Can-Am Spyder RT Limited and Champion Kawasaki Voyager Trike
Story: Gary Mraz Photos: Ron Sinoy
How many times have you heard that saying? Maybe it’s time someone took that idiom seriously. I mean apples and oranges are both round, apples and oranges are both fruits and both are remarkably similar in caloric content and levels of vitamin C. So how important are their differences?
I’m taking this analogy to new heights in comparing a 2013 Can-Am Spyder RT and 2013 Champion Kawasaki Vulcan Voyager Trike. Outrageous! you exclaim, it’s like comparing apples and oranges…exactly. Let’s see, they both have three wheels, they both seat two passengers and are similar in price and other features so how important are their differences?
Let’s first address the obvious – wheel triangulation. Bombardier is a multibillion dollar Canadian Corporation that makes everything from jet planes to jet skis. Released in 2007, all BRP Can Am Spyders are based on the Y design, also called a Reverse Trike. All Spyders utilize this two wheeled independent front suspension in front and single tire rear drive train configuration. Champion Motorcycle Accessories, Inc. conversions reflect the more traditional configuration with a two wheels in the rear drive train with a single front tire. An American, privately owned corporation Champion offers both a solid axel and an independent rear axel design. The Kawasaki Voyager utilizes the Independent suspension.
Declaration of Independents
The Can-Am Spyder: Via an independent suspension, the two front wheels attach to the chassis with double-A arms and an antiroll bar, and each front wheel absorbs bumps independently. The rear swingarm is suspended by a single shock, and both front and rear suspension has 5.7 inches travel and are adjustable for spring preload. Can-Am classifies the Spyders as RS (sporty) or RT (touring). All RT Limited Spyders have adjustable rear air controlled Fox Shox adjusted by the press of a button.
Champion’s CRT (Comfort Ride Trike) features high-pressure gas shock absorbers, forged upper and lower control arms and highpressure cast components, all adding strength and reliability while reducing weight. The rear wheel independent suspension design seems more tolerant of the inherent side-to-side motion (Pogo Effect) in the twisties. Champion Trikes also employ their EZ-Steer, a rake kit (a triple tree change out) that adds between 4.5 and 6.0 degrees (depending on the motorcycle make) to the stock rake of the motorcycle. This accessory significantly lightens steering, making it “quicker”, by reducing trail. VAC Variable Sway control) VSC (Variable Sway Control) systems allow the rider the ability to change the handling characteristics of the Trike. Champion claims this adds to the performance in curves or comfort for Highways and city driving.
Corvette or Cadillac?
After spending some serious seat-time on both Can-Am Spyders RS/RT and a variety of Champion Independent conversions on all types of terrain, my analogy is the Can Am is a Corvette and Champion a Cadillac of Trikes. From a motorcycle purist perspective once you “get” how to handle a Spyder, lookout world. I can out-corner a sport bike in the twisties, I’m not kidding. With all that contact patch of rubber and triangulation you’re glued to the ground. The biggest obstacle when pushing a Spyder that hard is its own technology. VSS, SCS TCS and ABS will override the user for safety reasons. The Champion Voyager may not be a speed demon but powers thought the twisties in supreme comfort. The independent rears suspension gives into the corner without any appreciable rebound on exit and its width and rear triangulation allow for smooth transitions through the corners.
Can-Am RT: Can you slow down in the mountains please! Because it’s so much fun to ride aggressively your passenger had also better enjoy that riding style in the twisties. Because she’s sitting on a single rear tire centrifugal forces seem more pronounced. She appreciated the Can Am RT’s passenger handle grips and even more so when heated on a chilly night.
Champion Kawai Voyager: Don’t bother me; I’m busy texting! She was very comfortable and didn’t even notice there weren’t any handle grips until it got cold. Then wanted to know where the heated hand grips and heated seat button was (there aren’t any) which segues nicely into rider /passenger accessories and amenities.
Seating Position: Aeron Chair or La-Z-Boy
With independently heated rider and passenger seats, heated rear handle grips and front hand grips and electric wind screen, the Spyder has it all. The Spyder’s ergonomics are forward and don’t allow any other leg positions. The passenger sits higher and fairly erect on the rear seat and the floorboards are adjustable. It’s the popular Aeron chair of Triking. The Champion Kawai Voyagers riding position is extremely comfortable and well triangulated offering a more kicked back feel. A plush deep seat puts the rider downward and back into the cockpit with legs forward. The passenger is cradled in a La-Z-Boy position. Both Trikes have cruise control, easily accessible rider and passenger audio controls but the Voyager is sans any amenities like heated seats, grips or electric windshield.
Can-AM: The view is great, a little windy up here but I can see Russia from my seat.
Champion Kawai Voyager: the back of your head blocks the view of Russia but that’s Ok, I can take a nap back here.
Can Am Spyder: is powered by a Rotax 998cc, liquid-cooled, transverse 60-degree V-twinpowered. Claimed horsepower on the RS is 106 at 8,500 rpm and 77 lb.-ft. torque at 6,250 (NOTE – the 2014 model reportedly has 40% more torque!) The RT’s claimed horsepower is 100 at 7,500 and 80 lb.-ft. torque at 5,000 rpm. Spyders can do impressive burnouts even with that wide, carlike rear tire. After realizing I wasn’t getting close to redlining and really let the Rotax open up the RT came to life. This is a snappy, responsive, ultrareliable little power plant.
Champion Kawasaki Voyager: Four-stroke, liquid-cooled, SOHC, four valve per cylinder, 52° V-twin 1,700cc, SOHC, 52-degree, V-Twin engine. Kawasaki does not publish horsepower but claims 108 lb-ft @ 2,750 rpm transfers power through a Six-speed overdrive transmission. A truly muscular motor, utilizing a single-pin crankshaft for a classic exhaust note like its American cousins. This Kawai Trike has good low end torque but like most V-Twins is not high revving engine. Gearing on conventional Trikes is a topic of much discussion. To maintain Carb/EPA compliance Trike manufacturers cannot alter the drive train which in turn can affect conversions gearing/rpm ratios. For example, in 5th gear the Champion Kawai at legal highway limits settles in nicely at 3400 rpm in fifth gear. In 6th she’s at home at 85.
Transmissions: On distinctly different missions
Can Am offers a choice of two five-speed transmissions with reverse gear (the 2014 now comes with a 6-speed) The standard, manual SM5 is a traditional motorcycle clutch and foot gear shifter. The SE5 (electronic semi-automatic) is a paddle shifter and is controlled by your left thumb and forefinger (a $1,500 option). If you don’t downshift on the SE5, the tranny’s centrifugal clutch will downshift automatically when engine speed falls below 2,500 rpm. My RT was a SE5 and getting use to the thumb paddle shifter is quite easy, it’s the lack of a front hand brake that’s harder to get accustomed to. The Can Am RT has a mechanical reverse gear (powered by the engine) which means you can park wherever you damn please.
Champion Kawasaki Voyager features a six-speed transmission with overdrive fifth and sixth gears. RUMOR: I’ve bribed Champions night cleaning crew with the promise of green cards to scour the trash cans for discarded documents. I’m told that Champions top scientists are secretly plotting a mechanical or electric reverse for the Kawasaki Voyager Trike but don’t quote me.
Braking all the Rules
The entire Can Am RT line has ABS disc with a single linked right side foot brake. The front brake is a 4-piston caliper with (250 mm x 6 mm) discs. The rear brake is Single-piston sliding pins caliper with (250 mm x 6 mm) disc. Also, there is an Electro-mechanical Parking brake that engages the rear caliper. Quite honestly is shocking how quickly these stop. I’ve seen no data or testing on braking performance but I would love to spend a weekend collecting some.
The Champion Kawai Voyager front brake is Dual 300 mm discs with dual four-piston calipers. Champion utilizes automotive style rear brakes, calipers and rotors. The width of the rear wheelbase to 57.75 inches increasing stability. The components used on Champion’s Kawasaki Voyager uses the same components as the same as the components used in automotive applications. (i.e. Volkswagen, Audi) The overall width of 57.75” adds stability and increased handling on the country roads. In addition to the width, the overall wheelbase has been increased by 4.4” to 70” to add to the performance in handling and stability. The automotive style rear brakes are extremely effective but will lock up because the Champion conversion does not use ABS.
I want my MPG
The Spyders have multi-point electronic fuel injection with 57mm throttle bodies and a 10.8:1 compression ratio. Pushing in the key and turning it to the right unlocks the seat to fill the 6.6-gallon tank (87 octane required). Turning the key to left unlocks the front compartment. Fuel economy is mediocre averaging 26 mpg on the RT model. The mfr claims the 2014 has improved MPG.
Champion Kawasaki Voyager has a 5.3 gallon gas tank. Kawasaki claims 36 mpg on their Voyager motorcycle. Sorry I didn’t keep track of the exact mileage, my bad, but you can bet the additional body weight and two car tires will reduce that substantially.
Cockpit: Fighter Jet or 1967 Caddy
Can AM Spyder RT: One is immediately impressed by the 200mph designation on the speedometer (yes its mph not Kilometers). In reality, I was lucky to get much past 100. For 2012, BRP has added a new LCD display coloration on all Can-Am Spyder RT roadster packages. The Multi-function color dot-matrix/dual analog gauge: digital speedometer, tachometer, odometer, trip & hour meters, gear position, temperature, engine lights, electronic fuel gauge (that goes to 200) and a large clock. Hopefully you were good at programming your VCR because this is not just push play. Starting up the Spyders requires a whole ritual: Press down on the pedal to disengage the parking brake, press the Mode button and then press down on the brake pedal before hitting the starter. When the ignition is turned off, a beeping will remind you to engage the parking brake. And the clutch will disengage on the SE5.
Champion Kawai Voyager: I’m back to that Cadillac analogy; inside the fairing, large, round dials and aluminum dashboard trim are reminiscent of a ‘67 Caddy. The largest two analog dials give riders speed and rpm, (speedo goes to 140 on this baby). Two smaller dials serve as a fuel gauge and display coolant temperature. A center, multi-function LCD displays gear position, time, odometer, dual trip meters as well as readouts for remaining range and average fuel consumption. Switches on the right handlebar control display functions. You’ll also find switches for the electronic cruise control (a Standard feature) mounted on the right handlebar that is usable between 30 and 85 mph. I didn’t like the horn button placement; it’s to the right of the light switch and should be reversed for easier access.
Ventilation and Visibility
Kawasaki Air Management System (KAMS) system on the Voyager was designed to reduce engine heat problems present on the V-Twin due to high temps from the exhaust and rear cylinder. The primary part of the KAMS routes radiator heat to the ground, below the engine, while the secondary part of the system draws heat away from the rear cylinder and exhaust pipe and directs it to the ground on the left side of the motorcycle. This system is particularly effective in warm weather while stopped in traffic or for extended periods of low-speed operation, such as during staging for group rides or parades. The tall windscreen married to a very aerodynamic faring provides ample wind protection. The windscreen height was perfect for my 6 foot frame.
Besides the two driver wind deflectors there’s nothing to tout from Can Am, but because the entire engine is encased in a plastic housing no appreciable heat seems to radiate from the engine area. I absolutely love electrically adjustable windscreens, perhaps too much because I found myself adjusting it at oncoming big rig windblasts and just for fun.
The Spyder RT has 41 gallons of easily accessible storage; offering two rear side storage areas, a rear tour pack trunk and front hood storage compartment. There is also a small compartment in the dash. You shouldn’t be lacking packing space.
The Champion has an estimated overall 35.2 gallons of storage. The rear trike body has approximately 3.5 Cu. ft. / 22 gal. of storage. The rear storage also has two hidden storage areas which accommodate items like my tripod perfectly. Champion includes two small zippered storage bags to take advantage of this extra space. The top trunk has 13.2-gallons and that’s big enough for two large full-face helmets. The Voyager also has a pair of lockable glove boxes up front that provide a handy place for storing small items and accessories.
The Sound of Music
Can Am RT has an Am/Fm, integrated weather band, iPod via four 6X2 speakers, two in front and two in the rear. Volume, station presets and modes are controllable from the handle bar grip. Acceptable volumes, although with a full face helmet muffled.
The Voyager sports an audio system with AM/FM/WX and is compatible with iPod, an XM tuner or CB radio units. The 40 watt dual speaker system is in the faring and is no problem to hear at speed from the driver’s seat. The radio controls are easily accessible at the grips. There are no external speakers in the rear for the passenger.
Accessory & Power
Can Am Spyder RT has one 12V power outlet and one outlet for iPod hook up both in the top trunk.
The Champion Kawasaki produces an impressive 46.8 amps of electrical output, enough to power add-on navigation systems and other electrical accessories. The Voyager also features ac cigarette lighter-style power port on the dash and two power outlets under the seat for additional accessories.
Doing the Math: The Price of Threedom
Spyder RT Limited with SE5 transmission
Kawasaki Vulcan 1700 Voyager with ABS at
Kawasaki IRS Kit – $8,145
Two tone paint – $925
Pin striping (painted) – $195
Carpeted trunk Kit – $155
Ez-steer – $1,095
Install Kit & EZ-Steer – Labor – $1,895
TOTAL PRICE – $30,000.00
Can Am Spyder is a ground-up design and a sales number best guess probably push approximately 40,000 since its release 2007, they must be doing something right. Perhaps in part by their aggressive marketing campaigns in print, TV and web. The demographic is skewed to a younger 30-45 age group. The technology that’s integrated into the Can-Am from a design perspective is impressive. The VSS: Vehicle Stability System includes: SCS: Stability Control System, TCS: Traction Control System, ABS: Anti-lock Braking System, DESS: Digitally Encoded Security System and DPS: Dynamic Power Steering.
Remember that Trikes on the other hand are conversions of an existing motorcycle. A practice that’s been evolving in America since 1932 with Harley-Davidsons first Servi-car. Traditional Trikes have been growing steadily and estimating the number of Trikes built annually is impossible to calculate. Demographically, a bit older age group pushing the 45-65 ends of the spectrum, although younger female riders are a growing segment. The moral of this story is you really can’t compare apples and oranges; the fact is there are over 7000 varieties of apples and 600 types of oranges. If you’re interested in purchasing a three wheeler at any price, you had better test ride them all. Can-Am isn’t the only reverse Trike manufacturer nor Champion of conventional Trikes.
REMAINING STATS SIDE BY SIDE
CHAMPION KAWASAKI VOYAGER TRIKE
Fuel capacity: 5.3 U.S. gallon gas tank
Total storage capacity 35.2 gallons
L x W x H 105.5/109.5” w EZ Steer x 57.75” x 61”
Wheel base: Factory Kawasaki wheelbase 65.6
inches – After Champion Conversion 70” 73” with EZ Steer
Seat height 28.7
Ground clearance: N/A
Maximum vehicle load 500 lbs.
PRICE AS Tested $31,000.00
CAN-AM SPYDER RT LIMITED
Dry weight: 929 lb. (421 kg)
Fuel capacity: 6.6 US gal. (25 L)
Total storage capacity 41 US gal. (155 L)
L x W x H105 x 61.9 x 58 in. (2,667 x 1,572 x 1,473 mm)
Wheel base 67.2 in. (1,708 mm)
Seat height 30.4 in. (772 mm)
Ground clearance 4.5 in. (115 mm)
Maximum vehicle load 525 lb. (240 kg)
PRICE AS Tested $28,899.00