2009 BRP Can-Am Spyder SE5 Review

Photo © Basem Wasef

Entreé into riding for those afraid of two wheels and the big bad clutch.


  • Well-engineered gearbox shifts quickly
  • Automatically downshifts as speed decreases
  • Takes even more guesswork out of riding


  • Why not have the option of fully automatic shifting?
  • Takes a layer of involvement out of the riding experience
  • By losing some of the guesswork, you also lose the fun of shifting


  • MSRP: $17,699
  • 998 cc V-twin engine produces 106 horsepower, 77 lb-ft of torque
  • 5-speed sequential gearbox with centrifugal clutch; button-actuated upshifts, automatic (or button-actuated) downshifts
  • 3-wheel braking via foot-operated pedal; no hand lever
  • Stability and traction control, rollover mitigation
  • Seat height: 29 inches
  • Fuel capacity: 6.6 gallons
  • Dry weight (without fluids): 699 pounds
  • 2 year warranty

Guide Review - 2009 BRP Can-Am Spyder SE5 Review

I had mixed feelings when I tested the standard BRP Can-Am Spyder. On one hand, its three wheels offered a less involving riding dynamic than a motorcycle—and I especially missed the ability to lean. But on the other hand, there was something refreshing about carrying high speeds into corners without worrying about wiping out.

The Spyder SE5 goes even one step further away from the typical bike experience: it removes the clutch and shifter, leaving the rider to shift using a plastic lever on the left grip. Push for upshifts with your thumb or pull for downshifts with your forefinger, and the transmission responds with quick gearshifts. Higher rpm shifts can get jerky, but given the speed of the cog swaps that’s a perfectly permissible characteristic. And not only did my test Spyder blip the throttle to match revs on downshift, the optional Hindle exhaust sounded pretty sweet while doing so.

But riding the SE5 begs the question: if a sequential gearbox can downshift automatically (which it does, keeping the engine within its powerband and preventing it from bogging down), wouldn’t shift-averse customers at least want the option of automatic upshifts?

Don’t me wrong; I love shifting, so I’m playing devil’s advocate here. And even though I enjoy modulating the clutch and the nuances that go with full shifting control, I can understand why some riders might opt for ditching the clutch lever.

That said, the Spyder SE5 achieves its goals effectively. I’m not sure I’m ready to switch to three wheels, but if I put myself into another person’s boots—somebody who wants an inherently more stable vehicle and doesn’t want to fuss with a clutch pedal—the Can-Am Spyder SE5 might be exactly what they’re looking for.