Review: Can-Am Spyder Print
Written by Becky Shimek   

group demoYou may not spot many of these futuristic-looking machines on the road yet, but Can-Am Spyder is out to change that with a huge product-placement score in the new Transformer’s movie, Revenge of the Fallen, released this summer. Match that with their campaign offering free demo rides at motorcycle dealerships across the nation, and you, too, just might find yourself giving one a spin.


It’s Not a Motorcycle!

Officially launched to the public in 2007, Spyder creators, BRP, has positioned this three-wheel ride as a roadster, not a motorcycle. “It’s a blend between performance car and motorcycle, which is attributed to its innovative ‘Y-Factor’ design” explains Todd Matthews, Spyder representative. The Y-Factor™ is exactly what it sounds like: a chassis that is constructed with two wheels in front; one in back.

beck cara articleSo when our friend, Kelley Haney (she and her husband, Ken, own South Texas Suzuki in Lytle, Texas) told us that demo rides would be offered at her dealership, Cara Mae and I jumped at the opportunity to ride this sexy beast of a bike. Kelly is an avid Spyder rider and gave us her own perspective about her experience. She currently owns the SE5 model in red with handlebar and foot rest modifications. Kelly says “75 percent of our Spyder purchases are women…The learning curve is very easy: the profile is wide; height (or lack thereof) is not a factor, and the SE5 has an automatic downshift.”

Demo Time

The demo is set up in three stages: the first step involves the basic paperwork - signing a waiver and providing your motorcycle license. Then you watch a flashy 15 minute marketing video, which to the company’s credit does reveal an interesting story about how the Spyder concept took shape.

cara webDuring the second step, we became acquainted with all the features that make the Spyder not only unique, but also particularly attractive to women. In this case, we both wanted to ride the SE5 to feel what it was like to go ‘semi-automatic’. Once we sat on the bike and learned how to start it, release the brake pedal, shift (and not shift), and stop and park it, we were ready to move forward to the final step: the test course and then on to open road freedom.

The test course was non-intimating with a short circular pattern of orange cones and stops signs dotted along the trail, but if you couldn’t pass it, you wouldn’t be taking the $16k gem on the road…that simple. Yet somehow, I was still a bit nervous starting up the V-Twin and gliding the throttle forward. And for Cara Mae, she is more accustomed to her dirt bike, so she was feeling some trepidation as well. Our nerves soon melted after one lap; yes, it was pretty easy to maneuver! So we got the green light to join two Spyder representatives for a 20-minute ride on the back roads of Lytle.

Road Bound

From the very first right-hand turn onto the street to engaging the paddle shift while accelerating, it was evident this was not a typical ride, or at least, didn’t feel like the motorcycle experience I was accustomed too.

For starters, the paddle shift feature took some getting used to. As a motorcycle rider, my left hand keep searching for the clutch (replaced by a paddle shift on the Spyder), but a few miles down the road I got the hang of it. Instead of pulling a clutch in to change gears, you simply tap the gear shift ‘paddle’ backward (away from you) with your thumb when accelerating; use the reverse motion for downshifting, that is, if you choose to. That’s where the semi-automatic comes in to play. The Spyder SE5 will automatically downshift for you, which did feel a bit liberating. Also on the subject of hand placement, note that you also don’t use a front hand break. That’s right. The sole brake is located behind the foot peg. Sounds crazy, but braking came pretty natural after a stop sign or two.

becky webThe other hurdle that was easy to overcome was cornering and making left/right hand turns. As Kelly Haney mentioned, the Spyder is wide, thus took a bit more strength to initiate turns. Its maneuverability reminded me of an ATV, which I’ve ridden my share. Because of its width, I did feel less vulnerable on the road. With each car I passed down the relatively lonely road, I saw drivers doing a double-take, so I knew cars could see me. That in itself is a big plus.

Although height is not a factor when riding a Spyder – didn’t even have to put my feet down once! Body placement at 5’2, I found myself stretching for the handlebars that were situated like a sportbike. And I ride a sportbike. But the Spyder seems to have their entire basis covered as you can purchase a more upright ‘cruiser style’ position. After sitting on Kelly’s SE5, which has this particular modification, I was much more comfortable.

The only feature they did not have us try was putting the machine in reverse. A missed opportunity I didn’t realize until the car ride home. I bet that would have been fun, though.

My cohort, Cara Mae, fell in love with the Spyder. She was “surprised by its agility for such a large machine.” She adds “It definitely appeals to a broader audience, especially people who might be a bit uneasy on two wheels.”

The Spyder SE5 features and specs are lengthy and impressive, so we hand-selected our favorites:

Semi-automatic transmission

Paddle shifting

Self-canceling front signal turns located on the mirrors for better visibility

Foot activated brake pedal

Cool factor: large display screen which scrolls message prompting rider to release brake pedal

Starting cost: ~$16,000

Used: Good luck finding one! Its apparent Spyder riders love their roadster!