2011 Can-Am Spyder RT | First Ride

2011 Spyder Impressions

When I rode the first Can-Am Spyder roadster four years ago, it struck me that it would make an outstanding touring platform. My first ride on the 2011 Can-Am Spyder RT has confirmed that early suspicion.

With the RT standing for Roadster Touring, this flavor of the Can-Am Spyder is particularly enticing. The RT is equipped with prodigious amounts of storage-41 gallons of space-along with an impressive list of creature comforts to make a long trip a relaxing sightseeing adventure.

For 2011, Spyder RT refinements include, revised shock calibrations intended to improve handling, increased ventilation in hot weather for driver and passenger via a redesigned windshield and wind deflectors, less wind on both riders’ necks, and lighted passenger heated grip control for easier night operation.

Any motorcyclist is going to be skeptical of a three-wheeler. A huge part of motorcycling is the lean, and the Can-Am Spyder RT is specifically designed to eliminate leaning.

In exchange for that lack of lean, manufacturer Bombardier Recreational Products has given the Can-Am Spyder a wide array of safety features that makes it an platform that is much more stable for touring than a motorcycle.

Starting with mounting the half-ton vehicle, you don’t have to worry about balance. This is especially welcome for riders with a full load, as well as a passenger. Just hop on and go – it will not tip over.

The Can-Am Spyder RT has two types of transmissions – a standard five-speed (SM5), plus a semi-automatic version (SE5) with a paddle-shifter. As the RT is about relaxing and enjoying the scenery and ride, I prefer the clutchless, left-thumb operated paddle-shift.

The SE5 transmission is designed to change gears without backing off the throttle during upshifts, and it does that with varying smoothness.

Had I had a longer ride on the Spyder RT, I probably could have mastered the system. Downshifts occur automatically, or manually for passing.

As you would guess, a computer prevents you from shifting too high too quickly for the motor, or down too quickly for your speed.

In the future, I’d like to see a fully automatic transmission, though one that retains the options offered by a paddle shifter.

Steering is easier than on the original Spyder, thanks to the electronically controlled Dynamic Power Steering system that makes turning those two automobile-style front tires much easier.

At low speed, the DPS has a great effect, which properly lessens as speeds increase. It’s a superb system, aiding in both rider ease and control. You don’t feel the input of the DPS, but the effect is unmistakable.

Because steering is light at higher speeds, Can-Am has built in a Vehicle Stability System to prevent flip-overs. When turning hard at high speeds – say, to avoid an unexpected obstacle – the VSS steps in, applying braking to a specific wheel and altering the power to the rear wheel.

While I didn’t crank the Spyder RT’s front wheel as hard as I could at speed, I did try some abrupt maneuvers and the VSS transparently did its job.

In emergency situations, most riders will simply think they are highly skilled–don’t kid yourself. Other familiar safety features include traction control and ABS. Again, both are fairly transparent and rarely necessary in dry conditions.

Although the Spyder RT isn’t about sport riding, and it won’t satisfy a motorcyclist in that capacity, it is pleasant though fast sweepers. The RT doesn’t lean it, though you might find yourself doing so to avoid feeling like you’re going to be flung off the Spyder due to centrifugal force. Those tires stick, and there is not pushing or back-end drifting. Cornering is solid.

Acceleration is more than adequate for most touring riders, thanks to the 100-horsepower Rotax motor that cranks out 80 ft/lbs of torque at just 5000 rpm. It pulls strongly up to operating speed, and then you can engage the electronic cruise control.

The suspension is on the firm side of plush – it needs to be able to take hits, as there are three tracks on the road, making it impossible to miss all road debris. The suspension is electronically adjustable for passenger and cargo, though the standard setting covers a wide variety of conditions.

Taking off down the open highway on the Can-Am Spyder RT is a pleasant eye-opener for motorcyclists. It’s fully stable, and definitely preferable to a motorcycle in strong crosswinds.

It will carry the kitchen sink and smaller appliances; the only thing it can’t do in California is split lanes.

2011 Can-Am Spyder RT Specifications


  • Manufacturer…BRP-Rotax
  • Type…998cc, V-twin, liquid-cooled, DOHC 4
  • Bore & Stroke…3.82 in. (97 mm) x 2.68 in. (68 mm)
  • Injection…Multi-point EFI system with 2 in. (51 mm) throttle body
  • Power…100 hp (71 kW @ 7500 RPM)
  • Torque…80 lb.-ft. (104 Nm @ 5000 RPM)
  • Transmissions 5-speed manual (SM5) with reverse or 5-speed semi-automatic (SE5) with reverse
  • Magneto…650 Watts
  • Starter…Electric
  • Battery…12 volts / 21 amps/hour, sealed maintenance-free


  • Frame…SST Spyder Roadster
  • (Surrounding Spar Technology)
  • Front suspension…Double A-arm with anti-roll bar
  • Front suspension travel…5.94 in. (151 mm)
  • Rear suspension…Swing-arm with pneumatic adjustable preload
  • Rear suspension travel…5.71 in. (145 mm)
  • Brake type…Foot-operated, fully-integrated hydraulic
  • 3-wheel braking system
  • Front brake…4-piston calipers with (250 mm x 6 mm) discs
  • Rear brake…Single-piston sliding pins caliper with (250 mm x 6 mm) disc
  • EBD…Electronic Brake Distribution
  • ABS…Anti-lock Braking System
  • Parking brake…Electro-mechanical system engages the rear caliper
  • Front tires…165 / 65 R14
  • Rear tires…225 / 50 R15
  • Front wheel…Aluminum 6-spoke Metallic Silver 14 x 5 in.
  • (355 mm x 127 mm)
  • Rear wheel…Aluminum Metallic Silver 15 x 7 in.
  • (381 mm x 178 mm)

Safety & Security

  • VSS…Vehicle Stability System
  • SCS…Stability Control System
  • TCS…Traction Control System
  • ABS…Anti-lock Braking System
  • DPS…Dynamic Power Steering


  • L x W x H…105 x 61.9 x 58 in.
  • Wheelbase…67.2 in.
  • Seat height…30.4 in.
  • Ground clearance…4.5 in.
  • Dry weight…929 lb.
  • Total storage capacity… 41 gal.
  • Front load capacity…35 lb.
  • Maximum vehicle load…525 lb.
  • Fuel capacity…6.6 gal.


  • Instrumentation…Multi-function LCD dot-matrix/dual analogue gauge: digital speedometer, tachometer, odometer, trip & hour meters, gear position, temperature, engine lights, electronic fuel gauge, clock
  • Anti-theft system…D.E.S.S. (Digitally Encoded Security System)
  • Lighting Four Headlamps System
  • Touring windshield…Push-button electric height adjustment
  • Wind deflectors…2 driver wind deflectors
  • Cruise control…Electronic
  • Heated grips…Heated driver handlebar grips, High/Low/Off
  • Touring saddle…Ultra comfort saddle with passenger backrest and driver lumbar support
  • Passenger floorboard…manually adjustable
  • Passenger armrests…Standard on all Spyder RT models
  • RECC…Roadster Electronic Command Centre with
  • LED accent lighting
  • Power outlet…12V lighter type, in rear cargo area