps and fringes depending on your leaning but I lean towards safety every time so it’s Kevlar reinforced everything for me.
But speaking of motorcycles, you do not need a motorcycle licence to ride/drive (which is it, someone tell me, please) a Spyder; this can be done by anyone who has completed a standard car driving test, though don’t for one minute think it is a car.
Two wheels at the front and one fat one at the rear makes the Spyder stable to mount, there is no balancing to be done like there is with a motorbike.
Plop down into the generous comfortable saddle and your feet are supported by large platforms allowing multiple positions for your boots. Pull your feet rearward and it feels sporty, but straighten the legs with your feet placed forwards and it goes all Easy Rider on ya dude. In truth that’s where your feet tend to dwell because there’s a big fat brake pedal down on the right and you are going to need that more often than not, because on the bars there are no levers whatsoever.
The throttle is a motorcycle-style twist grip, but where you would expect the front brake lever to be, there’s just fresh air, and, on the left, where a bike clutch would normally sit, there is nothing. Spyder is a semi-automatic, so turn the ignition key, put your foot on the brake, start the 1340cc three cylinder engine and press the thumb-switch on the left marked with a + to engage first gear.
The engine is motorcycle rorty and intimidating but the throttle is beautifully smooth giving you consummate control, boosting rider/driver confidence. Then the only thing to remember is that you are not a bike, you have the width of small car, and you need to keep an eye on the kerbside wheel lest you rip it off. Second to sixth gears come at the dab of the + switch and there is no need to shift down, Spyder does that for you, though you can if you like by pulling the + switch backwards. If you need reverse then put your thumb on the chunky R button on the left hand side then pull the + lever backwards.
The dashboard is fine and splendid offering car levels of information on its full-colour LCD display, a six-speaker premier hi-fi, Bluetooth for the phone and storage, which is massive – 177 litres to be precise – including fairing cubbyholes, large paniers, top box and front boot.
The front screen can be raised and lowered at the press of a switch, there are double bum warmers, for you and the lucky passenger who gets a throne any queen would be proud of, and rider/driver gets heated grips and cruise control. All this means you have a vehicle that can be ridden all year round, in all conditions, including at night thanks to brilliant LED headlights.
But would you want to? Hell, yeah. This thing is a riot. It’s not easy, mind, in fact it’s positively weird, albeit good weird, and I’m not sure whether being a biker helps or hinders.
It’s the Spyder’s approach to bends that might upset bikers the most because it goes round them like a car. You must turn the bars, which are aided by power steering by the way, itself a strange thing for a biker to do. When you do this Spyder tips on its Sachs suspension and you feel like you are going to tip over or fall off. Rider needs to shift weight accordingly, which is a bit like riding a bike – I’m so confused.
You do have to be masterful and brave, Spyder is a beast that has to be taken by the horns and done correctly it gets round the curves with alacrity.
If you do mess it up completely you can stamp on the ABS-backed brakes and scrub off the excessive speed very quickly.
Now it all sounds complex and challenging but that is the true worth of driving/riding the Spyder. At first it is easy to make a lash of it but then something clicks and the aim is to ride it with panache and style.
If you are like me and have been riding/driving for donkey’s years this new challenge is testing and rewarding in equal measure.
Then there is the style of the thing – part Ski-Doo, part jet-ski – it can’t fail to stand out from the crowd attracting attention from all ages and genders. To the owner of the Aston Martin DB11, I can only apologise for parking next to you because no one noticed your lovely car eclipsed as it was by the Spyder.
In a new-normal world, shaken from routine by a global pandemic, the Can-Am Spyder is the perfect vehicle. It shakes you from your reverie, it laughs in the face of convention and in some wonderfully non-sensical way it makes sense of the riddle of life.
Can-Am Spyder RT
Engine: 1330cc in-line three cylinder
0-62mph: 4.5 secs
Top speed: 125 mph
Transmission: six-speed semi-automatic
Seat height: 755mm
Price: from £29,299.00