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28 March 2016

Why Spyder New Zealand?

Or Anywhere Else, For That Matter….

It is certainly no secret among motorcyclists all around this planet that New Zealand offers one of the very best, if not absolutely the singular best riding environment on earth. Having ridden extensively around both the North and South Islands at least a dozen times each I feel safe in saying I agree with that assessment, but offer one slightly new twist—that being that this country also offers an experience that is uniquely perfect for touring on a Can-Am Spyder.

JFK Powersports in Auckalnd. The Number One Spyder dealer in New Zealand, and some of the nicest folks I've ever dealt with!

JFK Powersports in Auckland. The Number One Spyder dealer in New Zealand, and some of the nicest folks I’ve ever dealt with!

Of my 12 or so sojourns around the islands, 10 were done on a variety of two-wheelers, but two of my last three were ridden on Spyders. I won’t say that either way might be superior, as each have their obvious advantages and disadvantages, but I will say that personally I have decided that I would rather tour these fabulous islands on a Spyder. My reasoning goes as follows:
First, consider the New Zealand roads. Unlike North America and much of the rest of the civilized world, New Zealand has very few modern wide, divided highways. Of course as riders we tend to avoid such roads anyway, but the preponderance of the two-lane roadways (which make up about 95% of the roads) are considerably narrower than what most of us are accustomed to, meaning that when a large truck or motorhome passes in the opposite direction, it is going to be very close, and the resulting wind blast of its passage consequently more powerful. This can be rather disconcerting on a two-wheeler, but of no consequence to the considerably more stable Spyder. Secondly, many of these roads are going to have no shoulder area at all, and even when there is a shoulder, it is most likely to be soft earth or at best, loose gravel. I often have riders on two-wheelers following me, and can’t help but notice their problems when we try to pull over for a photo op, or to make a quick change into or out of raingear. Not only does the Spyder not need to find a solid footing for a kickstand, but when stopping or taking off on these surfaces, the ABS and Traction Control systems remove all worry of losing control. Last year I witnessed no less than four tipovers of two-wheelers in these situations.

Technically, the Spyder isn't supposed to be ridden off pavement, but when it becomes necessary, it sure is a lot more stable than a two-wheeler!

Technically, the Spyder isn’t supposed to be ridden off pavement, but when it becomes necessary, it sure is a lot more stable than a two-wheeler!

The New Zealand climate and topography, which serve to create such an incredible landscape, also create a number of riding hazards, not the least of which are sudden unexpected downpours that leave running water across the roads, mudslides, and loose dirt and gravel hiding in that next turn. Again, while potentially dangerous for the average motorcyclist, these are virtually no threat to the Spyder rider. In addition, I really like the fact that my Spyder RT provides considerably better weather protection, including a power adjustable windshield, and more weight-carrying and luggage capacity than any other bike in the world. When I’m traveling for weeks at a time, these things really count.

I prefer the larger RT, with a ton of luggage space, but the smaller, sportier ST still carries plenty  for the one-up traveler.

I prefer the larger RT, with a ton of luggage space, but the smaller, sportier ST still carries plenty for the one-up traveler.

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Of course it is easy to argue that the riding experience on a Spyder is not very much like a motorcycle at all, especially when it comes to leaning over into a curve which is, let’s face it, a big part of the thrill of riding a two-wheeler. I won’t dispute that, but only offer that from the perspective of someone who does a lot of both kinds of riding, I don’t find either superior—only different. I can do things on a Spyder that I would never attempt on a bike, and vice-versa. And once you learn to handle a Spyder correctly—which is admittedly a bit of a learning curve—only the most proficient of motorcycle riders will be able to stay with you in the mountain curves. I have proven this to many disbelievers in the past couple of years, and won a few bets along the way.

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No matter what I'm riding, my favorite part of  touring New Zealand is finding all the great little out-of-the-way places to eat!

No matter what I’m riding, my favorite part of touring New Zealand is finding all the great little out-of-the-way places to eat!


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And then there is another consideration—that being the distinct advantages the Spyder offers to certain segments of the riding populace. I could list at least a dozen people I know of who had to give up riding two-wheelers for one reason or another, who are now back on the road thanks to the inherent safety and stability features of the Spyder. Just this past year my good friend Mike, a lifelong motorcyclist who had to hang up his helmet due to the onset of Parkinson’s Disease, was able to ride around New Zealand with me on a Spyder, thus fulfilling a personal dream that he couldn’t have on a normal bike. I have also lead more than a half-dozen wounded war veterans on Spyder rides—heroes with missing or disabled hands, feet, arms and legs. Spyders can be very viable riding machines for these people, usually with little or no modification. And that runs true also for riders with less complex disabilities, like a bad knee that won’t hold a bike up at a stop, or a simple case of vertigo. For all of these dedicated motorcyclists who thought they could no longer ride, the Spyder has been an absolute godsend.

My buddy Mike, who thought his riding career was over, until  he found the Spyder!

My buddy Mike, who thought his riding career was over, until he found the Spyder!

And finally, there’s the “better half” equation. How many riders do you know that would love to have their wives or girlfriends along for the ride, but just can’t talk them into it? I could easily name at least two dozen couples I know of where the wife would either never ride on the back, or only on occasion, who now are willing to ride almost anywhere, any time, simply because they feel so much safer and more comfortable on the back of a Spyder. In fact in many of these cases, after a year or two on the back, these women end up learning to ride and buying a Spyder for themselves! I don’t think it would be a stretch to say that the Spyder has saved more than a few marriages.

An advantage you may never have considered -- I get to sit and watch while the two-wheeler riders try desperately to tie down their bikes on the interisland ferry! I just set the parking brake....

An advantage you may never have considered — I get to sit and watch while the two-wheeler riders try desperately to tie down their bikes on the interisland ferry! I just set the parking brake….

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The Kiwi Spyder Ryders of Auckland... a family of over 300, and growing!

The Kiwi Spyder Ryders of Auckland… a family of over 300, and growing!

I find it odd that so many of my riding acquaintances, on noting that I have taken to riding a Spyder, say things like, “So, you’ve given up riding motorcycles?,” or “I like riding bikes too much to start riding one of those things.” Somehow, they seem to think that no one could possibly enjoy both, or that riding either one means that you couldn’t possibly ride the other anymore. This I find patently ridiculous. I still ride bikes, and enjoy them as much as I ever have. But I enjoy riding a Spyder just as much, just as I still like driving sports cars or flying sailplanes.
Why limit yourself?

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2 Responses

  1. Doug Taylor

    Fred,
    My wife and I were in NZ on a cruise just prior to you arriving. You MUST check out the Road between Akaroa and Christchurch. This road is awesome!

  2. Kathy Horne

    It was so great to meet up with you at Stillwater Fred, and thankyou for a awesome write up about the spyders. Love the point that you explained about the wives purchasing their own spyders. In NZ there is a big number of woman riding these bikes and feel very safe on them. It gives them a big taste of freedom away from home .

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