Depends on What the Definition of ‘Is’ Is

Over the last few decades, I’ve ridden hundreds of different motorcycles.


Over the last few decades, I’ve ridden hundreds of different motorcycles. I’ve ridden touring bikes, dirt bikes, cruisers, dual purpose machines, sport bikes, and adventure tourers. I’ve even owned a sidecar rig for many years.

[dropcap]A[/dropcap]ll of these machines have one thing in common; I sat on a saddle, with a handlebar in front of me that had a throttle, clutch lever and foot shifter. Even the Can-Am Spyder has handlebars and a seat with foot pegs more or less below me. The trikes that are out there also are configured like a motorcycle, with all of the aforementioned qualities.

I also like leaning into corners, and while some of the machines above do not lean, they have enough of the other qualities that I can grudgingly call them motorcycles.

Now, all of a sudden, Polaris has brought out this thing called the Slingshot, which Polaris says should be looked upon as a motorcycle. Now, before we go on, let’s check off all of the boxes, shall we?

One, does it have a seat that I can sit astride with my legs on each side to reach controls like a shifter and a brake pedal? Wait; no it doesn’t. OK, then it has a handlebar in front with a clutch lever and maybe a brake lever. Surely, to be a motorcycle, it must have a handlebar. Hang on; it has a steering wheel? Really? How can it be a motorcycle with a steering wheel?

With a Slingshot, you are, in essence, sitting in an automobile seat, with, guess what? A seat belt. Are you kidding me? What motorcycle has a seat belt? How is this possible?

You sit in it, you have a steering wheel, the controls are in front of you on the floor, as in a car, and you even have a shifter beside you. How many motorcycles have a hand shift beside the rider? It’s even got a Chevy engine for crying out loud!

Stand in front of the Slingshot, and tell me what it looks like. Does it look even remotely like a motorcycle? It does look pretty. But a motorcycle? No. It does, however, look a lot like an automobile. So, let’s sum up; it looks like a car, you sit in it like a car, it drives like a car, but they’re saying it’s a motorcycle…

Now, I understand that Polaris is trying to create a vehicle that’s completely different than anything seen before. I get that. They want to build something that their dealers can sell. Great.

But do not even try to convince me that this is a motorcycle. It. Is. Not. They have created something fairly new (I do, however, lump them in with the Morgan 3 wheeler, Tri Hawk, and several others). What they have created is a three-wheeled car without having to have all of the safety devices that all cars sold in the U.S. must have.

If you want something like this, wouldn’t it be just as nice to buy a Mazda Miata for not much more money? For all intents and purposes it’s almost the same thing, but has a trunk, a roof and a heater.

Does this mean that if I took a wheel off of the rear of my Mustang, it would magically become a motorcycle? Of course not. And yet, this is what Polaris is asking the state legislatures to do; tag what is, in essence, a car, with the description motorcycle. I don’t get it. I will never get it. Either Polaris gets real, and starts making cars, or stops trying to tell us that the Slingshot is a motorcycle.

But what do I know?

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