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Thread: Selling Sparky

  1. #1
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    Selling Sparky

    Last fall I was doing hand therapy, and the occupational therapist agreed that doing some wrenching on a machine would be good exercise.

    Since Sparky (the Spyder) was due for a valve check, I started taking off all the bodywork, drained the oil tank and sump, moved the oil tank aside enough to access the crank hole, unbolted the fuel tank and slid it back to gain room to remove the rear valve cover, and worked my way down through the airbox, throttle bodies, hoses, wires, yadda yadda.

    The Spyder valves are adjusted with shims under buckets under overhead cams, four valves per head; two cylinders. The crank has to be locked at TDC to get the cams in position, then clearance can be checked one cylinder at a time. Allmost all of Sparky's valves needed adjustment, and it only took me three weeks and three shim orders to get them all within acceptable range. I would have to assume that in a Can Am dealer's shop, adjusting the valves would take about a full day.

    I tell this tale to help explain one reason why I've decided to sell Sparky. The machine is very powerful, good handling, etc. but much more complex than I want to live with over a period of years. It might be different if I had a Spyder dealer within a few miles, but mine are hours away.

    More to the point, I have been involved with BMW machines for many years, and I finally decided I'd rather wrench on a BMW than a Can Am. For example, a valve adjust on an oilhead might take an hour or two, certainly not all day. I still want a three-wheeler, but I started thinking about building a contemporary BMW powered sidecar rig.

    I had also been discouraged by the lack of off-pavement capability. Low clearance, belt drive, sport car tires, etc. all conspire to make it unwise to take a Spyder onto unpaved roads--at least driving it aggressively on dirt.

    As it happened, a rider in the community had been starting to lust after a yellow Spyder, and after the second visit he offered to buy it. We arrived at an agreeable price, and he has until May to take delivery.

    If anyone has additional questions about my experience with Sparky, or my choice to not own a Spyder anymore, this is your chance to ask.

    pmdave

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    I had the chance to examine, but not drive, a Spyder when they first came out. The one thing that kept me from getting one was the tires. The main reason I wanted a 3 wheeler was all season and dirt road capability. I have yet to see one being operated in the snow. The only bikes out and about in this area now are the funeral escort riders on their HDs with sidecars and some crazy old guy on his Ural Patrol.


  3. #3
    Registered User dancogan's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by pmdave View Post
    ...I tell this tale to help explain one reason why I've decided to sell Sparky...
    As another Spyder and BMW owner I appreciate your post and your reasoning. If I could get my wife to sit in a sidecar then the type of rig you're talking about would be very attractive. I've got great loyalty and trust in my local BMW dealer (SE Michigan) and was sorry to buy a bike anywhere else. But we have enjoyed the Spyder and will continue to do so, hopefully, on a long tour this summer.
    Dan

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    I'm not disappointed in Sparky. That Rotax motor cranks out impressive horsepower. And in terms of cornering, I suspect a Spyder can get around corners at 10 - 20 mph faster than a comparable sidecar outfit.

    It's been entertaining responding to the questions of people who ask about it, many of whom have seen the BRP TV ads, but never seen one in person. It's larger than they had imagined.

    A Spyder will certainly take you on long trips across the country, with very decent reliability, and it's much easier to drive than a sidecar combo. I got around 34 mpg at "normal" speeds. And there are about as many Can Am dealers in the world as BMW dealers. There are online sources for parts. And BRP throws big rallies every year at no cost to Spyder owners.

    However, although it's legally a "motorcycle" I don't really think it should be. It's a great three-wheeled motor vehicle that happens to be licensed as a motorcycle because there aren't any other applicable slots.

    Driving a sidecar outfit, it's very obvious I'm on a motorcycle. And I think I'll go back to that mode. I still want three wheels for stability. And I want to be able to take off on "technical" roads, or negotiate slippery surfaces such as gravel, ice or snow--if I choose.

    I'd like to own another BMW. I still intend to do my own servicing. Sounds like I'll be building an oilhead rig at some point in the future, eh?

    pmdave

  5. #5
    It is what it is. Bud's Avatar
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    I found your post interesting and informative. I test rode one and came home with a great big grin on my face. It was fun! I just wish my ridding buddy would buy one so I could ride it once a month.

    I applaud your forthrightness in your reasoning for getting rid of the Spyder. Many people would try go make up excuses but you just told it like it is for you.

    Wishing you the best in your search for your next ride and look forward with anticipation to hearing about it.
    I used to post here, but now I don't.

  6. #6
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    I've long felt that many motorcyclists limit themselves to two-wheelers, only to miss out on the fun of other types of vehicles. For example, whenever I suggest someone look into driving a sidecar rig, I often hear, "I'm not ready to give up leaning into turns."

    I hereby give my permission to anyone to own both a two wheeler that leans into turns, and a three wheeler where you get to hang your body into turns.

    I also suggest wearing a full-coverage helmet while driving a sidecar rig or trike, because otherwise passers by will wonder why your face is contorted into this big SE grin.

    And if you want to fly and airplane or pilot a boat, I'll authorize that, too.

    pmdave

  7. #7
    "Running Out The Clock" grafikfeat's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by pmdave View Post
    I'm not disappointed in Sparky. That Rotax motor cranks out impressive horsepower.
    It's my understanding the new BMW engines are Rotax.
    "Stupidity, if left untreated, is self-correcting."

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    When I heard that Rotax (a subsidiary of Bombardier Recreational Products in Canada) were designing some new motors, I was kind of ho hum. Lots of companies have tried to build wonder motors, including Hesketh and Harley Davidson.

    But I can't believe how much power the 990 cranks out. I've read the specs somewhere that say 116 HP, from 990 ccs--smaller than my 65 HP airhead with 998cc. I'm impressed.

    However, with an eye toward maintenance, I sure wish Rotax had figured out how to use hydraulic valve lifters. I suppose hydraulic lifters would have cut into performance or reduced the redline, or whatever. Somehow, the automakers have figured out how to have hydraulic valves without issues. Is it a matter of expense, performance, or what? I'd much rather have self-adjusting valves than high-zoot audio or trick dashboards.

    I'd welcome the power of the 990 in a BMW, but I wouldn't care to deal with valve adjustments. OK, maybe, if the motor were mounted transversely to provide access to the heads--like a Guzzi. Of course there are different Rotax motors. BMW haven't always provided engines with easy maintenance. I'm thinking here of the 16-valve K motors with buckets under cams. In theory once the valves settle in, there should be little change in clearance, but in practice the theory isn't always right.

    pmdave

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    Quote Originally Posted by Railbender View Post
    I had the chance to examine, but not drive, a Spyder when they first came out. The one thing that kept me from getting one was the tires. The main reason I wanted a 3 wheeler was all season and dirt road capability. I have yet to see one being operated in the snow. The only bikes out and about in this area now are the funeral escort riders on their HDs with sidecars and some crazy old guy on his Ural Patrol.

    Yep, the Spyder tires have good grip on dry pavement, but not much grip on slipperier surfaces. The tires are wide, low profile, so the psi loading isn't much, and of course, traction is proportional to the loading.

    However it isn't just the tires that limit a stock Spyder to clean pavement. There's only about 3 inches of ground clearance, and there's a final belt drive. Belt drives can suck up rocks, and when a rock gets wedged between the belt and the drive pully, something has to give. BRP warns against driving a Spyder on a gravel road. I don't know how belt drives behave in icy conditions. HD owners from the midwest with belt drive models might have some insight.

    pmdave

  10. #10
    "Running Out The Clock" grafikfeat's Avatar
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    Well there is always this "little engine that could..."

    An Opposed Piston Opposed Cylinder Engine

    Two pistons... One Cylinder.
    "Stupidity, if left untreated, is self-correcting."

  11. #11
    "Running Out The Clock" grafikfeat's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Railbender View Post
    The one thing that kept me from getting one was the tires.
    Are Spyder Tyres proprietary sized? Are chains available?
    "Stupidity, if left untreated, is self-correcting."

  12. #12
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    Lessee, if they made a half-scale version, it would put out maybe 150 HP--just about right for a boxer, and a suitable width for a bike.

    pmdave

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    There's not a lot of extra room inside the fenders or around the swing arm. It would probably be possible to get studded tires, although BRP suggests using only BRP tires. After all, there's that stability ("roll control") computer expecting the slip to be within certain ranges.

    IMHO the bottom line is that the Spyder is a good tool for clean pavement, and it's not really of a design that lends itself to modifying for less friendly surfaces.

    One of the advantages of a hack (as you well know) is that you can position the drive wheel on the most tractable surface.

    One year during the Bonehead Enduro I drove uphill as far as I could go toward the "Snow Bone", and got turned around, but the knobbies were clogged with snow and I couldn't power out of the deep stuff. Some of the guys helped give me a push, and I carefully used just enough throttle to keep the tire "pulling" without roosting anyone. Then suddenly the rig stopped, and I realized all the power had been coming from the pushers. The transmission was still in neutral.

    "treachery will win out over old age and daring.." how does that go?

    pmdave

  14. #14
    "Running Out The Clock" grafikfeat's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by pmdave View Post
    ...I realized all the power had been coming from the pushers. The transmission was still in neutral...
    Hence the aptly named "Bonehead Enduro".
    Regardless...
    "Age and treachery will triumph over youth and skill."
    "Stupidity, if left untreated, is self-correcting."

  15. #15
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    The last new BMW I purchased was a 2003 R1150GS Sport, which had a conventional electrical system and standard independent (not power assisted) brakes. It was very straightforward. I even managed to get a police exhaust elbow to move the muffler down out of the way of the left (Happy Trails) pannier.

    I've heard the 1200 oilheads are stronger, better running, etc. But of course they are more complex. I'm hoping I won't be disappointed if I purchase an R1200R to replace Sparky. Are the new ones any easier or more difficult to maintain? Is it possible to get a code reader for the BMW can bus?

    pmdave

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