First Ride: 2016 Can-Am Spyder F3-P

A police-spec three-wheeler puts a new spin on law enforcement transportation.

Can-Am Spyder F3-P front 3/4
The Can-Am Spyder F3-P is BRP's police-spec F3, with flashing lights, wailing sirens, and a Givi top and side cases.Photo by Julia LaPalme

Lights flashing, siren blaring. When we hear and see these signs, many of us are about to get a ticket, or if we're lucky, a stern talking to. But when the BRP Can-Am police-spec Spyder F3-P arrived at the Motorcyclist offices, suddenly the sign of flashing lights had people like Ari Henning's eyes light up like a kid on Christmas morning. We couldn't wait to play with this three-wheeler, which, in a group of people obsessed with life on two wheels, you won't hear us say often.

BRP, or Bombardier Recreational Products, begins with their current gen Can-am Spyder F3, with a Rotax 1339 in-line three-cylinder liquid cooled engine, with Brembo brakes, Fox gas-charged shocks and 7.1 gallon fuel tank, and in about a day and a half, transforms it into the F3-P (P stands for Police. Duh). The base Police Package consists of a Quick Pursuit ignition, 100-watt siren with wail, yelp, and air horn, 12 blue and red LED emergency lights with 25 selectable flash patterns, and a high strength aluminum Givi top case with two 12-volt and two USB ports. All this brings the base price up from $19,649 for a stock F3, to $22,900.

Can-Am Spyder F3-P profile
At 104" front to back, this Spyder F3-P is long, low, and mean.Photo by Julia LaPalme

And if you think that price tag sounds hefty, that’s before the additional Givi saddle bags, or any of the specialty gear is added by police bike upfitters Beaudry Police Authority Sales, like a Motorola radio for $8,000, handheld radar units at $2,500 a pop, a $4,000 video system with camera, laptop computer, assault rifle rack, and additional lighting. The F3-P can also be equipped with a tow hitch and a low-profile, high speed trailer straight from BRP for $3,199, which would greatly improve hauling capacity for gear needed on a police scene. That brings the price tag up to $30,000 and above.

Can-Am Spyder F3-P Front
A 58.9-in wheelbase means this open air police vehicle will not be lane splitting like its two-wheeled counterparts.Photo by Julia LaPalme

With many law enforcement agencies maintaining motorcycle (or "motor") fleets, the next natural question is, Why would a police department opt for a three-wheel platform, over two- or four-wheels? Even at $30k, the Can-Am F3-P is, at most, half the price of a police-spec Dodge Charger or the like. It's even cheaper than a police-spec Harley-Davidson or BMW (though more expensive than the Honda ST1300 or Yamaha FJR1300). And while the F3-P is not as narrow a profile as a motorcycle, making lane-sharing out of the question, the Can-Am platform offers other benefits over a two-wheeled police vehicle.

Can-Am Spyder F3-P Rear
Lights, sirens, and Givi cases are part of the police package available straight from BRP.Photo by Julia LaPalme

The first benefit is training time. Most departments require anywhere from four to nine weeks of training for their motor officers, with some, like the CHP, having a 79 percent washout. In contrast, the Can-Am can be operated by anyone with ATV, snowmobile, or watercraft experience, taking less than two weeks to prepare an officer for the field. And in many states, like Nevada, it wouldn’t even require an extra endorsement to operate. Along the same lines, the potential for injury during training and operation is reduced, which can help save a department’s budget.

Can-Am Spyder F3-P action
Beaudry Police Authority Sales' Steve Beaudry shows the ease of operation afforded by the Spyder F3-P.Photo by Julia LaPalme

The second benefit is the F3’s semi-automatic gearbox, which enables an officer to stop the vehicle, leave it running, engage a parking brake, go about their business issuing citations or performing radar, and hop back on and be up to speed with traffic in no time. With a motorcycle, an officer running radar will usually shut the bike off, put it in neutral, put the kickstand down. Being on three wheels lets the F3-P stay upright, ready to go. Plus, it has a reverse gear, which is helpful when backing up this 941-pound (claimed, dry) beast.

Can-Am Spyder F3-P cockpit
A view of the cockpit reveals dual analog gauges with digital display screen, cruise control function, clutchless shifting, siren and lights controls, and a parking brake.Photo by Julia LaPalme

The third benefit is braking performance. The F3-P has three points of contact with the road, and the front two are flatter and wider than a motorcycle tire, improving braking distance. The F3 comes with dual four-piston fixed caliper Brembo brakes up front, and a single-piston floating caliper in back, on 270mm discs all around. During Michigan State Police department’s brake testing, the F3-P beat their Dodge Charger, and outperformed every motorcycle in braking distance from 60 mph, in as little at 115 feet.

Can-Am Spyder F3-P gauges
The F3-P's dual analog gauges flank a digital readout screen, giving general vehicle info.Photo by Julia LaPalme

Michigan’s State Police department also did performance testing of multiple police vehicles, and the F3-P came in second place for acceleration, bested only by BMW’s R1200RT-P, although that was by almost a second. Otherwise, the Can-Am did 0-60 faster than the Harley-Davidson Electra Glide, the Harley-Davidson Road King, and the Zero. Specifically, the F3-P reached 60 mph from 0 in as little as 5.03 seconds. They also found the F3 to reach a top speed of 121 mph.

Can-Am Spyder F3-P engine
The F3-P runs the same Rotax 1330cc three-cylinder engine as the base Spyder F3.Photo by Julia LaPalme

Your next question might be, Ok, but how does this thing ride? Well, let me tell you: it's a different sensation getting on not just a three-wheeled vehicle, but one that has two wheels up front, and one in back (as opposed to a trike). To climb aboard the F3, you set your foot on the left floorboard and swing your leg over like mounting a horse. There is no clutch lever, only a shift paddle on the left handlebar, along with turn signal control, mode switch buttons, display selection buttons, and electronic parking brake on/off button. There is no front brake lever, as the front and rear brakes are linked, and operated just with the right foot lever. What you will find on the right handlebar is a twist throttle, start button, cruise control toggle, and emergency lights button.

Can-Am Spyder F3-P buttons and badge
BRP specs the F3-P with lights, sirens, and police badges, direct from the factory.Photo by Julia LaPalme

At slow speeds, the feeling of using a handlebar to turn two flat-profile tires feels a little laborious. Placing my hands at the bar ends to maximize leverage definitely helped reduce the effort needed. Pulling out of our parking lot, and up to the first stop light, I checked traffic to the left, as one does before taking a right. Lo and behold, a motor cop was parked next to the intersection, waiting to catch speeding motorists in the work zone. Suddenly I realized I’d forgotten my license back at the office. Thank goodness the Can-Am has a reverse gear, as I K-turned and headed back to the office before the officer noticed me. I’ve been pulled over for driving a (press vehicle) cop car before, and remember the officer being confused, perturbed, and patronizing. I did not feel like going through that again… especially without ID. Whoops.

Can-Am Spyder F3-P badge
The Can-Am F3-P is covered in police-spec badges, done by BRP.Photo by Julia LaPalme

Proper documentation in hand, I set out again, and once I left the parking lot, acceleration was quick, and shifting with the paddle shifter was smooth and near-instant. Cornering at speed took some getting used to, as the F3-P tended to understeer a bit. Also, I kept imagining Jeremy Clarkson tipping the three-wheeled Reliant Robin (though, admittedly, that’s one wheel up front, and two in back.) Feeling the F3-P pushing wide, I tended to pull back before entering any subsequent corners.

Can-Am Spyder F3-P lights
Twelve blue and red LED lights come part of the police package for the F3-P.Photo by Julia LaPalme

The Brembo brakes felt strong, and ABS was helpful in keeping wheels from locking up when making abrupt stops. Ari of course was squealing a tire or two riding the F3-P around our parking lot, but you’ll just have to see that in video. The riding position was comfortable, and the handlebars were wide and easy to steer (once at speed). Suspension was surprisingly supple, soaking up the speed bumps in our parking lot, and completely negating any small bumps and ruts in the road. It’s no floaty Crown Vic, but compliant while maintaining composure through turns. The most fun part of the vehicle, of course, was the operation of lights and sirens, which we kept contained in our parking lot. It drew quite the crowd of interested people while we had it parked, fiddling with the features.

Can-Am Spyder F3-P left handlebar
A nice feature of the 941-pound three-wheeler is its reverse gear. A parking brake is also accessed on the left handlebar.Photo by Julia LaPalme

The unique benefits of the Spyder certainly make a strong case for law enforcement. A department in Texas has supposedly already purchased six units, and Can-Am has sold a few here and there to select police departments in the Midwest and along the east coast. While the Spyder F3-P is built in Canada, BRP expects 95 percent of sales to be in the US, in large part due to our longer open-vehicle riding season, particularly in the west. So keep an eye out. Next time you see a Can-Am on the road, cross your fingers it’s not an F3-P in your rearview mirror, lights flashing, and siren blaring.

Can-Am Spyder F3-P rear wheel
At the rear, a one-piston floating caliper on a 270mm disc is accompanied by an integrated parking brake.Photo by Julia LaPalme
Spyder Can-Am F3-P front shock
The F3-P is equipped with gas-charged Fox Podium shocks with 5.1 inches of travel.Photo by Julia LaPalme
Can-Am Spyder F3-P front wheel
At the front wheels, Brembo four-piston fixed calipers on 270mm discs with ABS give the F3-P plenty of stopping power.Photo by Julia LaPalme
Can-Am Spyder F3-P rear 3/4
The F3-P's three-wheeled platform makes it more stable than a two-wheeled police vehicle option.Photo by Julia LaPalme