Lach­lan suits up and goes three-wheelin' on the lat­est Can-am Spy­der

New Zealand Classic Car - - Editorial - Words: Lach­lan Jones Pho­tos: Adam Croy

Some­times late at night, once the baby is asleep, the dog has found a spot on the couch (her fur will stick to for all eter­nity), and the pub across the road has kicked out the fi­nal drinkers of the evening, I lie in bed and won­der. I won­der if I could be a biker. I could be a biker, I think. I could ride a Har­ley-david­son and strike fear into the hearts of fel­low mo­torists. I could tackle en­tire con­ti­nents on a big, heav­ily laden BMW cruiser along­side Ewan Mcgre­gor and Charley Boor­man. Some­times, I even imag­ine hit­ting speeds up­wards of triple the open-road speed limit while hunched over a fat-rear-tyred Du­cati su­per­bike. Then, with a start, I awake as the baby cries, the dog barks at the cat we haven’t seen for a year, the pub­li­can emp­ties the emp­ties into the skip, and I come to my senses. I’ll never be a biker; I’ve got things I need to be alive for. If only there was an­other way.


When you think of a trike, you’ll imag­ine a sin­gle wheel at the front and two at the back. You’ll see Billy Con­nolly rid­ing across Amer­ica with his mon­key bars and hear his Scot­tish lilt. I shud­der when I re­mem­ber that hor­ri­fy­ing pre– quad bike three-wheeler my un­cle had on the farm, which would tip over if a sheep so much as coughed in its di­rec­tion.

The Can-am Spy­der is a three-wheeler, but with two wheels at the front and one at the back — arse about face, if you will — that can be driven on a car li­cence. It’s built by a com­pany called Bom­bardier Recre­ational Prod­ucts (BRP) that you’ll know from its Sea-doo jet skis and Ski-doo snow­mo­biles. And that in it­self should ex­plain not only the her­itage, but the abil­ity of these ma­chines.


When we turned up at JFK Pow­er­sports’ Mount Welling­ton show­room to col­lect the Spy­der for a day’s rid­ing, I must ad­mit, I was scep­ti­cal. I was aware of the Spy­der, I had seen peo­ple rid­ing around on them, but I wasn’t sure what to make of them. The model we tested was the newly re­leased F3-S Spe­cial Se­ries. It’s all black with ag­gres­sive styling and racy-look­ing cowl­ings and ex­haust tips. It ac­tu­ally looked quite good. As we were talked through the Spy­der’s dos and do-nots, I started to ex­pe­ri­ence some­thing I hadn’t an­tic­i­pated: ex­cite­ment. I was quite look­ing for­ward to giv­ing this lit­tle rocket a hoon.

I was told that the fact I turned up in four wheels rather than on two was a bonus, as bike rid­ers try to ride the Spy­der like a bike, but, alas for the two-wheeled purist, this three-wheeler can­not be leaned into cor­ners or used to weave through traf­fic. The Spy­der doesn’t re­quire a bike li­cence (or even a hel­met, ap­par­ently, al­though we can’t imag­ine go­ing with­out), so it’s open slather for us, the car folk.

Once we set off, we were straight onto Auck­land’s South­ern Mo­tor­way. I’ve spent thou­sands of hours on this stretch of road, all mo­not­o­nous, all in­side a steel, alu­minium, and glass shell of­fer­ing me pro­tec­tion from the el­e­ments and giv­ing me the abil­ity to ig­nore other road users (as only we Auck­land driv­ers can do with such skill). On the Spy­der, this is not the case. You’re ex­posed; you are traf­fic. Sud­denly, those un­founded thoughts that soothe me to sleep of the wind blow­ing through my hair (it re­ally must’ve been a dream) as I ride care­free across the land were re­al­ity. But I felt the risk was min­i­mized some­what. Here I was, upon my trusty steed, but with­out a chance of drop­ping it at the lights or of hit­ting a patch of oil and hav­ing it skid from un­der­neath me. And that’s the beauty of these Spy­ders. As you’re rid­ing along at high­way speeds, you set your cruise con­trol, and,

rid­ing along at high­way speeds, you set your cruise con­trol, and, safe in the knowl­edge that your sta­bil­ity and trac­tion con­trol have things in the bag, you can en­joy the ex­pe­ri­ence of be­ing on a bike with­out the con­stant thought that death is wink­ing at you from the pas­sen­ger’s seat of the milk tanker com­ing in the other di­rec­tion.

Rid­ing the Spy­der is most sim­i­lar to rid­ing a jet ski. Or a horse. You’re sit­ting up­right with ad­justable for­ward pegs to rest your feet on, mak­ing the ride po­si­tion quite com­fort­able. There is one foot brake that makes all three wheels stop via an ABS brak­ing sys­tem and pow­er­ful Brembo calipers and pads.

Plenty pow­er­ful

The F3-S Spy­der we tested was pow­ered by an in-line-three cylin­der 1300cc Ro­tax en­gine putting out 86kw, paired to a six-speed semi-au­to­matic trans­mis­sion (you change up the gears, and it’ll change down for you as your speed re­duces). This sportier ver­sion of the Can-am cruiser was plenty pow­er­ful, with ex­cel­lent mid-range and a high power­band. We did no­tice a small amount of un­der­steer in dry con­di­tions around tight cor­ners, but that may well have been rid­er­centric, and we think you’d get used to the lim­its of the Spy­der quickly enough. It’s a lot of fun to ride, it takes the cor­ners well, and feels as if you could ride a rea­son­ably long dis­tance with­out los­ing all feel­ing in your ex­trem­i­ties. There is a small stor­age locker in the front for house keys and a thumb tack, and it’s set up to carry a pil­lion pas­sen­ger if your car is in the shop.

For every­one

So, who is the Spy­der for? Well, based on our day out, it’s for every­one. We headed to the CBD for the photo shoot and were mobbed by peo­ple ask­ing about power out­puts and op­tions, and fol­lowed by oth­ers from one shoot lo­ca­tion to the next so they could get a bet­ter idea of how it worked. When stopped at the lights or in traf­fic, other driv­ers struck up con­ver­sa­tions and wanted to know more about it. Given that you strad­dle (pun in­tended) the line be­tween car and bike, you acquaint your­self with both and get smiles and ap­pre­ci­a­tion from all. I like the Can-am Spy­der. It made me feel bad to the bone just enough to know I’m not at all.

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