The Bellman’s bike
What I tell you three times is true, he said – but does that apply to wheels?
Lewis Carroll’s Bellman and his crew were hunting Snarks, but they would probably have settled for finding a Spyder. This is a truly unusual solution to the question of personal transport. It does resemble some of the trikes that come out of Germany and use BMWs as donor bikes – but mainly the other way around, with the pair of wheels at the back.
A sporty three-wheeler that looks a little like a Lotus 7 at the front, The Spyder utilises what the company calls a surrounding spar technology frame based around a centre beam. The front wheels are carried by double A-arm suspension incorporating a roll bar, one of many stability aids on the Spyder.
The last time I spent time with something even vaguely like this was when I owned a BMW Isetta. So what are we to make of the Spyder? Well, one thing I will leave you in no doubt about right from the start. Riding a Spyder is a huge amount of fun. It’s been quite a while since I last actually whooped as I turned a fast corner (and it wasn’t in the Isetta, that’s for sure, although I may have screamed in terror once or twice as it threatened to roll) but it became quite common on the Spyder. The speed-sensitive power steering is exceptional – so good, in fact, that you simply don’t notice it.
It’s well received by the populace, too. Small children will race to the edge of the roadway and watch you whip by, with you hoping all the while that they will stop at the edge and not continue into your path. Not that it would be that much of a problem, I guess. The linked braking system of the Spyder, operated solely by the right side foot pedal, is more than convincing.
Let’s get some of the background out of the way. The Can-Am Spyder, according to the company, “represents a new point on the perceptual map. Its supernatural (sic) design turns heads. It resides beyond the conventions of motorcycles and automobiles.”
The Spyder is very easy to ride. I wouldn’t mind if the turning circle was a little smaller, but it has a reverse gear that allows you to do multi-point turns.
I thought the pegs were a little high, making the angle of my knees rather more acute than I like. This does become a little uncomfortable after a few hours. I can understand why Can-Am would have wanted the seat to be as low as it is, but I can’t really work out why the footpegs aren’t a bit lower. After all, you don’t need to worry about cornering clearance. The Spyder won’t lean, or even slide.
And there you have my only real regret about this new order of things that Can-Am is introducing with the Spyder. The Vehicle Stability System “continuously analyses the motion and forces as they relate to the vehicle’s stability and will intervene and assist the rider in keeping the vehicle under control”. No lifting a front wheel in a corner – I almost did, and the VSS immediately braked the other wheel lightly – or sliding the whole plot, because the electronics will slow the engine to stop a slide before it can start.
That all makes the Spyder considerably more saleable to its intended market, I suppose, but it also makes it less fun than it could be. Ah well, maybe there will be a version on which you can switch the electronic nanny off, or maybe there are hackers already working on it, in which case this Snark may turn out to be a Boojum after all.
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