Review of the Spyder RT

I was recently at the dealer (Brisbane Spyder) waiting to pick one of the Spyders from a service and out the front was their demo Spyder RT, so after a bit of convincing as follows;
Me: “Can I take the Spyder RT for a ride?”
Dealer: “What, you haven’t ridden one yet?
Me: “No”
Dealer: “Well here are the keys, take it for a long one”
Convincing over. So a long ride I did.
Initial impressions;
– Am I sitting down to watch TV or going for a ride? Yes the seat is that comfortable and the riding position is designed for long term comfort. Yes you do have a little TV like screen, well it is a colour LCD display for everything, more on that later.
– What are all these extra buttons? The RT has a lot of buttons, most of which are located on the left handlebar with a few others on the top of the “tank”. You have buttons for radio, suspension stiffness, park brake, heated hand grips and trip computer. Wait I wasn’t sitting down to watch TV, I was playing playstation but with more buttons.
Enough of initial impressions, now on to the riding. Having ridden the RS daily for the past 9 months I am very fimiliar with the Y-Factor or Y architecture as CanAm likes to call it so should feel right at home on the RT.
Startup procedure is very much the same, except of course you now have to pick which radio station you want to listen to and at what volume. A little bit of heat from the grips? I don’t think so, it is autumn in QLD and a nice 28. Have I got a passenger? What about the trailer? No, then no need to adjust the suspension. The model I rode was an SM5, (normal clutch and gear lever) this took a bit of getting used to especially as I had to engage reverse to get out of the carpark, which is a very simple 2 button procedure on the SE5. But a little bit trickier on the SM5.
Now for takeoff, the engine sounds a bit meatier in idle compared to the RS but I soon find out it is all just noise. Taking off is not quite as sprightly as on the RS, given the extra weight and change in tuning as well as fly-by-wire throttle. The RT however quickly got up to speed and I felt very comfortable going around the first corner, albiet finding the blinker in the maze of buttons on the left handlebar wasn’t so easy. I also noted that the self-cancelling didn’t seem to work as well as on the RS with several occassions where I was the “self” doing the cancelling. You barely have to lean your body to enter a corner and I can only assume the passenger in the throne behind you would feel a lot more comfortable. The RT felt more car like in the proceeding corners and with the electronically adjustable windscreen (yes another button for that) you barely feel the breeze rushing past.
I still got the looks from those on the streets and in cars, as you would with the RS so if you still want to show off then you won’t miss out on this tourer.
I didn’t have anything to store but would love to see how much my wife could pack into the more than ample storage offered by the RT, in addition to the “boot” at the front, there is a top box and panniers- the top box would be more than enough room for my jeans, T-shirt, toothbrush and boxer shorts. Imagine what she could bring with the optional trailer accessory?
The digital display is brilliant, easily read in all lighting and from all sun angles, you still have your analogue speedo and tacho, as well as a fuel gauge and temp gauge. Don’t be like me and try to check the fuel on the digital display, flicking through all the menus and screens, (I had to see just how long this test ride can go) only to glance to the left to see a normal fuel gauge in a shiny silver bezel.
The radio is great, with one exception, the passenger can control it from the buttons they have, so if you don’t want to listen to P!NK on your trip to Darwin with the wife then I suggest you leave the wife at home. The volume adjusts according to your speed and with four speakers, two at the front and two at the rear you really can hear it quite easily. There is also an iPod plug. If you think you will change stations whilst pulled up at the lights then think again, on the SM5 model anyway, neutral is difficult to find and holding in the clutch doesn’t leave enough stretch of the thumb to reach the toggle for the radio.
The RT is very different to the RS, so much so as that they could come from different manufacturers, for those new to three wheels you will feel more comfortable on the RT through corners. The design and seating position of the RT means you don’t have to be as vigirous with your riding style as what you do on the RS. Think riding your jetski in the surf compared to cruising in your luxury cruiseliner in the Broadwater. If you have plans for the lap around Australia with the wife or husband then the RT is for you, but if you really want three wheeled FUN then stick to the RS. If you have trouble programming your TV then you may want to invite the kids around to show you how to use the RT to it’s fullest.
It is surprising that CanAm didn’t come out with the RT first or maybe they didn’t identify their target market correctly and have now reacted to suit, after seeing so many RS owners try a touring setup. I predict there will be a lot of RS’s on the secondhand market and already know of several owners who have updated to the RT as it was really what they wanted but it wasn’t available at the time.
For me I will stick with the RS and hope that CanAm widens the gap even further between the sport and touring Spyders with more power in the RS and a less heavy handed electronics system or maybe a button (why should the RT have all the buttons) to select different maps as per other manufacturers.