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Motorcycle Touring on a Spyder vs. a Two-Wheel Motorcycle

Motorcycle Touring on a Spyder vs. a Two-Wheel Motorcycle

This summer, I had the unexpected opportunity to spend time on the seat of a Can-Am Spyder while visiting Europe. Anyone who knows me knows I’ve been riding two-wheeled motorcycles for almost as long as I have been walking this earth. With that experience, along with my experience being trained to teach motorcycling for two-wheels, I felt prepared to try another type of motorcycle configuration.

My spouse owns a Can-Am Spyder, and I frequently ride as the pillion and make short trips on her bike to fill it up with gas. However, none of this prepared me for a full day in the rider’s seat—this vehicle is very different to operate! After the first day of trying to muscle the Spyder around, I decided to ask someone about the best way to handle this bike. I turned to my friend Brittany Morrow. Not only is Brittany a generally badass rider, but she is also a Can-Am women’s mentor and trained three-wheel instructor. She gave me some tips to help me make my riding more effective and safer. I was able to ride for the next two weeks with no further problems. On this trip, we covered about 1,500 miles, including some very windy roads in the Pyrenees and the Alps across Switzerland, France, Spain, and Andorra.

What were my takeaways to share? Here is a summary of my observations and opinions for you to consider when deciding if two or three wheels are right for you on a tour.

Stability

Two-wheel motorcycles

These motorcycles require riders to balance the bike using their body weight and continuously adjust to maintain stability. This can be challenging for novice riders or shorter riders in places where there are off-camber stopping zones. On a trip through the mountains, where you might have to stop going uphill, this can be tricky. It definitely was on my trip to Ireland several times, and I thought I was going to drop the BMW I was riding. Newer BMW motorcycles, and perhaps other brands, have hill assist technology for this reason. However, even with this feature, sometimes the road-stopping area can cause complications.

Spyder

The three-wheel setup of the Spyder provides inherent stability. It doesn’t require the same level of balance and control as a two-wheel motorcycle, making it more accessible to a wider range of riders. As I just said, the Spyder made me more confident in many stopping zones that would have been problematic on a two-wheeler. The stability of the Spyder also made me feel more confident when I was getting tired after the day of riding. Not having to hold up a two-wheel motorcycle all day can be an advantage from an energy perspective for some riders.

Three-wheeled Can-Am Spyders touring in Europe, stopped on a gravel turnout.

Riding experience

Two-wheel motorcycles

Riding a motorcycle offers a more immersive and dynamic experience. It demands skill and control, providing a greater sense of freedom and connection with the road. This was a key area in my overall personal satisfaction with the ride on this past trip. I was somewhat unsatisfied with the sense of freedom and feeling of being close to the environment on the Spyder. However, this aspect of the experience is very subjective, and each rider may have a different impression of which riding style brings them more satisfaction.

Spyder

The Spyder is often considered a more stable and secure option for those who may be less confident in their motorcycle riding abilities. It can offer a unique experience but doesn’t have the same level of agility and leaning capabilities as traditional motorcycles. I actually missed the leaning into curves. When you take a curve on the Spyder, you expend much more energy from your upper body. Suffice it to say that some nights, my arms were more tired than other parts of me!

Handling

Two-wheel motorcycles

Motorcycles can lean into turns, offering a nimble and dynamic handling experience. This allows for quick and precise maneuvers, making them popular for enthusiasts who enjoy spirited riding. I admit I am a speedster. With the Spyder, I was more deliberate about the speed at which I was riding and rode more slowly overall.

Spyder

The Spyder doesn’t lean into turns like a traditional motorcycle. Instead, it relies on steering the front wheels to navigate corners. While it offers stability, it may not provide the same level of agility and cornering capabilities.

Other considerations

Ultimately, the choice between a two-wheel motorcycle and a Can-Am Spyder depends on your preferences, skill level, and the type of riding experience you’re looking for. Traditional motorcycles offer a classic and dynamic riding experience, while the Spyder provides a more stable and accessible option for those concerned about balance and stability. My experiences on this summer adventure allowed me to give you first-hand opinions to use when you make your riding choices.

Lisa Malachowsky with a three-wheeled Can-Am Spyder in Europe


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