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Riding the CanAm Spyder from a complete noob’s perspective

I’d genuinely never ridden anything larger than a scooter or a bicycle before this

The BRP CanAm Spyder is a three-wheeler that’s more like a bike than it is a car. You still steer it with handle bars as you would a bike, but you don’t have to keep your balance and it uses car tires, so it’s a bit of a mishmash. I recently got the chance to try the Spyder range out on track and came to some interesting conclusions.

The local importer had an entire range of Spyders for track testing, and I tried them all, but found the F3-S Daytona 500 limited edition model to be a genuine hoot, so I’m going to focus on conveying what that was like.

According to the Canadian manufacturer’s press blurb, the F3-S Daytona 500 is the sportiest vehicle they make and one they recommend you can take to the track - oh, and it’s the only Spyder whose traction control you can disable.

The buildup

Having only previously ridden a small scooter and bicycles, I approached the Spyder with tepid anticipation, knowing its Rotax 1330 Ace three-pot engine made 115 hp and was capable of pushing it past 60 mph in around four seconds; I’d heard about how you really start to feel the wind resistance as speed picks up, especially something with no windscreen such as the yellow trike I tried.

But at least you didn’t have to keep the thing balanced, I thought, thanks to its triangular stance and flat car tires. The trike I tried also came with a convenient clutchless semi-automatic transmission that made my day just so much easier.

So I got on it under pouring rain with only a raincoat over my regular clothes and nothing to waterproof my legs, a decision I later realized I should have reconsidered. I tried to remember what the starting procedure was, and after a few minutes of mindlessly fiddling with all of the buttons except the kill switch, I finally flipped it and was on my way.

The ride

The first lap in the F3-S was a bit of a learning experience: I had to remember I had a hand throttle but a foot brake, as well as that I should really lean into bends for it to corner at its best. I also immediately noticed that the Daytona 500 limited edition model’s steering was much-much lighter and easier to use than that of the other regular Spyders.

After setting off from the pits and negotiating all of the track’s turns, I got to the straight for the very first time and just gunned it and felt the wind and longitudinal forces try to push me off the trike - but I held on tighter, hunkered down and by the time it was time to brake I was doing nearly 140 km/h.

Cornering felt pretty good too, although I had to keep reminding myself not to apply throttle (inadvertently due to inexperience) when turning left, thus making the whole thing understeer. And let’s get one thing straight: it will first understeer quite safely, before it will let you do anything foolish.

It’s really quite taxing on one’s arms to ride / drive the Spyder, and by lap six or seven I was feeling real strain... that and a crotch that had never been as wet as it was - remember, it was proverbially pouring with rain that day, and I was only partly protected.

I took it off the track after the first few laps and felt properly alive and ready for more, feeling confident I could ride it even faster without compromising safety. And the second time I went out I was already finding the limit of grip - I even started to make it slide its rear wheel around in a manner that I wouldn’t call drifting, but it was certainly something that lasted  for more than two seconds.

But I shouldn’t get credit for the ease with which the F3-S Daytona 500 handles and the confidence it inspires in its rider. It’s the vehicle’s merit and I can only imagine what an experienced rider would be capable of on it. After first being intimidated by it, by the end of the very wet test ride session I was completely bitten by the bug and wanted one.

Denouement

Any CanAm Spyder is a doddle to ride / drive, even for a complete motorbike orangutan such as myself. However, I say steer clear of the cruiser-type one that they sell as that has a really awkward position and the brake pedal is set way too far back for comfortable application. The F3-S and Daytona 500 have a completely different riding position that while more rakish and aggressive is in my book also more comfortable - granted, I only rode it around a track in a full-on, full-off kind of fashion with a soaked pants and bloodless knuckles, so I can only speak for my limited experience.

But I liked the Spyder, particularly the F3-S Daytona 500, and would definitely ride one again just to see what it’s like on the road, when you also have to look out for traffic, indicate and park - it thankfully has a reverse gear, so that last part shouldn’t be a chore at all.

Static photos: Andrei Nedelea

Action shots: Radu Chindriș

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