Vijay Pattni19 February 2014

First drive: Can-Am Spyder RT

Three-wheeled mutant trike gets new engine, shocks, ‘box and comfort. We drive/ride it

What on earth is that?

It's the Can-Am Spyder RT, made by the excellently named Bombardier Recreational Products. It's a sort of three-wheeled, mutant trike that lurks between 'full-blown touring bike' and 'quad'. It's also fully customisable too, with many of these being sold to the disabled. There's a charming story about former Royal Marine Commando Joe Townsend, who's got a custom Spyder RS-S that features special clips for his prosthetic legs.

Who on earth is Bombardier Recreational Products?

A Canadian company that traces its roots back some 70 years, and has a history of making excellent Top Gear-esque playthings. It pioneered the snowmobile market, creating the ‘Ski-Doo' (it was apparently supposed to be ‘Ski-Dog', but a printing mishap decided otherwise) way back in the 1950s, and has since built this Can-Am brand of bike-trike things, sailboats, and ATVs (small off-roaders). Seriously, walk into a BRP showroom and we defy you not to immediately want to buy everything.

Tell me about this Spyder RT.

Of the three Can-Am Spyders available, the RT is the most comfort-orientated, suitable for long trips across the country or continent in the hands of the mildly masochistic. For 2014, the RT gets a new Rotax 1330 ACE engine, which uses three inline cylinders to produce 115bhp and 96lb ft of torque.

There's a new six-speed transmission too, featuring automatic down-shifting and reverse situated on the left of the handlebar, there's a new set of SACHS shocks with variable damping, and a new comfort seat too. Plus, the nose, if you can call it that, has been redesigned.

Is it fast?

Considering it weighs 459kg, that engine is plenty peppy. It'll do 0-60mph in a smidge over 4.5 seconds and is limited to 125mph. We're told it'll also run a quarter mile in just under 13 seconds.

What's it like to drive?

Weird. But good weird. You don't need a bike license, just a couple of hours of orientation to get used to the controls. Then you can literally jump on and ride off.

You twist the throttle with your right hand just like a bike, but there's a brake hovering just ahead of your right foot, and a shift paddle on the left handle. Twist, and it unleashes a torrent of low-down power that, if you're a bike rookie, will spear you off down the road and into something painful without warning.

Same goes for corners. The response is immediate, and those unaccustomed to riding bikes will find judging the throttle input and steering angle correctly a bit of a puzzle at first. If it's your first time, you will turn cautiously, realise its not enough, turn more (too much), realise you're slowing, twist the throttle and then fly around the corner at light speed. And then into something painful without warning.

But once settled - and as we say it only takes a couple of hours - it's easy to find a canter that suits, and the one big thing remains constant throughout: it's really, really comfortable. Riding over potholes, bumps, coarse road surfaces, whatever - nothing fazes the Spyder RT at all, and that's thanks to its new found damping.

It's fast, sure, and that engine does sound great when you decide to make haste, but the RT is actually more suited to just pootling around town. Plus it's got built in sat nav, an iPod connection, loads of storage space, and heated handgrips for you and your pillion. Get ready to become intimate with whoever this is.

Saying that, the original caveat we had when we first drove the Can-Am Spyder remains: you get none of the benefits of a car and all the disadvantages of a bike. It's too wide to weave in between traffic, and there's no roof for when it rains.

But it looks like such fun!

It is fun. Lots of fun. Reserved as a PlayThing, the RT is enormously entertaining, though you might tire of the constant attention it gets on the road. In the summer, you could easily put a few hundred miles under your belt without hassle, though our test RT did weigh in at a frankly staggering £27,000, which is a lot of money for a trike.

Our advice would be to plump for the cheaper Spyder RS for £15k if you really must have one: it's marginally quicker, the throttle is livelier, the brake pedal falls under your foot easier, it looks cooler (get one in black and it's a Batbike) and the whole structure is tauter for more oh-god-its-fast moments.

Now share it...

What do you think?

This service is provided by Disqus and is subject to their privacy policy and terms of use. Please read Top Gear's code of conduct (link below) before posting.