REVIEW: The Can-Am Roadster is not a motorcycle (remember that)

Publish Date: 
Oct 2, 2012
By Tracy Martin

BOMBARDIER RECREATIONAL PRODUCTS (BRP) in September introduced its 2013 line of Can-Am Roadsters at National Harbor in Washington D.C. I had ridden a Roadster in 2008 and came away with mixed feelings about its appeal and questions about what type of motorcyclists or non-motorcyclists would purchase one.

During its first year of production, 2007, BRP sold 2,500 units. Many in the powersports and automotive press referred to it as a three-wheeled motorcycle -- at the time, it was unclear as to how this unique vehicle would fit into the powersports arena.

By 2009 production had increased to 12,500 with 9,932 sold in the United States alone. And with projected sales of just under 20,000 in 2012 it’s clear that there is a solid market for the Roadster models.

The September press intro highlighted the improvements to the existing models and introduced a new model, the ST Roadster (see image, right). BRP positions the Spyder (all models) in the marketplace as a hybrid. “It’s somewhere between a motorcycle and a convertible sports car.” said Chaz Rice, BRP’s media and public relations manager.

Rice's comment not only describes the vehicle itself but also Can-Am’s target audience: male, 45 to 55-plus years old, income of $80,000 to $149,000. BRP says 27 percent have never owned a motorcycle before. Interestingly, 30 percent of buyers are women -- a higher percentage than those who purchase motorcycles.

THE FIRST RIDE. I approached riding the Spyder from a motorcyclist’s perspective; I have been riding for over 40 years on all types of bikes, both street and off-road. I also teach advanced riding skills to the military, law enforcement and civilians. But the only motorcycle-related skills that I was able to apply on the Spyder – an SE5 with semi-automatic transmission and paddle shift -- was that I was used to sitting on a motorcycle seat and holding on to a handlebar.

My first experience with the Spyder was a 2008 demo ride at Americade in upstate New York. After watching a short instructional video our group was told to follow the control rider, and off we went. A predictable vehicle at slow speeds, the Spyder pretty much did what you wanted it to do in the parking lot. Out on the road the first quirk that I noticed is that the steering constantly darted either right or left, and this tendency became more pronounced as speeds increased. It wasn’t scary but merely an annoyance as I had to continually make steering corrections. (continued)