“What is that thing?”
“It’s a Can-Am Ryker. Built by Ski-Doo. It’s kinda like a snowmobile with wheels. You ride it like a snowmobile or ATV. Gas and go. Here’s the throttle and here’s the brakes. It’s that easy.”
This is exactly what BRP and Can-Am was looking for, a lower-cost version of their three-wheel Spyder that would be super-easy to ride and would appeal to even more riders.
As soon as Can-Am introduced their new Ryker Rally Edition, we wanted to get our hands on one and give it a whirl through the woods. This was the very first Spyder that was being promoted as being able to be ridden on dirt roads, which immediately caught our attention.
Can-Am has been selling Spyder 3-wheel roadsters since the 2008 model year and has had four different models in that time – the original RS/GS sport models, the RT touring models, the ST sport touring and the latest F3 cruisers. The main difference between each of these models has been the seating, or riding position. The original RS/GS models placed the rider leaning slightly forward for a sporty ergonomic. The ST models were the closest to riding a Ski-Doo REV, with your feet underneath you and a slight forward bias. The touring RT models pulled the rider back into a more comfortable and upright position.
While the RT saw some good success, the RS/GS and ST models never really rose to fame. They were dropped from the line-up for 2016 after the introduction of the F3 and its feet-forward cruiser riding position, open frame and exposed engine. The F3 also moved the fuel tank forward and up, allowing the rider to sit back and down which lowered the center of gravity and greatly improved the handling.
With the RS/GS models gone from the line-up, there was clearly room for a new entry level model. For years there had been speculation that the 600 ACE engine could be used in a smaller, less expensive model.
All previous Spyder models have been powered by a motorcycle engine and a motorcycle transmission. What makes the Ryker unique and different is that it is the first model to be powered by a snowmobile engine and snowmobile (CVT) transmission. The 900 ACE engine option started out as a snowmobile engine but is now used across four BRP product lines, from sleds to watercraft to side by sides to on-road.
This commonality, and overall simplicity have enabled BRP to offer the new Ryker models at incredibly low prices, ranging from only $8,499 for the base 600 ACE model to $9,999 for the 900 ACE and $11,499 for the dirt-road capable Rally Edition, also powered by a 900 ACE.
Part of the low pricing also comes from basic configuration. There is no windshield, but you can add one as an accessory item. This theme continues with many features that are standard on a more expensive Spyder. If you want it, you can add it, but this allows the base model pricing to remain very low.
The Ryker does come with the safety features that have made the Spyder so famous – things like ABS anti-lock brakes, traction control, VSS stability control and electronic brake distribution. The Ryker has no power steering, but being a lighter weight vehicle you really never notice it – perhaps at low speed steering in tight spaces would be about the only time, but the difference is negligible.
Like the larger Spyder F3 models, the Ryker places the rider in an even lower cruiser riding position, with your hands and feet out in front of you. The handlebars are adjustable (fore and aft) via a locking mechanism on a sliding block. The footpegs are also adjustable. They unlock by lifting the footpeg, allowing you to slide the footpegs to match your leg length and individual preference, and even the brake lever is adjustable so it can be positioned to your liking. This adjustability is nothing short of ingenious.
BRP has done an excellent job at making the Ryker appeal to an even larger demographic – with greater acceptance by those not currently involved in any form of motor sports. This includes younger riders and women – and the unit sales to date clearly reflect this success.
How Does it Work?
I’ve ridden various Spyder models for well over 160,000 miles and being a snowmobiler and motorbike (enduro and dual sport) rider I had high expectations for the Ryker Rally Edition. Smaller, lighter, more responsive, easier to ride, what’s not to like about that?
One also has to factor in the low purchase price when considering expectations – at almost half the price of many other Spyder models, would it only be half the machine?
Over the course of five days we logged 1,392.9 miles and used 42.02 gallons of fuel for an average of 33.15 MPG. Went from central Minnesota up to Copper Harbor, Michigan (far tip of the Keweenaw Peninsula) and back and the Ryker Rally never missed a beat! We even stopped at Krupp’s Mini-Mart in Twin Lakes for a pasty, just like we do on snowmobile.
The 900 ACE is nothing short of amazing in the Ryker, as is the performance of the well-tuned CVT transmission. Power and acceleration is always right there, right now, always in the right ratio, always responsive. This was most impressive and really adds to the fun factor of riding the Ryker. Twist and go is a reality. Not having to shift (other than between forward and reverse) is wonderful. In this manner it is very much like a snowmobile.
While the total power output (on paper) is not up to that of the Rotax 990/991 twin engines of previous Spyders, you really can’t tell the difference. If anything, the 900 ACE is more responsive simply due to the CVT always being in the right gear ratio. The Ryker is a lighter machine and will still top out at over 100 mph and gets there plenty fast, and the acceleration down at normal speeds of 0-70 is plenty quick. Twist and go.
We wondered how well it would perform without power steering, but this was a moot point. The handling was superior to that of a Spyder – a lighter vehicle with greater agility, with steering that never felt heavy. The responsive and intuitive nature really makes it confidence-inspiring.
We kind of expected the fuel economy to be better, but the efficiency of the CVT might bring that back down some as we only averaged 33.15 MPG during our 1,400 miles of fairly aggressive riding. The Ryker does allow selection of several driving modes, like the 900 ACE does in Ski-Doo snowmobiles – there is ECO mode for reduced acceleration and increased economy, normal mode for most of your riding, Sport mode for aggressive applications, and a Rally mode (only on the Rally Edition) for use on dirt roads. Not only does the Ryker change the response of the drive-by-wire electronic throttle, it also changes the dynamics of the stability control. In the case of the Rally mode it allows the back end to be looser, as it should be for use on surfaces with reduced traction. It will still kick in the stability control if the tail gets too far out of line with the front end, and this allows for plenty of fun while keeping you from spinning out or flipping while sliding.
Compared to a larger Spyder, the Ryker is designed for more for urban use and shorter trips. It’s not really meant to do the touring or high miles you would find easier to do on a Spyder. One of the features that many Ryker owners have opted for is a more comfortable accessory seat, which BRP does offer. Personally I would purchase the accessory comfort seat and LinQ cargo bag for the rear rack, as the amount of storage in the front compartment is quite limited.
We also added the BRP accessory windshield before our test session, simply to help keep the bugs off of our face shield. While the windshield was quite small in coverage, it was shocking how well it performed in keeping both the wind and the bugs off of the rider. There are many aftermarket accessory options available here as well, and for many of the parts and pieces of the Ryker as it has quickly become very popular and created a boom market for accessory sales.
We were initially confused by the unusually firm suspension calibration of the Ryker Rally Edition. It didn’t have the ride comfort anywhere near our larger Spyder models. Granted, this was a brand new machine and it is intended, or calibrated, for some light duty dirt road use. With limited suspension travel and ground clearance the suspension is calibrated to keep it from bottoming and damaging anything. The Ryker Rally is fitted with KYB shocks all around and has a high-speed 4-position compression adjuster on the rear, which we dialed all around in an effort to find a setting that would work best.
We discovered the ride comfort improved as we added preload to the rear shock. This is due to the rising rate geometry of the rear arm that gets stiffer as the suspension compresses. This is key – you want to be sure to have enough spring preload to maintain the ride height so you’re not immediately into the firm part of the shock travel. The owner’s manual doesn’t indicate specific weights or measurements for preload settings, but instead has generalizations for single rider, dual rider, smooth roads and rougher roads. Bottom line, pay attention to the rear preload setting if the ride quality is firmer than you’d like.
That said, the Ryker Rally is not going to ride as smoothly as a larger Spyder, but instead is a much sportier machine and indeed far more responsive. With shaft drive instead of cogged belt drive it is dirt road capable, but in reality you want to stay on graded roads as the suspension just doesn’t give you much bump capability. The Ryker Rally is NOT a dual-sport bike replacement. Know this. Yes, you can ride it on reasonably smooth dirt roads, but do not expect to go blasting down a minimum maintenance road or a forest road like you can on a quad or side by side.
At my height (6’3”) I ended up with the foot pegs all the way forward, and over the course of the first day pulled the handlebars all the way back. The ability to adjust both the footpegs and handlebars so quickly and easily is a major selling point as the Ryker can be made to fit most anyone. In fact, it fit me better than the F3 in that my knees weren’t banging into the cowling on the Ryker. The seating position seems to be slightly lower than the F3, which could be part of the exceptional handling response. Where one might feel like you’re sitting quite tall on an older Spyder, you’re down low and can really rail around the corners with the Ryker.
Overall the Ryker Rally is an extremely fun and easy to ride machine, just twist and go. That’s the beauty and attraction, most anyone can be comfortable and confident on one. Riding the Ryker was more fun than any of the other Spyders we’ve had. The ease of operation and the incredible handling made it feel more like an extension of your body. You didn’t have to lean into the corners nearly as much as one does on a Spyder, thanks to the low cg.
Who will buy the Ryker? It should have extremely broad appeal simply due to the pricing and the ease of operation – and the styling. It just looks cool. The owners seem to be coming from all demographics, and it does appeal more to the younger riders. Many of the buyers are not current owners of sleds, PWC, ATVs or side by sides, and many are not motorcycle riders. It’s not aimed at cruiser riders like the F3 was, and with the low pricing it is bringing new people into the BRP dealerships in huge numbers.
The key here is the instant ability to accommodate such a wide range of rider sizes and skill levels, along with the added safety afforded by the 3-wheel design, or “Y-factor” as BRP calls it. You have the added stability and the added security. 2-wheel motorcycle riders might discount these features, but they are undeniable when it comes to safety. Few bikes have ABS or VSS, the Ryker gives you these features for right about $10,000 depending on the model. The Ryker will likely emerge as the most popular Can-Am Roadster ever offered, and for very good reason – it’s a blast to ride, and at half the price of a Spyder it is truly a great value.