Road Test Review
Assuming there will never be a Spyder dual-sport model (never say never?), Can-Am’s lineup of three-wheel roadsters came full-circle last year with the introduction of the new F3 cruiser (January 2015 and on ridermag.wpengine.com). Though it has been quite successful with its RT touring, RS sport and ST sport-touring machines—Can-Am sells as many of them in the U.S. as Honda sells large touring bikes—the F3’s muscular styling and feet-forward riding position really struck a chord. It’s lower, more rearward 26.6-inch-high saddle just feels right to many Spyder buyers, many of whom are coming from an automotive mindset, and the F3’s U-Fit adjustable floorboard/footpeg/handlebar system lets male and female riders anywhere from 6-feet, 1-inch down to 5-feet, 1-inch tall dial in the seating position with five foot positions and five bar options. That feet-forward posture also gives an F3 pilot more leverage in corners, since your legs can effectively compensate for lateral G-forces and you gain some leverage for steering.
With all of that going for it, the F3 probably would have been fine with the original rev-happy Rotax 998cc V-twin that still powers the RS and ST. But cruiser riders want gobs of power down low, so it gets the more powerful Rotax ACE 1,330cc in-line three-cylinder engine, which makes a claimed 115 horsepower at 7,250 rpm and 96 lb-ft of torque at 5,000. That’s a 15 percent improvement over the V-twin on both counts, and Can-Am says the engine has 40-percent more low-end torque for better roll-on performance and responsiveness. The triple’s inherent smoothness and seamless power delivery shine in the big, fully dressed RT tourer, especially paired with the 6-speed SE6 semi-automatic transmission. Yet the F3 undercuts the RT by a claimed 162 pounds, which
elevates the engine’s felt power delivery from great to downright thrilling.
With the F3’s bona fides firmly established, it immediately became Can-Am’s second bestseller after the RT. That has led to the next logical step—bagger versions with more comfort, convenience and entertainment. The new F3-T and F3 Limited add locking saddlebags to the F3 platform, as well as a fairing and windscreen with integrated rearview mirrors, a glove box and cruise control. A new swingarm accepts an optional hitch for towing Can-Am’s new smaller, more affordable trailer. Beefed-up suspension for touring and two-up duty comprises a pair of big-bore front shocks with adjustable preload and an air-adjustable rear shock, with an automatic (self-leveling) adjustable air shock as an option.
Like many automobile makers, Can-Am offers upgrade packages for all of its models—there’s an RT-S and RT Limited, for example, to tempt RT customers, and an RS-S upgrade for the RS. Even the standard F3 can be had with F3-S equipment and trim. To that end the F3 Limited adds heated grips, floorboards and an integrated audio system (optional on the F3-T) to the cruiser with four directional speakers, a USB port and 1⁄8-inch auxiliary plug for iPods, smartphones, MP3 players or flash drives. Numerous trim enhancements such as chrome Shamrock front wheels, a black Limited seat and other chrome bits round out the nice-looking F3 Limited, which comes in Pearl White, Steel Black Metallic, the Intense Red Pearl on our test Spyder and a special Triple Black Series.
Can-Am turned us loose in the mountains of Southern California on a new F3 Limited for a day, and we followed that up with several days of commuting and joy rides in our own stomping grounds, putting nearly 500 miles on the roadster in the process. Its in-line triple is a model of smooth, authoritative power, with a loping idle and enormous low- and midrange grunt that will light up the rear tire from a stop or easily make a brisk pass on the highway. We have sampled the SM6 manual transmission in the past and it works fine, but the Spyders are best had with the SE6 semi-auto, which complements the convenience of not having to put your feet down with not having to use a clutch or shift lever—just a paddle shifter for upshifts. Both come with pushbutton reverse. My only gripes with the drivetrain are the vibration from the belt final drive that sneaks in around 3,800-4,100 rpm, which equates to an indicated 67-70 mph in top gear, and some engine heat that lightly toasts your right leg in hot weather. Neither are deal breakers, and Can-Am says it is working on the vibes.
The Spyder is well-known for its quick handling at speed, easy parking lot maneuvering and ultra-short stopping distances, all of which are aided by its wide tires, speed-sensitive Dynamic Power Steering and super-strong combined triple disc brakes with ABS. The Vehicle Stability System with traction control prevents wheel lift—enter a corner too hot and the Spyder snugs down the front brakes and cuts power until sanity is restored. After complaints that perhaps some playfulness should be allowed, Can-Am dialed-back the VSS nanny ever so slightly so that now a little bit of “drifting’ is allowed—but just a little bit. It takes some time to get used to the single brake pedal and 0 degrees of toe-in up front that makes small directional changes lightning quick, but soon you’ll be flinging the F3 around like an F1 car.
Comfort reigns supreme on the Spyder F3 Limited, with its recliner-like seating, large lumbar support and good wind protection. Suspension is firm without being harsh, the audio system positively cranks, and while the new saddlebags aren’t as large inside as they appear, they are still useful for smaller items—with the 24.4-liter front trunk and glove box, total capacity is 78 liters. Passenger accommodations are plush and comfy, and the Spyders have 70-plus pound sensors under their pillion seats that tell the VSS a passenger is aboard so it can adjust accordingly. Valves never need adjusting, so maintenance is mostly oil changes and infrequent belt replacements. Can-Am says that despite having car-like construction and sizing, the Spyders’ VSS is calibrated to the specially designed tires (made by Kenda), so they should be replaced with OE tires only. We averaged 31.9 mpg for a range of 226 miles from the 7.1-gallon tank of premium, but Can-Am says the ACE engine is good for 35.5 mpg. Accessories such as a shorter and taller windscreen, passenger backrest and front cargo bag are available.
Three-wheelers like the Spyder are treated like motorcycles by most states, and offer a fun, inclusive alternative to riders for whom motorcycles are not an option. The Spyder takes the idea to its zenith with high performance, comfort, convenience, great handling and safety, all wrapped in a two-year warranty. As they say, don’t knock it till you try it.