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Review: Bombardier Can-Am Spyder ST-S

Three-wheeler more like an ATV than a motorcycle

Bombardier makes snowmobiles, ATVs and, for a brief time in the 1970s, motorcycles.

With two wheels, four wheels and skis covered, the first three-wheeled Spyder descended from Bombardier?s web in October of 2007.

Base roadsters now start at $16,999 and go all the way to luxurious touring rigs with backrests, sound systems, integrated saddlebags and topboxes with a combined 155 litres of storage, and even factory trailer packages. My test unit was the middle-of-the-road ST-S sporting Spyder that listed for $20,099.

With two wheels up front and one in the back, it?s obvious that the Spyder?s DNA is more snowmobile and ATV than motorcycle. Motorcycles turn by leaning and countersteering, while the only way to steer the Spyder is by turning the handlebars.

Those with motorcycle experience will find the Spyder a bit odd, but so will those without motorcycle experience.

Power is provided by a Rotax 998-cc V-twin engine pumping out 100 horsepower and 80 lb.-ft. of torque.

Two transmissions are offered, a motorcycle-like five-speed manual with a clutch, or a clutchless five-speed automatic operated by two convenient paddle-shift buttons on the left switchpod. Reverse is standard with both.

Instead of forks, the Spyder?s front suspension consists of double A-arms with an anti-roll bar and a generous 151 mm of travel, while the rear is a monoshock swingarm with 152 mm of travel.

Front brakes are 270-mm discs gripped by four piston Brembo calipers, while a single 270-mm disc is out back. All brakes are activated by a pedal on the right floorboard ? no brake levers, here. Wheels are 15-inchers all around, the fronts being 127 mm wide and the rear a meaty 178.

Seat height is an easy-to-board 737 mm and the dry weight (no fuel or other fluids) is a somewhat hefty 392 kg (864 lb.), which is about the same as a Gold Wing.

Hit the start button, release the electronic parking brake, push a couple of buttons to get reverse and back out of the driveway.

Push the ?shift up? button, twist the motorcycle-like throttle and you?re away. The thumb upshifts while the index finger curls around the grip for downshifts, although the Spyder downshifts automatically when coming to a stop ? even providing a cheeky throttle blip as it does so.

At first, just going in a straight line was an adventure, as the Spyder felt like an ATV, hunting and wallowing along a hard-packed trail, requiring constant corrections with the bars. Relaxing my grip made the hunting less pronounced but it still felt like the Happy Wanderer.

The owner?s manual recommends only 15 psi in the front wheels, which is probably why it was moving all over the road. I investigated some on-line forums and owners solve the problem by pumping the fronts up to 20-25 psi. Still, with recommended tire pressures, the Spyder didn?t exactly inspire confidence with its straight-line stability.

Cornering is another adventure altogether. Enter a corner at any kind of speed and the high centre of gravity understeers and tries to pitch you off the outside.

Even at a relaxed pace, I felt much more comfortable hanging off a bit towards the inside, although it undoubtedly looked somewhat dorky.

The riding position itself is quite comfortable, as you?re up nice and high. Power is decent, although I never felt confident enough with the handling to really air it out.

Cruising at 100 km/h has the motor spinning at a fairly relaxed pace, although I couldn?t really relax and enjoy the ride as it was wandering a bit within the lane.

Bombardier incorporated a host of safety devices, with all kinds of tricks up its electronic sleeve to ensure that once you enter a corner, you?ve got a pretty good chance of exiting without the Spyder going upside-down on you.

There?s traction control, stability control, ABS on all three wheels, anti-roll measures and vehicle stability system that applies the brake if one wheel lifts or spins faster than another.

For convenience, there?s a large 44 litre ?trunk? up front, suitable for carrying a rainsuit, extra helmet, gloves, or even a couple of bags of groceries.

To operate a Spyder in Ontario requires a motorcycle licence, although I?ve been riding bikes for more than 40 years and can?t think a single skill you use on a motorcycle that?s applicable.

The Spyder doesn?t lean, you don?t have to worry about falling over at a walking pace or balancing it at a stoplight, and there isn?t even a brake lever to pull. The throttle twists like a motorcycle but that process is so simple, anyone could learn it in seconds.

Quebec got this one right: to ride a Spyder on its roads, you require a car licence and a training session.

If you?re a motorcyclist, the Spyder will likely disappoint. But car drivers with an ATV or snowmobile background will find a lot to like.

The vehicle tested by freelance writer Steve Bond was provided by the manufacturer.

Email: wheels@thestar.ca.

Bombardier Can-Am Spyder ST-S

Price: $16,999, $20,099 as tested

Engine: 998 cc, V-twin Rotax, EFI, five-speed manual or auto

Power/Torque: 100 hp/80 lb.-ft.

Fuel Consumption L/100 km: 7.9 to 8.5

Competition: Harley Tri-Glide

What?s best: Comfortable, convenient storage, no skills necessary.

What?s worst: Quirky handling.

What?s interesting: It?s more of a car with one less wheel than a motorcycle with one extra.

  • Review: Bombardier Can-Am Spyder ST-S Re: Wheels / Bond / Bombardier Spyder__On 2013-08-26, at 9:05 AM, Steve Bond wrote:______All photos by Steve Bond__
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