2015 Can-Am Spyder F3: Three-Wheel Cruisin’ on California’s Coast

Text: Ken Freund • Photography: Can-Am

Bombardier Recreational Products (BRP) already offers the Spyder RS, ST, and RT models intended for sporty, sport-touring, and touring enthusiasts, respectively. Now BRP takes aim at the cruiser market with the new 2015 Spyder F3.

Styling is anything but conservative, and the upscale F3-S version I tested, offers premium fenders with LED lights plus other goodies. Additionally, three accessory packages are available.

Powertrain and Performance

All F3 models are motivated by a liquid-cooled transverse in-line three-cylinder engine that’s rated at 115 horsepower at 7,250 rpm. Torque is a whopping 96 lb-ft at 5,000 rpm. The sophisticated new fuel injected 1,330cc DOHC four-valve per cylinder power plant is built by Rotax, a BRP subsidiary, and is a considerable improvement over the liter-class V-twin in earlier models. Can-Am claims 4.8 seconds for 0 to 60 mph acceleration runs. That’s plenty quick, especially for a machine of this size.

Thanks to a gear-driven counter-balance shaft, the big triple is very smooth. Power comes up quickly yet controllably, with a strong rush in the upper midrange. The fuel injection is glitch free, without any abruptness coming off idle. Thanks to the standard Akrapovič muffler, the pleasingly potent engine sound can be heard, while still remaining legal.

At 60 mph indicated in sixth gear, engine rpm is only 3,450 for relaxed cruising. Redline is at 8,200 revs. Electronic cruise control, which comes on the S models, maintains speed spot on, and allows the rider to rest that right wrist on long highway stretches. A new ECO mode smart assist in the dash tells you when to shift for best economy. Can-Am reports a range of up to 252 miles with the large 7.1-gallon tank.

Two different six-speed transmissions are offered, both manual and semi-automatic. Either comes with an electric push-button reverse, which requires both hands to activate, probably due to the corporation’s liability lawyers. Earlier Can-Am models gave up sixth gear in order to have a mechanical reverse. This electric system, familiar to Gold Wing riders, is a good compromise that allows an overdrive sixth gear.

The six-cog manual gearbox shifts easily, with well-spaced ratios. Clutch pull effort is a bit high, particularly in stop-and-go traffic, but engagement is smooth with a natural feel.

The six-speed semi-automatic transmission is controlled by a paddle shifter on the left handlebar, which can be operated with a finger. Both upshifts and downshifts occur quickly and effortlessly. When the throttle is closed and the F3 is slowing down, the semi-automatic transmission downshifts to prevent lugging, and as you roll to stop, first gear is selected. Folks who don’t know how to shift a manual gearbox will likely choose this option.

With plenty of torque on tap, frequent shifting isn’t required, but the transmissions are so steady and the engine sounds so sweet, you’ll probably find yourself changing gears more than needed!

Chassis and Handling

A new Y-frame chassis boasts two extra frame members on each side designed to increase torsional stiffness. The front end uses automotive-style A-arm suspension; a long trellis-style swingarm carries the fat rear tire. FOX PODIUM aluminum-body front shocks are standard, along with a Sachs monoshock at the rear. A FOX remote-reservoir rear shock is available.

Brembo front brakes with a 270mm disc on each front tire are clamped by radially mounted four-piston calipers. Rear braking is provided by a single 270mm rotor and one-pot caliper. All brakes are controlled with a foot pedal on the right; it takes a little getting used to not having a front brake lever. Stopping power is excellent and controllable, especially with the standard ABS. Motorcycle riders will need to get accustomed to the electrically-applied parking brake. With no center- or side-stand to hold it in place, the machine could roll away if left in neutral on a slope.

With a stiffer frame, sporty suspension tuning, and wide tires, the F3 can run through the twisties at a pulse-quickening pace. A stiff spring rate gives the F3 a firm, fearless ride. Jolts from rough pavement are passed on to the rider, but the suspension is well controlled and prevents the machine from leaning noticeably in corners. With three different tire tracks, it’s more difficult to miss bumps and potholes than it is with a single-track motorcycle.

I found the earlier versions of the Spyders I tested seemed to require more frequent steering corrections, with a tendency to dart back and forth. This latest F3 seems much more settled, especially at freeway speeds. Electric power steering provides assist at low speeds for easier handling. At higher speeds the boost tapers off, giving a more natural feel to the steering and making it less prone to dart. Can-Am’s Vehicle Stability System combines traction control, stability control, and anti-lock brakes to keep the rubber side down. The older system prevented any sort of hooliganism, but the new one allows some drive-wheel spin before it intervenes. It seems to work together as a well-integrated system and could save your bacon on slick roads or if things get out of hand.

Features and Ergonomics

The F3’s new chassis positions the rider farther back with a lower feet-forward, arms-forward posture familiar to cruiser riders. Can-Am’s F3 UFit system employs huge fixed footpegs with five positions that allow a 10-inch range of adjustment (tools required). This allows the rider’s legs to brace and hold the rider in position in turns, rather than the shoulders, arms, and wrists. Keep in mind that the F3 corners flat and doesn’t lean into a corner like a motorcycle, so this is important.

A wide handlebar is standard, which positions the rider in an upright posture with arms apart and reaching forward cruiser style. BRP has three other handlebars available, one has more rearward reach while the other two options have a more forward position. One thing I missed on the highway was a tall windscreen.

The handsome instrument cluster combines a 200 mph speedometer (perhaps a little optimistic) and a 10,000 rpm tachometer. Everything is easy to read and well designed.

Seat height is only 26.6 inches, designed to appeal to cruiser riders and accommodate shorter folks. The saddle is large and comfy and has a rear lip, which keeps the rider from sliding back under hard acceleration and conveniently serves as a small backrest. A roomy and weatherproof forward storage trunk is standard equipment. Touring enthusiasts will likely want the Touring Escape Package, which adds a tall windscreen, detachable saddlebags, a cozier seat, driver and passenger backrests, auxiliary lights, and more. Other option packages are Urban Nights and Muscle Attitude.

Final Thoughts

This is a machine that’s not for everyone and appeals to a somewhat different demographic than do traditional motorcycles. According to BRP, about a third of Spyder buyers have no motorcycle experience, and a quarter of buyers are women. With its base MSRP at $ 19,499, the F3 provides a lot of technology and shows a lot of improvement over earlier models. Quality is good and it’s a viable choice for riders who may not want to, or be able to, handle a two-wheeled motorcycle, or perhaps want something that stands out from the crowd. Now that Can-Am has a cruiser … what’s next … an adventure-touring model?