Common Tread

Will the Can-Am name return to motorcycles?

Aug 25, 2016

Could the Can-Am name return to motorcycling? I mean real two-wheelers, not the reverse-trike Can-Am Spyder that is legally classified a motorcycle, but offers an entirely different riding experience.

According to a company official quoted by the Montreal Gazette, BRP is exploring the possibility. BRP, or Bombardier Recreational Products, sold off-road motorcycles under the Can-Am name in the 1970s. Those bikes, using Rotax engines, were very successful in motocross racing and the International Six Days Trial enduro competition.

A decade ago, BRP revived the Can-Am name and slapped it on its line of ATVs. Then it introduced the road-going Spyder, which has been a sales success. While the ATVs are at least off-road vehicles, the Spyder isn't really positioned to capitalize on the reputation the Can-Am bikes of the past had built — though with each passing day, fewer consumers have fond memories of those fast Can-Am motocrossers of the 1970s. The company also makes side-by-sides, snowmobiles and personal watercraft.

Today's BRP is a spin-off of the original company, which started out in the snowmobile business and later diversified into aviation and transportation. It's not hard to think of the U.S. equivalent, Polaris, which is currently doing much better with its Victory and, especially, Indian motorcycle lines than it is with its older snowmobile and ATV business lines. Could BRP become a Canadian version of Polaris? What kind of motorcycles would a resurrected Can-Am build?

This is total speculation on my part, but a few trends are intriguing. What if Can-Am motorcycles drew on the marque's history, tapped into the trend toward scramblers and mined the affection for 1970s styling all at once with a retro scrambler as a first model? Then why not a lightweight adventure-tourer built on the same platform?

While none of that may actually happen, I can certainly see why the company would have a few staff people looking at market numbers. It's an interesting possibility for an old name to get back in the game while the wind is at its back.