~Since 2004~
A site about memories, thoughts, photos, and unrepentant opinions about motorcycles and motorcycling after four decades of twisting the throttle.

Saturday, February 24, 2007

Can-Am Spyder - A Quick Peek Today

I stopped in a large multi-brand "powersports" dealer in the Phoenix metro area today looking for a few bits and pieces. As we walked through the parking lot there on a trailer sat the new Can-Am Spyder three-wheeler just like the yellow one in the photo above. I was surprised to see one so soon, they having just shown up in the press two or three weeks ago. The sales guy immediately accosted me and proceeded to tell what he knew about the trike and much to my amazement he actually knew a little bit.

I asked if I could get up on the trailer and sit on the trike and he said "Sure" so I stepped up, swung a leg over and settled in. First impression was the the ergonomics aren't bad at all, the handle bars foot pegs, etc. seem pretty much right from a motorcycle with the over all seating position being akin to a mild sport touring position. The seat had a bit of a crown to it, not unlike the seat on my Aprilia Caponord and I'll venture a guess that like the Capo seat, it looks nice, feels good initially, but begins to bite after about 75 miles.

The Wife climbed up and plonked herself down on the pillion seat and didn't immediately protest the comfort so that's a good sign. Then she asked if saddlebags were an option. I have no idea what the ride of the Spyder is like on the open road but no doubt someone will go touring if the gas tank and mileage are reasonable.

The fit and finish of the trike seems to be typical Can-Am ala their ATV line. It's decent but not at the same level as Honda or Yamaha products. Some of the body work seemed a bit floppy and I could imagine it rattling or fluttering as you go down the road. It could be too, that this particular machine was not a full production level trike but then why would the put it out in a dealership?

The other item I noticed was the length of the swingarm. I'd guess it's about twice as long as the typical motorcycle swingarm. It will be interesting to see further into the mechanicals to see what the swingarm bearing is like and what it's useful life is. That's a lot of leverage and a fat little car tire back there no doubt creating some serious loading on the bearings.

The asking price was "About $18k out the door" and that's getting into some pricey bike territory. One would have to be a brave early adopter or have lots of disposable income to risk that much on the new Can-Am concept. I enjoy machines that are different but I'm not sure I'm willing to risk $18 large on being different.

The sales guy admitted to being skeptical of the machine, said it looked like a snowmobile with wheels and indeed it does. Since Can-Am's parent company, BRP, has been in the snowmobile biz for decades the layout of the trike seems perhaps more natural to them than us motorcycle guys. Perhaps the snowmobile enthusiasts will latch onto the Spyder as their summer ride. I'm having a hard time imagining that motorcycle guys will latch onto the Spyder in preference to a bike although the well heeled amongst us might grab one as another garage goody or Saturday fun toy.

I'm a fan of anything powered, on wheels, and with a sporting look and feel to it. Motorcycle, car, ATV, whatever, if it's quick and fun I'm game to give it a try and the Spyder looks like fun. Sadly, there was no opportunity to ride the Spyder or even hear the Rotax built 990cc V-twin run. I believe the engine is similar to the Rotax motors Aprilia has used for several years so one could assume that the motor will be wonderful.

Whether or not Can-Am has launched a new market segment or another oddball idea like the Honda Rune or the Road Dog, only time will tell. I wish them well though as there are enough cruisers in the marketplace and setting off in a new direction, even on three wheels, is a very interesting move on the part of Can-Am.

The Can-Am website is here.

Friday, February 02, 2007

Welcome To Generic Motors

"Industry analysts said it makes sense to put all the products under one roof so that anyone buying a generator can be encouraged to look at an all-terrain vehicle or a car." - The Globe and Mail.

According to the article in the Globe and Mail newspaper website, Honda Canada is going to a combined store that will sell all Honda products from cars to bikes to weed-eaters all in one big store. Just think, a Wal-Mart-style store for Hondas. I can only guess how wonderful the service and sales situation will be there. Short of sales help in the Gold Wing Department? Just grab one of the guys from the Lawnmower Department. A Honda is a Honda, right? A motorcycle is no more or less special than a weed trimmer or a portable generator, right? The customer for a motocross bike is just as dim spirited as the mini-van driving suburbanite buying a lawnmower, right? Idiots.

Let me adjust my crusty old curmudgeon hat here before I continue.

I long for the day when a motorcycle shop was a place run by people who loved bikes and rode bikes and saw their customers as fellow riders, not sales prey. Long ago, hanging around in a motorcycle shop on Saturday meant meeting friends there, talking bikes, maybe snagging a test ride because the owner or sales guy knew you and knew you were getting tired of your old bike or had just sold it to a pal. Hanging around a bike shop on Saturday meant making new friends and learning things about bikes that you didn't know before. It meant reading Cycle News all the way through and then paying for it because that was the decent thing to do and you wouldn't want to cheat the owner who's name you knew and who knew your's. Hanging around the shop meant knowing the mechanic and the service manager (if there was one) and being able to get a question answered correctly by someone who knew the bikes forward and backwards. Motorcycle shops were colorful places that smelled of engines and adventure, were filled with people who were characters and machines that would become legendary.

Motorcycles are special, they are not like other vehicles. Motorcycles are individualist vehicles, they have history and culture and danger and excitement all wound up into one, amazing machine. Motorcycles have been around since before cars. Motorcycles are unique, rebellious, scary, sexy, and demanding. Motorcycles and motorcycling are diminished by being mass merchandised like generators or hamburgers. McDonald's didn't make the hamburger any better, they just did a better job of selling it. Honda won't improve motorcycling with this latest move, they'll just sell more Hondaburgers.

The people who ride motorcycles for fun, pleasure, adventure, and a way of life are not ordinary people. Motorcycle riders value the camaraderie of the own kind but find satisfaction in the deep solitude of a long ride alone. Ordinary people drive cars, usually white or beige ones with the radio set to play muzak and with the driver's brain set to numb. Ordinary people find no pleasure in controlling their vehicle, they drive it because they must and therefore to the car driver his vehicle should be as bland and unobtrusive as possible, that's why white is still the most popular color for new cars. In my experience motorcycle riders are usually independent types not afraid to be different, not afraid to look different, not afraid to feel the disapproving stares of the people who would wrap the world in a cocoon and smother everyone in peace and safety and the mediocrity of the masses even while they kill their spirits. Motorcyclists deserve better than mass merchandising their sport and their passion.

People will flock to that big store in Canada and when it succeeds Honda will probably do the same program in the USA. Honda will cater to the great mass of sheeple who value price and convenience above history, knowledge, genuine service, and the kinship of the motorcycle experience. I don't doubt that even people who love bikes will visit that store and the stores like it that are sure to come but I hope that when motorcycle enthusiasts lay down their hard earned cash it is with the independent motorcycle shop that is run by an owner who works there, rides bikes himself, and actually knows the names of his best customers.

I spoke recently with someone who had of late worked in a big "powersports" store here in the Phoenix, AZ area: They hired a guy for sales who didn't ride and knew nothing about motorcycles or even ATVs or generators...but he'd sold consumer electronics for six months and therefore knew enough about sales tactics to sell motorcycles. That's who you'll find at your one-size-fits-all Honda stores as they spread across the landscape.

Wouldn't it be a grand thing to walk into a motorcycle shop and be greeted by employees who actually ride regularly, even race, and truly know the products they represent? I know, I'm a dreamer, and worse, a dreamer stuck in the past and maybe a past that barely existed anyway. Mass merchandising of motorcycles is a reality already, maybe it's the only way for a business to be profitable now but the world of motorcycling is poorer for it and motorcyclists are too.

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"When my mood gets too hot and I find myself wandering beyond control I pull out my motor-bike and hurl it top-speed through these unfit roads for hour after hour." - T.E. Lawrence

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"I believe there are more instances of the abridgment of the freedom of the people by gradual and silent encroachments by those in power than by violent and sudden usurpations." - James Madison