First Times Ride: Can Am Spyder RSS

The CanAm Spyder is a three-wheeled "reverse tricycle" roadster from the Canadian power sports company BRP.

It may be the perfect vehicle for a four-wheeler transitioning to motorcycles. It may be less so for a motorcyclist looking for something new.


It looks like something Batman would take to Tahoe. That's partly because BRP also manufactures the Ski-doo snowmobile line and the Sea-doo watercraft line, as well as many varieties of all-terrain vehicles and side-by-side off-road vehicles.

The Spyder RSS is a smooth-running, smooth-riding machine, powered by a V-Twin 900cc Rotax engine. It features a belt-driven, five-speed transmission -- with a helpful reverse gear, which beeps like a dump truck when you back up -- and powerful Brembo disc brakes.

It features ample amenities, including a short windshield, comfortable seating for two, a generous storage area big enough for two helmets and jackets, self-canceling turn signals, and an exhaust system that looks like a weapon from "The Terminator."

The Spyder RSS weighs over 800 pounds, so it doesn't go zero to 60 as fast as an equivalently powered motorcycle – but it goes, easing up to 100 mph and feeling pretty stable at that speed. (The speedometer goes up to 200 mph, but that may have more to do with dashboard layout than land speed record.)

For such a heavy, powerful machine – and the 2014s will feature a 1300-cc power plant -- it's surprisingly easy to ride and requires no riding experience. Pretty much anyone who can drive a car can have the experience of free-wheeling on the open road.

That's a big deal for the Spyder's handlers.

"The Spyder was born out of a desire to open up the adventure of open-road riding to a broader audience," says the company's director of marketing, Tom Reilly. "That was at the heart of it -- to give the exhilaration of open road riding, combined with the confidence of automotive technology, to people who aspire to that kind of adventure."

To highlight that, the company used the occasion of the just-concluded Progressive International Motorcycle Show in Long Beach to announce its new marketing partnership with a highly visible convert -- not from the motorcycle community, but from auto racing.

"I've never even ridden a motorcycle before, so this was fun!" said NASCAR star and new CanAm spokesperson Danica Patrick after her first spin on a Spyder. "It was easy."

But for a motorcycle rider, it's also not quite as much fun. Sure, it won't tip over, and you don't have to worry about putting your feet down at traffic lights. But it also doesn't float in and out of the twisties the way a motorcycle does. It drives more like a car, or a snowmobile, than any motorcycle I've ever ridden.

It is, however, a real head-turner. Even though versions of the Spyder have been on the road since 2008, the three-wheeled CanAms are still a relative rarity. You can count on having to spend an extra five minutes every time you go out, answering people who stop you to ask, "What is that thing?" and "Can I sit on it?"

They'll also ask, "Is it expensive?" And, it can be. The entry level Spyder RS costs $14,899. The top-of-the-line, super-deluxe touring model, the Spyder RT Limited, with all the trimmings, costs more than twice that much.

That won't present a problem for CanAm's target customers, who are likely to have big wallets and a traditional motorcycle or two in the garage. Southern California's Jay Leno owns the Spyder with VIN No. 1.) For them, the curb appeal may be more important than the cost.

As CanAm's manager of media relations Chaz Rice said, "In Southern California, everybody has a Bentley. But not everybody has a Spyder."