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posted on May 12th, 2019

Fun & functional

Cake or pie, ice cream or yogurt, NSYNC or Backstreet Boys? Some debates may never be resolved. And this might be one of them.

Is a Can-Am Spyder a car or a motorcycle? Should it be used for long weekend excursions exploring the New England countryside? Is it a vehicle for thrill-seekers or a practical solution for commuting? And what does the “AM” in the name stand for?

A Can-Am Spyder is a (fill in the blank)

It’s tough to narrow down the Can-Am Spyder to one word or phrase. But one look at the three-wheeled wonder and it’s hard not to be a little curious about the type of adventure you could get yourself into while driving one. 

Is it a motorcycle?

Valentin’s 2018 Can-Am Spyder F3-S (Los Angeles, CA)

Yes and no, though some motorcycle purists might shake their heads at a Can-Am Spyder. But based on the definition by the National Highway Transportation Safety Association (NHTSA) it is, in fact, a motorcycle, just with three wheels.

But it’s also not a motorcycle. According to the manufacturer for the Can-Am Spyder, Bombardier Recreation Productions, the three-wheeled bike is a “roadster,” or an open-top automobile with two seats. So, yeah, that’s true too.

Roots in recreational vehicles

The Spyder can trace its roots back to the 1970s when Bombardier Recreational Productions, a Canadian company, built the Can-Am brand of off-road competition motorcycles designed for motocross and enduro. In 2007, the company started to segment off its products, renaming its line of all-terrain product line Can-Am, with seven ATV models to start.

In that same year, the company announced the launch of the Can-Am Spyder, a three-wheeled roadster meant to go on the road. Since then, Bombardier has added (and discontinued) Can-Am Spyder models including:

  • The Spyder RT series: The touring version with integrated saddlebags, a new console, and a top case. The Spyder RT comes in two trims, the RT-S, and the RT-Limited, all encouraging you to enjoy the luxury and comfort of riding on the three-wheel motorcycle. 
  • The Spyder F3 series: The “sport-cruising” version with feet-forward upright seating and “muscular design.” The F3 series comes in several trims, including base model F3, the F3-S (Special), the F3-T (Touring), F3-L (Limited), and an F3 Limited 10th (2017) Anniversary Edition.
  • The Spyder RS series: Along with the Spyder ST series, the RT is an additional model launched by Bombardier, but is now discontinued.

And to appeal to a younger, more budget-focused audience, Bombardier also launched the Ryker series. Bombardier has a whole section on its website about how to choose the right Spyder for you. Try it out to find your perfect three-wheeled match.

By the way, if you’re still trying to figure out what Can-Am stands for, it’s Canadian-American.

The specs

Valentin’s 2018 Can-Am Spyder F3-S (Los Angeles, CA)

The Can-Am Spyder leads the pack in incorporating technology into three-wheeled motorcycles. Can-Am Spyder’s BPR Connect, which allows the rider to connect their smartphones to the latest apps, music, and even the Can-Am Spyder community, is the first in the motorcycle industry to provide access to third-party smartphone apps.

The functionality of BPR Connect is pretty standard though, especially because most cars are now equipped with more advanced software. And for motorcycle purists, who identify the feeling of freedom with the thrill of riding their motorcycles, the feature might be a turn-off. 

But not everyone is a purist, and it would be nice to track the weather if you’re taking a 725-mile ride on Spyder just as Guz Boulanger did for Cycle World. There’s also, of course, the ample luggage space under the hood of a Can-Am Spyder, making those weekend getaways even more comfortable. The latest model features 47 gallons (177L) of storage space — that’s about two and half of those giant storage containers from Rubbermaid.

Okay, the real specs

Each Spyder model has its own set of unique features. But a few are standard to all Can-Am Spyders, including:

  • Dynamic Power Steering (DPS) to help you adapt to the vehicle’s speed and road conditions
  • Options for manual or semi-automatic transmission
  • A premium dash to help you keep an eye on your speed

And speaking of speed, the Can-Am Spyder not only looks fast — it is fast. According to Spyder forums the three-wheeled motorcycles have been known to reach speeds of more than 120 mph

But what makes the Can-Am Spyder appealing isn’t necessarily the speed, but the extra stability of the ride with the two wheels in front and the single wheel in back. The Can-Am gives thrill-seekers who usually shy away from the traditional two-wheel motorcycle the option to rule the road at full speeds. 

The Can-Am Spyder also gets excellent gas mileage, so it’s a great practical option for morning commutes. Look at that. Fun and functional, all at the same time!

More motorcycle than autocycle, helmet optional

Dave’s 2017 Spyder F3 Limited (Palm Springs, CA)

Getting on a Can-Am Spyder does call for reading a little bit of the fine print. While considered more of a motorcycle, the Can-Am Spyder does not always require a motorcycle helmet. However, wearing a helmet is highly recommended by Turo, Bombardier, and many Turo hosts.

Some states like California and Nevada require only a regular driver’s license when riding the Spyder, but rider education courses are encouraged for all. Even some of our Turo hosts, like Dac Huan, will point you to a bit of training to make the experience even better.

Don’t knock it until you’ve tried it

It would be easy to choose a side in this on-going debate, based on the arguments presented by both parties. But would you be making an informed decision by merely reading blogs, forums, and reviews on the Can-Am Spyder?

Climb into a Can-Am Spyder and see for yourself. With Turo hosts offering Can-Ams from Myrtle Beach to South Carolina to Palm Beach, you can get a taste of the thrill that only a Can-Am Spyder provides.


Read our features on other popular three-wheel vehicles: Vanderhall Venice, Morgan 3 Wheeler, & Polaris Slingshot.