Home/News/Driven/Can-Am Ryker: Ridden

Can-Am Ryker: Ridden

Will three wheels ever be as cool as two or four? The Can-Am Ryker is the latest to test the theory...

By Dan Trent / Thursday, March 28, 2019

OK, you might not consider yourself bi-curious in that sense. But for drivers yet to take the plunge the seductive appeal of motorbikes is one of those constant nagging temptations, not least with the man maths validation a PCP deal could score you a bike for little more than a typical phone contract. Yet the hurdles, be they licensing, self-preservation or whatever else, are often just enough to prevent that all-important exploratory dabble. And so it remains a dream.

Enter the Can-Am Ryker, the half rice, half chips alternative to a motorbike that potentially offers all of the danger but none of the coolness if you've never quite got round to wobbling between some cones for your CBT. Because, yes, you can ride one of these things with your regular car licence. The question when I arrive at the launch in Portugal is ... would you want to?

It doesn't start too well. For all the assurances you'd have to be a complete idiot to defeat the various electronic safety nets and crash one a member of the preceding wave of journalists has apparently done just that and the guys from Can-Am are a little jumpy. It doesn't take a physics genius to understand the problem either - stick handlebars and an engine on anything with more than two wheels and you have the potential for self-harm that makes motorbikes look safe as houses.

Can-Am parent company Bombardier Recreational Vehicles is aware of this of course, given its other brands include Ski-Doo, Sea-Doo and the Maverick range of ATVs and side-by-sides. For the last 10 years it's also been selling the Spyder, a curious contraption for eccentrics who consider a Honda Goldwing just a little too edgy and rebellious. There is, nonetheless, a loyal following and, with the Ryker, Can-Am hopes to offer a similar combination of accessible 'riding' for a younger and - whisper it - more fashionable crowd. Hence marketing material full of tattooed hipster types who, honest, really would rather be seen on a trike than a custom café racer or retro scrambler.

Whisper it but the Ryker does actually look alright, the car-like double wishbone suspension up front and single-sided swingarm out back complemented with motorbike-esque flourishes and a nicely futuristic look. The ones we'll be riding are Rally Editions, augmented with a little more suspension travel, hand guards, underbody skid plates and an additional off-road specific mode on the stability control. It's a token effort for gravel tracks and the like rather than full-on dune-jumping radness but aligns the Ryker with BRP's other products.

Power comes from an 82hp 900cc water-cooled triple from Rotax, which is also part of the BRP stable. There's also an entry-level 600cc two-cylinder if that sounds a little too much. Both drive the rear wheel through a CVT gearbox and selectable Eco and Sport modes, the latter permitting a little more slip from the traction control system. There's also ABS and stability control, the intention being you'll never be able to flip the thing, no matter how hard you try. This being a press launch populated by gnarly looking bike journalists you can be sure everyone will be giving it a damned good go regardless.

To maintain the accessibility for those less accustomed to life behind handlebars Can-Am has kept the controls super simple. There's no clutch or gear selection required - a twist grip makes you go and a single pedal acting on all three disc brakes makes you stop. A lever on the left side of the engine engages reverse gear if required but other than that it's simply a case of hitting the starter button, releasing the parking brake and twisting the throttle.

Just because the law says I can ride a Ryker without any previous experience or training that doesn't necessarily make it a good idea. So before we're let out on the road we're given a very simplified form of CBT involving a quick lap of a car park with some cones to weave between.

The man from Can-Am points out the controls, motions to the throttle and says "just twist and-" but before he even finishes the sentence the automatic clutch has engaged and I've shot off across the car park at a rate of knots. I heave on the bars to make the first turn and, sure enough, it feels like I'm going to be flung off.

I compose myself, complete my weave through the slalom at a more sedate pace and manage the standing start and emergency stop without further dramas but don't feel entirely reassured. I've ridden quads, jet-skis and snowmobiles before and there's a similarly unnerving combination of violent straight-line acceleration and significant weight to manhandle through the turns. Put it this way, I don't feel like the "what could possibly..." factor has significantly reduced.

Pottering through town in convoy gives me a little time to get acclimatised, though I've got no idea whether I should have the foot pegs and bars fully forward for a cruiser-like stance, pull the bars back to be more upright or set the pegs rearward for a bum in the air sports bike rider position. Following the other Rykers they do actually look quite cool in their way but I'm yet to be convinced that's for anything more than the novelty factor.

A series of roundabouts helps me experiment, it becoming clear you have to both weight up the outside front tyre by pushing down on the handlebar while simultaneously throwing your hips and body the other way to counteract the weight shift. It feels counter-intuitive but without loading that front end the Ryker will just push on. And you don't want that.

A short stretch of gravel to the beach is a chance to play with the Rally Mode and reveal more about the handling on a low-grip surface. This helps, revealing that once the front end is turned in you can steer on the throttle and rotate the Ryker into the turns before the stability control intervenes to save you from yourself. Applying this lesson to the road I discover that Sport mode permits enough overspeed from the rear tyre to do entertaining little drifts out of the roundabouts, the fact I feel confident enough to do this within an hour of jumping aboard testament to Can-Am's three-wheeled expertise.

As the roads open up into the mountains and speeds increase I'm forced to admit that, yes, this is a bit of a giggle. The CVT gearbox keeps the engine in its 4,000rpm mid-range and the Ryker pulls with reasonable vigour considering the weight. Comparing stats with a Yamaha MT-09 with a comparable 900cc triple the Can-Am's 285kg dry weight equates to an additional 100kg or so, which is enough but less than I'd expected given how hefty it feels on the road.

For a car driver it feels quick enough to be exciting but I doubt the bikers among our convoy are quite so impressed. Decisive use of the throttle holds the 'gears' into the upper reaches engine's powerband, there being a decisive kick at 6,000rpm where the acceleration suddenly gets a lot more meaningful. I'm not sure how close I get to the 8,000rpm redline but from 60mph or so the Ryker has respectable overtaking kick. I've driven plenty of Caterhams and the like so the sensation of open-air speed isn't totally alien but experiencing it from behind handlebars is a fresher twist than I'd first credited.

Can three wheels ever be as cool as two though? Possibly if you live in Milton Keynes, where the combination of straight-line speed and driftability on roundabouts would enliven any commute, perhaps more so in the kind of slippery conditions where you'd worry about dropping a bike. Maybe as a quirky holiday rental for those without bike licences who want something faster and more exciting than the usual deathtrap scooter. Back-country tours interspersed with a bit of gravel riding to enjoy the Rally Mode could also be a bit of harmless fun.

As a long-time ownership proposition though? Put it this way, after a taste of this gateway drug I'm now chomping at the bit to get my CBT. A success of sorts for the Ryker, though Can-Am's business model probably depends on that realisation coming over a period of ownership rather than after an exploratory test ride.

900cc 3-cyl
Transmission: CVT with reverse
Power (hp): 82@8,000rpm
Torque (lb ft): 58.3@6,500rpm
0-62mph: N/A
Top speed: N/A
Weight: 285kg (dry)
Price: £11,399

Find your next car