Can-Am Spyder RS-S Roadster | Trike

Three for the Road

It's one wheel and a roof short of sports-car status. And nobody will accuse the Spyder RS-S Roadster of being a motorcycle, least of all the Can-Am factory types who gave us a go on their latest, sportiest offering. They call it a Roadster. Bring too much two-wheel baggage along for the ride and the three-wheeler is guaranteed to disappoint. Give those preconceptions the afternoon off and it might surprise you...

The RS-S looks cool enough, but is it hard to ride? Fast? Comfy? Practical? Do you need a motorcycle license? Last things first: No, an automobile license is all it takes in most states. Equipped with the optional SE5 semi-automatic transmission, the Spyder is quite rookie-friendly after a little seat time. Engrained two-wheel habits-putting a foot down at a stop and countersteering, for instance-only get in the way.

Aside from the addition of a parking brake and another electronic hoop or two to jump through before getting things started, the cockpit is familiar enough. Slow-speed steering is a bit heavy despite Can-Am's crafty variable power-assist system, but maneuvering 800-plus pounds of unfamiliar threewheeler into traffic is easy enough. Anyone who reads the amazingly comprehensive owner's manual should find mastering the required skills easier than setting up a flatscreen TV.

Bring the proceedings up to 45 or 50 mph with a handful of Rotax horsepower and changing direction feels a little too easy at first. To anyone with go-kart or four-wheel ATV experience, the initially darty front-end feel is no big thing. Everybody else will make hundreds of tiny, pointless corrections before loosening that counterproductive stranglehold on the bars.

The 998cc V-twin provides sufficient urge to leave urban traffic behind. A ham-fist will leave intersections trailing clouds of Kenda tire smoke. And getting through the first few tight corners of your favorite twisty roads without countersteering or any measureable lean angle is weird. Once you do, hanging on is the hardest part.

Major Adjustment Number Two settles in somewhere between your forearms and shoulders right about then. Rapid cornering depends on upper-body strength, and smoothness equals quickness, more so than on a motorcycle. Aggressive riders complain about the electronic fun-police squelching racy cornering behavior prematurely- first with the brakes, then by cutting power-but the net effect can save the unwary.

Power is about right as well: engaging, and easy to use, but never overwhelming. Three disc brakes burn off as much speed as the engine can stir up, and thumbing through the semi-automatic five-speed tells you why 85 percent of Can-Am's customers opt out of the clutch lever. Suspension is taut without feeling harsh.

If two wheels deliver too much adrenaline and four wheels not enough, the Can-Am is an enticingly viable alternative. It's stable, comfy, responsive, reasonably quick and it schleps an impressive amount of cargo in that cavernous 44-liter trunk. Looking for something that trumps a motorcycle? Look elsewhere. But if you're looking for something like nothing you've ever ridden before, this is it.

Price $18,099 (as tested)
Engine type l-c V-twin
Displacement 998cc
Transmission 5-speed plus reverse
Claimed horsepower 106 bhp @ 8500 rpm
Claimed torque 77 lb.-ft. @ 6250 rpm
Frame Steel-spar backbone
Front suspension Double A-arm with anti-roll bar, twin Fox Shox
Rear suspension Single shock with adjustable spring preload
Front brake Dual four-piston calipers, 250mm discs with ABS
Rear brake One-piston caliper, 250mm disc with ABS
Front tire 165/65R-14 Kenda
Rear tire 225/50R-15 Kenda
Seat height 33.9 in.
Wheelbase 58.4 in.
Fuel capacity 6.6 gal.
Claimed curb weight 739 lbs.

Verdict: 3 out of 5 stars.

What to ride when four wheels are too many and two aren't enough.

Can-Am's excellent SE5 semi-automatic gearbox adds $1500 and upshift/downshift buttons to the left bar, while doing away with the clutch lever.
They say: "Riding reinvented."
We say: "A 106-horsepower Canadian hat-trick."