Canada’s Can-Am Will Make Motorcycles Again After 37 Years, And They Look Fantastic

Topcanam

When a motorcyclist hears the name Can-Am, they probably think about those raucous three-wheel trikes, but it wasn’t always that way. Over three decades ago, Can-Am was known for motorcycles so fast they earned nicknames for trying to kill their riders. Now, after what will be a 37-year gap, Can-Am is back on two wheels with the electric Origin dual sport motorcycle and the electric Pulse roadster motorcycle.

Bombardier Recreational Products has been on a roll in recent years with a flurry of exciting vehicles. Last year, I got to leap a Can-Am Commander through Utah, taking in big air jumps and rally car-style drifts. Then I got to take the company’s Ryker, a hilariously fun tire-shredder, on a 600-mile journey through California’s famous Pacific Coast Highway. And earlier this year I hopped through the desert like a trophy truck in a Can-Am Maverick. I even had a blast with Sea-Doo’s wild modular pontoon boat-meets-personal watercraft Switch.

Through this time, I was wondering if the Canadian powersports manufacturer was ever going to get closer to its roots. Well, I have the answer now, as earlier this year, Can-Am teased that it’s working on a set of electric motorcycles. Now, we finally know what they look like.

One of the two motorcycles introduced this week is a dual-sport meant for on-road and off-road.

Canamdual
BRP

The aptly named Origin is an off-road oriented machine that calls back Can-Am’s motorcycles of decades ago. But while those old ones were motocross style, this one appears to be taking on the look of a Dakar racer. The fairing rises upward and like other motorcycles of this style (like a Ducati DesertX) the fairing is stubby. There appears to be loads of ground clearance and everything looks to be tucked under the plastics.

The other motorcycle here is the Pulse, and this one is for the street riders.

Canamstreet
BRP

Can-Am mentions that this one is aimed at making city riding and commutes fun. It has more of a standard motorcycle style, and swaps the wire-spokes for cast wheels and ground clearance for a lower seat height. It’s a sculpted design, but not overly aggressive.

What Is Can-Am’s Past?

1canam
Bombardier via Pulp MX

To understand how Can-Am got here, you have to know where it came from in the first place. Born in 1907 in Quebec, Canada, Joseph-Armand Bombardier was obsessed with snow transportation. As a 1992 issue of Popular Mechanics wrote, at the young age of 15 Bombardier had already built his first snow vehicle, a sled combined with the running gear of a Ford Model T and a propeller. Deemed too dangerous by his father, he took it apart. Bombardier would later become an auto mechanic and start a family, but the idea of the ideal snow vehicle was still on his mind.

In the winter of 1934, Bombardier’s two-year-old son, Yvon, died from appendicitis. There was a hospital 30 miles away, but the snow made it impossible for a vehicle to get there.

Fueled by the tragedy, he got back to work making a vehicle to conquer the snow. Bombardier combined a passenger vehicle body with skis up front, continuous tracks driven by toothed wheels in back, and powered by a car engine.

Bombardier’s invention rolled out of his shop in 1937.

B7
Bombardier B-7 – Bonhams

His snow car was so good at getting through snow that logging companies, resorts, and hospitals all wanted their own. Thanks to his work, people could get to a hospital when cars couldn’t get through snow. As Popular Mechanics wrote, it was so successful that he closed down the auto shop and worked on snowmobiles full time. L’Auto-Neige Bombardier Limitée (Bombardier Snow Car Limited) would be incorporated in 1942.

Later, he would scale down and change his snowmobile design down into what would be initially launched as the Ski-Dog. But thanks to a printing typo, that name came out as Ski-Doo, and Bombardier went with it. Bombardier and his company would go on to be known for innovation. Sadly, Bombardier would pass in 1964, before he got to see where his company went next.

The company would later diversify, adding the famous Sea-Doo personal watercraft and in 1972, Can-Am Motorcycles. The company’s motorcycles were powered by engines from Rotax of Austria, then itself a division of Bombardier. These engines featured oil injection and rotary-valve induction. And motorcycles were designed with the help of World Motocross Champion Jeff Smith. But most importantly, they made loads more power than the competition.

In a wonderful overview of Can-Am’s motorcycling past, Ryan “FortNine” on YouTube points out that Can-Am didn’t just win races, but it slaughtered the competition.

In 1974, it swept the podium at the 250 AMA National Championship. And by 1977, Can-Am’s bikes were so fast and so wild that some riders refused the challenge. Bikes like the MX-3 threatened to kill so much that after factory rider Jimmy Ellis hit a spectator he allegedly called it a “Black Widow.” And yet, Can-Am went on to win race after race for years.

As Cycle News notes, the beginning of the end came around 1980 after Japanese designs had caught up. Production was brought to the UK in 1983, but it didn’t last long.

Bombardier
Bombardier

1987 marks the last year for Can-Am motorcycles. Bombardier itself shifted focus to transportation, and built a name for itself building trains and planes. The company produced Canadair Regional Jets, Learjets, R62A and R179 subway cars, and so many more.

Then something strange happened in the mid-aughts. Bombardier ATVs won the punishing Dakar Rally in 2004 and 2005, then took the entire podium in 2006. Bombardier Recreational Products seized the opportunity and relaunched Can-Am, and the company’s first road vehicle in years, the Spyder trike, was launched the next year.

The Future

Eleccanam
BRP

But even today, Can-Am has been riding without a two-wheeler in its lineup. The company says that changes in 2024, or 37 years past the last two-wheeled motorcycle to sport the name.

BRP is keeping details about these machines close to the chest, but it says that they will be powered by Rotax E-POWER technology.

Zoom1.
BRP

These motorcycles will be capable of highway speeds with horsepower and torque described as plenty. We don’t get an idea about pricing, either. But BRP does give us a timeline. Further details will be revealed around this time next year, with launch in 2024.

If these are even half as fun as the Ryker is, then Bombardier might have something real exciting coming. I reached out to BRP to see if we can get any more details.

Share on facebook
Facebook
Share on whatsapp
WhatsApp
Share on twitter
Twitter
Share on linkedin
LinkedIn
Share on reddit
Reddit

24 Responses

  1. they instantly remind me of the 1980’s dystopian Biker B-movies, but I still think they look pretty rad. At any rate, the E20 Go cart motor is a thing, so I imagine this will be an over priced E bike with inadequate range, but we shall see I suppose.

  2. Forget all this. Wondering if both you and your partner are wearing wedding dresses or if she is wearing a tux? In a different article you mentioned a wedding dress. First congratulations on your upcoming nuptials. I am sincerely interested in the pre wedding parties and the ceremony itself. I mean are you registered at Niemanns or Johnny U Pull It? Are you going full bloomers or biker chick? Does the wedding cake have 2 brides, 2 grooms or traditional? Are you honeymooning in one of your vehicles? Does your very patient spouse want to kill you or share your crazy feelings?

    1. All very good questions, Dave! 🙂

      The plan is the wedding party first bursts through the doors of the EAA museum’s hangar. They’ll be wearing aviators and ‘Danger Zone’ will be playing. At the end, Sheryl and I will emerge, both in wedding dresses.

      She’s handling the registry, and I think it’s a slightly more traditional affair! I think the most gearhead-y thing on our registry is a camping cooler. Sheryl says that we can definitely use home goods for when we move out of this apartment. I think she’s right. I mean, I’m currently using our kitchen table as a workbench because we have no space and no room for additional furniture.

      The wedding cake will have planes on it (representing my interests), Star Trek ships (representing her interests), probably some flowers, and I guess two brides? I never really thought about the figurines, just the other decorations!

      I’m trying to have our honeymoon happen out in Monterey, California. When I rode the Can-Am Ryker for the lighting site, Monterey stuck in my head for its incredible sights, eats, and places to stay. Maybe we’ll just do the whole PCH.

      And amazingly, she shares my crazy feelings. But her interests are largely in GM FWD cars. She loves stuff like the Oldsmobile LSS and the Pontiac Bonneville SSEI.

      1. Supercharged 3800s and Star Trek? She’s a keeper, for sure.

        I highly recommend the aquarium in Monterey Bay, widely referred to as the Monterey Bay Aquarium for several fairly straightforward reasons. Wherever you end up going, best of luck on the honeymoon, and also just with the marriage itself, which I’m told is pleasant but sometimes mildly challenging.

      2. Monterey is my favorite place in California. The setting is beautiful, the city is small but not TOO small, it’s about as historic as you can get in this state, and it has plenty of automotive pedigree. Excellent choice.

        (In case you need a backup plan, the town of Napa is my second-favorite. It’s not just for wine snobs.)

      3. I am so glad that the OP wasn’t being rude or combative because I was having a hard time discerning whether it was good-natured joking, or something more nefarious. At any rate, from one illinoisian to another, congrats to you both Mercedes. 🙂

    1. If they’re getting rid of analog gauges anyway, let’s get the best replacements we can. And with that in mind, as long as they’re visible in direct sunlight, while wearing polarized lenses, I’m 100% OK with even a 15 inch tablet on my bike. Make those gauges huge. I want to see them at a glance.

      I’d put an 8 inch analog tachometer on my bike if I had the time and energy to dedicate to the project. Maybe even bigger. I love visibility where it counts.

    2. I’ve got a Livewire and it has one of the tablets instead of traditional gauges. I actually like it. The “tablet” on the bike only has enough room for a few gauges, so it does not have the unnecessary animations and other distractions seen on Teslas and similar vehicles. It is nice that you can rotate through accessory gauges or adjust how the primary gauges display (a simulated analog speedometer vs a digital speedometer, different options for reporting range/state of charge, etc.). Also, unlike cars, the tablet doesn’t replace button-operated switches (i.e. for simple radio controls and HVAC settings), so it doesn’t make basic controls more difficult. While I agree tablet dashboards suck on cars, they actually seem to work well for motorcycles.

  3. Old school former enduro guy that I am, I’d love to see some original graphics.

    And whine that I do about federal EV credits, motorcycles would be a great place for them.

  4. Just got to point out that BRP was sold by Bombardier in the early 2000’s. Wikipedia says Bain Capital of the USA is a 50% shareholder. The Bombardier family owns 35% and the Caisse has the remaining 15%. So Canadianish. Now, where are Can-Am machines made? All over the world. So like any other multinational, it is hard to pin down the nationality of this brand.

    Nonetheless, enjoyable article Mercedes! And congratulations to everyone involved with this site!

  5. Is it just me, or does “angular” seem to be the way that motorcycle manufacturers are all going with their e-bike styling? The fairings on gas bikes are usually smooth and slippery-looking, but it seems like just about every electric motorcycle was prototyped in origami rather than clay. All very low-poly. I don’t necessarily hate the style, but I wonder if it won’t turn out to look pretty dated in ten or so years.

    Of course, motorcycles often go straight from contemporary to classic without passing through a phase where they just look old (unlike cars) so maybe it’ll be fine in the end. Mind you, the e-motorcycles of the 2030s will probably be a whole lot better and more refined than what we’re seeing now, so today’s stuff may seem just hopelessly obsolete. Electric motorbikes are still in their infancy.

  6. Very Kiska-inspired, with the angular bodywork eccoing KTM and the bold accents have more than a hint of Husqvarna. That said, I like it. I’d wish they’d dare to remove all the plastic panels hiding the motor and battery and not hide it all, just like Triumph did on their recently launched Triumph TE-1. What I love the most though, is that it’s Rotax powered. That’s heritage!

Leave a Reply