You've seen them on the road. The stylish three-wheeled Can-Am Spyders are grabbing attention with adventure lovers everywhere. Spyders may look like a cross between a motorcycle and a trike, but they're in a class of their own.
"It's not a motorcycle," says Chaz Rice of Can-Am, a division of Bombardier Recreational Products Inc., which manufacturers the Spyder. "It doesn't handle like a motorcycle. There's no leaning. With the roadster, it's a totally different adventure."
But the vehicle has at least one thing in common with a traditional motorcycle. "It's still wind in your face!" says Rice.
Spyders, which cost anywhere from $17,000 to $30,000, garner a lot of attention on the road. Owners say they get stopped all the time by other drivers wanting to know more about the vehicle.
The Spyders, which were first released in 2007, are available in two models: the RS, which is designed to be sporty and ideal for a single rider, and the RT, which is designed for touring and has a large seating area for the driver and a passenger.
*Driving a Spyder
Even people who've never driven a motorcycle might be attracted to the Spyder. The untraditional third wheel creates enhanced stability and smooth riding.
"Spyders are just so safe," says Len Damouth of Cowtown USA, a Cam-Am dealership. "The grace factor is there."
Damouth is also president of SpyderFest, an annual event held in Cuba, Mo., every April for Spyder enthusiasts. About 1,200 Spyder owners are expected to attend this year's event, including those from all over the U.S., Canada and Europe.
He says Spyder drivers do more steering and less leaning than they would driving a motorcycle.
Some drivers, especially those who are used to riding motorcycles, need a little time to get used to the way a Spyder handles, but many drivers don't need an adjustment period at all.
"After the first week of riding it, you're ready to cross the country on it," says Damouth, who adds that motorcyclists and non-motorcyclists like the ride. "It's a quick learn."
Spyders have a push-button electric start, a traction control system that senses a loss of traction and reduces engine RPM until the grip is back, and a stability control system that monitors handlebar and throttle positioning with the Spyder's direction and corrects if there's a problem.
They also have antilock brakes, which help the Spyders during what the company calls "aggressive braking situations." The brakes also give the vehicles shorter stopping distance compared to most cars. Wheel sensors detect if a wheel might lock during braking, in which case Can-Am says the "system seamlessly and rapidly engages and disengages (or pulses) the brake to allow the driver to steer in the intended direction."
In additional to having two wheels in the front and one in the rear, Spyders have many more amenities than traditional motorcycles, including no kickstand, storage for groceries and cup holders.
Oil changes, tuneups and other services are typically done at the shops that sell the Spyders.
Rice recommends that Can-Am dealers do the maintenance on the vehicles, but he says many owners can do some of the work on their own if they want to. Maintenance "is no different than a normal motorcycle," he explains.
Regarding fuel efficiency, Spyders aren't so efficient as traditional motorcycles, because they have the extra wheel and the extra storage. But Damouth says that overall, drivers are pleased with their miles per gallon, which can range from the mid-20s to the upper 30s.
*Enjoying the Ride
The demand for Spyders is increasing. "We're pleasantly surprised with the reaction in the marketplace," says Rice. "It's simply about riding reinvented. It's for someone who's always wanted to go on a motorcycle but has always been intimidated."
He estimates that one-fifth of Spyder owners are women. Another big demographic? Many owners are baby boomers. Still, no matter their sex or their age, Spyder enthusiasts enjoy the ride.
"It's just getting out there and grabbing the motorcycle experience," says Rice. "Going out and having a new adventure."