2015 Can-Am Spyder F3 - First Ride

Think of this new three-wheeler as a cross between a Diavel and a Miata.

2015 Can-Am Spyder F3 action shot

When pet parakeets escape, they hang out with sparrows, those indigenous birds of about the same scale that have an enthusiasm for singing and a welcoming sense of community. This works out well for the parakeets. Until winter comes.

Can-Am Spyder riders, likewise, have attempted since day one to integrate with motorcyclists. Winter, though, came swiftly, and it’s been harsh and unrelenting.

The Spyder F3 is not a motorcycle, and we’re not going to pretend otherwise. So, please don’t skip past everything written here in a rush to leave mean-spirited comments telling us why it has no place in a motorcycle publication. Maybe it does have a place here, and maybe it doesn’t. But, at the very least, this is a place where its place should be discussed. Chill, please, our brethren.

The Spyder F3 is the love child born from a Friday night tryst between a Diavel and a Miata. This explains the hot rod/cruiser/open-air/not-a-motorcycle-nor-a-car thing that it is. Is this creation something that only mother Bombardier Recreational Products (BRP) can love, or is it a strangely desirable missing link between an automobile’s effortless stability and a motorcycle’s un-caged freedom?

Can-Am Spyder F3 studio 3/4 view

Thinking about what BRP is, the Can-Am Spyder makes perfect sense. BRP invented the snowmobile—or snow-machine, if you're an Alaskan—and they invented the sit-down personal watercraft. With the Ski-Doo and Sea-Doo, they've a long history of creating weird vehicles with handlebars and passenger placement to the rear. And with an aging and shrinking motorcycle market crowded with companies going for diminishing numbers of enthusiasts, Can-Am not making a motorcycle starts to make sense. As they've already witnessed, 25 percent of their buyers are non-bikers, and 23 percent are women, both huge leaps into new markets.

Plus, the assisted-wheel market within motorcycling is booming. Trike conversion kits for Gold Wings and Harleys are everywhere, and H-D itself has joined the fray with two trikes of its own, the Tri Glide and new Freewheeler. So, if you want to laugh at everything with three wheels, go right ahead, but you'll be owning one soon enough, or not riding at all even sooner, as you become feeble of body and balance. But don't get me wrong; I'm not saying that more-than-two-wheeled vehicles are for the inept, they're just also for the inept, particularly the inept of us who were once the heroic.

Can-Am Spyder F3 instrument panel

WHAT IT IS

The F3 is an evolution of Can-Am’s line of three-wheeled Spyders, conceived to appeal to the performance rider. Unlike the previous RS and RT, its engine is partly in view and the machine doesn’t come stock with hard bags (although they’re readily available off the accessory list), and it’s lighter and has a lower center of gravity than its older siblings. The seating position is also lower, significantly lowering the laden CG. It’s available with either a six-speed semi-automatic or manual; it’s six up for the auto, and conventional one-down, five-up for the manual. The Spyder F3 has a refined Vehicle Stability System (VSS), enhanced by the ride-by-wire throttle. With it, power and/or braking are managed slowly and smoothly, rather than abruptly shutting the thing down when the rider shakes on the tilt switch. Oh, and the F3 has a reverse, which comes on with just the press of a button.

The Spyder F3 is powered by a 1,330cc liquid-cooled Rotax triple with EFI, a powerplant that first appeared in the RT last year as an upgrade from the Spyder's original V-twin. It has a claimed 115 horsepower, and 96 pound-feet of torque. Redline is around 8,000 rpm, and the throttle is in the rider's right hand. For those who don't know, Rotax is a sister company to Can-Am, under the BRP brand, together with Ski-Doo, Sea-Doo, Evinrude, and Lynx.

The F3 front suspension doesn’t have any motorcycle-like items. It’s full-on four-wheel derived, designed, and functional, featuring two wheels set widely apart, double A-arms on each side with Fox shocks, and an anti-roll torsion bar tying the sides together. Steering is with a handlebar attached to a variable-assisted power steering box at the bottom of the shaft. It’s not rack and pinion; it’s more of your basic go-kart type pivoting-lever to tie-rod sort of thing. Lock to lock is about 90-degrees, a radical departure from your average automobile’s 2.5 rotations.

Can-Am Spyder F3 rear section

Rear suspension is a conventional two-sided steel swingarm with a Sachs single shock. The frame holding the whole thing together is a stamped steel rectangular box-section above and below the engine, with beefed-up stamped-steel cradles at each end to attach the suspension components. The F3 also has upper and lower round tube frame members along each side that give the chassis a 40-percent increase in torsional stability. The engine is mounted to the lower frame member, and nowhere else, and is not a stressed member. Final drive is by belt.

Braking, as per all Spyders, is a three-disc affair controlled by the rider’s right foot; there is no hand lever for stopping. Bosch ABS is standard, and the brake calipers are by Brembo. Although the F3 has no bags as delivered, it does have a trunk up front, which can hold a full-face helmet. Or a fully stuffed bag of groceries. Or a smallish backpack with a reasonably sized laptop. Or one of those mesh sacks full of oranges. Or...

The F3 has a low seat height at 26.6 inches, and the vehicle has a claimed dry weight of 850 lb. The F3 comes in two flavors, the F3 and F3S. In addition, the F3 also features an upgraded trim package, black and “machined” wheels, black suede seat with red stitching, premium front fenders with LED lighting, and electronic cruise control. The F3 is available in white or black; the F3S comes in black, white/black, magnesium metallic/black, or red/black. Options include: four handle lengths, windscreen, saddlebags, floorboards, seat, detachable backrests, lighting, wheels, and an Akrapovic silencer.

Can-Am Spyder F3-S studio 3/4 view

WHAT IT FEELS LIKE

The Spyder F3 is fun. There, I said it. And I’m not going to apologize. But that doesn’t mean it’s a motorcycle, nor that it has to pretend to be one.

The F3’s steering is with a handlebar that also can be found on snowmobiles, personal watercraft, ATVs, and other non-motorcycle stuff. With the F3’s extremely tight lock-to-lock, a steering wheel likely would be too twitchy to handle, and the long bar helps to limit undue input. At high speeds, it takes more and more input, due to the variable assist, which is good. And the handlebar sets the proper mood.

Contrary to riding a motorcycle, the F3 the pilot needs to push on the outer peg in turns, not the inner one. This gives leverage to the bars and helps with transferring weight away from the outside of the turn. Likely, though, many motorcycle riders won’t bother weighting either peg at any time to even recognize this difference. To sling the F3 through a corner, it’s best to turn in slightly late and hard, getting the weight up onto the outer front wheel, which brings the rear around and quickly finishes the turn early. Slowly steering through a corner seems unnecessarily ponderous. The lowered seat, designed to create a cruiser-like riding position, is the a star feature of the new F3. I never rode the Spyder RS or Spyder RT, so I don’t know what it’s like with their higher seat, but the higher CG of those models is 100 percent the rider, which is far from conducive for performance cornering.

2015 Can-Am Spyder F3 corner turn action shot

The power of the F3 is right on, lighting up the rear wheel nearly all the way through first gear. The semi-auto transmission damps aggression when a higher gear is selected, so if you ride like the knucklehead I am, go for the manual. But if you want a powerful yet sedate machine that is totally friendly to someone who wants to ride calmly, the automatic is highly recommended. It eases the rider from gear to gear with just the push of a button, and when slowing you don’t even have to downshift; it does it on its own, one gear at a time.

Another difference between the F3 and a motorcycle is this: just because it might go left or right doesn’t mean you do. On a motorcycle, you just sit there like you’re riding a pendulum, and you go where it goes. On a Spyder, you have to lean into the turn while the machine leans from the turn. One gets used to this quickly, but it’s a definite difference in the experience physically, and maybe also emotionally.

In short, you don’t have to hang out with Spyder riders if you don’t want to, and yes, it’s not a motorcycle. But for an open-air option, for snowmobiling on pavement during hot summer days, maybe a test ride would be worth it. For me, it’s nearly the only thing with handlebars that I haven’t dropped, and likely can’t.

SPECIFICATIONS

2015 Can-Am Spyder F3
BASE PRICE $19,499 (F3), $20,999 (F3-S)
ENGINE liquid-cooled 1330cc Rotax inline-three with EFI
BORE & STROKE 84.0 x 80.0mm
CLAIMED HORSEPOWER 115 hp @ 7,250 rpm
CLAIMED TORQUE 96 lb.-ft. @ 5,000 rpm
FRONT SUSPENSION Double A-arms, Fox shocks, anti-roll bar TRAVEL: 5.1 in.
REAR SUSPENSION Swingarm with single Sachs shock
TRAVEL 5.2 in.
FRONT BRAKES (2) 270mm fixed discs, radial-mount Brembo monoblock 4-piston calipers
REAR BRAKE 270mm disc, 1-piston floating caliper with integrated electromechanical parking brake
FRONT TIRES KR31 165/55R-15
REAR TIRE KR21 225/50R-15
FRONT RIMS Aluminum, 6-spoke, 15 x 5 in.
REAR RIM Aluminum, 15 x 7 in.
LENGTH 104.0 in.
WIDTH 58.9 in.
HEIGHT 43.3 in.
WHEELBASE 67.3 in.
SEAT HEIGHT 26.6 in.
GROUND CLEARANCE 4.5 in.
CLAIMED DRY WEIGHT 850 lb.
STORAGE CAPACITY 6.5 gal.
MAXIMUM VEHICLE LOAD 458 lb.
FUEL CAPACITY 7.1 gal.
RESERVE 1.2 gal.
FUEL TYPE Premium unleaded gasoline
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F3 studio front 3/4 view (Steel Black Metallic).
F3 studio front 3/4 view (Pearl White).
F3 6-spoke metallic silver rims.
F3 dynamic power steering.
F3 gas tank.
F3 front storage.
F3 seat.
F3 rear wheel.
F3-S static front 3/4 left-side view (Pure Magnesium Metallic/Steel Black Metallic).
F3-S static front 3/4 right-side view (Pure Magnesium Metallic/Steel Black Metallic).
F3-S static left-side view (Steel Black Metallic).
F3-S static front view (Steel Black Metallic).
F3-S static front 3/4 right-side view (Steel Black Metallic).
F3-S static rear 3/4 right-side view (Steel Black Metallic).
F3-S static left-side view (Can-Am Red Solid Gloss/Steel Black Metallic).
F3-S static front 3/4 left-side view (Pearl White/Steel Black Metallic).
F3-S front view close-up.
F3-S nose section.
F3-S front suspension.
F3-S 6-spoke machined rims.
F3-S engine.
F3-S exhaust.
F3-S seat.
F3-S rear section.
F3-S studio front 3/4 view (Steel Black Metallic).
F3-S studio front 3/4 view (Pure Magnesium Metallic/Steel Black Metallic).
F3-S studio front 3/4 view (Can-Am Red Solid Gloss/Steel Black Metallic).
F3-S studio front 3/4 view (Pearl White/Steel Black Metallic).
F3-S studio rear 3/4 view (Can-Am Red Solid Gloss/Steel Black Metallic).
F3-S overhead view.
F3-S cockpit view.
F3-S instrument panel.
F3-S foot peg.
Can-Am Spyder Rotax 1330 ACE engine.