THE MEET AND GREET
As I approached the 2020 CanAm Spyder RT from behind I noted the nicely integrated appearance of the saddlebags and lighting. Very nicely done with a flawless fit and finish. The drive tire has a nice wide footprint and is just barely visible with your walk by and I thought this was good because it will help keep the bike clean. Overall attention to fit and finish and detail looked good so far.
Continuing to the front I found more streamlining but not of the usual jellybean type. The curves and gentle angles allow your eyes to slide over the bodywork as you pass by. There are no visual conflicts and that is as it should be. The style is distinctive and somewhat understated and found that I was consciously thankful it didn’t have big bulging round headlights on a stalk on it.
The halogen headlights are tucked away just under the windscreen and if I wasn’t actually looking for them I may have missed them altogether. The side marker and turn signal lights are mounted to the front fenders which is kind of neat and they are LED units. There is a trunk up front too, just big enough to hold my helmet to give you a practical idea of its size. Overall the body design is smooth, refined and functional.
The front wheels are styled 6 spoke in a deep glossy black which by contrast showcases the drilled front disc brake rotors and attractive calipers. Looking past the wheels and brakes you will note a sophisticated double wishbone suspension with a roll bar. While this arrangement has become commonplace since it was widely introduced in the mid 1980’s, it has also become known for it’s smooth ride and exceptional handling abilities compared to previous designs. You’ll also note the tires are radial design which compliment the suspension nicely. The rear suspension is a single shock swing arm with manually adjustable air assist.
I was pleasantly surprised by the seat height. It’s very inviting. However, At just 26.6 inches it’s right below the range of most motorcycles so it really is lower, it’s not just the visual perception. The configuration of the two front wheels do contribute to the overall perception of a low, lean and agile ride.
Swing a leg over it though and you’ll find it isn’t really that different than a motorcycle. The handlebars and foot pegs were as expected, further contributing to a familiar feel. There is a neat LCD pod for the gauges, a 4 speaker stereo, heated hand grips, cruise control and a glovebox with a usb cord inside it. It is a lot more like a Touring motorcycle than any sort of car.
All in all my first impression was positive. I found my curiosity was amplified rather than answered. I wanted to see the gauges light up, hear the stereo, start the engine and rev it up a little. Would it sound muscular or be quiet? I wanted to drive this thing on all kinds of roads to test the suspension and handling. How would it ride? How would it steer? Would it bump steer? What was it like braking in a corner? So many questions. My curiosity was becoming excitement.
So you’re sitting on it and you turn on the key. You’re greeted by the now standard and expected warnings and disclaimers arriving within the large 7.8″ LCD electronic display. After a moment a very nicely done speedometer, tachometer, odometer, trip meter and an unexpected hour meter are there along with avg mpg, gear indicator, engine temperature, ECO mode smart assist, a fuel gauge, a clock and some other things if you’ve selected them.
Plus there are even more settings you can scroll through and adjust to your preferences. Of course you can pair your phone and enjoy that too courtesy of the “BRP Connect™ system which allows the integration of vehicle-optimized smartphone apps such as media, navigation and many others all controlled through the handlebars”. There is Bluetooth and a 3.5mm cord provision as well.
Touching the starter button brings the engine to life after a couple of revolutions (it always did this) and you’ll discover it has a nice muted muscular sound. You will also notice the engine itself sounds very busy down there as if it’s a little factory continually creating horsepower. Speaking of which, there is 115 hp available at only 7250 rpm and torque peaks at 96 lb-ft. at only 5000 rpm from the Rotax® 1330 cc ACE™ in-line 3 cylinder liquid-cooled and electronically fuel injected and throttle controlled engine, so maybe a little noise is expected after all. Remember Spyder means performance. Besides, it’s not banging or clanging or anything, it’s just busier than most engines we are used to.
Instinctively I turned the handlebars and immediately realized I would come to love the standard DPS Dynamic Power Steering. The absence of clutch and brake levers on the handlebars was a little concerning but then I remembered the foot pedal on the right side and the standard anti-lock braking system. There is no foot shifter. The 6 speed semi automatic transmission shifts up with a paddle under your left thumb and downshifts with your left index finger or downshifts automatically as you slow down or brake. It does not upshift automatically.
There is also traction control and a hill control feature. And of course electronic cruise control. All the remaining light switches and controls are in the usual places. Except the radio controls are on the gas tank cover between your knees. On top of all these features is the Stability Control System, so I was even more curious about the driving experience. I was looking forward to checking it out.
There is a reverse button on top of the left switch cluster and it requires its own necessarily finicky procedure that I was quick to learn. I also quickly learned to love that reverse button. I cared not what parking space was available to me. I could just drive backwards and get out! It was very manageable and not the least bit weird or intimidating. The finicky procedure became second nature. Somehow it was – once again – familiar. While I recognize the utility of reverse on the Honda Goldwings I had never really appreciated it. I now understand. And I now want that feature on all motorcycles over 400 pounds. Thank you CanAm for resetting my reality.
The seat was plush and comfortable and not too wide. It has some measure of built in lumbar support too. The windscreen was crystal clear and seemed a bit smallish so I wondered about that too. The footpegs were in bit of a cruiser position, slightly more forward than a standard and appear to be adjustable fore and aft. The seat is a step design so the passenger pegs are up higher but within proportion so they seemed to be comfortable enough.
The saddlebags opened and closed without any issues and appear to be well made. They are unlined and form fitted to the underlying motorcycle components. They have a generous seal and cable stays built in to prevent them opening too far. The locks were nicely designed and functioned properly. There is no rear trunk on this model, it is an accessory and I’d recommend it if you’re serious about touring. I was able to pack about two days of clothing and necessities in one saddlebag. However it really was just the minimum. I did not utilize the front trunk in this effort as I was using it to hold my helmet. That area certainly would provide even more storage.
I folded my mesh riding jacket and put it into a saddlebag. As I said, a couple days of clothing would be no problem because jeans and shirts and socks can be much more neatly organized. So you should check this aspect for yourself. I think you’ll find it to be perfectly adequate.