Can-Am returns to two wheels in 2024
Bombardier Recreational Products (BRP) is finally bringing its storied Can-Am brand back into the motorcycle market in mid-2024 with the launch of a whole range of electric motorcycles that will rival the next-generation LiveWire machines from rival Harley-Davidson.
The LiveWire 'Arrow' platform, due to form the basis of the upcoming LiveWire S2 'Del Mar', shows how the adoption of a modular electric platform means multiple different styles of bike can be made around a single, shared core section. BRP's new Can-Am bikes will follow the same thinking with its own patent-applied-for construction system.
José Boisjoli, President and CEO of BRP, has confirmed the Can-Am motorcycle plans, releasing a statement alongside a teaser video that shows glimpses of some of the upcoming models. He said: "With the motorcycle industry shifting to electric, we saw an opportunity to reclaim our motorcycle heritage and to re-enter the market. This new product category is extremely important to us, and we are thrilled that Can-Am motorcycles are the first EV models in BRP's electric line-up to be confirmed to consumers. Many of us have very fond memories of riding the early 'Can-Am' dirt bike models, and now we look forward to building on the rich history of the Can-Am brand to inspire and impress a new generation of motorcyclists and electric vehicle enthusiasts."
The bikes will reach dealers in mid-2024, but we can expect a full unveiling of the machines in 2023 to coincide with the 50th anniversary of the Can-Am brand, launched by BRP in 1973. Can-Am ran as BRP's motorcycle arm until 1987 when the last Can-Am branded machines, by then made by CCM in the UK, were discontinued. Can-Am came back in 2006, focused on ATVs and three-wheelers, but the new electric models will be the first production motorcycles to wear the badge since the 80s.
The teaser video shows four models: a naked street bike, an adventure bike and two more shadowy machines - one potentially a retro roadster or cruiser, the other a faired sports bike or sports tourer. Bombardier's patent is explicit about the company's shared chassis design being intended for a naked street bike, a sports bike, a trail or adventure bike, a cruiser and a retro model.
The LiveWire Arrow modular platform includes a battery case that doubles as the structural part of the chassis, with bolt-on subframes to alter the bike's steering geometry and rear structure, as well as a variety of different motors, forks and swingarms.
BRP's design follows similar thinking, but with a slightly different approach, using a tubular steel frame to hold the battery and control electronics, as well as the steering head, while the motor is mounted in the swingarm. That means the front frame section, battery and electronics can be shared across all models, with different motor/swingarm units, forks, seat subframes, footpegs and bars to change the geometry and riding position to suit each model. The angle of the whole frame/battery is altered to adjust the rake, where the LiveWire Arrow has bolt-on steering head subframes to achieve the same goal.
BRP's combined motor/swingarm is also innovative. It positions the motor near the pivot, so while it moves with the suspension there's relatively little inertia. The motor drives a main reduction gear in the front of the swingarm that's attached the front sprocket, with a chain final drive to the rear sprocket. Unusually, the whole chain is enclosed, protecting it from dirt and allowing it to run in an oil bath to vastly reduce wear, with an automatic tensioner to keep it taut. Enclosing the chain also reduces its noise. Chain rattle is normally drowned by exhaust roar on a petrol bike, but on an electric model it can be unpleasant to listen to. The use of a chain, rather than a belt, hints that the BRP machines are relatively high-performance.
Notably, the naked bike pictured in the teaser video closely matches the design in BRP's patent, right down to the distinctive three-bolt system used to attach the rear wheel, so it's almost certain that the designs shown in the patent document are representative of the planned production models.