2014 Can-Am Spyder RT First Ride

September 18, 2013
Bryan Harley
Bryan Harley
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Our resident road warrior has earned his stripes covering the rally circuit, from riding the Black Hills of Sturgis to cruising Main Street in Daytona Beach. Whether it's chopped, bobbed, or bored, metric to 'Merican, he rides 'em all.

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Climb on with Motorcycle USA as we take its 2014 Spyder RT for a ride around the Orlando countryside. Hear all about the heavily revised luxury touring machine in our 2014 Can-Am Spyder RT Roadster First Ride video.

Can-Am is good at keeping a secret. In the days of intentional leaks, supposed spy shots, and viral campaigns that trickle out information one spec at a time, Can-Am surprised the group of journalists gathered for the press launch of the 2014 Spyder when it announced it had built a new Inline Triple engine to power its 2014 RT models. This is even more impressive considering the 1330cc Inline three-cylinder has been three years in the making. Made by the same company that builds its 998cc V-Twin, the engine is dubbed the Rotax 1330 ACE (Advanced Combustion Efficiency), and a variation of the ACE was first launched by parent company BRP in a snowmobile. The Rotax 1330 ACE was built exclusively for the Spyder though, and there it was before us, sitting low and forward in a stripped-down Spyder frame for all to see at the launch, transversally mounted and mated to a new six-speed gearbox to boot. Yep, these Can-Am guys are full of secrets.

“It’s a big torque engine. Drivability was really our main focus to give smoothness and better control at low and high speed,” explained Michael Tessier, Project Leader at BRP and lead Spyder engineer.

Can-Am said the new powerplant was due in part to requests from owners longing for a torquier engine with more roll-on power. An Inline Triple seemed like a natural remedy, the 1330cc engine claimed to put out 16 lb-ft more torque than the prior V-Twin to go along with 15 additional horsepower. Idle and cruising speeds are stated as dropping too, with idle speed going from 1400 rpm on the Rotax V-Twin to 900 rpm on the Triple and cruising speed dropping from 4700 to 3300 rpm. With those claims in mind, we hopped in the saddle of the 2014 Can-Am Spyder RT-S and went for a 90-mile ride through the Orlando countryside to sample the characteristics of the new Triple-powered Spyder.

First thing we notice is how cush the seat is. Can-Am redid its touring saddle for 2014 and it’s thickly padded and well-contoured. These machines are made to ride long distances, so having an all-day-comfortable saddle is a must. The passenger accommodations looked equally plush. The bars are close in with arms at a comfortable bend and riders are situated upright and relaxed. The RT-S we’re on sources the manual six-speed transmission (SM6) and is

We got to sample the Can-Am Spyder in the rain for the very first time and its VSS kept the vehicle stable despite the wet conditions.
The Can-Am Spyder has a Vehicle Stability System that incorporates traction control, ABS, and stability control to minimize sway in corners and to keep the machine steady under any conditions.
Rows of 2014 Can-Am Spyders are lined up and ready to ride during the vehicles introduction to the press in Orlando.
Rows of 2014 Can-Am Spyders are lined up and ready to ride during the vehicle’s introduction to the press in Orlando.
Prices of the 2014 Spyder RT range from the 2014 RT with an SM6  manual transmission  at  22 999 to the premier 2014 Spyder RT Limited with the SE6  semi-automatic transmission  for  30 499.
Prices of the 2014 Spyder RT range from the 2014 RT with an SM6 (manual transmission) at $22,999 to the premier 2014 Spyder RT Limited with the SE6 (semi-automatic transmission) for $30,499.

equipped with forward-mounted footpegs instead of floorboards like the automatics, allowing riders to dip their toes under the shifter with their knees bent just below a 90-degree angle. The rider’s package is spacious and comfortable.
Eager to hear the new Inline Triple, we have to wait a few seconds before it fires to life. Can-Am has built the Spyder with a sequence of safeguards before operating the vehicle. First you turn the key on and wait a few seconds for the machine to go through its diagnostics. Next you have to push the ECO button to acknowledge you’ve read the safety instruction card, then push a different button down to disengage the parking brake. Finally you can fire up the new Inline Triple, making sure you have the foot brake covered.

While we anticipated the raw, raspy, rumble of the Speed Triple, the exhaust note of the 2014 Spyder RT-S is more subdued. If you want more attitude, Can-Am offers an Akropovic Sport Touring 3C Silencer exhaust as an aftermarket option, but the stock can has been designed to meet strict Euro IV emission standards and whirs more than rumbles. The vehicle feels like it has less vibrations at idle than the V-Twin thanks to a 120-degree crankshaft and gear-driven counterbalance.

Pulling in the clutch lever only requires a moderate squeeze while first gear catches about half-way on the release. Running through gears on the manual transmission Spyder, we quickly become fans of its gearbox. Performance of the transmission is slick and polished and it eases into gear smoothly and quietly, exactly the way it was designed to. The new six-speed transmission doesn’t rely on mechanical flyweights and uses a hydraulic control module instead for clutch force, a system similar to those used by Porsche’s PDK.

The Spyder’s bread-and-butter continues to be its semi-automatic version of the transmission which requires no clutching or manual shifts, riders using a paddle-shifter to gear up while the machine will automatically gear down. We’ve sampled the automatic gearbox in the past, but this year reviewed one equipped with Can-Am’s manual transmission which we found to be a more natural fit for motorcyclists who are accustomed to banging through gears. One area we did notice a difference between the two is getting into reverse gear, a tedious process on the manual transmission. The procedure requires both hands and both feet. First the brake must be depressed with the right foot, clutch in with the left hand, press the reverse button with the right hand because it’s located on top of the left-side control housing, shift down into first with the left foot, then shift down again to engage reverse.

Roll on the accelerator and the liquid-cooled 1330cc Inline Triple gets the Spyder RT-S up to speed quickly. According to Can-Am, the more touring friendly mill puts out 40% more low-end torque, but at the throttle, the initial surge isn’t that much more pronounced than the V-Twin. Get it into the mid-range, though, and it does exhibit a healthy surge between 5500 – 6000 rpm. In its new sixth gear, engine revolutions drop into an energy-saving 3900 rpm at 75 mph, delivery in this range smooth and sedate. While most of the beginning of our ride was spent in stoplight-to-stoplight environs surrounding Orlando, a romp on the freeway allowed us to finally open it up a bit. Getting up to merging speed is a snap and in no time we had the 2014 RT-S up to 90 mph in fifth gear with more power and another gear to tap into, but backed off judiciously because we were on a public, heavily patrolled road. While we expected the extra 332cc of the Inline Triple to really get the ball rolling, our seat-of-the-pants impressions say it’s incrementally more powerful than the V-Twin, predominantly in the mid-range rpm we mentioned. This is due in part because the new powerplant added 57 pounds according to Spyder spec sheets, so the power-to-weight ratio hasn’t changed much.

The Can-Am Spyder underwent major revisions to its chassis last year that really dialed in the ride quality and helped it track true, and the wider, compact powerplant used in this year’s model called for even more tweaks to the chassis. It also called for beefing up the suspension with larger diameter Sachs shocks. The RT-S we tested was five-way

The 2014 Can-Am Spyder RT has a spacious  open cockpit with a thickly padded seat thats ultra-comfy.
The 2014 Can-Am Spyder RT has a spacious, open cockpit with a thickly padded seat that’s ultra-comfy.
The Spyder RT now has a removable rider backrest available as an accessory.
The Spyder RT now has a removable rider backrest available as an accessory.

electronically adjustable, allowing riders to tailor in the ride quality to personal preference. The lower settings are softer and the bike exhibits more pitch into corners and a tad more sway at speed, whereby the higher settings firm it up for a more rigid ride. Once the suspension is dialed in, the Spyder RT steadily holds its line while providing a comfortably stable ride. The Sachs front shocks feel a bit stiffer than before while the centralized location of the new engine has lowered the vehicle’s center of gravity, and the double A-arms on the front with anti-roll bars have to do less work. Can-Am has done an admirable job of making the 2014 Spyder RT-S more unwavering than ever when you crank it into turns.

This is facilitated by the fact that the Spyder steers very easily thanks to its Dynamic Power Steering. Both wheels react with little input as steering is tight and precise. Its steering column received larger U-joints last year and getting the RT-S pointed in the direction you want requires little effort. The only time we had to muscle the bars a bit is during transitions and tight maneuvers at speed, but that’s due to inertia’s force on the rider’s body more than anything else.

When it comes time to bring motion of the 1012-pound vehicle to a halt, the linked braking system of the 2014 Spyder RS-T is up to the task. A dab on the brake pedal activates all three Brembo calipers simultaneously, providing plenty of stability even during emergency braking situations. We found this out when a car stopped suddenly mid-intersection in front of us and we had to get on the brakes hard. Braking pressure is smooth, even, and strong and helped us avoid a collision as the Spyder required a short stopping distance and never got out of sorts. Part of its Vehicle Stability System (VSS) is standard ABS, and even when we stomped the brakes, pulsing at the pedal is indiscernible.

Other facets of the VSS include the Spyder’s Stability Control and Traction Control Systems. This is what prevents the Spyder from rolling over and helps keep it stuck like glue when cornering. Come into a corner too hard and the Spyder’s VSS will kick in, cutting engine power in order to keep the front wheels on the ground. The Spyder’s Traction Control System is also integrated into the VSS, which we tested by revving it up and dumping the clutch to see if we could get the back end to break loose. While we were able to get the wheel to spin long enough to leave a short black streak behind us, the vehicle remained composed, inline and in control. This composure continued to shine even on slick, wet roads as we had an opportunity to sample the 2014 RT-S in the rain for the very first time. We didn’t notice any loss of traction in the rain which allowed us to confidently carry speed into turns.

For 2014, Can-Am updated its cooling system too, moving the radiators in front of the A-arms while doubling cooling capacity. The ’14 Spyder RT-S has a reverse fan mode that blows hot air away from the rider to go along with a redesigned front fascia, all aimed at achieving better heat management. Teamed with the bodywork that’s between a rider and machine, we didn’t notice any engine heat despite riding on a balmy, 95-degree Florida day.

The heat did have one adverse effect on the new pre-production Spyders. After several stop-and-go photo passes in the Florida humidity and heat, the Spyder RT-S we rode wouldn’t idle and cut out if we didn’t rev up. The problem remedied itself after a little time in the saddle and Lead Spyder Engineer diagnosed the problem as a PCV valve that had been

The Dynamic Power Steering of the Spyder RT makes it a cinch to direct the three-wheeler into corners.
The Dynamic Power Steering of the Spyder RT makes it a cinch to direct the three-wheeler into corners.

put in backwards at the factory, causing recycled fuel vapors to overload the system and flood out. But that’s one of the reasons the press gets an opportunity to ride these pre-production models, helping sort the bug’s out of the prototypes so the production machines are road-ready. Can-Am addressed the issue and ensures the same mishap won’t be repeated in dealer units.

A new feature the frugal will appreciate on the 2014 Spyder RT’s is its ECO mode smart assist that “coaches riders when to shift.” Can-Am has placed a premium on efficiency this year, and besides being a conduit for new riders to acquaint themselves with the transmission’s shift points, the ECO mode will help get the most miles per-dollar-spent. The system indicates where the vehicle’s shift points are to achieve maximum fuel efficiency as an indicator on the dash informs drivers to shift between first and second gears at 1800 rpm, from second to third at 1950 rpm, and from third on up at 2200 rpm. This should help reach the 250-mile range Can-Am says is achievable out of a single tank of gas.

Riders can keep track of this gas mileage via the small gauge embedded into the left-hand side of the instrument cluster nestled inside the front fairing. Overall the gauges of the 2014 Spyder RS-T are smartly placed and easy to see, a large gauge for the analog speedo on the left of the console while an equal sized analog tachometer is mounted to the right. Between the two is a digital display that also reads out speed and rpm, along with a small gear indicator, odometer, and trip meters. It also has an ambient temperature gauge, reinforcing how blazingly hot Florida was during our test ride. Buttons on the left control housing allow riders to toggle through functions and operate the audio system with their left thumb, the sound quality from the speakers loud and clear. There’s a cable in the topcase, too, which attaches to an iPod for even more audio entertainment. The left control housing also has a button to raise and lower the electronically adjustable windscreen, while the unit on the right side houses the cruise control that is easy to engage with the push of a button.

While Can-Am could have been complacent this year after the noticeable changes it made to the Spyder in 2012, it continues to evolve and refine its top-shelf luxury touring machine. The new Inline Triple definitely adds a bit of character. Amenities like electronically adjustable suspension, push-button adjustable windscreen, heated grips, and a plush new seat help spoil a rider. Touring riders will appreciate the copious amounts of storage, and with the changes to its chassis the last two years, the Spyder provides its own singular riding experience that’s unlike any other three-wheeler out there.

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