Cristina has been around powersports her entire life. Motorcycles, four-wheelers, UTVs, etc. She grew up in a family where she watched her father and his brothers grow their motorcycle business from a small shop shipping Harley-Davidsons overseas, to three multi-line dealerships and a parts distribution business that supplies over 3,000 independent shops with OEM parts.
She’s never ridden a motorcycle on her own, yet the distinct smell of gasoline and oil in the garage brings back memories of her and her siblings playing hide-and-go-seek among rows of tightly packed American V-Twins in the early days of the family business. With all that time spent around motorcycles, who would’ve thought all three of these kids would grow up with only a fleeting interest in powersports of any sort.
When Cristina decided to marry an utterly obsessed motorcycle enthusiast who has spent his entire professional career working in different facets of the motorcycle industry – that would be me – she knowingly accepted a lifetime of motorcycles, even if it be indirectly. It would only be a matter of time before her curiosity would get the best of her, and she would start wondering, maybe I want to be in control of one of these things.
BRP reached out to Motorcycle.com regarding its new Can-Am Spyder F3 Limited three-wheeler. New for 2018, the Spyder boasts a full-color LCD dash, integrated BRP Connect app technology, and an alluring new Oxford Blue Metallic colorway. All nice features on their own, but what BRP was most interested in talking to us about was its push to educate interested parties on what it’s like to ride a Spyder.
BRP has been working with motorcycle training schools across the nation to put together Can-Am Spyder Rider Education Programs that are affordable, accessible, and well-equipped to deliver the unique experience of riding a Spyder and introducing them to customers in a safe environment.
A great opportunity to get a fresh perspective from my lovely wife, an apprehensive yet fully curious budding motorcyclist. We checked the BRP website for training dates and locations, signed up, and prepared for her first foray into piloting a street-legal three-wheeler.
The Friday before her class she voiced some hesitations, but as soon as we arrived Saturday morning, she was ready to tackle the training. The class we attended was run by SoCal Motorcycle Training in San Bernardino, California. SoCal Motorcycle Training offers a plethora of motorcycle training courses from beginner to advanced and now the new three-wheeler program in conjunction with Can-Am. Our class would take place in a stadium parking lot and offer plenty of hands-on riding as well as a couple of in-class sessions.
There were a total of six students, five of which were women, and one younger guy who was subbing in for his mother’s reservation that she was unable to attend. All of the women were friends and knew each other including the absent mother. All but one of their husbands rode Harleys, and the women wanted their own Harley trikes, tired of riding on the back of their husbands’ motorcycles. Admittedly, most of the women weren’t entirely aware of the pros and cons of a trike, but they did know they didn’t want to worry about holding up an 800-pound Harley. They were here to try out a trike despite the differences that may be obvious to some of our readers.
The morning began with the absolute basics and a quick session of riding 25 feet or so, then stopping, then 50 feet, then stopping. This got everyone excited and acquainted with the machines before diving right into a classroom and would help the students apply what they were learning in their lecture.
With only two classroom sessions covering basic information, some of which would apply to new motorcyclists as well, the majority of our 8 am-4 pm class would consist of riding, which everyone seemed to be happy about.
The instructors were patient, attentive, and genuinely involved in creating a fun and safe environment for the students to learn. I can also say, while I kept out of the way, taking pictures and writing notes, Cristina was beginning to stand out in her willingness to learn.
As I stood across the lot speaking to one of the instructors during the emergency braking drills, I saw my wife commanding the big Spyder RT she had chosen at the beginning of the day, to an abrupt stop just shy of engaging the ABS. Next time around she was the first to get the Spyder stopped as quickly as the three Brembo brakes and ABS would allow, accompanied by the quick tire screeches of the anti-lock brakes kicking in and followed by an enthusiastic high-five from her instructor. “I think your wife has got the hang of this thing,” chuckled the instructor closest to me.
Once the class lined back up for the next drill, it was clear how much fun she was having and how quickly she was getting the hang of it. Allison, the female instructor and co-owner of the school, who had been working with Cristina on the braking drills, made her way over to let me know that she couldn’t have asked for a better student than my wife. “Anything I asked her to try, she would give it her 100%.” Allison stated emphatically, “What a perfect student.”
By the end of the day, Cristina was hot and a little tired but felt accomplished. Looking back at the weekend Cristina concluded, “A driver’s training was the perfect way to get me excited about our weekends with the Spyder. The class made me more confident in riding the Spyder, and by the end of the class I was already planning when I wanted to do a motorcycle training course next.”
Her classmates, after learning more about the Spyder, had left their dreams of owning Harley-Davidson trikes behind in that parking lot in favor of the more technologically advanced Can-Am Spyders. Only time will tell if their Harley riding hubbies will let a Spyder into the fold.
Time to hit the open road
The next morning after her training, I didn’t have much trouble coercing Cristina into piloting the Spyder F3 Limited BRP had loaned us to a breakfast spot near our home. Her only hesitation seemed to be stemming from the anticipation of dealing with other motorists. Understandable. We took side streets to our destination, and I couldn’t manage to wipe the proud smile off of my face through the entire meal.
We planned to do some real riding the following weekend. I put together a generic day ride plan with a few areas in mind, but decided I would let Cristina choose as this was entirely for her (and Motorcycle.com) to be able to enjoy the Spyder’s approachable learning curve. We decided on Palm Springs via freeways followed by an ascent in elevation to Idyllwild and back down to more freeways. An unfortunate realization of living near the ocean is having to use the (insert interstate number here in Californian accent) to get anywhere less populated and scenic.
Cristina wasn’t quite ready for navigating the snaking tangle of SoCal freeways where everyone is in more of a hurry than you with a destination much more important than your well-being. I can’t blame her, it can be treacherous.
Thankfully, the Spyder has a comfy cockpit for the driver and passenger so we were both content as we made our way out of the urban sprawl that is the Los Angeles Basin. As Palm Springs grew closer, Cristina mentioned to me via our Senas how she enjoyed being out in the elements and feeling the change of temperature as we got closer to our 91-degree destination.
Once in Palm Springs, I let Cristina take the reins and cruise around for a bit. Still somewhat hesitant to be around too many cars, we took our time and I let her do her thing. We parked the Spyder on the side of the main drag, shed our helmets and leather jackets and were able to lock everything up safe and sound inside the copious storage space the F3 Limited offers.
Nobody likes carting around motorcycle gear, especially on a hot day. As a rule, I refuse to leave my gear on a bike, helmet lock or no. I like my stuff too much. That being said, Cristina enjoys the experience much more when we are riding a bike that we can lock our gear in.
After lunch and bit of walking around, we continued to cruise around Palm Springs before heading toward the mountains. Again, with her limited experience and seat time, Cristina would prefer I drove up the twisting mountain roads that at times did and did not have a guard rail separating the edge of the road from the sheer drop just a few feet from the pavement. I applaud her sound judgment.
Once we had made our way higher in elevation, Cristina spent a little more time behind the handlebars and was even convinced, this time reluctantly, to pilot the three-wheeler down a winding dirt road. No worry of toppling over due to loss of traction!
As the roads began to straighten out and the scenery grew increasingly flat, I jumped back in the pilot’s seat to begin the freeway slog home.
Reflecting on her time spent with the Spyder, Cristina had this to say, “The Spyder is really fun, and an easy transition from driving a car. It allowed us to have a great weekend together, where I was able to actually participate more than just being a passenger.”
“The Spyder had some of the comforts of taking a car on a road trip but allowed me to feel more connected with the scenery around us,” said Cristina, “The temperatures rose in Palm Springs and dropped as we made our ascent into the San Bernardino National Forest and I felt as though I was a part of it the entire time. My favorite part was the smell of the Pines in the mountains and the sweet scent of the orange groves as we descended into the foothills.”
After a few weekends with the Spyder, Cristina is one step closer to dragging knee around a local racetrack. I’m only half joking. I’m pretty sure she was screaming at the television louder than I was during Sunday’s MotoGP race in Argentina.
The great thing about the Can-Am Spyder is that it’s one of the least intimidating ways to get out on the road on what Can-Am calls an open-air ride. It’s not a motorcycle, that’s ok. I’m not sure what the problem is with motorcyclists looking down their nose at vehicles with three wheels. If it gets people out riding, whether it leads to new motorcyclists or just a whole new way to experience your surroundings, then who are we to judge. I had a blast with its 1330cc inline-Triple. The power band between 4,500 rpm and 7,000 rpm is no joke, but the electronics and general ease of use make the machine suitable to a wide variety of users. Deal breaker for me? No lane-splitting through LA traffic.
To put it bluntly, I don’t know many motorcyclists who wouldn’t spend an afternoon riding four-wheelers. Heck, I know plenty of bikers who own four-wheelers, side-by-sides, or snowmobiles. The Spyder isn’t a motorcycle. That doesn’t mean it can’t be fun. Shut up and ride.