BRP’s CAN-AM Spyder has always been an enigma, or at least a hard-to-categorize vehicle, even for veteran bike riders. It’s definitely not a motorcycle, but it’s not a traditional trike, either. It feels more like a three-wheel Polaris Slingshot that you ride on rather than in, piloting more than driving. It’s heavier and more stable than any bike, but there’s still a palpable rawness to the handling, the shifting, and the ride. It’s like BRP left the edges just unpolished enough to deliver the excitement and purity of riding a legit two-wheeler, but…not. It seems to me to be in a class all its own.
I spent three weeks on the back of a top-of-the-line CAN-AM Spyder RT Limited to put it through its paces on- and, to a lesser degree, off-road. What I found is a surprisingly capable touring bike that’s more than up to the task for almost any road trip, from weekend jaunts to visit the in-laws to cross-country hauls with the significant other to weeklong fall camping trips in New England.
The entry-level Spyder F3 is the sporty younger brother in CAN-AM’s Spyder line-up, built for weekend joy rides where fun matters most and functionality is secondary. It’s more “all play and no work.” But the flagship 2023 Spyder RT Limited I tested came fully loaded with a long list of creature comforts to make it convenient for long-haul touring with or without an S.O. in tow. Driver and passenger audio controls, heated seat cushions and grab bars, and a surprisingly comfortable rear seat with a cushioned back are all standard. Plus, the large retractable windscreen minimizes wind buffeting at highway speeds, which I learned is really nice to have when you’re putting in several hundred miles a day. Bluetooth audio also allows for easy turn-by-turn directions and hands-free dialing while en route. The RT Limited is billed as “the pinnacle of luxury touring.” Indeed.
There’s no doubt that the CAN-AM Spyder RT — in the Limited trim, in particular — is comfier than any two-wheeler. Thanks to its hefty 1,021-pound curb weight, it also stays firmly planted while carving corners through on- and off-ramps. The large front wheels are forgiving over minor bumps, though they can get a little squirrelly on rougher roads and at speeds over 65 mph. I found that uneven pavement and potholes — both in abundance throughout my New England testing ground — caused the front end to dart around more than I expected. But, if you appreciate the uniquely fun ride characteristics of three-wheelers like the CAN-AM Spyder, you might consider this a “feature” rather than a “bug.”
Because my three-week test ride centered around motorcycle camping (a.k.a. “motopacking”) with the CAN-AM Spyder, storage space was paramount. Thankfully, the RT Limited is equipped with gobs of it — 177 liters to be exact — split between a deep “frunk” (front trunk), two generous side compartments, and a rear cargo case. For reference, the best carry-on suitcases measure roughly 45-50 liters in volume. I was honestly shocked at just how much camping gear I could fit in every nook and cranny. I made a packing list without even considering whether I could fit everything, and the RT Limited gobbled it all up. My favorite lightweight tent, a sizable sleeping kit (with my best sleeping mat, a camp quilt, a subzero sleeping bag, and a couple of
I won’t lie. There was a bit of cramming and shuffling things around, but not as much as I anticipated. Packing it all was a bit like Tetris’ing my gear onto a bicycle for a traditional bikepacking trip but with much, much more room. And, because I wouldn’t be pedaling the gear around under my own power, weight wasn’t an issue. Not having to carefully weigh out my gear before packing it all felt beyond luxurious. I also appreciated the organization options with the Spyder’s four individual compartments, allowing me to keep food and toiletries in one side box, clothing in the other, large camping gear in the frunk, and my camera equipment and electronics in the lockable rear cargo box for safekeeping.
The Spyder is purpose-built for pavement, but I found it capable of a little light off-road riding, too. With my RT Limited loaded for bear, I hit the road for a late fall outing to one of my favorite local camp spots. The Spyder was more than up to the task of both getting me there and, most importantly, getting me there with all my stuff. With nary another soul in sight, I piloted the three-wheeler down the long dirt road and onto the peninsula that would serve as my waterfront campsite. After extracting my gear from the Spyder’s four storage compartments, I had made camp in less than 30 minutes.
I found this, my first-ever motopacking trip, to be a unique experience. I’ve always been a minimalist (though not quite a hardcore ultralight) backpacker and traveler, as I prefer to go as light as possible within reason. Camping with the Spyder RT felt like the perfect blend of traditional backpacking (e.g., trekking into the woods with everything on my back) and car
Over the next couple of days, I fell into the comfortable rhythm of motorcycle camping. I was far enough from civilization to enjoy the lakeside solitude but close enough to nearby shops to hop on the CAN-AM and drive into town when I needed anything. With no one around, I could even turn on the radio and use the Spyder as a private boom box. Unlike car
Back at home after my camping experience, with only a few days left in my three-week loaner period, I looked for any excuse to take the Spyder for a spin. But it’s hard to take a one-of-a-kind vehicle like this anywhere without lots of stares and questions. I found there’s no such thing as a “quick” errand when you’re rolling up on a CAN-AM Spyder. Grocery runs and refueling pit stops invite plenty of lookie-loos curious to know what the heck it is, how it rides, and where they can get one. They inevitably walk away with the look of someone doing mental gymnastics to figure out how they might afford one of their own and, more importantly, justify the $30,000+ all-in price tag to their significant other. I get it. I’m still trying to justify it too.