Test Drive: 2014 Can-Am Spyder RT Limited

With the Can-Am Spyder RT Limited, you can get out of your cage and experience the thrill of open air riding, even if you have zero motorcycle experience.

Eric Rogellby Eric Rogell

Can-Am-Spyder-Canyon-Road

While trike cycles use two wheels to push one, the Can-Am Spyder pulls one wheel with two.

If you’ve ever wanted to liberate yourself from the confines of a 4-wheeled vehicle and ride the open road with the wind in your face and the sun on your back—but are not quite comfortable with the inherent risks of riding a motorcycle (translation: your wife won’t let you)—the Can-Am Spyder will set you free.

This insanely fun to drive 3-wheeled vehicle—we hesitate to call it a “bike” or a “motorcycle” because it’s so damn car-like—allows even the most rookie rider to enjoy the thrill of open air riding.

What makes the Spyder unique—and turns more heads than Candice Swanepoel during a lingerie shoot (seriously, people never stopped asking us about it)—is its Y-Frame design. Two wheels up front and a single wheel in the back. Kind of a reverse trike. Or a snowmobile with wheels—which is exactly how the Spyder was conceived. According to Chaz Rice, Can-Am’s Manager, Public and Media Relations, the guys at BRP who make Ski-Doo snowmobiles were sitting around wondering how to ride a snowmobile in the summer, and the idea for the Spyder was born.

What they found while developing the Y-Frame design is that it is incredibly stable. More stable than a standard trike with 2 wheels in the rear because when you’re turning, you have a 2-wheel patch gripping the road instead of one. Those of us who’ve ever hit a patch of gravel going into a turn know what that extra wheel patch brings to the table.

The Spyder also offers 7 technologies found in most cars, but rarely on bikes—like Anti-lock Braking, Stability Control, Traction Control, Semi-automatic transmission, power steering, cruise control, and reverse gear. We loved how easy reverse made backing the Spyder up a steeply inclined driveway and into a garage every night—and the ABS, traction control and Y-Frame came in handy when a short, split-second, emergency stop was necessary when a delivery guy suddenly stepped into the road in front of us, while reading the address on a box. Everyone walked away, but it might have been a lot messier on a standard bike.

It’s this stability and control that make it such a joy to ride. And easy to ride as well. So easy, that 3 states—California, South Carolina and Delaware—don’t require you to have a motorcycle license to ride one, just a valid driver’s license. Several other states have a special 3-wheel vehicle course you can take on a Spyder if you don’t want to do the full motorcycle course.

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So with all this technology and ease, how does the 2014 Spyder RT Limited ride? Overall, it’s a great ride, but if you’re a seasoned motorcyclist, you’re actually going to have a bit of a learning curve. It took us a few rides to get comfortable with how the Spyder handles, mostly because of the dramatic difference in steering and turning.

Unlike traditional bikes, body lean and counter-steering don’t turn the Spyder, you have to physically crank the handlebars, like you would on an ATV. That takes a little getting used to (and for us, part of the fun of being on a bike is leaning into the turns), but once you get into the groove, it becomes second nature. It’s definitely not as nimble as most bikes, but it is much more stable—a very attractive feature for a new rider.

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Our test 2014 RT Limited came with Can-Am’s new Rotax engine, a triple in-line 1330cc that makes 115 hp and has 40% more low end torque than their previous engine. We were able to get this thing from 0-60 in just a few seconds, and passing traffic while at speed is a breeze. Our Limited also came with their new clutchless 6-speed semi-automatic transmission. It allows seasoned vets the joy of controlling the shifting, and lets newbies ride without the stress of coordinating the throttle, clutch, and shifter while trying to keep ahead of traffic, and stay vertical. Pushing a lever with your left thumb is all it takes to upshift and downshift. Should you decide downshifting is too much trouble, the semi-auto transmission will do that for you too, complete with rev matching to smooth out the deceleration.

While purists may get all up in arms about automatic transmissions on bikes and how this marks the end of civilization as we know it, we were with you on that. Until we put some serious mileage on the Limited, much of it in city traffic. Then the semi-auto felt like a godsend. And that’s the point—the RT Limited is more about comfort than tradition. It is Spyder’s top-end ride, and it comes tricked out with more tech toys and bells and whistles designed to help you relax and enjoy the ride, than there are on most cars.

The RT Limited we tested had a digital dash, full stereo with speakers in the rear for your passenger, heated grips front and rear, a detachable Garmin GPS, cruise control, and an electronically adjustable windscreen. It also has a surprisingly roomy storage space under the front bonnet and three full saddlebags in the rear – 41 gallons worth of storage. All lockable to keep your stuff secure on the long weekend road trips you’re going to want to take on the Spyder RT Limited. Riding it along the beach all weekend, or around a mountain trail on your way to the cabin on a lake, is what this was made for.

Bottom line: The 2014 Can-Am Spyder RT Limited is incredibly fun to ride even if you’ve never ridden a bike before, and maybe have been a little hesitant to try it. Seasoned riders will love the comfort and convenience, allowing them to enjoy the exhilaration and freedom of long rides.

MSRP: From $30,499.