Living with a Giant Spyder

Recently I received some photos from one of our readers for the Readers Rides folder. One of the photos was of a Can-Am Spyder. Having never ridden one I was interested to learn what they are like to live with, so I asked Ian for his thoughts.

Thanks Ian Manock.

When I met my wife three years ago, she was confronted by my not having a car, with my sole means of transportation being my motorcycle (A Suzuki GS500F at the time). She had sadly lost her younger brother to a motorcycle accident a year before we met and although she expressed an interest in riding,  she was hesitant because of her brother’s accident and also a chronic back condition, which would likely see her confined to a wheelchair if she had an off.

Therefore she was caught between a rock and a hard place regarding wanting to ride, but being scared of the consequences if things went bad. I knew that there were options now available for people wanting to get out on a motorcycle, but perhaps wanting a safer option than two wheels.

I introduced her to the idea of a three-wheeler, be it a three-wheeled scooter such as the Piaggio MP3, a standard cruiser based trike with dual rear wheel drive or the new Can Am Spyder with dual front wheels and rear wheel belt drive. The only down side to the scooter and Spyder options was the need to have a motorcycle licence, and in the case of the Spyder, a full motorcycle licence because of its engine size.

Anyway, in mid 2011 she said that she really liked the idea of the Spyder and so we organised to join a Spyder Experience ride day conducted by BRP at the Sydney Olympic Equestrian Centre in late 2011. Although she was my pillion for the day, she thoroughly enjoyed the experience and after the day was over she had that look on her face that reminded me of Toad’s glassy look and behaviour in the Wind in the Willows after he saw his first motorcar. She was completely hooked.

Knowing that she had to get her motorcycle licence, without her knowing I booked her in for her Stay Upright Course in January, 2012. I also secretly organised the purchase of her Christmas present for 2011,  a Sachs Madass 125 motorcycle, on which she could learn once she had her L’s and get experience for the MOST test that she would eventually have to pass. Of course there was also the requisite kitting out with helmet, jacket, pants, gloves and boots.

The attraction of the Spyder however was too much for her and it was one of those things that had to be organised sooner rather than later, so we ended up in January 2012 with me having my Triumph Sprint and the wife going from no motorcycles to two over the space of two months. Talk about being unfair.

Anyway, she attended the Stay Upright course in January, obtained her Learner’s licence and diligently rode her little Madass around until July when she sat the MOST test and passed without an error recorded. The countdown was then on for her to wait the prescribed 12 month period (because of her age) before she was eligible for her full open licence.

The aim is that she will ride the Spyder and I will be on my Triumph until one day I also start spending more time on the Spyder then two wheels.  In the meantime we had also taken possession of our new 2010  Can Am Spyder RTS complete with factory trailer and we commenced our Spyder riding and touring experience.

I must admit, the riding dynamics and behaviour of the Spyder were completely different from I was used to from both the motorcycle riding and also car driving perspectives. The Spyder doesn’t lean into corners like a normal bike, staying square onto corners, thus putting a substantial centrifugal force on  the rider and pillion. Thus although the bike doesn’t lean, the rider and pillion have to progressively lean to counteract these forces as speed increases.

Additionally unlike a normal bike, there is no counter steering involved in turning the Spyder into a corner. The rider simply turns the handlebars like a car and holds the position whilst the Spyder negotiates the turn. Slow speed, tight turns are interesting given that you still have a right hand twist throttle control.

 There was the need to get used to the RTS’s semi-automatic gearbox (5 speed left hand flappy paddle plus a reverse) as well as the single brake lever, a foot lever located on the right hand side. I can admit there were a few occasions initially I went to grab some right hand brake lever and found my hand empty.  The brakes on the Spyder compared to a bike are brilliant, with braking on all three wheels linked and also having ABS.

The various electronic engine and stability controls also assist in making the Spyder a safer mode of transport, with traction control  reducing rear wheel spin and stability control sensing when a front wheel might be lifting in a corner and backing off the power so as to keep all three wheels on the ground. In the 12 months that we have now owned the Spyder, we have travelled some 12,000 kms, including a number of motorcycle rallies and have ridden as far as Queensland’s  Sunshine Coast, towing the trailer for the 2012 Spyder Royale rally.

At this rally there were over 100 Spyders from predominantly the east coast of Australia. The next Royale will be held at Lorne in Victoria in October 2013, the weekend before the MotoGP at Philip Island, so Victorians will get to see a large number of Spyders  along the Great Ocean Road I am sure.

One of the interesting and enlightening aspects of riding a Spyder, is that you get to meet a different demographic of rider. There are not as many younger riders, but having said that, quite a large number of riders have transitioned from a life of riding two wheels to now riding three.

In quite a few instances these riders have still retained their two-wheeled machines ( I am an example of this), but as you get older, backs, wrists, knees, elbows and other joints often start to have an impact on the type of riding and the type of motorcycle you are able to enjoy.  Also, the Spyder enables riders with disabilities, who might not be able to ride two wheels, to get out on the road on a bike without too much trouble.

We have a couple of riders who are single leg amputees riding here in NSW that I know of, and in the USA there are a number of paraplegic riders who have converted their Spyder’s controls for complete hand operation and the rear area to hold a light folding wheelchair. The only real downside of the Spyder is that it is a little thirsty. Fuel consumption could be better, but when you take the size of the engine (Rotax 990cc V Twin) and weight of the bike (wet and two up  – over 500kgs) this is a small price to pay for the sheer enjoyment that riding the Spyder provides.

Overall the wife and I are very happy with our Spyder and it has enabled us both to enjoy together the freedom and excitement that motorcycling provides. We are even in the process of setting up special luggage to enable us to take out two dogs out on the road with us – following all the legal requirements of course. For someone who is wanting a different riding experience, someone who has reached the end of their two-wheeled riding life, or like my wife, someone who wants a safer riding option for whatever reason, I highly recommend the Spyder as an alternate means of getting out there on the road

Ian Manock, White Rock

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