2010 Can-Am Spyder RT First Ride

September 15, 2009
Adam Waheed
By Adam Waheed
Road Test Editor|Articles|Articles RSS|Blog|Blog Posts|Blog RSS

His insatiable thirst for life is only surpassed by his monthly fuel bill. Whether rocketing on land, flying through the air, or jumping the seas, our Road Test Editor does it all and has the scars to prove it.

The year is 2030 and Personal Flying Apparatus (PFAs, also known as jet packs) are the latest rage within both the personal travel and recreational products industries. The compact set-up stylishly attaches to your back and allows you to fly through the sky at speeds in excess of 100 mph, delivering you to your destination quickly, safely, and most importantly, enjoyably.

2010 Can-Am Spyder RT First Ride
With the sucess of the Spyder, it was only a matter of time till Can-Am adressed the demands of the touring crowd.

Although it hasn’t been invented, if there were a company to mass produce such a contraption, it would be Bombardier Recreational Products (BRP). Take a look at its CV, proof that this innovative Canadian company knows a thing or two about building “The Next Best Thing” when it comes to motorized consumer products. First, it started with its Ski-Doo snowmobiles, later expanding to the water with its Sea-Doo watercraft. They made the jump to the off-road world with its Can-Am ATVs, and, in 2008 moved to pavement with its tricycle, the Can-Am Spyder. Next year it expands its road line-up by offering a touring capable vehicle in the form of its 2010 Can-Am Spyder RT.

Is it a Car or Motorcycle?

A little bit of both, actually. Based off the aforementioned Spyder platform, the RT (Roadster Touring) incorporates both automotive and motorcycle-derived engineering practices making it a unique touring option unlike anything else currently on the road. The first thing you’ll notice, next to its three wheels, is the way they’re arranged—two in the front, one in the back—an interesting contrast to conventional trikes (if you can call them that) based off Harley-Davidson Electra Glides and Honda Goldwings. Its streamlined shape resembles that of a modern European car, complete with twin projectile headlights, turn signals integrated in the rearview mirrors, and bright, highly visible LED taillights. More automotive similarities come in the form of its front double-A arm suspension, Bosch Vehicle Stability System (VSS), optional semi-automatic transmission, linked hydraulic brake system, and sophisticated instrumentation.


2010 Can-Am Spyder RT First Ride
Getting the Can-Am Spyder and the Spyder RT side by side you can see the adjustments in riding position and other features to make long distance riding on the Spyder more comfortable.

Like the Spyder, which it is based off, the RT uses a liquid-cooled 998cc V-Twin engine that you perhaps may have experienced aboard the Aprilia RSV1000R or Aprilia Tuono 1000R motorcycle. It was selected for a number of reasons, one of which is that it’s built by BRP’s sister company, Rotax. The engine features a compact 60-degree cylinder cant, 97 x 68mm bore/stroke dimensions, a 12.2: 1 compression ratio, and 4-valve DOHC equipped cylinder heads. Both its fuel and ignition maps were specifically calibrated for the rigors of the RT and a ride-by-wire throttle control system (in which the engine and the throttle are linked electronically as opposed to a conventional mechanical set-up), completes the package.

Two transmission systems are available (both of which feature reverse), the standard being a manual 5-speed controlled via a shift lever near the rider’s left foot and a left-hand operated hydraulic clutch. An optional semi-automatic gearbox does away with the clutch lever and moves the gear change process to the handlebar. Power is transferred to the 15-inch rear wheel via maintenance-free belt final drive.

2010 Can-Am Spyder RT First Ride
With the extra weight of the touring gear the Can-Am equipped the RT with some beefy brakes and ABS.


The engine is mounted behind the front wheels in the center of the machine inside Can-Am’s proprietary Surrounding Spar Technology (SST) frame. Constructed from steel, the Y-shaped frame extends back to a steel double-sided swingarm located underneath its 6.6-gallon fuel cell. Suspension is comprised of an automotive-derived double-A arm set-up with an integrated roll-bar. An electronically controlled power steering system is also fitted and provides variable assist. Front damping is courtesy of twin gas-charged shock absorbers, while a solo hydraulic shock absorber is used rearward. The suspension offers 5.67-inches of travel at each end. The Audio and Convenience package as well as the RT-S model offer 5-way preload adjustment via a push of a button.

It rolls on a pair of 14×5-inch aluminum wheels up front and a 15×7-inch aluminum rim out back all shod in Kenda rubber (165/65R14 front, 225/50R15 rear). Braking duties are handled by three rotors measuring 250mm in diameter and 6mm thick, controlled by twin 4-piston calipers up front and a single-piston caliper out back. The entire system is linked together hydraulically with electronic anti-lock system (ABS) and is actuated via a right-hand side foot lever. It also features an electronically activated parking brake.


2010 Can-Am Spyder RT First Ride
Rear wheel traction control keeps your inner hooligan in-check yet still allows you to do a burn-out. And its lateral stability control function takes the worry out of aggressive or panic steering inputs.

In addition to ABS, the Spyder employs a high-end and fully integrated VSS. Individual wheel speed sensors provide system with real-time speed data and help mitigate the chance of the rider losing control during acceleration, turning and braking. When system detects an abnormal wheel speed parameter it first reduces engine power, and if that isn’t sufficient, it will apply the brake to any or all off the three wheels until the speed value returns within range. The system is always on whenever the ignition switch is turned on, and, unlike most cars it cannot be manually disabled.

A full-color instrument display situated between the analog-style speedometer and tachometer provides the rider with information including speed, time, temperature, and trip info, as well as system malfunction alerts. Additionally, the rider can also set language, time, and unit of measurement preferences. Audiophiles will rejoice as the Spyder also includes an AM/FM/XM/WB/CB radio as well as an intercom feature that allows the rider and passenger to communicate. An iPod adapter is also available. All of its features can be accessed via a 4-button pad on the left-hand side of the handlebar. Further electronic creature comforts in the form of heated rider and passenger hand grips, cruise control and an up/down adjustment of the windscreen are also standard. Last of all, it comes with a Garmin Zumo GPS mounting adapter on the center of the handlebar.

Three Wheel Motion

2010 Can-Am Spyder RT First Ride
Getting on to a Spyder you may notice almost everything is similarly placed as your average motorcycle except the front brake control that has been moved to your right foot.

Hop onto its plush saddle and it feels like you’re inside a car only there aren’t any doors or windows to isolate you from the outside world. Grab a hold of its clean V-shaped handlebar and you’ll notice just how close it is in relation to your torso, a real plus for riders of smaller stature. Place your feet on the footpegs and forget about the balancing act typical with a two-wheeler.

The controls are laid out similarly to a motorcycle with the twist-tube throttle located on the right-hand side of the handlebar, as is the engine run switch and starter button. Noticeably absent is a motorcycles traditional front brake lever which has been relocated to a right-hand-side foot lever. Working the turn signals, horn and headlight high-beam is all controlled on the bars left-hand side.

Starting the engine consists of first turning the key switch to ‘on’, flip the engine switch to ‘run’, depress the mode button on the handlebar, pull in the clutch lever (those who have the semi-auto transmission auto skip this step, however, we tested the standard model), and press the starter button. The engine fires right up. Notch the bike down into first gear with your left foot, fan out the clutch and you’re off and running.

First gear is pretty low which makes launching from a dead stop easy regardless if you’re on flat ground or slight incline. Twist the throttle and you’ll be surprised how much ‘oomph its V-Twin engine has. It’s truly amazing how different this engine feels than when used in Aprilia’s sportbikes, due in part to its touring-specific engine fueling and ignition mapping. Specifically its bottom and mid-range are plump enough that you’re never really going to need to rev it out to its 9000 rpm redline. Power comes on smooth and is devoid of any quirky fueling hiccups or power surges; just a smooth, steady flow of power throughout the rev range. Sure, you’re not going to win any drag races against any modern 250cc-plus motorcycles, but it gets up to speed well.

2010 Can-Am Spyder RT First Ride
The optional adjustable windshield does a great job protecting the rider from the harsh elements of long distance riding.

During acceleration, the engine emits the same charismatic tune as on Aprilia’s Rotax-engine equipped sportbikes, only in the Spyder it’s slightly more muted. Most sport-oriented riders will appreciate its sound; however for a hardcore touring type, it might still be too loud. While some might complain about the amount of engine noise while riding, you’ll be hard pressed to find someone who isn’t impressed by how just how little vibration there is. Equally as pleasing is the way in which the gearbox moves through each of its five gears. Each gear change has a very positive feel and doesn’t have any stickiness as we’ve experienced on other machines equipped with this engine. The gear ratios are spaced nicely and there’s never a time you feel between gears. Cruising down the freeway at 60 mph, the tachometer shows just a hair above 4000 rpm in top gear.

Our machine was fitted with the optional adjustable electric windshield and it did a phenomenal job of protecting us from the elements. Our only gripe was that it didn’t come down low enough for us to get a taste of fresh-air the few times we wanted it. The rearview mirrors offered a clear view of what was happening behind us and for the most part the instrumentation is easy to read. However, the font within the LCD display is too small and it’s difficult to read it even for someone with perfect vision. We also would have preferred if the analog-style gauges were ditched and integrated digitally into a larger LCD screen.

The rider can navigate through the audio and trip information functions via the 4-button control pad on the left-side of the handlebar. The menu system is straight forward and easy to figure out but we weren’t all that impressed by the outright sound quality coming out of its speakers. We didn’t get a chance to play with the cruise control at all as it didn’t function on our machine.

2010 Can-Am Spyder RT First Ride
The Can-Am Spyder RT power steering makes cornering simple regardless of upper body strength.

For a motorcyclist, one of the oddest sensations you experience aboard the Spyder is during cornering. As opposed to a motorcycle, in which you counter-steer to initiate a turn, the Spyder requires you to do the opposite. If you’ve ever ridden an ATV, snowmobile, or a Jet Ski, than you’ll be familiar with the way it feels when you turn, and, if you’ve never touched a motorcycle you’ll probably have an easier time acclimating to its turning manners (old habits are hard to break). Nonetheless, its power steering system makes maneuvering the Spyder easy regardless of speed, or even upper body strength. Just a light touch of the handlebars is all it takes for it to change direction.

On the highway the Spyder occupies approximately two-thirds of the traffic lane which gives you a fair amount of room inside your lane. The front wheels have a tendency to follow the road’s camber, further reducing steering effort, thereby making the ride more ‘hands-off’ when you’re racking up the miles on the highway.

We were also impressed by just how effective its suspension was at absorbing bumps on the road. Not only does it have almost zero bump-steer, its independent front suspension sucks up rough in a similar manner as a long wheelbase luxury car, no joke. We even purposely rode on rippled pavement on the shoulder which had little effect on the overall ride quality.

But its supple suspension manners do come at a cost, the cost being measured in firmness and its resistance to wallowing during aggressive acceleration and braking. During heavy braking or in situations like a panic stop, the chassis had a tendency to transfer weight from back-to-front way too fast, thereby upsetting the chassis and making the machine difficult to control. Our fully-loaded RT-S machine came with the electronically adjustable suspension which made a huge difference when set to full hard, but still wasn’t firm enough to eliminate its aggressive weight transfer. One pleasing side effect we noticed was how even with the suspension set to full-hard, the outright quality of the ride wasn’t compromised.

Traditional 3-wheeled vehicles aren’t known for having the best ground hugging stability. The Spyder smashes this conception with its VSS. Simply put, it’s one of the most effective systems we’ve used whether on two or four wheels. Its ABS function works great during braking with minimal noise and pedal pulsing, thereby ensuring a quick stop. Similarly, its rear wheel traction control keeps your inner hooligan in-check yet still allows you to do a burn-out. And its lateral stability control function takes the worry out of aggressive or panic steering inputs. We even tried to get it up on two wheels but the stability control makes it virtually impossible.

2010 Can-Am Spyder RT First Ride2010 Can-Am Spyder RT First Ride
The RT has ample space for your luggage, but just in case you need more room a pull-
trailer is available.

One of my favorite features on the Spyder RT is its sheer amount of cargo capacity. There are a total of five storage areas (hood, trunk, right/left side hard cases, and small cockpit glove box) that allow you to tote a tremendous amount of gear with you. Even better is the optional Spyder RT travel luggage (with roller wheels and handle) that neatly fits right into the compartment allowing for seamless luggage removal when you arrive at your destination. And for those who literally want to bring their kitchen sink with them, Can-am offers a pull-behind trailer with a whopping 164-gallon capacity. It’s so big that I could literally sleep in it! The trailer features independent coil-over suspension, aluminum wheels, carpet, interior lighting and separate front and rear lid access. Furthermore the trailer is set-up to work in conjunction with its VSS and can be color-matched to your Spyder.

2010 Can-Am Spyder RT First Ride
The Can-Am Spyder RT offers a smooth and comfortable ride at an affordable price.

Perhaps the coolest things about the new Spyder RT is its price. For just over $20,000 you can have a touring machine that’s unlike anything else out on the road. And for its price tag you get a quality piece of machinery, with fit and finish on the level commensurate with some of the best. Sure it’s not as thrilling to ride as its two-wheeled counterpart, but it is without a doubt easier to operate. Plus it’s comfortable two-up and offers loads of storage. If you’re looking for a unique touring experience, the Can-Am Spyder RT is the next best thing to a PFA.