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Old 02-13-2007, 10:46 AM   #1
mhoward1
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Bombardier builds a new “trike” – is it the next Segway?
by Paul A. Eisenstein (2007-02-12)



I have a confession to make. As much as I enjoy motorcycles, I just can't bring myself to buy one. I've dumped a few too many times; watched too many friends get run off the road - or worse. And living in the traffic-dense suburbs of Detroit , I just can't see getting back on a bike any time soon.

I'm certainly not unique. Though there's been a resurgence of demand among us aging Boomers, millions more of my cohorts aren't ready to relive those Easy Rider days, at least not on a conventional, two-wheeler. Yet that sense of open-air freedom continues to beckon. What if there were something just a little easier to ride, and maybe a little safer?

That's what Bombardier, the massive Canadian transportation company asked itself, back in 1996, when it began a top-secret project aimed at developing an alternative to the motorcycle. Few companies had a better track record for coming up with powered sports craft. The Quebec conglomerate invented the snowmobile, as well as the personal watercraft. It was already a major player in off-road ATVs and dominated the outboard motor business. But there was one thing missing from Bombardier's portfolio: an on-road vehicle.



Company officials were smart enough to realize they didn't want to go up against the well-established players in the motorcycle business, like Harley-Davidson, Honda, and BMW. Indeed, what they realized they needed was something distinctly different from the traditional motorcycle.

This past weekend, I got my first chance to drive - or, more accurately, to ride - the result of that eleven-year effort: the three-wheeled Can-Am Spyder Grand Sport Roadster. That's a long name for such a small bit of machinery we'll hereafter call the Spyder. The result of that US$180 million effort looks a bit like the letter "Y" on wheels. Unlike some other tricycle-shaped automobiles and motorcycles, Spyder puts two wheels up front and a third, driven wheel in back, an arrangement BRP engineers were convinced is more stable than putting a single tire on the nose end.



As I arrived at the Del Mar Fairgrounds, a few miles from downtown San Diego , I got my first glimpse of Spyder. From the side, one might initially mistake it for a conventional motorcycle, but visually, the vehicle has even more in common with one of BRP's Ski-doo snowmobiles or a Sea-doo watercraft. And as you straddle the curious vehicle, it feels a lot like an ATV, albeit minus one wheel.

One straddles Spyder just like a motorcycle and, indeed, most of the controls are quite similar. There's the familiar left-hand clutch and you wrap your right hand around the throttle. But the traditional right-hand brake is missing, replaced by a single right-foot brake pedal. That's one of several significant differences.



Where you simply walk a motorcycle backwards out of a parking spot, you couldn't do that easily with the bulky Spyder. As a result, the manual gearbox was converted to a five-speed, with the sixth gear converted to reverse.Like a motorcycle, one shifts Spyder by holding in the clutch and using the left foot to flick a pedal up or down. BRP also promises to introduce a Formula One-style, electronically-shifted manual transmission. The gearbox is mated to a 998-cc V-Twin engine produced by BRP's Rotax division. It's a smooth, high-revving motor that's part of a family of small engines that have been well-tested by brands such as BMW. (The German maker uses a Rotax-derived 650-cc single-cylinder into in its F650 series and new G650X series models, and an 800-cc parallel-twin in its new F800.) The engine is mounted fairly conventionally within an unusual, three-beam steel frame. A fully-adjustable double-A-arm suspension completes the package.



After slipping on a helmet and riding gloves, adjusting the sideview mirrors and releasing the parking brake I fired up the Rotax engine, a satisfying burble emerging from the large exhaust can mounted on Spyder's right rear. Clutch in, I kicked into first gear, twisted the throttle and launched down a short course BRP had wisely set up in a fairground parking lot. With a squeal of tires, Spyder soared down the tarmac. But it took only mild pressure on the brake pedal to bring it to a halt. I repeated the process several more times before attacking a slalom course.

A colleague - a frequent motorcyclist who had also come along for the ride - looked even more perplexed than I felt. Straddling his own Spyder, he slammed into a couple cones before getting a feel for the three-wheeler. After a few laps around the course, we compared notes. Unlike a motorcycle, you steer into a corner with the Spyder. And while you lean into a turn, the maneuver is more like riding an All-Terrain Vehicle than a bike. That said, the general motions seemed intuitive and easy to master, so cautiously, I headed out on the open road. The first thing I noticed was the attention Spyder commanded. Passing motorists stared, some with their mouths wide open. Pedestrians pointed, several grabbing their camera-phones to snap some pics.



There's something about driving al fresco that provides a different sense of reality. Despite a couple nervous moments, early on, as I learned how to point Spyder into the corners, it was hard to do anything but smile. Even with a full-face helmet and heavy leather coat, the wind and sun felt delightful as I steadily increased my speed. And there's plenty of power to get Spyder going. The Rotax makes a solid 106 horsepower and 77 pound-feet of torque. While BRP didn't release 0-60 times, the three-wheeler seemed well-equipped to keep up with all but the fastest sports cars, though it would be no match for the fastest European or Japanese sports bikes. Rated top speed is 130 miles per hour.

The double-A-arm suspension proves surprising capable at soaking up even the harshest bumps without numbing out a clear feel for the road. The suspension, along with the Y-frame layout, was pleasantly stable, especially when assisted by an array of high-tech systems one doesn't normally expect on a bike. Spyder features three-wheel anti-lock brakes with electronic brake force distribution, traction control - to ensure all that power gets to the road - and vehicle stability control. The latter system makes sure that Spyder stays firmly under control during all but the absolute worst maneuvers. Steer too aggressively into the corners and the computer control system will back off on engine power while applying individual brakes, as necessary.

I often measure my reaction to a vehicle by the feeling I get when it's time to turn back the keys. And after about 90 minutes on the Spyder I was clearly sorry to let the three-wheeler go. But, I kept asking myself, would I pay $14,995 for the unusual machine? And are there enough other potential customers to justify the roughly US$180 million invested in the decade-long development program by BRP - the sports craft division spun off by Bombardier three years ago.

To his credit, BRP CEO Jose Boisjoli admits there's no clear answer. The company is taking a slow and "conservative" approach to rolling out Spyder. It will spend the next year aiming to build buzz for the product. Among other things, it will run a series of dealer events around the U.S. , inviting potential customers to take Spyder for a ride. It's also studying plans to set up a driving program, similar to ones Porsche and several other automakers operate. The target audience is made up of Boomers who might like the idea of open-air driving but just don't really like the idea of riding a motorcycle. Initial company studies suggest that sport bike riders won't switch to Spyder - but they also won't turn thumbs down - and that's critical because that "cool factor" is critical to the product's success.



So is functionality. With the large storage bin up front, there's enough space to pack a light weekend's necessities for two. On the other hand, the three-wheel configuration has at least one notable drawback. In places like California , motorcycles are popular with sport-minded commuters who can use them to weave in and out of traffic. You can't "split lanes" like that with the wider Spyder. And those who might see the new Can-Am Roadster as a high-mileage alternative to a four-wheeled roadster could be in for a disappointment. Spyder's mileage is estimated between 25 and 30 mpg, about what you'd get from a Mazda Miata. Who might drive the vehicle may also depend on individual state regulations. In some, you need only a standard driver's license to operate Spyder, in others, a motorcycle endorsement, even a special three-wheel permit, might be necessary.



If Spyder cultivates the niche market BRP believes is ready and waiting, the company could readily ramp up production to about 50,000 a year, Boisjoli revealed, while sitting astride one of the three-wheelers.
BRP may not have the market all to itself, though, at least not for long. There are persistent rumors that other manufacturers - Harley and Ducati are frequently cited - may be looking at a similar Y-frame design. And Piaggio, the Italian manufacturer best-known for its Vespa scooters, has a three-wheeler coming, as well. While I've yet to test one, the approach appears slightly different than BRP's, with the front pair of wheels tilting to allow a more motorcycle-like ride while still enhancing vehicle stability.

Has BRP come up with a hot new segment - or built another Segway? I'll reserve judgment on the potential, long-term success of Spyder, but I've also got a call in asking for another chance to drive the machine when things warm up back home in Detroit . If it's any measure, I'm still smiling.

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Old 02-13-2007, 11:01 AM   #2
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These 3-wheel contraptions have never seemed safe to me. They just look like they'd suffer from terrible lift-throttle oversteer and other rear-axle low traction problems. But hey, I'm not the one who spent $180 million trying to develop the thing. :shrug:
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Old 02-13-2007, 11:31 AM   #3
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Old 02-13-2007, 11:32 AM   #4
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That looks like a Sea-doo for the road, I don't think it would sell...

The VW GX3 would sell.
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Old 02-13-2007, 12:32 PM   #5
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if they could only make it lean into the corners....
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Old 02-13-2007, 01:14 PM   #6
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Originally Posted by Rapid_Roo View Post
if they could only make it lean into the corners....
2-wheeled bikes lean when turning because its a function of turning and this thing doesn't countersteer likes its 2-wheeled brethren so there is no need to lean in.
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Old 02-13-2007, 01:27 PM   #7
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I think he's talking about something like the M-B LifeJet.

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Old 08-02-2007, 02:12 PM   #8
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Default Three Wheels That will Make Them Stare

http://www.globeauto.com/servlet/sto...wh-spyder-0802


Three wheels that will make them stare


TOM’S RIVER, N.J. — 'It's a bike! It's an ATV — it's … it's … a Can-Am Spyder Roadster?"
Okay, so the Canadian company most famous for bringing you the Ski-Doo and Sea-Doo is not going to be borrowing this superhero-worthy tagline any time soon for the three-wheeled curiosity that's part sport touring motorcycle, part all-terrain vehicle and part fender-sporting hot rod.
Still, there's something strangely seductive about this mishmash of various transportation modes meant for the road.
In a couple of hours of test riding around the coastline and back roads of New Jersey, fellow motorists pull up to it bearing big smiles up front, and camera phones from passengers in the rear.

Enlarge Image The 2+1 wheel layout is blended with sport-bike power, automotive safety and the unparalleled view that comes from sitting outdoors.
The common refrain of 'What is it?' is asked at every stop for gas, at least once, and at many red lights in between.
It's a Canadian-designed motorcycle that may just usher in a new generation of technologically advanced open-air motoring across North America and Europe, or may just fizzle out as a brave but overly kooky Canadian business flop.
With two wheels in front, one in back, the Can-Am Spyder Roadster is a creation of Bombardier Recreational Products, or BRP. The firm used to be a division of Quebec-based industrial powerhouse Bombardier, but was spun off in 2004 so Bombardier could focus on its aviation and train businesses, getting away from the recreational power-sports industry that Joseph Armand Bombardier helped create when he invented the Ski-Doo in 1959.
Although Minnesota-based Polaris had come out with a motorized sled four years prior to that, the Ski-Doo is the design that popularized the snowmobile, and helped the company reach beyond the commercial and military snow vehicle markets to a new level of production and public recognition.
History is attempting to repeat itself now, as BRP is not the first company to come up with a three-wheel vehicle for the road (anyone remember motorcycle sidecars?), but it is the first to blend a 2+1 wheel layout, sport-bike styling and power, automotive safety and security electronic controls, and the unparalleled view of the world that comes from sitting outdoors.
"Paradigm shifting is how this firm started," said Chris Dawson, vice-president of strategic planning and the head of BRP's Spyder program. "We wanted to offer something with more security and practicality than a sport bike, but for less money than a convertible."
The security side of things is the key here: as a three-wheeler, the Roadster doesn't need two legs on the ground at a light to prevent it from tipping over, although various fellow motorcycle riders had to initially fight that "feet-down" urge. Park it on a hill, and you won't have to worry that the Roadster will end up shiny-side down on the pavement, or worse, on your legs.
There are ATVs with three wheels, although with less radical 1+2 tricycle layouts, but the Spyder Roadster is no simple road-going version of one of BRP's Can-Am all-terrain vehicles. What sets it apart from both ATVs and motorcycles are the Spyder Roadster's electronic brains, designed to keep its rider in control, that are more similar to rear-wheel-drive luxury sedans than anything now on two or three wheels.
This sophisticated system comes from Bosch, one of the largest suppliers of such "electronic guardian angels" in the automotive industry, and works just like it does on four wheels. It adds antilock brakes, traction control and electronic stability control systems. This system incorporates ABS sensors at each wheel to read for any discrepancy in wheel speed, then cuts power to the driven rear wheel whenever wheelspin is detected.
If that doesn't help enough to get the rider — not driver — back on the intended path, as determined by sensors measuring the handlebar's steering angle and the Roadster's wheel slip, the system can then brake each wheel individually, or all of them.
In Canada, the Can-Am Spyder is officially classified as a motorcycle, so any rider interested in one will need a motorcycle licence. But in some key markets, three-wheelers are not classified as bikes, so riders can operate them with a regular driver's license, such as in the states of California, South Carolina and Delaware. This also holds true for all of western Europe outside of Greece, say Can-Am officials, and it's in these areas that the company sees potential for mass market penetration.
"Hard-core sport-bike riders who want knee-scraping thrills are not as interested in the Spyder," said Dawson, noting that the target customers will most likely be married 35- to 55-year-olds who like their toys, and like to ride in groups.
Despite the well-regarded Rotax 990 engine that puts 106 hp to the rear wheel — the engine used by BMW in different states of tune in some of its bikes — the Spyder is pushing significantly more weight (316 kg) than any modern sport bike, and doesn't feel as responsive.
With a 0-100 km/h time of 4.5 seconds, according to BRP, and fuel economy that approximates that of a subcompact hatchback at 6.5 to 7.0 litres/100 km, there's both a performance and a practical edge to the Spyder Roadster. A large front-end storage bin will hold a helmet easily, and the Roadster will go approximately 300 km on a tank of fuel.
The Spyder goes on sale in Ontario, British Columbia, Alberta and Quebec this fall and BRP officials say they are already more than half way to their goal of getting 2,500 pre-orders for the machines, which start at $18,499 in Canada, ($14,999 U.S. for Americans, or Canadian bargain hunters).
The rollout will expand to the rest of the provinces and across the states by early next year, right around the same time the company is planning the Spyder Roadster's launch in Europe.
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Old 08-02-2007, 11:07 PM   #9
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I have seen this puppy in Manhattan and it rocks. Very nice setup indeed. Too bad 1 city pothole can eat it up like no tomorrow.
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Old 08-02-2007, 11:08 PM   #10
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Death on wheels.
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Old 08-03-2007, 07:51 AM   #11
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SWEET! Something else to wake us up on Sunday at 4 am!!
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Old 08-03-2007, 09:14 AM   #12
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Old 08-03-2007, 09:47 AM   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by beachbum View Post
These 3-wheel contraptions have never seemed safe to me. They just look like they'd suffer from terrible lift-throttle oversteer and other rear-axle low traction problems. But hey, I'm not the one who spent $180 million trying to develop the thing. :shrug:
Lift-throttle oversteer is a result of weight transfer in the rear. This thing doesn't have any major weight back there, so no big deal.


I say put a set of sticky tires on the front instead of those goofy all-seasons, and let it rip.
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