First Ride Review

This is a review of a Can-Am 3WV (three-wheeled vehicle). Cue the snarky comments. It’s not a motorcycle, they say. Well, they’re right…and Can-Am agrees.

The Spyders–and the new Rykers–aren’t motorcycles, and if you approach them expecting a two-wheeled experience of course you’ll be disappointed. Your only expectation should be to have fun.

The Rykers make no attempt at two-wheeled pretense; they don’t even have a key–at least not the metal kind we’re all familiar with. Instead they use a plastic D.E.S.S. (Digitally Encoded Security System) key as seen on Can-Am’s SkiDoo and SeaDoo products.

This small device has a socket that snaps on over a ball on the left side of the Ryker’s engine compartment and is digitally encoded to each machine, which also means it’s possible to have one key coded to all of your Can-Am toys.

So why do motorcycle magazines continue to cover these three-wheeled insults to “real” riding?

The short answer is: not everyone is comfortable with the idea of two wheels, but they still want the saddle, handlebar, wind-in-your-hair experience, and we don’t blame them–it’s fun.

Can-Am figured this out and about 10 years ago introduced its first Spyder, with two wheels up front for better stability than traditional trikes.

It was a learning experience, with hits and misses along the way, culminating in the current Spyder lineup of six F3 and RT models, all powered by a Rotax 1330 ACE in-line triple…and costing anywhere from $16,000 to $27,000. There were less expensive models in the past but they weren’t always well received, and the used market is sparse.

Therefore, while Can-Am now operates dedicated Rider Education Programs in 37 states (with a goal of 42 by the end of 2018), it’s struggling to convert graduates to buyers. According to its research, 45 percent of participants are not purchasing a Spyder because they’re just too expensive.

So Can-Am has instituted a new strategy it calls Project S, which takes a four-pronged approach: reduce the price of the Spyder F3 and RT models, continue to expand the Rider Education Program, introduce the industry’s first leasing program and bring two new entry-level models to market, the $8,499 Ryker 600 and $9,999 Ryker 900.

With 10 years of experience and some amortization of development costs, plus overall cost reductions for technology, Can-Am’s designers and engineers feel like the Rykers are the entry-level 3WVs they’ve always wanted to build.

Other than engine configurations the two Rykers are identical, and look a bit like a stripped-down Spyder, with matte-black plastic composite bodywork and a low, stubby saddle suspended over the single-sided swingarm that houses a driveshaft.

Gone is the belt that drives the Spyders’ rear wheels, which Can-Am says was necessary to create a lower center of gravity; the lower shaft allows the seat to hang just 23.5 inches off the ground. With weights in the low-to-mid 600-pound range, the Rykers also weigh about 300 pounds less than the sporty Spyder F3.

The handlebar and footpegs are adjustable thanks to a next-gen version of Can-Am’s UFit system that is quick, easy and requires no tools.

To move the handlebar, lift the clamp, slide it forward or back to your desired position, then re-clamp. The footpegs are similarly easy: lift, slide along the frame tube, lower back into place.

Thanks to a pretty ingenious design, the brake reservoir slides along with the right peg, and the lever itself is also easily adjustable with one hand; at one red light I reached down and adjusted both footpegs before the light turned green.

Once wrapped around the low-slung machine, getting started is a matter of twisting the throttle. The Rykers’ CVT requires no shifting and dishes out power at any time; the belt does require service at a BRP dealer every 12,500 miles or so.

Reverse is a simpler affair than on a Spyder; while stopped, use your left foot or hand to slide a lever above the footpeg to the rear. Perform the opposite maneuver to return to forward gear.

Can-Am offers the standard Ryker with either a Rotax 600 ACE parallel twin or a 900 in-line triple, while the up-spec and dirt road-ready Rally Edition comes with the 900 and features all-road tires, KYB suspension with an extra inch of travel, reinforced wheels, an included Max Mount rear rack, skid plates and structural enhancements, hand guards and an extra Rally ride mode. Both variations can be customized with snap-on body panels and other accessories.

I’ve had experience with the F3 Limited and RT, and am well aware of the capabilities and limitations of both Spyder designs, namely their high center of gravity that causes the VSS (Vehicle Stability System) to kick in early enough to put a bit of a damper on true hooliganism.

The Rykers, by contrast, were designed specifically for hooning around, and the 900 is the first 3WV I’ve ridden where I actually had to dial myself back because the VSS was allowing me to act too much the fool.

It takes a bit for a motorcyclist used to two-wheelers to get in the 3WV swing of things, but once figured out it’s like riding a go-kart with a handlebar.

Riders can choose their own level of adventure with three riding modes: Eco, Standard and Sport (and a fourth, Rally, on the Rally Edition). Standard is fine for casual riding or those new to 3WVs, while Sport dials things up a notch by almost completely disabling traction control and loosening VSS intervention.

Standing burnouts and sliding into corners, your butt less than two feet from the tarmac, are encouraged.

Rally mode takes things even further to allow for some pretty serious off-road drifts, but after scaring myself several times on an extremely twisty canyon road I decided that it would be wise to save it for the dirt.

Also notable was the fact that the standard Ryker, with its lower ride height and stickier street tires, was quicker on those technical roads than the Rally Edition. When pushed hard into a turn in Sport mode, the Rally’s “all-road” front tires had a tendency to break loose, sending me skittering across my lane with the dialed-back VSS sputtering to intervene at such a late juncture.

Once traction was regained, the engine stepped up to slingshot me out of the corner. Despite its lack of a counterbalancer, I found the Rotax 900 ACE triple to be smooth and responsive, if somewhat lacking in character.

It generates a claimed 77 horsepower at 7,100 rpm and 56 lb-ft of torque at 6,300, delivered via a well dialed-in electronic throttle and a CVT that offered it up on demand for quick passes and scooting around the twisties.

Unfortunately a Ryker 600 was not available on our ride, but given that it only weighs about 20 pounds less than the Ryker 900 and makes nearly 40 percent less power (47 horsepower at 7,300 rpm and 35 lb-ft of torque at 6,200), we’re guessing most dealers will only keep one on hand to upsell customers to the bigger engine.

Linked triple-disc brakes were up to the task, although at our spirited pace a solid push on the pedal was necessary to haul the roughly 660-pound Ryker Rally down to a (relatively) safe corner entry speed. You feel it when the ABS intervenes, but by that point you’ll probably be happy it’s there.

Suspension (Sachs twin-tube coil-over shocks on the standard Ryker and adjustable KYB HPG shocks on the Rally) is impressive, as it is on the Spyders. With a 3WV one often can’t avoid potholes and other road hazards, but the Ryker soaks them up with very little fanfare.

My Rally wallowed just a bit on quick transitions, but I hadn’t gotten an opportunity to make any adjustments so it might be possible to stiffen it up a bit for sport riding.

I also appreciated the Ryker’s lack of power assist steering like that found on the Spyder models. Now connected directly and mechanically to the front wheels, the Ryker exhibits much less of the skittery, nervous behavior many riders have noted on the Spyder.

The upshot is a slightly harder workout when flinging it through the twisties, but it’s a fair trade in my opinion.

The lower center of gravity and substantial weight loss over the Spyders is noticeable, and the Ryker feels playful and fun—exactly what Can-Am was hoping for.

What remains to be seen is how well it’s received by its target market, but the new leasing program, which advertises payments on a Ryker as low as $149/month, might provide an added incentive for a generation unlikely to have a large chunk of savings to plunk down on a new toy.

Even seasoned two-wheelers (and trike riders) looking for something fun to bomb around town on should give the Ryker an open-minded look though. You never know, you just might like it!

The 2019 Can-Am Ryker starts at $8,499 for the 600cc base model, the 900 is $9,999, and the Rally Edition is $10,999. The base price includes one of three colors, black, red or yellow, with other optional colors and graphics available for an upcharge, including a limited-edition series that will change every six months or so.

They should be arriving in dealerships sometime in Spring 2019.