Nomenclature Short Course
Now known as the Spyder RS, the original three-wheeled creation had been called the GS. But because it was the only “reverse trike” on the road, it simply became known as the “Spyder.” Now you’ll have different models to refer to, and the letters “RT” won’t just refer to the BMW anymore.
Further muddying the waters, the 2010 Spyder RT will come in a choice of three model-dependent color schemes, three feature-based models and two transmission choices. Colors include Full Moon Silver, Orbital Blue and Timeless Black, in either manual transmission (SM5) or semi-automatic (SE5), and three model distinctions – the RT ($20,999), RT Audio & Convenience ($22,999) and RT-S ($24,999) – that cover the spectrum from basic comfort to feature-rich luxury.
Can-Am held its new model release last week in its own backyard of Valcourt, Quebec, Canada, just outside of Montreal – deep in the heart of four-season riding, often done with two different machines. Unlike the year-round two-wheel riding we have here in the southwestern quarter of North America, many Canadians are buried with a snowy blanket for sometimes more than half the year. These less-than-perfect conditions for motorcycles or trikes create a necessity for snowmobiles (or snowmachines for you fellers up north) to fill in for those “off” days.
BRP is the master of crossover riding, designing products to keep a buyer comfortable and familiar when switching from one season’s riding machine to the next. It builds riding ergos, features and sometimes actual product elements into more than one machine as well as the company's own DNA. It’s no surprise the first Spyder prototypes were based on snowmobiles.
Sporty to touring, the Spyder lineup is now as diverse as your desire.
Spyder RT Lineup
Each of the three new RT models are built on the same 100-horsepower (at 7500 rpm) 998cc Rotax engine with electronic throttle control, pumping out 80 ft-lbs of torque at 5200 rpm. In our preview story post, we wondered about the Rotax 990 and 991; we’ve learned it’s the same 998cc engine with tour-minded mapping and compression changes from 10.8:1 to 12.2:1. Since Bombardier owns Rotax, it simply named the engine differently for performance distinctions.
Single-track bikes thrill us with physics and speed. Three-track riding is a whole new game.
Intending to build a strong touring platform from the ground up, BRP began where others top out, including some features found only on high-end touring two-wheelers like electrically adjustable windscreens (that stay where you put them when you shut down the bike), electronic cruise control and 155 liters of storage capacity.
BRP created a massive operator’s bubble with the addition of a large adjustable windscreen to control windflow. The very top of the screen fought with my sightline, but this issue was easily quelled by raising the screen. Sitting up straighter helped very little – even riders of 6-foot height will ride “inside” this roadster’s bubble.
At the helm, you’ll find a power-assisted steering system at your fingertips. With relaxed pullback handlebars, the ergonomics are also designed for maximum comfort on any length tour and include a neutral touring position with a 90-degree bend in the legs. Comfortable but limited in leg-stretch options, I found myself dangling my feet on bodywork for the occasional fresh air, leaving the sporting forward lean for the RS riders. Early adopters that tried to tour on what’s to be considered a sport model will be pleased by less twitchy handling than we found on the first Spyder we rode. It's now calm and cool and more capable of riding single-handed in straight lines than in the past. With the variable-rate power-assist steering, handling is pleasingly light.
Where the rubber meets the road, thrice, the new RT carries specially created auto tires by Kenda mounted on a pair of 14-inch front wheels (165/65R-14) and a single 15-inch belt-driven rear (225/50R-15) wheel.
The base model RT also includes the Roadtser Electronic Control Center, or RECC. The RECC is an illuminated four-point clickwheel within reach of your left thumb. It’s used for navigating the vehicle's information and functions like any in-dash stereo, CB, digital speedometer and tachometer, and it has additional features like language and unit choices. The RECC helps to minimize the field of buttons laid out between the rider and the headlight and is found on all RT models.
Building upon BRP’s “How to Wow” plan (its triad of design, marketing and engineering) leads us to the second of three models, the RT Audio & Convenience. The middle sibling comes with a $2,000 bump in MSRP to $22,999 and comes stock with the RT's amenities as well as an integrated AM/FM stereo system with speed-modulating volume control in addition to standard bar-mounted volume controls and Apple iPod/iPhone integration. Controlled via the RECC, the RT A&C now charges and plays your music with displays on the multi-function gauge cluster with track title, album and playlist name.
Additionally, the RT A&C gets heated passenger hand rails and separate controls to accompany the uber-plush Sea-Doo-like saddle. Your passenger will also enjoy adjustable floorboards, lumbar support and padded armrests built into the unit’s trunk lid.
Lastly, the RT A&C gets a few extra dash gauges to keep you in control and in the know. Analog engine temperature and fuel gauges straddle the main central instrument cluster.
Our two-day tour to-and-through the only walled city north of Mexico (on this continent) was a breeze thanks to the fuel-injected V-Twin, a beyond-comfortable saddle, a 5-speaker sound system and gobs of mid-range torque. If all the VSS (Vehicle Stabilizing System – Bosch version 8.0) brain power hadn't prevented us from swinging the back end around at every intersection, we might have needed a second set of tires waiting for us in Quebec City. However, that didn’t stop us from peeling out in straight lines. Thanks to a little built-in burnout feature, we can still get our kicks when we we’re not blasting down the freeway in style and comfort.
Our mount for the tour was the top-of-the-line RT-S that is packed with even more creature comforts and techo-gadgetry than any other Spyder. For $4,000 over the base RT ($23,999), and fully worth the extra pennies, it's the king's three-wheeled chariot.
The RT-S is stocked with all the goodies already mentioned, plus a few more speakers, special chrome trim accents and badging, smoked-chrome wheels, a vehicle half-cover, fog and LED accent lights, a liner for the front cargo bin and electrically-adjustable rear preload suspension. Most all of the features found on the RT-S are also available as options for lesser models.
Touring the country roads between Valcourt and Quebec City, winter-weathered roadways gave the RT’s adjustable suspension package a run for its money, although I couldn’t personally notice the differences in the 5-step push-button adjustability of the swingarm-mounted monoshock. I can only assume the difference would be noticeable with a fully-loaded, passenger-laden RT. The fully-adjustable (manually) front end consists of the same dual A-arm and anti-sway bar you’ll find on the RS, only wider by 3 inches overall (62.3 inches) for more stability and control of the 929-pound dry weight Roadster.
Because of the RT’s 30.7-inch saddle height (including a 4.5-inch ground clearance) and non-removable saddlebags and trunk, boarding the RT isn’t like getting on the RS. It’s more akin to climbing on a horse – peg up on one side first and step over to the other side. It’s easier and more secure, as the unit won’t ever tip over like a motorcycle might if the sidestand wasn’t on the most secure of grounds.
The overall wider, higher, and taller package is more attractive than I first suggested in the preview article. In person, its design is flowing despite the considerable wind protection for its rider, and the RT’s bodywork hugs its passengers with cargo, performance and power. Hiding the side radiator and still giving the unit a rider-hugging hourglass shape (when viewed from above) helps to keep the RT manageable and good looking.
When it's time to bring the Spyder to a halt, you’ll find the all-in-one ABS-assisted braking point being underfoot. A triad of 250mm disc brakes is clamped with a pair of 4-piston calipers up front and a single-piston caliper in the rear.
While every one of us has baggage, be it mental or physical, sometimes we need to carry more stuff than our desire to ride motorbikes will allow. For those trips, BRP has created an industry first with a 622-liter capacity fully-suspended trailer ($3,999) to create a combined carrying capacity of 777 liters – more than you’ll find in a Jeep Compass or Nissan Rogue. The trailer is mated to the RT via a rear swingarm hitch ($499), and the RT’s VSS is calibrated for the extra weight capacity and braking loads. That is to say, as appealing as it might be to haul your golf clubs to the course with a 2009 or 2010 RS, the trailer isn’t backwards compatible to the sportier model’s vehicle stability system. Perhaps in the future.
Easy as Pie
Of the three new models, the auto-clutching sequential electronic 5-speed transmission is only available on the RT A&C and RT-S models. Combining the SM5 technology releases of 2009 with the touring comfort options of 2010, the new Spyders are even easier to ride.
For all the gear you’ll surely bring on a tour – the items powered by the 12-volt sockets, communication ports and sound systems – Can-Am has increased the size of the charging magneto to 650 watts to handle the extra loads of touring riders.
The last little features common to all models include: a toolkit with tire pressure gauge and spare key-matching lock barrel for potential trailer purchase.
Out the Door
If you’re interested in riding one of these ‘backward trikes,’ click on over to Spyder.BRP.com or SpyderFred.com to follow our pal and touring guru, Fred Rau as the RT’s ambassador on his tour all over Canada and the United States. You can follow him online or meet him yourself at one of his scheduled rallies. Pair that with a test ride of your own and join the growing list of testers and owners. You can hear what other owners have to say at CanAmSpyderForums.com.
In the last year, more than 100,000 test rides have been given at events across the country. And many of the interested buyers have been current touring bike owners, like Ultra Glides and Gold Wings. You might be next!