Can-AM Spyder F3-S Review

The new BRP Can-Am Spyder F3-S is a lovely exercise in design and a logical evolution for the marque, imbuing the range with a sport model that is 162 pounds lighter than the RT model.

The F3-S is also endowed with the goodness of Rotax’s 3-cylinder 1330 ACE engine that was previously available only in the RT. The motor produces 115 horsepower, 96 ft/lbs of torque, and the sweet, distinctive sound of a triple.

Let’s not get into the old argument of whether or not a three-wheeled vehicle is a motorcycle. Some say if it doesn’t lean it’s not a bike. The Department of Motor Vehicles calls it a motorcycle, and who am I to argue with them? Personally, I feel that if the wind is in your face and you can smell every barbecue joint you pass, you’re probably on a motorcycle.

Riding a Can-Am may not be for everyone, but it has its fans. Buyers like it for many reasons besides the obvious fact that is perfect for those individuals who, for many reasons, are no longer confident in balancing a two-wheeler at a stop. I know a few personally, and they love their Can-Ams. The three-wheel configuration makes it possible for them to continue to ride. And ride they do.

I’m a 40+ year rider, but admit that I have never ridden, or driven if you like, a three-wheeler of any type. Never have I tried a side-hack or trike or those with two front wheels. I don’t have any pre-conceived notions about them nor do I get lathered up worrying about or arguing about whether they are motorcycles. I’ve just never had the opportunity, until now.

There is not much a rider must learn for this experience and one gets acclimated rather quickly. After all, when a turn is required the hands do what is necessary and even though the rider doesn’t lean, a turn is a turn and it gets done.

Our ride leaders had us navigate a short course of traffic cones to make sure we could handle the Can-Am and none of the dozen, or so, riders flunked the exam. That, and five minutes of orientation regarding the controls, was all it took to get our group out into the wind.

We rode Pacific Coast Highway at the onset of the ride and there was plenty of traffic. Naturally, there is no lane-splitting on the Can-Am, so we settle into the traffic light sequences and find that the machine is quite easy to maneuver. Coming to a stop without setting down one’s foot is an acquired skill.

The Spyder F3-S is available with either a six-speed manual transmission or a clutchless 6-speed semi-automatic. Starting out first with the semi-automatic version, I got a chance to ride both as we swung up Southern California’s famous Ortega Highway from Dana Point, and I learned a lot during our trip.

The semi-automatic transmission will not automatically upshift and requires the rider to use the paddle-shifters, but it will downshift at a point below 2000 rpm, more to protect the engine from lugging than for spirited riding. I like this because, in traffic, I can shift up through the gears and then simply stop at a light and the transmission will reset to low gear. Shifts were smooth but I experienced mild lag as each higher gear was selected and suspect this was designed to allow for smoother engagement.

On the ride back I experienced that the manual transmission was smooth with good close-ratio gearing. I found the clutch to require a strong squeeze, though it is hydraulically actuated. Both transmissions include a reverse gear and, for those who’ve never backed up a Goldwing, it’s a bit eerie but fun and necessary.

All braking is accomplished only with the right foot. This pedal operates the linked, ABS assisted, one disc per wheel Brembo-sourced system. It works well and the brake pressure is well proportioned to each wheel. Stops from all speeds were smooth and drama-free. I was warned that a few old habits would be hard to break while riding the F3-S. I did find myself reaching for the front brake lever on more than one occasion.

All Spyders are equipped with dynamic power steering. Power to the unit diminishes as speed increases and, I’m told, at about 50-55 mph the power assist is no longer active. This sounds proper and works well. My only concern arose when we started to push the bikes out of their comfort zones.

On some fast and tight turns a good deal of muscle is required to wrestle the bike through the corner. This is where this vehicle differed so much from a two-wheeler which, once a turn is commenced the rider has shifted his weight and carves through the turn effortlessly with a minimum of inputs to the bike.

The Can-Am, on the other hand, must be constantly steered and the gyroscopic forces in the turn that make it easy for a two-wheeler do not have the same effect on the Spyder. At normal riding speeds, this is not effortless, but doesn’t take a lot of strength.

When pushed hard the rider must brace his leg on the outside peg to aid in the process and some grunt is required. Under these conditions, a bit more power steering aid would be welcome. Mind you, I think that most Can-Am riders will not try to ride as fast as we did.

Additionally, it is easy to ride the Spyder for the first time when speeds are low. Even for this seasoned rider, it will take some time to become accustomed to the very different way this bike gets around corners when ridden fast. The two front tires can undulate left to right over uneven terrain and there is a unique feeling as the bike gets close to its edge.

A new Can-Am rider, like me, may feel like the inside tire will lift off the pavement even though the comprehensive stability control computers will apply a touch of opposite brake whenever it senses a potential lift-off. Then there is the very wide 225/50R15 rear tire which, I am told, will drift a bit to help complete fast turns. Experienced as I am, I did not get to see where that old gremlin lives.

The suspension feels firm but not stiff, and I have no complaints there. Fox supplies Can-Am’s Podium shocks for the front wheels, and that complements the Spyder’s Y-frame design with double-A arms and anti-roll bar. A Sachs monoshock is used out back. All-in-all, suspension is relatively supple and keeps the whole package tight and composed.

It will take a lot more saddle time to be able to keep up with the likes of our friend Stewart Goddard who drifted his Can-Am all day through Death Valley just about as fast as any of the sport bikes the rest of us were riding.

The ergonomics in the cabin were spot on. Due to Can-Am’s adjustable UFit system the handlebars have four positions and the foot pegs have five. They are set for the rider by the dealer in about 10 minutes and can be done at home if you share your Spyder with another rider, utilizing linkage pieces of varying lengths to make this happen.

The seat is large, contoured well, and makes a great all-day perch to watch to world go by. Handlebar height is just right for me and controls are just about where they should be. There was cruise control on my test bikes as well as a comprehensive suite of gauges and trip computer function.

There is a built-in, digitally-encoded anti-theft system as well as a 6.5 gallon front trunk that will engulf one full-face helmet and a bit more. There is a 7.1 gallon fuel tank that can give you a 250 mile range.

Fit and finish are excellent even on the prototype models we rode. Dry weight is 850 pounds. Welds are clean and smooth, plastic and paint are about perfect and from any angle the machine looks worthy of the price.

BRP’s Can-Am Spyder F3-S is not for everyone but if you fancy this style of riding the Can-Am ought to deliver satisfaction.

Spyder F3 base MSRP $19,499
Spyder F3-S base MSRP $20,999

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