“If your shoulders and arms hurt, you’re doing it wrong.” Those words, dropped on attending riders at the Can-Am press briefing a few hours earlier echoed in my skull as I muscled the company’s newest three-wheeler (don’t call it a trike!) around a double hairpin in the dusty canyons of Southern California’s Malibu neighborhood.
I was definitely doing it wrong. An hour into the ride, and I practically had arm-pump, but it wasn’t just me; several other motorcycle journos were muttering about the same feeling. Which made sense; it was hard for us to erase the muscle memory developed from years of riding motorcycles. We were so used to countersteering rather than steering, it was killing us. As another Can-Am rep later told me, “Think about the person who’s gonna ride this thing—they’ll hop on, push a button, and go. There’s no clutch, no shifter, no hand brake. The complexity of a motorcycle is gone.” As the Rotax inline-triple hurtled me and the Ryker within inches of the Armco barriers lining Latigo Canyon, wheels chattering, I tried to remind myself of that.
Obviously I’m not the target audience for this rig, but Can-Am has been here before; the company that dropped the Spyder back in 2007 was the first to build a three-wheel vehicle from the ground up. It prompted me to ask during the briefing, Why even build a three-wheeler, over say, a two-wheeler? BRP (Can-Am’s parent company) certainly had the technology. The press guy had a good answer; the company has always been about getting the whole family on outdoor vehicles with accessible rides rather than niche, high-performance designs (think about their watercraft and snowmobiles). And the Ryker continues in that vein, with a single rear drive wheel and two wheels in front like the other Spyders. BRP calls this architecture the Y Factor—a layout with the open-air feel of a motorcycle but the stability of “a dialed-in sports car.”
I don’t know about “sports car,” but I will agree this Spyder is far more accessible, from both a physical and economic standpoint. Sure, they’re a sales hit, but Can-Am’s also got an image problem: the demographic for Spyders (from what I’ve seen) is older white guys with a lot of cash. So how do you make your product more accessible to a larger (read: younger) audience? One of the simplest ways is to make it cheaper. It’s a new type of three-wheeler for BRP, designed more for the rider who doesn’t want a dad-trike, but something cooler, more edgy, and more inexpensive.
The Ryker is the fifth model built on the 2007 Spyder platform and it’s the bare bones, less expensive “recreational” version, with feet-forward upright seating, even lower seating than the company’s sporty F3, and powered by a smaller 600 or 900cc engine. There are basically two Ryker models, the 600 and 900 (three if you count the Rally Edition, an upmarket trim level that packs extra features onto the 900 model).The $8,499 base model comes with the 600cc Rotax twin-cylinder engine, while the 900cc triple costs $9,999, and the higher-spec Rally Edition ($10,999) brings adjustable shocks and a Rally mode to the engine map. All three come with a full complement of electronics, like a Bosch-developed VSS Vehicle Stability System with ABS and traction control. Still, I’ll admit I had some reservations, even before the whole arm-pump thing.
After all that we were ready to ride the Ryker, which, as we said, comes in two engine configurations: the 600 Rotax twin or 900 Rotax triple, both inline and both liquid-cooled. Obviously the 900 has more of what we powersports aficionados like—77 hp—so that’s what the Can-Am reps put us on for the road ride portion of the day. The 900 Rotax ACE inline-triple is definitely and surprisingly spunky, putting out 56 pound-feet of torque to that fat 205mm rear tire via a super-robust shaft final drive. Electronic throttle control and fuel injection meant the fueling was always spot-on, with usually crisp throttle response.
The Ryker always got off the line with a solid rush and a constantly squealing rear tire and not much traction. To be fair, we were in Sport mode for most of the ride, which deactivates the rear traction control to allow freer wheelspin without the VSS intruding. The steel frame is rigid and stable while the CVT automatic transmission selected good gear ratios for us most of the ride, even on the steep and windy route—a nice surprise. The sensation of having all that traction up front was oddly reassuring, and the single rear wheel and single shock mounted on linkage suspension were fairly adept at smoothing out the bumps. The less exciting Eco mode, obviously, helps with fuel efficiency but tempers the throttle and rear wheel.
Ah, but those corners. It helps to shift your body weight more to the front because that’s where all the traction is, and in the words of the Can-Am reps, to “use your legs and butt.” It wasn’t until much later in the afternoon that I felt I’d finally conquered the whole “steering’ concept; it didn’t help that the stability control was constantly undermining my “yee-hah” instincts, and often applying brakes to the front wheels without my say, thus reducing excess engine torque.
Still it was great fun to accelerate the Ryker as hard as possible into a corner, then pound the single-pedal rear brake; the dual 270mm discs up front squeezed by two-piston calipers are linked to the single disc rear—and the system is surprisingly up to the task of hauling you down quickly and sensing how much force to apply to each wheel, sensing rotation independently to reduce pressure if needed. Frankly, I was pretty stunned at how effective just that single pedal was, especially at the rates of speed we were pushing it.
In regular cruising mode, the Ryker is calm and comfy, with a neutral and upright solo seating position for the pilot. Want a passenger? Can-Am has a slew of accessories available, including a clip-on accessory seat, as well as whole host of other options to really make the Ryker your own. That included body panels, graphics, wheel highlights—Can-Am claims up to 75,000 possible combos. It’s a sound business model; instead of waiting for a certain spec model to be built at the factory, customers can simply walk into a dealer and buy their desired parts, plop them onto their Ryker, and have an instant, customized vehicle. The underlying frame and architecture of all bikes remain the same, which makes the company’s production of the vehicles that much more efficient, which translates into a lower upfront cost to the consumer.
Want to see how your new bike, with all its desired components installed will look? Of course there’s an app for that, and it’s called Can-Am Ryker Ride Builder.
Another first Can-Am says it’s introducing is leasing. The company says the leasing opportunities for this model are the “first in the powersports industry,” and are available in 24, 36, and 48-month increments, so new riders don’t feel locked into a vehicle that may not be right for them. BRP is also aggressively pushing and expanding available new rider’s education programs throughout North America (for three-wheelers) to introduce more people to powersports, and as far as we’re concerned, that’s a good thing. More riders of any kind benefits us all.
So given all that, Can-Am’s claim that the Ryker is a “game changer” may not be far off the mark—for newbies, anyway. As a longtime (and aging) motorcycle rider, I’m not the target audience for this machine, but I can sure see its appeal. This bike could very well be the bridge between motorcycles and the next generation of riders who are initially intimidated by two wheels. The price point is more than reasonable and the thing is just rip-roaring fun to ride.
Will your younger sister be the Ryker’s next buyer? Maybe, maybe not; Can-Am says women are a growing percentage of its ridership. All I know is the 27-year-old Uber driver who took me back to the airport sure sounded interested.
|PRICE||$8,499 (Rotax 600 ACE) / $9,999 (Rotax 900 ACE)|
|ENGINE||Rotax 600cc ACE liquid-cooled inline-twin | Rotax 900cc ACE liquid-cooled inline-triple|
|TRANSMISSION/FINAL DRIVE||CVT / Shaft|
|CLAIMED HORSEPOWER||47 hp @ 7,300 rpm / 77 hp @ 7,100 rpm|
|CLAIMED TORQUE||34 lb.-ft. @ 6,200 rpm / 56 lb.-ft @ 6,300 rpm|
|FRAME||Tubular mild steel, rectangular backbone|
|FRONT SUSPENSION||Twin-tube coil-over shocks; 5.39-in. travel|
|REAR SUSPENSION||Twin-tube coil-over shocks, adjustable preload; 5.9-in. travel|
|FRONT BRAKE||2-piston floating calipers, dual 270mm discs w/ ABS|
|REAR BRAKE||1-piston floating caliper, 220mm disc w/ ABS|
|SEAT HEIGHT||23.6 in.|
|FUEL CAPACITY||5.3 gal.|
|CLAIMED WEIGHT||594 lb. / 616 lb. (dry)|