Can-Am rein­vents the three-wheeler

With a mo­tor­cy­cle’s DNA and a car’s tem­per­a­ment, lower-priced sports trikes strive to en­ter main­stream

Los Angeles Times - - BUSINESS - By Charles Flem­ing

Can-Am, the mo­tor­cy­cle divi­sion of the Cana­dian power sports be­he­moth BRP, al­ready turns $350 mil­lion in global sales of its three-wheeled Spy­ders.

That’s a drop in the bucket com­pared with BRP’s $4.5 bil­lion in over­all sales, which in­cludes Can-Am of­froad ve­hi­cles and BRP’s Ski-Doo snow­mo­biles, Sea-Doo per­sonal wa­ter­craft and Ev­in­rude out­board mo­tors.

But Can-Am has as­pi­ra­tions. The divi­sion ex­pects to triple its three­wheeled rev­enue with the in­tro­duc­tion of a new line of lower-priced sports trikes.

On a sunny day in Septem­ber, vis­it­ing mem­bers of the com­pany in­vited two dozen car and mo­tor­cy­cle jour­nal­ists and en­thu­si­asts for a spin around the Mal­ibu hills on the new Can-Am Ryker and Ryker Rally.

Many were al­ready fa­mil­iar with the Spy­ders, up­scale three-wheel­ers

mar­keted largely as tour­ing ve­hi­cles for cou­ples, that start at about $15,000 and can climb quickly with up­grades and ac­ces­sories.

They seemed ex­cited to get some sad­dle time on the Ryker, a stripped-down Spy­der that of­fers the same easy op­er­a­tion, with a bet­ter power-to-weight ra­tio and a strik­ingly lower price: The Ryker starts at $8,499.

Josee Per­rault, se­nior vice pres­i­dent of Can-Am on-road prod­uct, said her com­pany’s re­search re­vealed that a huge num­ber of po­ten­tial rid­ers were in­ter­ested in test­ing or ac­quir­ing a Spy­der. What’s pre­vent­ing them, she said, are the price and the com­plex li­cens­ing re­quired to op­er­ate the ve­hi­cles on U.S. streets.

Can-Am’s plan to triple sales hinges on price drops of $3,600 on the Spy­der F3 and $2,100 on the Spy­der RT, in ad­di­tion to the low price on the new Ryk­ers, and a new $149-per-month lease plan.

But it also re­lies upon an out­reach pro­gram to pro­mote rider train­ing, rider ed­u­ca­tion and leg­isla­tive ef­forts to en­cour­age more U.S. states to al­low three­wheeled ve­hi­cles to be driven with auto li­censes with­out an ad­di­tional mo­tor­cy­cle en­dorse­ment.

Most states cat­e­go­rize three-wheeled Can-Ams, Sling­shots and Har­leyDavid­sons as ei­ther “mo­tor­cy­cles” or “au­to­cy­cles,” and some re­quire a mo­tor­cy­cle en­dorse­ment. Some also re­quire a mo­tor­cy­cle hel­met, but some don’t.

In Cal­i­for­nia, ac­cord­ing to Depart­ment of Mo­tor Ve­hi­cles reg­u­la­tions, a stan­dard Class C driver’s li­cense al­lows mo­torists “to op­er­ate a mo­tor­cy­cle with a side car at­tached or a three-wheel mo­tor­cy­cle,” but not a twowheeled mo­tor­cy­cle, which re­quires an M-1 en­dorse­ment. And, in Cal­i­for­nia, hel­mets are re­quired.

The out­reach pro­gram has al­ready in­creased the num­ber of three-wheeled mo­tor­cy­cle train­ing pro­grams in North Amer­ica from 10 in 2016 to more than 150 to­day, Per­rault said, and has helped li­cense 5,000 new U.S. rid­ers since Fe­bru­ary.

Dealer par­tic­i­pa­tion and test rides, Per­rault said, are es­sen­tial. “Get­ting butts on seats is crit­i­cal to mar­ket­ing this prod­uct,” she said. “If we are go­ing to rev­o­lu­tion­ize the three-wheel mar­ket, we need new rid­ers.”

Can-Am hopes to sell or lease the Ryk­ers. The two mod­els fea­ture sleek style, low pro­files, au­to­matic transmissions, highly ad­justable er­gonomics and two engine op­tions: a two-cylin­der 600cc and a three-cylin­der 900cc ver­sion of the same Ro­tax engine BRP uses in many of its other prod­ucts. (The 600 boasts 47 horse­power, the 900 77 horse­power. The larger engine adds $1,500 to the price tag.)

The Ryk­ers are also shaft-driven, not chain-driven — a first for a Can-Am prod­uct — and of­fer rider modes to max­i­mize fuel econ­omy (Eco) or de­crease trac­tion con­trol and in­crease rid­ing drama (Sport).

Al­though they can be ac­ces­sorized to ac­com­mo­date pas­sen­gers and al­low for some light tour­ing, the Ryk­ers are meant to be city slick­ers and canyon carvers, sport bikes that will ap­peal to “new rid­ers,” whom Per­rault de­scribed as “eth­nic, ur­ban and younger” than the cur­rent Spy­der rider, whom Can-Am said is 62 years old on av­er­age.

The Mal­ibu rid­ers had mixed re­ac­tions. Those who had not rid­den Can-Ams be­fore, and were not mo­tor­cy­clists, seemed de­lighted to be out on the open road, whip­ping around cor­ners as they cruised from Pa­cific Coast High­way to Mul­hol­land High­way and back down again.

Those who knew the Spy­ders, and had spent time on tra­di­tional two-wheel­ers, seemed dis­ap­pointed that the Ryk­ers rode so much like trikes and so lit­tle like bikes. In­deed, com­pared with the free-float­ing sen­sa­tion of cor­ner­ing on a mo­tor­cy­cle, the Ryker re­quired mus­cle and stamina, es­pe­cially on the twisty Mal­ibu moun­tain roads.

One rider com­plained he was ex­hausted af­ter the first half-hour. An­other ob­served that, un­like mo­tor­cy­cles, which tend to han­dle bet­ter at speed, the Ryk­ers got harder to op­er­ate the faster they were mov­ing.

Can-Am has at­tempted to make a virtue of this. Ad­ver­tise­ments for the Spy­der in mo­tor­cy­cle mag­a­zines ac­knowl­edge that the ride is a work­out: “You’re damn right it’s car­dio,” the copy reads.

I wouldn’t ar­gue with that, but I had a good time on the Ryker — both the en­try-level model and the Rally ver­sion, which adds hand guards, a skid plate, spe­cial tires, wheels and seat, and im­proved sus­pen­sion. It starts at $10,999.

Though I have been a mo­tor­cy­cle per­son for 50 years, and have a slight al­lergy to all three-wheeled bikes, I saw im­me­di­ately how the Ryker would ap­peal both to some­one new to bikes or a vet­eran want­ing a new ex­pe­ri­ence — es­pe­cially an older rider with an in­jury or di­min­ished leg strength who doesn’t want to bal­ance a tour­ing mo­tor­cy­cle, or a rider whose pas­sen­ger feels more com­fort­able on three wheels than two.

For those op­er­a­tors, the 23.5-inch seat height makes for easy mount­ing, and the “adap­tive foam” seat cush­ion was com­fort­able af­ter six rid­ing hours. The U-fit sys­tem al­lows the foot­peg and han­dle­bar po­si­tions to be ad­justed and per­son­al­ized in se­conds, and with­out the use of tools. The 5.3-gal­lon gas tank al­lows for a 200mile-plus range. A glove box and two USB ports help too. An op­tional sad­dle­bag has room for a full-size hel­met.

The width is a lit­tle daunt­ing. At just un­der 5 feet from fender to fender, the Ryker won’t al­low for any lane-split­ting, and might be tricky for rid­ers ac­cus­tomed to nar­row two-wheel­ers. One of the Mal­ibu rid­ers mis­cal­cu­lated a drive­way, struck a pole and took a tum­ble.

Can-Am is bet­ting big on the Ryker and has big am­bi­tions. There are al­ready a lot of Spy­ders on the road. Watch for Ryk­ers to join them.

Pho­to­graphs by Can-Am

THE CAN-AM Ryker Rally 900 is part of the com­pany’s am­bi­tious mis­sion to triple its three-wheeled rev­enue through the in­tro­duc­tion of a new line of lower-priced sports trikes.

THE RYKER is meant to be a city slicker and canyon carver, a sport bike that Can-Am hopes will ap­peal to “new rid­ers.”

Can-Am

CAN-AM’S PLAN to triple sales in­cludes an out­reach pro­gram and leg­isla­tive ef­forts to al­low the trikes to be driven with auto li­censes.

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