It's a different take on three-wheeled mobility, but what exactly is the Can-Am Ryker and more importantly, is it any fun?
Words and Photos by Mathieu Day-Gillett
Can-Am has been rolling to this different take on the three-wheeler for a while. First entering the market with the Can-Am Spyder back in 2007 the design of both the Spyder and newer-smaller Ryker hints at Can-Am’s history in snowmobiles.
Neither a car nor a motorcycle, the Ryker sits in an interesting crossroads within the automotive industry, offering the feeling of open-air freedom normally only associated with a motorcycle with the ease of use of a car.
If it is one thing, it is definitely not a vehicle that allows you to quietly pootle about without attracting attention.
“What is it?” most people will ask as you pull up to the pump.
It's a loaded question for sure because if you decide to answer you will surely spend the next 5-minutes explaining in detail just what this three-wheeled wonder is. No joke, if there is one thing you need to know about the Can-Am Ryker, it’s that it certainly doesn’t fly under the radar.
That's in part because of its snowmobile inspired styling, but also because it is simply so different from anything on the road in so many ways.
In fact, I’d go as far as saying it is one of the most innovative vehicles I’ve driven in recent years thanks to a few clever features built into the design.
This is quite apparent when you look at the layout of the Ryker’s cockpit.
Laid out much like a traditional motorcycle with a set of handlebars up front, solo seat in the rear and a fuel tank in the middle, it is quite a pleasant surprise to find both adjustable handlebars and footpegs as you straddle the Ryker.
This brings not only the ability for smaller or taller riders to get themselves comfortable on the Ryker, but also lets you tailor the ride to how you happen to feel on the day. Feel sporty? Clip the bars in their forwardmost position and the pegs as far back as they'll go. Want to cruise? Slide them into the reverse.
Then we have the key to turn it all on.
Unlike a traditional vehicle which uses the usual key and cylinder, the Ryker utilises Can-Am's electronic key technology which has been pinched from the company's side-by-side and jetski range.
Clip the key onto its mount to allow the Ryker to start, then you simply have to go through the rather unique starting procedure to get rolling. The starting procedure involves activating the brakes, rolling the throttle forward and thumbing the starter all at the same time. Fail to do just one part and the Ryker won't start. It's a little complicated, but when it is so easy to forget the key is sitting on the left side of the bike it acts as a sort of anti-theft system for opportunistic thieves.
Unlike traditional three-wheeled motorcycles such as the Harley-Davidson Freewheeler, the Ryker features a solo rear wheel to deliver power, with the two front wheels riding outset on the double-wishbone suspension which is more akin to something you'd see on a sportscar than a motorcycle-type vehicle.
Turning the wheels is taken care of via the aforementioned handlebar which is adjustable for reach with an easy clamp system that allows you to shift it forward or backwards on its sliding mount. Just like a more conventional trike, there is no countersteering involved in steering the Ryker. Just point the handlebars in the direction you want to go and hold on tight.
Power is provided by a 900cc Rotax three-cylinder engine producing 61.1kW (81hp) and 71Nm of torque respectively, with drive making its way to the rear wheel via a CVT gearbox and shaft final drive.
While a manual gearbox might sound appealing for shifting enthusiasts, after riding the Ryker I’ve come to the opinion that dynamically a manual option would vastly overcomplicate the otherwise simple riding dynamics of the vehicle.
That’s because turning those two front wheels with their car-sized rubber takes a decent amount of heft. Adding a clutch to modulate into the mix adds complexity the rider experience just doesn’t need and this is something Can-Am has clearly thought of as there is also no front brake lever either – just the foot brake which activates the brakes on all three wheels.
As it stands, the CVT has two “gears” with a forward gear and incredibly hand reverse gear accessed by a lever on the left side of the Ryker.
While it may sound like a paltry amount of power and a "boring" gearbox package for a vehicle that weighs 285kg, it in fact allows for quite a fun and dynamic ride, with few vehicles even approaching the same feedback as to what the front wheels are doing at any given time than you get with the Ryker.
You really can feel exactly what the front tyres are doing and if in doubt, you can just take a glance as that awesome double-wishbone suspension is on full display from the rider's seat.
With multiple power modes available from the touch of a button on the LCD dash, you can alter the way the Ryker delivers its power. Our Ryker 900 Rally featured an additional Rally mode on top of Sports Mode, Standard and Eco modes, which is designed for aggressive off-road riding. Sports Mode, however, provides more than enough fun, with the rear wheel able to lay rubber off many stop lights as you slingshot ahead of the surrounding traffic.
When it comes to the competition for three-wheeled supremacy the Ryker has some big names in its crosshairs.
While you could compare it to the traditional three-wheeler such as the Harley-Davidson Freewheeler or the modern take Yamaha Niken, both those options require a full motorcycle licence to gain entry.
The Ryker, however, just requires a car licence to gain entry, skipping a couple of years stuck in the sub-660cc LAMS category in the process.
When it comes to that biggest barrier of entry, price, the Ryker has the market cornered with its exceptionally low entry point. With a parallel-twin powered base model retailing form $15,499 the three-model range tops out with the $19,999 rally version.
So it’s accessible, affordable, and just a bit eye-catching. What’s the downside? Well, apart from its 1509mm width meaning there’s no lane-splitting action to be had in heavy traffic, you’re always going to be answering the same question.
“What is it?”