2015 Can-Am Spyder F3 First Ride
Improving the Breed
In early 2014, I got my first crack at a three-wheeled Can-Am Spyder, the then-new RS-S sport model. I expected a motorcycle that couldn't tip over, but what I found was more akin to riding a high-performance ATV on the street. Climbing onto the all-new Can-Am Spyder F3, I expected the same, but Can-Am surprised me again.
I must stress it's a good surprise. My key dislike of the original Spyder models was the feeling that I was constantly fighting centrifugal force. Sitting atop the Spyder and turning it with the handlebars rather than by leaning like on a motorcycle, I had to brace myself and hold on tight when cornering hard. The F3 solved this problem.
To explain how, I must first explain what the F3 is. Though it fairly closely resembles the other Spyder models, the F3 is all-new and sources the best bits and pieces from its predecessors. It borrows the Spyder RT's big engine, an inline three-cylinder Rotax motor putting out 115 hp and 96 lb-ft. It also cribs the Spyder RS-S' Fox Podium front shocks. Beyond that, it takes the RS-S' less-restrictive stability and traction control system and loosens it even further. Perhaps most important, the F3's seat is three inches lower than on other Spyders and the foot controls are now mounted in front of you like a Harley, rather than tucked under you like a sport bike. The exclusive UFit foot peg and handlebar system allow the controls to be adjusted to riders of any height in a matter of minutes with simple hand tools.
I say "most important" because this change in seating position has a dramatic effect on how the F3 rides. Your lower center of gravity reduces the feeling of being pulled off the Spyder in corners, and the forward-mounted foot controls allow you to brace better. The result is a vehicle that's more fun to ride because you spend far less time worrying about staying on it and more time enjoying the ride.
Then there's that undefeatable stability and traction control system. It's always been a sore spot for thrill seekers who've ridden the Spyder, and Can-Am knows it. The reins were loosened a bit for the RS-S, and they've been further slackened for the F3. The result is a system that will not only let you do a nice burnout but also lets the vehicle rotate a few degrees should you pour on the power at corner exit. Can-Am has found a pretty good compromise that allows enough rotation for adrenaline junkies to have fun without compromising the system's mission to prevent spins or tip-overs. The system can't be turned off because Spyders of all stripes are marketed to people with little or no motorcycle experience.
The F3's other big bonus is its big engine. Normally found in the RT touring model, which is weighed down with a stereo, saddlebags, heated grips, and other creature comforts, the inline-three enjoys a significantly better power-to-weight ratio in the F3. The result is a vehicle quick enough to get all but a sport bike rider's blood pumping. It's accompanied by a pleasant rap from the tailpipes that could be mistaken for a three-cylinder motorcycle like a Triumph.
Like other Spyders, the F3 drives its single rear wheel through either a five-speed manual or six-speed semi-automatic transmission. The manual is like any other motorcycle gearbox, shifted with a foot pedal in the standard one-down, five-up pattern and clutched by a lever on the left handlebar. Uniquely, it also features a reverse gear, though the vehicle is light enough to back up with your feet on level ground. The clutch lever is easy to modulate and the transmission shifts nicely.
The automatic is really an automated manual that does all the clutch work for you. Shifting is performed with a push/pull thumb lever on the left handlebar, and you have to use it. Upshifts must be performed manually, but the F3 will automatically downshift when engine speeds get low enough to potentially stall the engine. It's probably the smoothest-shifting auto-clutch manual I've used, thanks no doubt to the F3's low 850-pound curb weight (compared to a several-thousand-pound car).
As with all other Spyders, braking is handled by a pedal at your right foot. There is no lever on the right handlebar, something that will drive motorcyclists crazy for the first half-hour. You just step on the pedal and the computer figures out how much each wheel should be braked. Car drivers will take to it right away, but motorcyclists traditionally wary of locking a motorcycle's foot-operated rear brake will need practice.
As a motorcyclist and driving enthusiast myself, the F3 is easily my favorite Spyder. Its big engine, less sensitive stability and traction control, and improved seating position make it the quickest and most fun ride in the lineup. If you're coming to Can-Am because you don't want or can't ride a motorcycle but still want to have as much fun as possible, the F3's your Spyder.