2014 Can-Am Spyder RT | FIRST RIDE

A new purpose-built engine for Bombardier’s trike.

They say: “More torque, fewer fill-ups.”
We say: “There’s a new triple under there…somewhere.”

Half a dozen years. That's how long Bombardier Recreational Products' three-wheel "motorcycle" has been on the road. Maybe you thought the Canadian non-leaner couldn't possibly get anyone's interest, certainly no self-respecting motorcyclist's? And maybe you thought such an eccentric idea couldn't possibly attain financial viability? Well, maybe some facts are in order. A good portion of Spyder sales are actually made to motorcyclists who buy them for reasons ranging from a wife who's willing to be a passenger on one to having no other choice due to physical disabilities. The biggest portion of sales, however, is made to what BRP calls "none-nones," basically, people who have never owned a motorcycle nor any other type of powersports product.

Although clearly not generating Harley-like sales just yet, the Quebec-built three-wheeler has seen strong and steady growth since its 2008 introduction. So much so that for 2014 the recently gone-public powersports manufacturer is doubling down on its still-unique vehicle with the introduction of a new engine, a 1,330cc inline-triple. Currently, only the Triumph Rocket III's 2,300cc triple is bigger.

For now, the new Rotax-built 1330 ACE triple is only available in the touring RT version, but no one should be surprised to see it—or a version of it—installed in the sporty RS and sport-touring ST for 2015. The new frame that's necessary to receive the triple has already been adopted by all three Spyder models, hinting what future plans could be.

The news of an inline-triple replacing a V-twin is extremely rare in the motorcycle industry, perhaps unique. But the Spyder isn't a motorcycle, and the Rotax-built, ex-Aprilia V-twin that powered every model up until 2013 wasn't a choice of passion, but rather of necessity. At a time when no one really knew if the then-new Spyder project would sink or swim, it was available and it was theirs (BRP owns Rotax), which made it a logical choice.

Buell's 1,125cc Helicon V-twin, also Rotax-built and currently BRP property, could have been a possible sequel to the existing 998cc V-twin, but according to CEO José Boisjoli, "It is an old engine." So an all-new motor was developed, and while BRP does have some serious experience with triples thanks to its Sea-Doo division, the manufacturer insists the Rotax 1330 ACE is purpose-built and not adapted from marine use.

Anyone familiar with Spyders will understand something is very different with the 2014 RT the moment the starter button is pushed. Idling at about 800 rpm (versus about 1,400 rpm for the twin), the triple immediately feels like a quieter and more reserved engine than the charismatic V-twin, which is actually somewhat surprising. You'd expect a 1,330cc triple to sing and howl like no such engine before it, but, in this case, what you get is sound and feel polite enough that in normal, relaxed use, confusing it with an inline-four would certainly be a possibility. Generous throttle openings or higher revs, however, make the characteristic triple music audible. More of that, then!

Performance-wise, one would expect an engine of this displacement to kick ass.While BRP could have made the motor into a 225/50R15-tire-smoking machine, it didn't, explaining it would have been "totally inappropriate considering our clientele's needs," which were merely for additional passing power. To that end, the more powerful RT, with a claimed 115 hp and 96 pound-feet of torque (up 15 hp and 16 pound-feet over the V-twin's output), delivers the goods with a smoother and much less stressed feel during overtaking maneuvers at highway speeds, where, by the way, revs have fallen from about 4,500 to slightly above 3,000 rpm at 60 mph, thanks to the additional ratio of the also-new six-speed trans.

Other notable improvements to the $22,999-and-up RT, which should already have arrived in dealerships, include bigger-diameter front shocks resulting in better straight-line stability and more refined chassis roll characteristics during cornering, forward radiators to better isolate rider and passenger from engine heat, and redesigned front fascia. Otherwise, the Spyder's chassis is familiar to those who've ridden it—a non-leaning, light-steering, one-foot-braked, Gold Wing-comfortable machine offering massive storage and freedom from worry about losing traction or touching the ground at a stop. Maybe it's just those attributes that explain the Spyder's longevity.

EVOLUTION

A familiar “non-motorcycle” shape with a tasty new three-cylinder engine.

RIVALS

Various Harley-Davidson and Gold Wing trike conversions.

Tech SPEC

Price $22,999
Engine type l-c inline-triple
Valve train DOHC, 12v
Displacement 1330cc
Bore x stroke 84.0 X 80.0mm
Compression 12.0:1
Fuel system EFI
Clutch Wet, multi-plate
Transmission 6-speed, with reverse
Claimed horsepower 115.0 bhp @ 7250 rpm
Claimed torque 96.0 lb.-ft. @ 5000 rpm
Frame Steel box-section single-cradle
Front suspension Double A-arm with Sachs shocks
Rear suspension Sachs shock with air-adjustable spring preload
Front brake Dual Brembo four-piston calipers, 270mm discs with ABS
Rear brake Brembo one-piston caliper, 270mm disc with ABS
Front tires 160/55R-15 Kenda Radial
Rear tire 225/50R-15 Kenda Radial
Rake/trail n/a
Seat height 30.4 in.
Wheelbase 67.5 in.
Fuel capacity 6.9 gal.
Claimed dry weight 1012 lb.
Color Pearl White, Timeless Black Metallic
Available Now
Warranty 24 mo., unlimited mi.
Contact www.can-am.brp.com

VERDICT: 3.5/5

A sweet new engine improves the “motorcycle” traditionalists continue to scoff at, but that continues to sell.

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