Spyder Bite

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I recently rode the Spyder three-wheeler from BRP. It was a pretty tame ride, unfortunately, through a built-up area north of San Diego (Del Mar to La Jollaand back), so it didn't give me an opportunity to experience the vehicle in the way it probably will be used — i.e. on back roads and freeways.

BRP kicked off everything with one of the most comprehensive press briefings I've ever attended. Researchers, marketers, designers and sales people joined the CEO of BRP, Jose Boisjoli, in covering every conceivable aspect of the Spyder. Press was in attendance from all sides of the media spectrum (I sat across from a woman who wrote for a poker magazine — no, not poker run, just poker). I heard that 300 media people had been invited from the United States, Canada, France and Spain.

The amount of research BRP conducted appeared extensive and included video interviews with potential customers participating in a test ride near Lake Tahoe. BRP plans to give 40,000 test rides this summer before it releases the Spyder for sale in the fall.

The Spyder is not a motorcycle. It's not targeted to hard-core motorcyclists, but rather to an audience that likes the feelings motorcycling brings but doesn't want to deal with the risk factors or learn the skills.

Riding a Spyder is like riding a motorcycle only in the fact that you're in the wind, you're somewhat vulnerable and you're steering with handlebars. Almost everything else is different. The vehicle doesn't lean; if you try to get it up on two wheels, its myriad of little ECUs plot against you, reducing power and applying brakes to keep the unit upright. You don't countersteer, and you sure as hell aren't going to pull a wheelie. While the seating position is sportbike-like, the inputs are much like riding an ATV — where body-English helps you get through a corner a bit quicker than sitting bolt upright.

This isn't a vehicle for me. I'm too addicted to the sensory inputs from my motorcycle to go this route. But that doesn't mean there's not a market out there. Witness the blossoming of trikes and the legitimization of that business thru Harley-Davidson's anointing of Lehman Trikes. Once you get used the fact that this gizmo isn't a motorcycle, isn't particularly targeted to core motorcyclists and is more akin to a trike, it starts to make sense.

Given a choice between a Spyder and a trike, I think I'd prefer the Spyder. Powered by a Rotax 998 V-twin producing 106 HP at 77 lb-ft of torque (as found in an Aprilia), the Spyder had plenty of power, and in its own way was fun to ride. I can honestly say I've never ridden anything that attracted as much attention from car drivers and pedestrians.

Congratulations to BRP for having the guts and imagination to develop a product that will get it into the street market after so many years serving off-road segments, snowmobiles and personal watercraft.

Mike Vaughan, Publisher mvaughan@dealernews.com