The Ryker is alive and nervous; it darts around like no car other than a Lotus Seven. Picture: HARRY FISHER
The Ryker is alive and nervous; it darts around like no car other than a Lotus Seven. Picture: HARRY FISHER

Can Am has always done things its own way and convention be damned. The three-wheeled machines it makes are utterly distinctive and unique.

Many question the point of such machines, but there has to be a market because Can Am is still building them and, after riding one, it’s not hard to see why.

Is the Can Am Ryker a car or a bike? It’s a combination of both. It feels like a bike and it has the wild performance of a bike but it steers like a car. It leans outwards in corners like a car. It has a brake pedal like a car. It has handlebars like a bike but you turn left to go left.

It has the width of a small car, which naturally obviates threading through traffic so I would suggest that this is a machine for the open road, not for the daily commute through rush-hour traffic.

It’s alive and nervous; it darts around like no car other than a Lotus Seven. You have a clear view of the front wheels and the merest twitch on the handlebars alters your direction of travel. It takes a bit of getting used to because it is so direct. Uneven surfaces do promote a lot of jiggling around and it feels as if the last thing it wants to do is travel in a straight line.

It’s all a case of learning how to ride the thing; in corners for example, slow in, fast out is the way to do it and using your body weight more than you expect to, because of the previously mentioned trait of the bike leaning away from the corner rather than into it as you would on a two-wheeled bike.

This machine gets more attention than anything the author has ever ridden. Picture: HARRY FISHER
This machine gets more attention than anything the author has ever ridden. Picture: HARRY FISHER

The Ryker is powered by a three-cylinder 900cc engine producing 61kW and 79Nm of torque in a chassis weighing in at 280kg. None of those figures suggest excitement but that’s where you’d be wrong. Somehow, the Ryker manages to translate those lowly power and hefty weight figures into something that is utterly entertaining. Flooring (metaphorically) the throttle from standstill produces wild wheelspin from the driven wheel.

First acquaintance is a little unsettling; there are no hand levers at all, just the aforementioned foot brake pedal and a twist grip that controls drive through the continuously variable transmission. There’s a parking brake and a reverse gear lever and that’s it; simple to operate but with an entertainment value that’s out of all proportion to rider input.

There are some machines that just make you stop and stare, sometimes because they are so beautiful or rare but, more often, because they are so, well, odd! Then, when the initial shock has worn off, they still generate an inordinate amount of attention. This machine (I deliberately stop short of calling it a motorcycle) gets more attention than anything I have ridden before.

People stop in their tracks and point when you ride past. Children gawp out of car windows; adults too, come to think of it. If there’s a crowd, argument will rage back and forth as to its merits but whichever way the argument veers there is always a deep fascination with it.

It’s easy to look at the drawbacks of a three-wheeled motorcycle: all the disadvantages of a car with all the disadvantages of a bike. But that’s a lazy way of looking at it. How about looking at the positives: all the benefits of riding in the open air with the sky as your roof and wind in your hair but with the stability and security of three wheels?

I would argue that most of the criticism of three-wheelers comes from people who have never ridden one. I’m convinced that if more people gave them a chance they might discover what I have just discovered; that they are insanely good fun and should never be dismissed out of hand. It should be applauded as something so completely different as to give a completely new outlook on what motorcycling can be.

The Ryker as tested costs R260,000. There is also a lower-spec model costing R240,000. Main differences are less fancy wheels, more basic trim and the lack of a pillion seat on the lower-priced model. Mechanically, they are the same. You can view all the Can Am models at Waterworld in North Riding, or online at www.waterworld.co.za.