Three-wheelers hold a controversial standing with enthusiasts. Many people see them as pointless; being too compromised to replace either a motorcycle or a car. I too, wondered about a three-wheeler’s place in the world. Then, I got to live with one as my only transportation.
I spent a week with a 2021 Can-Am Ryker Rally out in California and now these make sense. The Ryker is neither a car nor a motorcycle, and not really comparable. Instead, it’s in its own league, offering silly burnouts, open-air fun and customization to all walks of life.
(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.)
The Ryker released in 2019 and on the surface, it appears to be similar to the Spyder trike that reviewers have called a “summer snowmobile” since 2007. Fitting for a company that got its start building snow cars. But there’s so much more going on under the skin.
The Ryker is less than half of the price, two-thirds of the weight and features an engine with most of the horsepower. And the Ryker allows you to tell the traction control to back off.
This trike is positioned towards a younger demographic who may not be motorcycle riders. Can-Am says that a significant portion of Ryker riders are women, about 40 percent compared to about a quarter for motorcycles in general.
But could this be an only bike, road trips and all? That’s what I set out to discover. I chose California’s Highway 1 — also known as the Pacific Coast Highway — for my adventure. I started in San Francisco and ended my trip in Los Angeles. The estimated distance was just a little under 500 miles.
Admittedly, my choice to go down the PCH was partly because it was a place I had never been. But the PCH also has a bunch of different environments perfect for testing a vehicle like this.
My starting point was the Lodge at the Presidio, a hotel in the Montgomery Street Barracks with the Golden Gate Bridge serving as a backdrop. When I arrived, the Ryker was parked out front with my name right on it. The staff had apparently been awaiting my arrival and a few people were already looking the Ryker over. This would become a common theme in my trip.
My 2021 Ryker Rally ride was painted in a satin black. Opting for the Rally trim gets you a 900cc Rotax ACE triple making 82 horsepower and 58.3 lb-ft torque. That power goes through a continuously variable transmission to the rear wheel via a driveshaft. All of that moves a body that comes in at around 616 pounds.
The Rally also includes rally tires, reinforced wheels, skid plate, front grille protection, handguards with LED lights, rally seat, adjustable KYB suspension and a structure on back to mount cases and other gear.
Go for the 2022 model and you get a small brush guard for the grille and the wheels become some rad simulated turbines.
Can-Am offers a pretty huge catalog of accessories from a comfort seat and windscreens to graphics and cases. My test unit didn’t have any accessories save for the small case snapped onto the back. This would come to be a problem—I just didn’t know it yet.
My first destination leaving the Presidio was the Golden Gate Bridge. Like many things in life, seeing and experiencing it in person is so much different than in pictures. To really enjoy the majesty of the Pacific Ocean, the view of the Bay area and the bridge, I feel like you have to walk it.
My wonderment at the marvel of the Golden Gate was broken by a BMW GS passing me in the left lane. It was going at a good clip, so I decided to give chase to see how good the Ryker can hang.
I quickly learned that while you don’t lean to steer a Ryker, sitting upright isn’t how this works. Sitting up through tight corners made me feel like I going to tip and I found myself losing ground to the BMW. Leaning my body into curves with my outboard leg pushing really helped turn the Ryker, and it wasn’t long before I caught back up.
Eventually, I gave up the chase and turned back for the city. The Ryker turned San Francisco into a playground with the city’s characteristic hills making the ride feel like a rollercoaster.
Go through a hilly intersection a little too quick and the Ryker catches air on the other side. Give it too much throttle on a green light and you’ll make the rear tire sing. Crank the throttle through a sharp turn and you may even get a drift out of it.
The Ryker is a hooligan machine and let me do what I wouldn’t dream of doing on most motorcycles. And the Rotax housed under the body gives so much power right from the jump that you never have to worry about getting run over by inattentive city drivers.
San Francisco is full of cute commuter scooters and more Smart Fortwos in one place than I’ve ever seen, and I bet none of their operators were having as much fun as I was. I was having so much fun that I didn’t even realize that the sun was going down.
The suggested route had me going from San Francisco to Monterey. Starting off was a bit difficult, as I quickly learned that this Ryker wasn’t set up for touring.
I packed light on this trip, bringing one outfit for each day without spares. And I didn’t pack for warmth. Yet, my duffel bag was almost comically too large for the sole soft case.
Storage up front isn’t any better. There’s a frunk under the headlights, and isn’t even large enough for something like a purse.
After standing around and thinking that I screwed up big time, I figured out a solution. The clip for the case was really strong, so what if I just wrapped the straps of my bag around the case and through the clip? It was a hard rig to setup, but it worked.
I visited the Golden Gate Bridge again, making a few stops along the way. One was a scenic viewpoint, where the Ryker drew a crowd of people just wanting to see what the thing was. A lot of the people weren’t riders, but thought that I had just ridden in on the Batmobile.
Also at the viewpoint was this awesome Iveco camper. The gentleman behind the wheel told me that had taken the truck all over South America and as far north as Alaska.
He too was interested in the Ryker, but there was no way it was fitting where he stores his motorcycle in this thing.
I took off from the viewpoint into the Marin Headlands, a gorgeous region with narrow roads and stunning views, punctuated with old military structures. It was here that I learned the Rally part of this Ryker doesn’t mean high ground clearance.
While the front wheels can climb over many obstacles, like curbs, you’re likely to scrape the Ryker’s exhaust getting the rear end up. And coming back down can be painful on its own, as the obstacle is likely to catch the hard mud flaps.
On the other side of things, the breathtaking views and tight oceanside roads were unforgettable. Forget a car—you have to do these roads on two or three wheels.
The Ryker continued to draw attention on the ride out to Monterey, where I got the first taste of what the PCH had to offer. Soon, I found myself on open road with endless ocean to my right and hills to my left. An ocean breeze kept me cool and the Ryker was showing itself to be capable outside of the city. Cruising with it was easier than my Triumph Tiger and far more relaxing, too. There’s no shifting and no clutch. You just point and it goes.
I arrived in Monterey and it was love at first sight.
Monterey’s beaches, trails and views are so picturesque and so tranquil that I just parked the machine and spread out on the beach, soaking it all in. The city has a bit of a ring road and I’ve never been so happy moving so slow.
And just like in San Francisco, people couldn’t stop asking about the Ryker.
I wanted to cap it off with a swim in the Pacific, but water temperatures were a bit too nippy, and I’m someone who likes swimming in Lake Michigan in the winter. Clearly, the man in the Iveco must have felt the same about Monterey because he was there, too.
I could have taken in Monterey’s sights and explored its fisherman-themed city all week, but alas, I had a mission.
Monterey became my favorite place in the world and I wanted to stay, but Wednesday’s ride would bring me through what some say are the best parts of the PCH. I departed Monterey headed for San Luis Obispo, a ride that would take me through Big Sur and the Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park.
On this ride, the PCH would challenge the Ryker to sharp mountain curves, historic bridges and enough vistas to distract even the most disciplined drivers. For motorcyclists, this is heaven. There are more curves, switchbacks and nature than you can shake a stick at.
The Ryker handled the curves well, but even with me leaning with my body and pushing with my legs it became a workout. The machine doesn’t have assisted steering and getting it around a sharp corner at higher speed requires some muscle. Remember, you’re turning twice the number of wheels as you would with a regular motorcycle.
This wasn’t really a big deal when I chased that BMW in San Francisco, but each curve added up out here. By the time I made my first stop to take in the natural beauty, I had felt like I had spent some time in a weight room.
If you’re ever out on the PCH, definitely do stop and take it all in. If you’re a Midwesterner like me, the visuals will blow your mind and it’s worth whatever time you lose getting to your destination.
Two unique features of the Ryker are the bars and the pegs. Both can be adjusted in seconds without tools to adjust your riding position. You can set it up for stretching out like you would on a Harley, nice and tight like a sportbike and all points in-between.
This leg is where I discovered another interesting quirk about the Ryker. Hopefully it was just mine, but the fuel gauge was far from linear. It read full for the first 105 miles or so, then the bars dropped quickly; fast enough that I worried if I’d even make it to a fuel station. The Ryker has a 5.3-gallon tank and was getting 35 mpg with me on it; range was about 185 miles. It was difficult to gauge how many miles I had left in a tank without using the trip meter.
I reached San Luis Obispo by evening smiling just as much as when I left the Presidio. To relax after a long ride, I took a dip in the Pacific at Avila Beach. It was almost as perfect as sundown in Monterey.
Aside from the beach, San Luis Obispo also has some interesting hospitality. I was supposed to stay at the Madonna Inn, a hotel where every room has a different theme. But as I flew this operation by the pants I never made reservations for anything until I arrived in town. Instead, I stayed at the Garden Street Inn, a Victorian-themed bed and breakfast that felt like home.
I departed San Luis Obispo for what would be the final overnight stop on my journey, Santa Barbara. This ride would feature fewer curves and instead offered the opportunity to play with the Ryker in Oceano Dunes State Vehicular Recreation Area. I played around on some dirt roads before in the trip but I really wanted to see how it would work in the sand.
And as I noted in my previous entry on the Ryker, it did really well. Even when it got stuck, I was able to rock it out using the throttle and the reverse gear.
The Ryker Rally has a Rally mode that makes the Vehicle Stability System and traction control back off almost entirely. The result is that the Ryker will do all sorts of drifts and burnouts to your heart’s content. And if you’re good enough, you could even get it to do a donut. The safety systems only kick in when the bike thinks you’re about to do something really stupid.
After I was done playing in the sand, I hit the road again. By now, about 400 miles of riding were wearing on me a bit. At highway speed, the Ryker was turning over about 6,000 RPM. This meant that the bike’s bars were vibrating my hands a lot, almost to the point of numbness.
The rally seat was also becoming uncomfortable, too, and I found myself taking more breaks to feel better.
Eventually I arrived in Santa Barbara and like Monterey, fell absolutely in love with the city and its Spanish Colonial style.
There’s something for everyone here. You can enjoy the architecture, fine dining, and more fancy shops and hotels than your bank account than handle. There’s even the first Motel 6!
Like Monterey, the pièce de résistance for me was the beach. I took one last swim in the Pacific and watched the sun go down from in the water.
This day’s ride was to get me into Los Angeles in hopes of capturing as many Southern California vibes as possible. I planned a ride through landmarks with a stroll through Hollywood and hopefully a stop at the Santa Monica Pier. Sadly, I completely forgot about traffic.
This was bad for me since I entered Los Angeles with only a few hours to spare. And while lane-splitting is legal in California, you can’t do it on a trike. Not that you’d want to. The front track of a Ryker is about as wide as a car, so it doesn’t really fit between the lanes, either.
I spent so much time in traffic that I only had time to see one thing: the Queen Mary. Unfortunately, the security guards at and around the docked ship weren’t fond of my desire to snap just one good picture, and they chased me off onto a side road.
The 2021 Can-Am Ryker Rally that I tested runs $11,858.99. A 2022 Ryker starts at $8,999. That gets you a 600cc Rotax twin making 50 HP. Pay $10,499 and you get the Ryker with the Rotax 900 triple. Go up to $13,499 for the Rally and you get everything that my test model has. But if you get one, I’d say spring for the cruise control and the comfort seat (highly recommended).
Even with its flaws it was a fine steed for the week. I had ridden it about 600 miles and it never let me down. And, even though my little head was overfilled with the joys and sights of California, I couldn’t help but enjoy taking frequent looks at the machine.
A Ryker isn’t for the motorcyclist that wants to set lap times or go further off-grid than a car can. A Ryker is, like other trikes, about having fun and taking nothing too seriously. It certainly has limitations, but I think it could definitely be an only bike. And after a whole week with one as my only way to get around, I returned it wishing I could take it for just one more ride, spin the tires one last time and do one more drift.