2014 Can-Am Spyder RT Limited: Three Lungs for Three Wheels

Text: Alfonse Palaima • Photography: Tom Riles

Thanks to the Spyder’s inherent stability, high-tech ingenuity, and Canadian bravado, Can-Am has made the “backwards trike” a household name in only seven years. For model year 2014, they continue their success by dropping the V-twin engine and replacing it with an all-new inline triple, adding a sixth and seventh (reverse) gear, and greatly increasing rider comfort with better heat management.

As director of marketing and strategy at Bombardier Recreation Products (BRP), Marc Lacroix points out, “For touring bikes, torque is king.”   So adding more than 300 cubes to last year’s 998cc Rotax V-twin to create an all-new Rotax Advanced Combustion Efficiency engine, or ACE 1330, gave the Spyder 40 percent more torque and 35 more horsepower—a welcome addition! The 2014 ACE boasts a 12:1 compression ratio and produces 115 horsepower at 7,250 rpm and 96 lb-ft of torque at only 5,000 rpm. Bred specifically for the Spyder, ACE is currently only available in the RT model, but it will surely find its way into the RS and ST models in the future.

With the 2013 chassis changes to the Spyder, as well as the addition of larger wheels and Brembo brakes, a bigger engine should come as no surprise; but after three well-hidden years of development, the ACE has arrived and now matches lung to wheel count.

Beginner to Race Winner

Entering their seventh year, Can-Am continues to give everyone the opportunity to enjoy the open road—be they riders or not—with the stable and friendly Spyder. Given its ability to lead new riders over hurdles like balance and shifting, the semi-automatic drivetrain does more than just the shifting work for you. Its ECO mode helps those wanting to be active participants in the sport of motorcycling with in-dash shift point indicators that teach riders to shift at the most efficient moment. Destined for their entire line-up in future model years, the ECO smart assist is currently only available on the ACE model.

So efficient and advanced is the new ACE engine that it’s Euro 4 emissions compliant (ahead of schedule) and shipping for the first time to the Japanese market as well. Fuel economy claims reach 36 mpg and more than 220 miles on the 6.9-gallon tank.

Beyond the automotive style footprint and electronics packages, the Spyder’s maintenance schedules have also changed to more auto-like frequency with the arrival of the ACE engine. Valve adjustments are no longer necessary for example. Keeping a rider on the road instead of in the garage, Can-Am wants their owners to ride more and spend less with a 3,000-mile break in inspection and oil change intervals pushed all the way to 9,300 miles.

In the Saddle

Mounting the Spyder, one can’t help but notice the watercraft-like saddle, squishy but supportive and wide. The contour and design doesn’t stop there though. Its flowing lines carry through the body work from tip to tail as well. A heated seat option with two zones and a removable backrest are available. If the wide stance of the unit itself isn’t secure enough, wide floorboards (for you and your passenger) help plant the ride team.

An adjustable windscreen meets your sightline (low position), while your hands meet a veritable command center. At your fingertips lie stereo controls, heated element controls, suspension adjustments, Garmin GPS, and a dozen more control points, but most important of all is the fly-by-wire throttle.

In your left hand might be the shift paddles of the semi-automatic electronic transmission (SE6). If not, you’ll find a good old-fashioned clutch lever of the manual version (SM6). Both now have the 6-speed gearbox and additional reverse. A new hydraulic control unit (HCU), similar to what is used in the Porsche PDK system, or Audi’s S tronic package, does the job smoothly in either transmission package. Instead of relying on mechanical flyweights, the clutch force is electronically generated by the HCU. Can-Am isn’t saying they’ve got a dual clutch system in there, but they consider it “state of the art,” and it worked flawlessly on our escorted tour of greater Orlando, FL.

Body styling and heat management also take a few steps into the future with a pair of radiators up front, wider air scoops as part of the newly designed fascia, and curvier lines all around.  A migration of the single radiator (found near the passenger’s feet on previous models) to a position in front of the arms and now in pairs, doubles the cooling capacity necessary for the larger ACE engine. A speed sensitive cooling fan reverses flow at low speeds to blow heat away from the rider.

Fox Podium Shocks smooth out the entire Spyder line-up, offering much improved straight-line performance. While the power steering makes handling the dual contact patches a breeze, the new setup makes the steering less responsive, but in a good way. Gone are the over-steer and sensitivity wobble seen in previous model years. You can now ride with one hand on the bars and stay in your lane.

Line-Up and Price

While the RT will steal the headlines this year, the RS and ST will also be returning without the engine upgrade. They do, however, get new colors, wheels, updates to the electronic packages (more permissive Vehicle Stability System (VSS) on the RS-S), and the same individually tuned Fox Podium Shocks package seen on the headlining RT. The Spyder RT Limited is the flagship of the entire line-up and also includes a Garmin Zumo 660 GPS, aluminum 12-spoke chrome wheels, a ton of chrome accents, an embroidered saddle, and exclusive colorings.

MSRPs start just under $ 15,000 for the base Spyder RS and fly as high as $ 30,499 for the Spyder RT Limited edition. From the racy ST to the luxury liner RT Limited, there’s a model to tickle everyone’s fancy... try 26 configurations!