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2011 Can-Am Spyder RT Comparison

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

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2011 Can-Am Spyder RT Limited - Luxury Touring Comparison Video
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Watch us test drive Can-Am’s three-wheeler as it faces off against other luxury touring motorcycles in the 2011 Can-Am Spyder RT Limited Comparison Video.
Riders looking for a different take on the motorcycle touring experience should consider the 2011 Can-Am Spyder RT Limited ($28,099). With its three-wheel configuration it blends some of the open-air freedom of a motorcycle and the convenience and ease-of-use of a convertible-style car equating to an experience all its own.
As soon as you lay eyes on it there’s no denying how peculiar the Can-Am looks. While we appreciate its exterior profile and shapely body panels, it resembles something that you’d see in a sci-fi movie or video game more than an actual machine you sit on and drive. Swing a leg over the saddle and it feels like you’re straddling an ATV or snowmobile, which may be a big plus for those who don’t want to deal with balancing act of a motorcycle at a standstill.
The seat height (30.4 inch) is a little taller than both the Honda (29.1 inch) and BMW (29.5 inch in the lowest setting) but it works well and positions the rider in a slightly more commanding way. The reach to the handlebar is short and in general the riding position is relaxed and conducive to all day rides. The seat is wide and comfortable similarly to the Gold Wing’s but is no more or less comfortable than the other bikes.
A view of the left handlebar controls. Here the rider can work through the menu audio system  adjust the height of the windshield and shift gears.
The Spyder RTs front trunk is very deep allowing riders to pack lots of gear on trips.
The Spyder RT cockpit is open and all of the controls are place logically.
The Spyder RT features an electronically adjustable windshield.
(Top) The Spyder RT’s front trunk is very deep allowing riders to pack lots of gear on trips. (Center) The Spyder RT cockpit is open and all of the controls are place logically. (Bottom) The Spyder RT features an electronically adjustable windshield.

All of the controls are laid out similar to a motorcycle. The handlebar is used for steering with a twist-style throttle for acceleration. Our RT Limited featured a sequential manual gearbox which does away with the clutch lever and allows the rider to change gears by pushing either the up-shift or downshift paddle on the left-hand side of the ‘bar. Rather than two independent brake levers there is just one foot pedal (on the right-hand side of the machine) that activates both the front and rear brakes. In our braking test the Can-Am stopped from 60 mph in 135 feet—two better than the BMW and six feet shorter than the Gold Wing. The ABS system is well calibrated and the brakes are powerful without being overly sensitive or hard to use.
Starting the engine is a process that consists of flipping the key to ‘on’, turning the engine run/stop switch to ‘run’, depressing the mode button on the handlebar (confirms you’ve read the pull-out safety card located inside the dash), and pushing the starter button. At that point the engine fires right up. Release the electronic parking brake and you’re ready to drive.
Dial in some throttle and the Can-Am pulls away cleanly from a stop without the need for any fancy clutch work. And if you’re looking for the easiest machine to just hop on and ride at a legal pace than without question the Spyder RT is it. Engine power is smooth and not overly powerful so you don’t have to worry about it getting away from you as the rpm increase. As opposed to the BMW’s sweet exhaust note, the Can-Am emits a bland, industrial sounding drone. At idle it’s also the loudest emitting 82 dB. However at half of maximum rpm (4800) it tied the BMW at 92 dB. For the most part the ride is and buzz free but we did notice a tad of inherent vibration from the V-Twin engine.
Looking at the dyno chart shows that the Can-Am’s engine pumps out the least amount of power. A maximum of 64.21 lb-ft of torque is available at 5500 rpm. That’s over 37 lb-ft down on the Gold Wing and almost 50 lb-ft on the BMW. The maximum horsepower rating was also way down on the competition with it registering just 78.28 horsepower at 7700 revs. Add in to the fact its 1000-plus pound curb weight and it’s not much of a surprise it did so poorly in our zero-to-60 and quarter-mile acceleration tests. Fuel economy also suffered with it registering an average of 22.6 mpg equating to a range of only 149.1 miles based on the capacity of its 6.6-gallon fuel cell (located underneath the rider seat).
“I thought it was funny that the speedometer goes to 200 mph but in actuality the Can-Am could barely get to 100 full tuck downhill,” laughs our video camera man and beginner level test rider Ray Gauger. “It just doesn’t have the power to keep up with the other bikes in this test. But if you’re simply riding just for the heck of it and aren’t concerned with outright speed and acceleration performance the Spyder does just fine.”
All of us enjoyed the simplicity of its automated gearbox and shifting gears proved to be a simple affair. We did notice that the transmission took a bit of time to exchange between cogs after the button was pushed but based on its intended application we’d spring for the clutch lever-less tranny. Another thing we like about the Spyder is having a reverse gear at your disposal. Imagine having to back that beast up by foot!  The RT gets top billing for best backward parking lot manners. The Wing also has reverse but you still have to balance that beast while backing up.
The Spyder RT features automotive-derived front suspension and brakes. The Spyder is extremely thirsty in terms of fuel. We only achieved an average of 22.6 mpg which equated to a range of only 149 miles.Were fans of the Spyder RTs styling.
(Left) The Spyder RT features automotive-derived front suspension and brakes. (Center) The Spyder is extremely thirsty in terms of fuel. We only achieved an average of 22.6 mpg which equated to a range of only 149 miles which means more stops for fill-ups.

“If I was buying this bike I would opt for the sequential transmission,” notes our more experienced test rider Brian Steeves. “The whole allure of the Can-Am is in its simplicity. Based on that, I’d want the machine to do as much of the ‘driving’ as possible so I can focus on taking in the scenery. And that’s exactly what it does.”
On the road the Can-Am delivers a nice pleasant ride over most road surfaces. When the road gets bumpy though its three-wheel stance transfers more road imperfections to the rider which makes it suffer compared to the two wheelers. It’s still by no means bad, the chassis just doesn’t stay as composed as the motorcycles and the ride is rougher. Like the other bikes the Spyder offers some degree of suspension adjustment via cockpit switchgear. We preferred the hardest setting as it reduced chassis pitch during acceleration and braking without compromising ride quality. Amenities like the electronically-adjustable windshield function well but it doesn’t offer the level of height adjustment as the BMW. The seat and hand grip heaters all work well and on a level comparable to the other bikes. Passenger comfort was also rated high, second only to the Honda.
The Can-Am RT experiences minimal body roll through turns due in part to its stability control system which activates rather abruptly if the rider isnt smooth at the controls.
Contrary to a motorcycle the Spyder RT requires the rider to pull on the desired side of the handlebar to initiate a turn.
The Can-Am Spyder RT offers considerable lateral grip in corners but the rider needs to be very smooth with the controls to avoid the stability control activating thereby upsetting the chassis.
The Can-Am is about 50  wider than a standard luxury touring motorcycle.
(Top) The Can-Am RT experiences minimal body roll through turns due in part to its stability control system which activates rather abruptly if the rider isn’t smooth at the controls. (Bottom) The Can-Am is about 50% wider than a standard luxury touring motorcycle.

The primary analog instrument gauges are fairly easy to read, but lack the slick design of the Honda or BMW. The LCD display is too small and is a little bit hard to read especially at interstate speeds. Navigating through the menu system also proved to be a little bit more difficult and the handlebar buttons lack the tactile feel of the BMW and Gold Wing, which meant that we’d have to hit the buttons twice sometimes to get it to activate. The audio system also came up short with the sound quality lacking. Furthermore there is no standard auxiliary audio input so we couldn’t play our beloved iPods on the Can-Am. At night we noticed that the headlights/fog lights aren’t nearly as bright and far-reaching as the adaptive headlamps of the class-leading BMW or even the big beams of the Honda.
Dip the Can-Am into a turn and it requires much more steering muscle than the other bikes even with its power assist steering. Since it has three wide tires (165/65-14 fronts and a 225/50-15 rear) it offers an astounding level of lateral grip which is fun in its own right. For most optimum handling it’s advised to adjust your body position to the inside of the bike (ATV riding-style) which helps you take corners with added speed. Even still, the Can-Am’s vehicle stability system is calibrated on the conservative side and can come into play very abruptly if the rider is too aggressive with throttle or steering inputs. However at pace in accordance with the posted speed limits the Spyder handles well, though it is not even close to being as fun to ride as the motorcycles.
“The Spyder is great vehicle for someone who wants to ride around and enjoy the scenery,” explains Steeves. “However, if you’re like me, and are more interested in experiencing what the actual machine has to offer, then it comes up short. If you try and ride it with even a hair of sporting intent the stability control comes in immediately and shuts it down. So for me, I’d have a better experience on a motorcycle.”
Considering how large it is, it’s no surprise that the Can-Am offers the most storage capacity. There are two trunks (one at the front and one rear) and two saddlebags that offer nearly 41 gallons of storage room. Each container is slickly integrated into the bodywork to the machine and are lockable. When it comes to the transportation part of touring, the Spyder RT can haul a load of gear for you.
Overall our test crew didn't find the Can-Am nearly as enjoyable to ride as the BMW and Honda motorcycles because it lacks the performance to be a real threat in terms of offering an outright thrill ride. It is however, much easier to operate from a beginner’s standpoint and is an excellent option for aging riders, new riders or someone simply looking for a different approach to the Luxury Touring experience. The Can-Am is obviously here to stay but in this comparison test it falls victim to some low marks in both the rider subjective and performance objective categories, not to mention its lofty price tag. As a result the 2011 Can-Am Spyder RT is relegated to last place.

2011 Can-Am Spyder RT Photo Gallery
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Highs & Lows
  • Easy to ride/drive
  • Shortest stopping distance from 60 mph
  • Great storage capacity
  • Unusual handling when ridden fast
  • Poor fuel economy and range
  • Quality of electronics and controls could be better
2011 Can-Am Spyder RT Limited Specs
With a full tank of fuel the Can-Am Spyder RT weighs in excess of 1000 pounds.
Engine: BRP-Rotax
Type: 998cc liquid-cooled V-Twin, DOHC w/ 4 valves per cylinder
Bore/Stroke: 97 mm X 68mm
Max Output:
100 hp @ 7500 RPM
Max Torque: 80 lb-ft @ 5000 RPM
Starter: Electric
Front Suspension: Double A-Arm with anti-roll bar and 5.94-in. travel
Rear Suspension: Swing-arm with pneumatic adjustable preload and 5.71-in. travel
Chassis: SST Spyder (Surrounding Spar Technology)
Brake Type: Foot-actuated, fully integrated hydraulic 3-wheel braking system
Front Braking System: 4-piston calipers w/ 250 mm x 6 mm discs
Rear Braking System: Single-piston sliding pins caliper w/ 250 mm x 6 mm disc
ABS: Anti-lock Braking System
Parking Brake: Electro-mechanical system engages the rear caliper
Claimed Dry Weight: 929 lbs
Front Max Load Capacity: 35 lbs
Total Vehicle Load Allowed: 525 lbs
Fuel Capacity: 6.6 U.S. gal.
Ground Clearance: 4.5-in.
Seat Height: 30.4 in.
Wheelbase: 67.2-in.
MSRP: $28,099
2011 Luxury Touring Shootout 1/4 Mile
2011 Luxury Touring Shootout 1/4 Mile
2011 Luxury Touring Shootout Braking
2011 Luxury Touring Shootout Braking
2011 Luxury Touring Shootout MPG
2011 Luxury Touring Shootout MPG
2011 Luxury Touring Shootout 0-60
2011 Luxury Touring Shootout 0-60
2011 Luxury Touring Shootout Noise
2011 Luxury Touring Shootout Noise

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ufoman   August 17, 2012 12:13 PM
I have a 2011 can am spider RTS and all I can say it is not worth the hype. It looks great, it turns heads and is it great for attracting attention from the crowds of onlookers wherever you go to. However for the high price, mechanically it is not worth the price. So far I have had to replace the battery, parking brake switch, oxygen sensor, throttle assembly and a speed sensor. And this is only in a year and one half. The storage compartment doors will not close properly, you have to close it just right in order for it to stay shut. And the side compartment that is supposed to open up automatically of course doesn't. So if you decide to get a bike like this make sure you get the extended warranty because you will need it. And something else you might want to think about is that an oil change cost over $200 and for the first mean maintenance check at 14,000 miles it will cost you over $1200. If it wasn't for the mechanical problems it would be one hell of a bike but unfortunately it seems like it's in the repair shop more than it's out on the road.
Dennis1234567   November 25, 2011 05:58 PM
Due to an exploding Arab i have been restricted to trikes for nearly twenty years. I have had Harley, Goldwing, and Can Am Spyders. The trike i put my bum on at the moment is the Spyder being reviewed. Having clocked thirty thousand miles riding around Europe i have got to know the good and bad quirks of the Spyder. I have read your review and watched the video and all i can do is scratching my head. It is somewhat strange that you chose to put the trike in a head to head with two motorcycles. The figures you have come up with regarding fuel consumption and top end speeds are completely untrue unless you were towing a dead rhino. The Spyder being reviewed, although not the fastest bike around, can hit 120 with no problem, and that goes for every single Spyder ever made. Your inability to get your Spyder over 100mph is down to rider issues and not the bike. The average mileage for a Spyder is in the low thirties, and again that goes for every Spyder ever made. Your claim to only get 20 out of a gallon is again down to rider issues. The claim that you only got 78hp at 78rpm is complete fiction. The Spyder produces 100hp at 75 rpm, and again that goes for every Spyder ever made. Your claim that there was nowhere to plug the iPod in was again completely untrue. There is an iPod and mp3 interface in the rear luggage compartment, the thing you opened up in the video. It is also a standard feature on the model you tested. The Spyder is a touring machine, not a racing machine. Your comments about top end speed, the 0-60 times, and quarter mile speed tests are somewhat puzzling. Touring is about seeing what's behind the next mountain, not about how much smoke the back wheel makes. Your review has completely missed the point. Yesterday I and the wife spent the day in some unknown forest in the south of France. We had the finest roast dinner any human can cook, and spent the night in each other’s arms listening to the soft sweet music from the bike. If i had the other bikes you reviewed i would have had a MacDonald’s burger, and spent twenty feet from the bike just in case the side stand sunk into the soft dirt and fell over.
willteix   October 10, 2011 11:37 AM
I have never seen such a biased review in my life. You take 2 wheel touring bikes Honda, and BMW and put them against a 3 wheel is not apple to apple but apple to oranges. I owned an Spyder RT, and found it to be one of the best i have owned. On one trip I took was to Spyderfest last May to Cuba Mo. There were three of use one was on a Spyder RS, I was riding the Spyder RT pulling a Harbor Freight trailer loaded with over 225 lbs, even the frunk and saddle bags were loaded, the third person was riding a Victory Vision Prem. We hit every kind of weather you might imagine such as High Winds, Rain, Hail, and very cold weather out of Oaklahoma. Pulling the trailer with an average speed of 70 Mph, I got about 31 Miles per gallon, the only time I got less was during the high winds in which case it dropped to 23 Miles per gallon which would be expected. Riding a spyder is not the same as a two wheel, it takes a little time to get use to how it turns and handles. I found it to be one of the Safest I have ever ridden. A client of mine does trike conversions on Honda and others he even commented that riding my spyder he felt safe and secure, that it has enough power to do the job even pulling a trailer. He him self has a Honda Trike. Try taking a Honda Goldwing trike through the hills with turns and twists you won't feel safe as you would on a Spyder. I'be been on some pretty twisty roads and I have out rode any bike that has came upon me. I can turn shaper without feeling I am going to loose control. If your going to compare do it with Goldwing trike and or a BMW trike and you will find the RT will out perform both, and pull/carry more. I find it odd the your article you did on the 2010 Spyder was so positive then you do one of the 2011 and found it to be so negative, what is up with that? Where you paid by Honda/BMW to do such an article? One wonders.
Mitch   September 8, 2011 08:27 AM
I've never much seen the point to the Can-Am personally but the fact that it gets even less millage then my full sized pick up makes me understand it even less.
MCUSA Bart   September 7, 2011 01:50 PM
.357 thanks for the help. Adam's recovering from his 20 lashes, and promises to do better next time.
.357 Magnum   September 7, 2011 08:00 AM
"Stand point?" "Appraoch?" Gimme an email address to send my resume; I'll give you a good deal on professional proofreading services since I love your website.

More on-topic, I do appreciate the review of the Can-Am, but like the commenter on the previous page, would prefer to see it compared to Harley, Lehman, and Champion trikes instead. If you're trying to compare frame-mounted fairing tourers, you'd want the Harley Road Glide Ultra and Victory Vision instead of this.