Last weekend, I was invited out to Detroit to test a vehicle with just stupid levels of power. To get there, I didn’t hop in my stately BMW E61 wagon or one of my many Volkswagen diesels but a trike. BRP is loaning me a 2023 Can-Am Spyder F3-T to test out and there’s perhaps no better way to evaluate a touring machine than to take it on a trip. Along the way, I’ve discovered the secret about trikes like these: they’re remarkably comfortable. The Spyder was so soft on this run it was like riding a recliner and I’m not entirely sure how BRP pulled it off.
Since I started riding in 2018, I’ve owned somewhere around 20 or 30 motorcycles and ridden many more, the vast majority with two wheels. Through all of this time, I’ve remained a big proponent of trikes. Many motorcyclists dismiss trikes as the worst parts of a car combined with the worst parts of a motorcycle. I can see the logic there. A trike is a heavy motorcycle that’s as wide as a car and doesn’t lean. At the same time, owning a trike is like driving a car that doesn’t have a roof and has three tracks rather than just two.
Sure, that is all true, but I would ask these people to see the flipside of trikes. You don’t have to balance a trike, which is great for people who aren’t physically able to balance a motorcycle. This is a bigger population of people than you might think. This summer, I want to teach my wife how to ride a motorcycle. But I have to work around the limitation of not blowing out her bad knee. That wouldn’t be a problem with a trike. They’re also great in horrible weather, look otherworldly, and statistically, have been a gateway for getting diverse sets of people into motorcycles, which is always a good thing.
Still, I see many riders question why you would buy a trike when a regular motorcycle will almost always be better and cheaper. Over the past couple of weeks, I found a compelling reason for trikes, specifically the 2023 Can-Am Spyder F3-T parked outside right now.
It’s as comfortable as a La-Z-Boy and road trips like a car, yet still gives you those feelings of freedom provided by a motorcycle. My full review of this machine will come soon. For now, I just want to focus on this one skill that the Spyder F3-T does really well.
Detroit By Trike
Last weekend, I was invited out to Detroit to drive a truck with so much power that my Volkswagen Touareg V10 TDI feels like an economy car in comparison. I’ve never flown to Detroit. By the time you go to the airport, get through security, board the plane, taxi, and all of the other stuff, going from Chicago to Detroit by plane doesn’t save much time. So, I always drive out.
Normally, I’d hop into something like the 2007 BMW 540xiT that I bought from the Bishop. I’d get to sit in air-conditioned leathery luxury and just pile on the miles. Or I’d take one of my diesels and enjoy range so good that I’d arrive in Detroit with tons of fuel remaining.
By the weekend, I had managed to put a few hundred miles on the Spyder just scooting around the local area, and I noticed that after those rides I felt great. This was important.
I love my collection of motorcycles, but my bikes have usually been harsh in some way, at least, for my body type. It’s no secret that I’m a bigger person and my big rear impacts how I feel after a long ride. My wife is staring me down as I write this and I think I’m contractually obligated to say that said ass is nice. Look, I don’t disagree with my lawyer.
Anyway, long rides on my old top-heavy Triumph Tiger made me feel like I had a workout. My Buell Lightning’s seat straight up makes my hiney hurt after maybe 200 miles. My new-to-me Triumph Rocket III has a seat that feels cushy enough, but the suspension (and maybe the old tires) sends jolts that I can feel in my spine. The Royal Enfield Classic 350 has a good combination of seat and suspension, but not enough horses in the stable for a trip like this.
Admittedly, I had low expectations for the Can-Am. I took the Spyder’s newer, smaller sibling, the Can-Am Ryker (below), down the Pacific Coast Highway in California and the bike did the job without a hiccup, but the standard seat was hard enough that 150 miles a day was about my limit.
The Spyder is a completely different experience.
Road-Tripping Canada’s Gold Wing
I left my apartment Friday morning and hit the road. My destination was Detroit Metro Airport, approximately 330 miles and five hours from home. That’s where my next press loaner awaited. This road trip wasn’t going to be any different than the ones I normally do. I make an initial stop for food and fuel, then get on the road and don’t stop again until I need more fuel.
After a quick stop at a Casey’s General Store for pizza, fuel, and a chat with a stranger, I hit I-90, bound for Michigan. I also checked the baggage compartments one last time. The Spyder F3-T has enough storage for a weekend for two, provided you’re using soft bags like I did.
Trikes tend to come in three configurations. Harley-Davidson trikes are rear trikes, where you have one wheel up front and two in the rear. Many aftermarket trike conversions are also rear trikes. Can-Ams are known as reverse trikes, where you have two wheels up front and one in the rear. Urals and other sidecar rigs will have two wheels in parallel like a regular motorcycle, plus a third wheel off to the side.
Rear trikes have been around for basically as long as the motorcycle itself. In my experience, some rear trikes can require some real muscle to maneuver at slower speeds and they’ll sometimes have a turn radius comparable to a battleship. Handling can also gets weird. With a rear trike, you have a lot of weight and car tires behind you and a single motorcycle tire up front. At least in my experience, hard cornering and hard braking in a rear trike can result in an uneasy feeling as weight shifts onto that sole front wheel.
Reverse trikes are a solution to stability woes. Now, when you corner and brake, two tires in a wide stance are loaded up. When you maneuver in a tight environment, you get two wheels turning sharp. And unlike a rear trike, I don’t get the feeling that when I want it to turn, it wants to continue straight. As a bonus, on a green light you can hit a Can-Am’s throttle hard and do a burnout. Do that while turning and you’ll lift one of the front wheels in the air.
The Spyder F3-T has excellent highway manners. I set the cruise control and pointed the bars where I wanted the trike to go, and the trike did it without complaints. Let go of the bars and so long as the road is level, it’ll continue going straight like a car with a perfect alignment.
It handled cloverleaf curves and ramps with grace as well. You don’t countersteer or lean on a trike like you would with a motorcycle. Instead, you just turn the bars. Still, the lack of leaning can feel awkward. For Can-Ams, I recommend pushing with your legs to counterbalance not unlike riding a snowmobile; fitting for a BRP product. I don’t think these can out-handle a two-wheeler, but you can hit some high speeds in sharp corners.
Comfort was on an entirely different level compared to the Can-Am Ryker. With a Ryker, you feel everything on the road. Run over a dime and you could probably tell what year it was minted. With the Spyder? The ride quality was almost car-like. Cracks and smaller bumps just aren’t felt and the bigger stuff is soaked up pretty well. The amazing thing to me is that the saddle isn’t that thick or super soft. I think what’s going on here is the combination of fat tires, the seat, and perhaps importantly, a rear air suspension. Add them all up, and my tush felt great.
It was only on those infamous Michigan potholes did the Spyder get unsettled. I hit a few of those hard enough to make me fear I broke the trike, but it was fine. If there was anything holding the Spyder back, it was the fact that it had three wheels. A regular motorcycle can dodge potholes. A car can sort of dodge potholes.
A Spyder has just two narrow gaps between three wheel tracks, so you could straddle small obstacles, but, come up on a minefield of potholes and you will hit them.
Still, even with that in mind, I was thoroughly impressed with how exalted the lofty machine made me feel on the highway. Heck, I’ve driven a number of new cars with far worse rides than this plastic-bodied trike. I found myself just sitting on the Spyder taking in the sights of Michigan without a worry in the world.
This wasn’t a “pure” motorcycle experience like my Royal Enfield, but it was oh-so relaxing in just how pleasant it is. The engine hummed away and the windshield diverted just enough air to keep buffeting down while also keeping my noggin cool. The trike’s clear display showed me just what I wanted to know and the 7.1-gallon fuel tank provided an easy 240-mile range at highway speeds.
The last time I felt this relaxed on a motorcycle, it was on a more expensive BMW R 18 Transcontinental with its nifty adaptive cruise control. Of course, a Honda Gold Wing is also exceptionally comfortable, same for Harley’s tourers. Sadly, the $22,799 Spyder F3-T is only a grand cheaper than the BMW, but that’s something to talk about in the full review. And while I don’t recommend being the kind of person to blast your tunes at everyone, the Spyder’s stereo was loud and clear, even at 80 mph. That’s something not even the Marshall system on BMW’s dresser can do.
Speaking of the engine, power comes from a 1,330cc Rotax ACE triple that’s making 115 HP and 96 lb-ft torque and putting it down to the rear wheel through a six-speed semi-automatic transmission. Shifting is achieved through a thumb shifter under the left grip. The engine is moving a vehicle that weighs a thousand pounds, but it gets up to speed quickly and while muted, it puts out a nice sound, especially when you hit the plus button on the semi-automatic transmission and the engine puts out a little raspy burble during the gear shift.
When I dismounted the Spyder, I wasn’t worn out or fatigued like I sometimes get on longer motorcycle trips. Instead, I felt like I hopped out of a car. I still felt “fresh” and that if I had to, I could totally do another 300, maybe 500 miles. Maybe I could even do an Iron Butt Saddle Sore 1000 on one of these!
Again, I’m going to have a full write-up on the 2023 Can-Am Spyder F3-T soon, but this is a very long way to answer the question so many riders have asked me. What are trikes good for? Well, for big boys like the Can-Am Spyder, it’s laying on a ton of miles in sublime comfort.
(Images: Author, unless otherwise noted.)
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