Three-wheelers have a weird place in the vehicular world. They’re not quite motorcycles and not quite cars while coming packed with a load of compromises. I mean, they’re often as wide as cars, and they don’t lean, either. You’d think, then, as I did before, that there’s no way that you can have fun on three wheels.
I’ve spent a week with a 2021 Can-Am Ryker Rally out in California and have seen the light. I have a full review and a story of this trip coming, but first I want to highlight what surprises me the most about it.
If you can’t have fun with one of these, you might need to have your soul checked out.
(Full Disclosure: Bombardier Recreational Products invited me to test a Can-Am Ryker anywhere I wanted. I chose to do a road trip down California’s Pacific Coast Highway. I covered my own travel, food, lodging and other expenses for most of the trip before getting reimbursed.)
If the the big Can-Am Spyder were a parent, the Ryker would be its rebellious teen offspring. It’s less than half of the price, two-thirds of the weight and features an engine with most of the horsepower. And if that’s not enticing enough, Can-Am allows you to tell the traction control system to back off. You can see where this is going.
Riding a Ryker requires you to forget almost all that you know about handling a motorcycle. You don’t lean or countersteer. Instead, it steers a bit like a car. But if you simply point the bars in the direction that you want to go your arms will get tired real quick. No, instead you shift your weight into a turn and firmly plant the leg that would be on the outside of the turn on its peg.
Suddenly, turning the thing will make sense.
And once you have that part down, then you can have some fun. San Francisco was my starting point for the trip, and it turned out to be a good one. The city’s sharp grades and tight city streets make for a great city proving ground.
And when I was done with the city, the hills on the other end of the Golden Gate Bridge offered breathtaking views and engaging curvy roads.
Buried under the plastics of my Ryker Rally was a 900cc Rotax ACE triple. This puts out 82 horsepower and 58.3 lb-ft torque through a CVT to the solitary rear wheel. Up at top, I changed the drive mode on the small instrument screen from Eco to Sport, which reduces the traction control on the rear wheel and tunes the Vehicle Stability System (stability control) to allow for more slip angle.
Then I cranked the throttle.
You’d think that 82 ponies fed through a CVT would be pretty docile, but you’d be wrong. The Ryker hits off idle so hard and so fast that if you keep the throttle pinned you will do a full-on burnout, leaving behind a fat tire mark as you take off giggling like an elementary school student does after a fart joke.
It’s hard to get an accurate 0-60 time for the Ryker because all it wants to do is light up that rear tire. My best time was eight seconds, and I left a black mark on the pavement getting there. The Ryker’s pace slows down considerably past 70 mph, and its top speed is right there with a Kawasaki Ninja 250. This isn’t a vehicle for racing. No, the Ryker wants you to be an absolute hooligan at low speeds.
VSS isn’t completely turned off in Sport mode, so while it’ll allow you to be a miscreant, it holds you back from going too far. Still, you can even get in solid drifts before the VSS kicks in and calms things down. The Ryker allows you to do many of the stunts that you’d want to do on a motorcycle, but without the fear of laying it down or throwing yourself off of the sides.
Stopping the party is controlled by a sole brake pedal that is linked to all three wheels. Coming to a hard stop is sort of a popularity contest as all three wheels compete to see which can impress you the most by stopping the fastest. This adds to the vibe of the Ryker being rowdy and unruly.
The fun is perhaps even better off-road.
The Ryker Rally comes with decently knobby tires and a Rally driving mode that makes the VSS and traction control back off even further. I rode the Ryker off-road like I would my Triumph Tiger and found it not to be the greatest at the whole getting through obstacles thing. Traction is phenomenal, but you have only a few inches of ground clearance to work with. The front wheels have ground effects that take a hit even if you came down from something as low as a curb, let alone a rock or ledge. This isn’t going to replace your BMW GS.
Where it shines is on smoother surfaces, like dirt, sand and shallow mud. Here, you can rip it around to your heart’s content. Do donuts, drifts and little jumps. The engine’s airbox sits up pretty high, too, so feel free to splash it around.
That said, it’s not an ATV, and even with aired down tires it will get stuck if things get too deep.
It seems to me that the front tires are too much of a drag for the rear wheel to push through the deep stuff. Tires seem to be the limiting factor here. I bet true off-road rubber would make this a beast.
If you do get stuck, the Ryker has a pretty handy feature to help you get out. On the left side of the machine is a gear lever. Pull it back and you get reverse. Sure, this is great for getting the 600-pound bike out of a parking spot, but it’ll also rock you out of a tough spot.
And being a BRP vehicle, its weirdness goes beyond its striking looks. The handlebar can be adjusted in seconds simply by pulling up on its clamp. You can easily change your riding position from standard to something more sportbike-like this way.
The pegs are just as easy. Pull up on them, and you can adjust where your legs go by sliding the pegs down their tracks. And on the back of the seat is a place where you can place a case, rack, or even a pillion seat for a passenger to ride on.
In just a few hours the Ryker changed my mind on three-wheelers. These things are sweet. Sure, they can’t lane-split, and you can’t lean, but they open up a world of fun, especially if you’ve lost your balance or just don’t want to go on two wheels.
As I said before, this is also much cheaper than the Spyder, starting $8,999 for a Ryker with a smaller 600cc twin or $10,499 with the 900. I didn’t just play with the Ryker, either. I put in over 600 miles of seat time over a week on it, getting in some solid touring, mountain carving and road-tripping through the Sunshine State. My full review is coming soon.