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Turning heads, on three wheels

Move over, Smart car? That's the niche being eyed for the two-passenger Spyder trike.

It's hard to stand out among the straight-pipe Harleys during Bike Week in Laconia, N.H. But we turned heads with the Can-Am Spyder Roadster, a three-wheeler from Bombardier that looks like a snowmobile adapted for asphalt and rides like, well, a big bike with outriggers. You can't lean it over in the twisties, but you don't have to drop your feet at a stoplight either. Operating a Spyder will generally require a motorcycle license when it goes on sale (for about $15,000) in 11 states in late summer. It shifts with a foot lever, though electronic shift is an option. Forget what you know about trikes, with their Addams Family upholstery. Think, instead, two 14-in. forward wheels and a slightly larger rear one, a 990-cc, liquid-cooled V-twin engine (power to spare for a 700-lb. machine), electronic stability and traction controls, and electronically distributed antilock brakes (see can-am.brp.com). Spyder, with its 51.5-in.-wide stance, feels stable at highway speeds. In tight turns, a rider instinctively shifts weight toward the inside front wheel, but doesn't need to. Move over, Smart car? That's the niche being eyed for the two-passenger Spyder. Cyclists will need time to get used to not having a right-hand brake lever (it's all right foot). A reverse gear is very useful, and so is a trunk. Estimated m.p.g.: about 35.