2024 Can-Am Spyder F3-S Reviewed

Matt Posky
by Matt Posky

Last year, Can-Am invited us to experience its belt-driven Spyder trikes and I was pleasantly surprised. While legally categorized as motorcycles across most of the United States, Can-Am has actually produced something that doesn’t really slot neatly into any vehicle segment.

Having already been given an opportunity to see what they were like to pilot in 2023, I was interested in exploring what one might be like to live with for more than a casual weekend. The manufacturer obliged by loaning me the 2024 Can-Am Spyder F3-S, which I quickly put a few hundred miles on.

My primary goal was to place the Spyder into my normal routine, using cars only when absolutely necessary. I likewise wanted to make time to throw a passenger on the back to get a sense of their perspective. However, once those missions were completed, I found myself taking out the F3 just to have fun. Despite having little practical use for the Spyder, riding it repeatedly kept me from mowing the lawn (pictured) and I even dragged my feet a bit when it was time to give it back.

While past experiences taught me that these vehicles were more unique than I originally gave them credit for, they still have to accomplish the same tasks as a motorcycle or automobile to be successful. The good news is that the Can-Am Spyder occupies an interesting middle ground between them in nearly every respect. Two-wheeled options can typically provide one with more thrills for less money. But they’re much more work to wrangle, especially at low speeds. Meanwhile, automobiles are more expensive and certainly more practical. However, even a peppy convertible wouldn’t offer a commensurate sensory experience to the Can-Am.

That said, the Spyder does come with unique advantages and disadvantages of its own. A lot of this is just down to the characteristics of the vehicle type. But some things have to be addressed because they are highly pertinent to anyone considering one.

For starters, size matters. Most people can find a space in their garage or shed to squeeze in a motorcycle. Shucks, I parked one in the walkway next to my old apartment for years. But the Spyder takes up an area that would easily fit two middle-weight bikes and it weighs just as much. If you don’t have the kind of room required to store an original Mini Cooper or large riding mower, then you’ll probably need to rearrange some things before you head over to the dealership or invest in a decent cover.

Motorcycle enthusiasts will also need to take a few minutes to retrain their brain. The initial impulse is to treat the Spyder like any other bike. While there is plenty of overlap, the F3’s width needs to be taken into consideration at nearly 59 inches. The controls/inputs are likewise very unique, bordering on counter-intuitive if all you know is motorcycles. Leaning isn’t very productive, requiring more steering inputs on the power-assisted handlebars and pushing out on the foot pegs. But it’s all very smooth and doesn’t take particularly long to get the hang of unless you're going flat out. The owner’s manual is also gloriously comprehensive (a rare treat in today’s world) and has an entire section dedicated to teaching people how to drive the Spyder properly.

When people ask me what it’s like to ride them, I typically suggest they imagine a road-going snowmobile. While that’s a gross oversimplification, I’ve long assumed the original Spyder came about because someone at the company realized Bombardier Recreational Products (BRP) owns both Can-Am and Ski-Doo and didn’t have something specifically designed for paved roads. That person, should they actually exist, is likely due for a promotion — as the Spyder has sold well enough to be with the company since 2007.

Shifting is done through a sequential 6-speed and it has a reverse gear that has been tweaked for the 2024 model year to be more intuitive. Along with the revamped headlights, that’s the biggest change from the previous model year and both are welcome.

Upshifting has to be done manually without a clutch and downshifts can be made at your discretion or whenever the Spyder thinks it’s time. While this does make the vehicle easier to ride than a motorcycle, I sometimes felt like I could have made smoother gear changes at lower speeds with a traditional clutch. Regardless, I like the sequential setup in most applications and the satisfying ka-chunk it makes when the transmission moves between gears.

Although the real upside to this particular design is that it’s a breeze to pick up if you don’t know how to use a clutch and opens up the door to allow people with physical handicaps to ride. The low ride height is also a boon for shorter riders or those with limited mobility. Can-Am even sponsors group charity rides for disabled veterans and the ones I met all swore by the product.

Instrumentation comes by way of a 10.25-inch touchscreen that shows an obligatory safety warning whenever you start it up. Mine came set to French since the vehicle was shipped in from Canada. But it was easy to customize to my tastes using nothing but the physical controls located on the handlebars. The F3-S comes equipped for Apple CarPlay and has USB and Bluetooth functionality as standard (in case you want to pair helmet mics). Other models and trims can be had with loads of extra features — Including things like heated seats, on-board navigation, and surround-sound speakers.

While I’ll go to my grave saying that old-fashioned cable controls are superior to drive-by-wire, the electronic throttle control is quite good and the 1300cc Rotax ACE always seems to know how much power you want. It does have different drive modes (Eco, Normal, and Sport). But I honestly had a hard time telling the difference between them in terms of mapping. Eco cues you to upshift sooner and Sport seems more prone toward automatically downshifting early — which offers up a satisfying exhaust burble from the triple pods as the engine speed drops.

Normal was all I needed though, whether I was casually puttering around town or slinging it down tree-heavy backroads like a lunatic. Stability control (which includes ABS and TCS) is relatively unobtrusive and cruise control is everything you’d want from an open-air vehicle. The front brakes are a pair of 270-mm discs with Brembo four-piston fixed calipers and the rear is a single 270-mm unit with a single-piston floating caliper with an integrated parking brake.

They’re controlled by a single pedal and can be moved to the position of your choosing, along with the foot pegs. Brake feel could be slightly better. But the Spyder stops extremely confidently and without becoming unsettled.

The trike makes 115 horsepower at 7,250 RPM and 96 lb-ft of torque at 5,000 RPM. Oomph seems to be settled midway through the rev range which works well for the setup. I’d estimate 0-60 mph on the F3-S to take place somewhere around 4.5 seconds if not a little quicker.

Fuel economy is not as good as what you’d find on motorcycles targeting the same market and you need to use 91 octane gasoline. I found myself averaging roughly 35 mpg depending on how much I abused the throttle. But the Spyder attempts to make up with this by playing host to a 6.5-gallon fuel tank.

Cornering is harder to estimate. With more rubber contacting the road, you would assume it could hold turns traditional motorcycles could not. But the relaxed riding position and the way lateral G-Forces impact the driver make it hard to explore the outer limits of what’s possible without some practice. That said, it’s definitely more capable around a sharp bend than a cruiser bike.

I think my own bias toward sportbikes definitely played a factor here, as the sensation of entering a corner at higher-than-posted speeds is quite different. But the Can-Am always made it through with room to spare and you can absolutely make mid-corner corrections that would be exceptionally difficult on something with only two wheels. Another perk is the ability to slide the rear end. That’s normally quite the trick on a motorcycle. However, the F3-S happily oversteers when you give it more throttle than it needs in a turn — with stability control swiftly picking up any slack.

Once you’ve become accustomed to the physics your body is being exposed to and learn how to position yourself for a turn, the envelope for fun begins to expand quickly. My last two days with the F3 had me wagging the tail out of most corners and I’ve seen videos where people really show off exactly how much the platform can handle.

In traffic, the Spyder’s extra wheel and lack of a clutch pays off handsomely. There’s no chance of it falling over, so you’re never obligated to put your foot down whenever the speedometer hits zero. You don’t even need to walk the thing when you have to back it out of a space thanks to it boasting a reverse gear. However, I wanted to know if that was even possible with the F3’s roughly 900 pound-curb weight and can report that it will happily roll when being walked in neutral. Thanks to it boasting an incredibly low 26.6-inch seat height, I could actually pull this off while remaining seated. But I don’t imagine pushing it up a hill would be something I’d ever want to try.

Gravel roads (something that’s often a challenge for novice motorcyclists) are also pretty easy to cope with on the Can-Am. The manual strongly advises against taking the Spyder off-road, presumably due to the relatively low ground clearance. However, anyone finding asphalt suddenly turning into dirt or stone doesn’t have much to worry about if the surface remains relatively flat. At low speeds, they’re perfectly capable of making their way through or pulling a quick U-turn without fear of falling. There are even splash guards behind the wheels to keep debris (or rain) from being kicked up at the driver. But I’d strongly advise gearing down, as the suspension setup clearly prefers level terrain.

This leads me to possibly the only real downside of Can-Am Spyder models by way of our lacking roadway infrastructure. The three-wheel configuration keeps the suspension very busy sometimes. On mostly pristine roads, and at lower speeds, this manifests as an almost imperceptible amount of lateral movement taking place beneath the seat. You’d never care.

But it amplifies as road conditions worsen and the pace increases. If you find yourself riding on a section of road that’s been rutted in by heavy trucks, the front wheels will constantly be hunting for level pavement in the grooves while the rear monoshock is being compressed by the hump in the middle.

The vehicle remains compliant to your inputs when this happens. But the end result is the sensation that the trike is moving side to side without your permission until you get the hang of where to place it. This happens on banked turns as well and the initial impression is both unsettling and exciting. But uncouth roads are something motorbikes likewise have to contend with (albeit in a different way) and the Spyder remains more hassle free when encountering rail-road crossings or hunks of road that have been so poorly maintained that they’re more pothole than pavement. Bikes really only have the advantage at speed, though it is a clear advantage.

Having met dozens of people who were taking their Can-Am vehicles cross country last fall, many of whom were couples, your author assumed that their main rivals would be large touring bikes. While that still appears to be the case, I’ve come to a few important realizations.

My passenger, who is most accustomed to riding on the back of sport bikes as if she’s my backpack, did not enjoy being perched on the rear of the F3-S at speeds above 60 mph. Any playful shenanigans I attempted were also quickly undone by a sharp poke to the ribs. The standard rear seat is just too flat and wide for a vehicle prone toward lateral movements as you travel down the road and this basically mandates casual cruising whenever someone is seated behind you.

The good news is that this issue revolves itself at lower speeds. She was always eager to hop aboard whenever the trip was going to be relaxed and/or local. But she was only willing to give expressway runs a couple of chances (the second taking place on a particularly windy day) before deciding that she wasn’t interested anymore. While that sounds like a pretty harsh condemnation of the F3, it’s largely remedied by buying a different trim, installing the correct accessories, or finding a less-opinionated passenger.

As an alternative to the F3, the Spyder RT (above) is clearly designed to maximize the platform’s comfort/stability at the expense of some thrills and comes with a rear seat boasting a lip that will help keep passengers in place. However, due to Can-Am’s staggering list of options, one could also upgrade the seats on any other Spyder model six ways from Sunday. The company wisely offers a variety of saddles, seatbacks, and even armrests that are comfortable and better secure the rear passenger. Occupants can even have cup holders and their own buttons for controlling the radio if the Spyder is properly set up for it. There is no shortage of available creature comforts here.

It’s the same for the cargo. Whereas the F3-S offers a very useful front compartment, selecting a model that comes with saddlebags and a top case multiplies its overall usefulness. It also kicks down the door to loads of other features that you only see on dedicated touring motorcycles. I would argue all of that plays right into the trike’s strengths. But you will end up paying several thousand dollars more to make that happen. Simply customizing the rear seat would be far more affordable. Can-Am likely knows this and presumably makes a decent chunk of change selling accessories à la carte.

If you’re seriously considering taking a Can-Am Spyder on extended road trips with your significant other, the base F3-S isn’t the model to buy. However, if you were someone who plans on doing the majority of their riding solo, it might be the perfect choice.

It looks the best in my eyes and is undoubtedly the fastest due to having the least number of accessories weighing it down. That frontal storage compartment (which includes a handy USB charging port) is more than sufficient for runs to the pharmacy, or snagging something from the local burger joint, and the rear grab handles are an excellent place to put a cargo net holding more gear as needed.

But those hoping to put a maximum number of miles on their Spyder F3-S in one sitting should at least consider stepping up one trim level or optioning a windscreen. Over longer stints, the relaxed seating position is great for the spine but leaves one fighting with the breeze at expressway speeds. Having ridden a couple of these at relatively high velocities, not having a windscreen above 80 mph would be brutal over long distances — even if you’re visor down with a full-face helmet.

I have to confess, while my personal preference remains slanted toward bikes, BRP has a lot of interesting products with Can-Am seemingly playing host to some of the best examples. Their belt-driven, Y-configuration trikes have clearly stuck around for a reason. While fairly expensive vs a budget motorbike, they’re priced competitively against feature-rich touring motorcycles and have characteristics that will make them a better option for some riders.

The 2024 Can-Am Spyder F3-S starts at $22,099 (before transportation or other fees) and comes ludicrously well equipped vs the average bike. But those serious about touring will absolutely want to add options or climb the trim ladder. This could mean tacking on a couple grand or going with one of the Limited models that start at $27,899. While extremely feature rich (with air suspension, heated grips, premium audio, vibration-reducing floor boards, and more) you can still add thousands in extras onto the Limited. Can-Am Spyder RT models are likewise an option and further prioritize long-distance comfort (and more standard features) at a slightly higher price point than the F3 line.

Either way, it’s a decent amount of money to spend on a recreational vehicle without a roof. With the exception of the budget-focused Ryker, none of the BRP/Can-Am trikes could be called cheap. But you’re buying into a novel experience cars can’t really offer and one that’ll be a little easier on your bones than the average motorbike after a few thousand miles. Assuming you’re okay with a slightly more aggressive maintenance schedule than you’d find on a car (with the excellent user manual, a competent person could probably do most of it at home) and the tradeoffs associated with three-wheels, the Spyder F3 can be absolutely be configured to hoover up miles with a partner or fitted to be a raucous back-road burner that’s primarily concerned with the enjoyment of the person in the front seat.

[Images: Can-Am; © 2024 Matt Posky/TTAC.com]

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Matt Posky
Matt Posky

A staunch consumer advocate tracking industry trends and regulation. Before joining TTAC, Matt spent a decade working for marketing and research firms based in NYC. Clients included several of the world’s largest automakers, global tire brands, and aftermarket part suppliers. Dissatisfied with the corporate world and resentful of having to wear suits everyday, he pivoted to writing about cars. Since then, that man has become an ardent supporter of the right-to-repair movement, been interviewed on the auto industry by national radio broadcasts, driven more rental cars than anyone ever should, participated in amateur rallying events, and received the requisite minimum training as sanctioned by the SCCA. Handy with a wrench, Matt grew up surrounded by Detroit auto workers and managed to get a pizza delivery job before he was legally eligible. He later found himself driving box trucks through Manhattan, guaranteeing future sympathy for actual truckers. He continues to conduct research pertaining to the automotive sector as an independent contractor and has since moved back to his native Michigan, closer to where the cars are born. A contrarian, Matt claims to prefer understeer — stating that front and all-wheel drive vehicles cater best to his driving style.

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3 of 22 comments
  • Windsor Windsor on Jun 27, 2024

    I love the “came in French, since it was shipped from Canada”. Mine was shipped in English because it was shipped from Canada.

    • Lou_BC Lou_BC on Jun 27, 2024

      My previous truck had English, French, Español as language choices. It was built in the USA.

  • Mister Mister on Jun 27, 2024

    There are 3-wheelers you sit ON, like this, and 3-wheelers you sit IN, like a Slingshot. I don't know which type sells better, but I suspect this sells to motorcyclists who "retire" from 2 wheels and the Slingshot sells more to people who are coming from cars.

  • 3-On-The-Tree Aja8888 I expected that issue with my F150 starting at 52,000mi. luckily I had an extended warranty and it saved me almost $8,000. No more Fords for me, only Toyota.
  • Lou_BC I saw a news article on this got a different read on it. Ford wants to increase production of HD trucks AND develop hybrid and EV variants of the SuperDuty. They aren't scaling back EV production. Just building more HD's and EV variants of HD's .
  • Lou_BC Backing up accidents are one of the most common causes of low speed accidents. You'd think sensors and cameras would help.
  • Jpolicke Jaguar started making cars that were dead ringers for Kia Optimas, but less reliable. They now look like everything and nothing; certainly nothing to aspire to.
  • ToolGuy I would answer, but the question might change again, and then where would we be? Also, bran... wheat bran? Bran Castle? The coliva served at Bran Castle is made with wheat, I checked. (Some places use rice, because collectivism does not work.)