All the way back in February, I got an email from a loyal A&R reader, Tone, who had just put a down payment on the Polaris Slingshot. He had just sold his Honda RC-51 to make room in the garage for his new three-wheeled toy…to put it shortly, he was excited for his soon-to-arrive “motorcycle”.
I love meeting enthusiastic readers because they remind me why I started Asphalt & Rubber in the first place: for the love of motorcycles.
But, I have to admit…I didn’t quite get the fuss about the new Slingshot — and to sell an RC-51 (a bike I wouldn’t having in mind two-wheeled collection) for one? That seemed sort of blasphemous — may the Gods of Motorcycling forgive this transgression.
Tone’s enthusiasm and offer to give me a ride in his scoot, once it arrived, won me over in the end though. After all, if you’re not having a good time in a motorcycle, even a three-wheeled one, you’re probably doing it wrong. Right?
Fast-forward several months, once Polaris finished up its wheel bearing recall, and Tone was meeting me in Portland for a quick after-work joyride. For the tl;dr crowd, I take back every word of doubt about the Slingshot I’ve ever uttered in public and in private.
If the purpose of motorcycles in the United States is one rooted in recreation, rather than simply transportation, then at its core I see no reason for the three-wheeled hate directed at the Slingshot by some two-wheeled Snubnerati .
It may not be the same “riding” experience that a superbike gives you, but the Slingshot continues that promise sports car performance, at a fraction of the cost.
The reality is, the most detracting element of the Slingshot is perhaps its strongest attribute: the car form factor. It’s certainly strange to sit down in a chair with your motorcycle helmet, but the side-by-side seating arrangement makes “two-up” riding way more fun, as conversations are possible. There’s no clunking of helmets, and there is a surprising amount of room for luggage too.
Polaris was smart to make the Slingshot a three-wheeler, instead of making it a four-wheeler like the KTM X-Bow or Ariel Atom.
It’s a clever loophole in the American legal system that allows the Slingshot to bypass some of the DOT’s stringent requirements for an automobile. This in turn helps the Slingshot to be extremely affordable, which is really the winning factor.
You would have a hard time finding a new car that is both as light (1725 lbs at the curb) and as powerful as the Slingshot, for under $20,000.
I can hear the arguments already about used Miatas or something similar…my retort would be, does that argument hold up once the Slingshot has been around long enough to service the used car/bike market?
Here in Oregon, where we don’t have legal lane-filtering (yet), the advantages of a motorcycle over a car are limited.
States outside of California seem to go out of their way not to accommodate two-wheeld motorists, as even today I spent 30 minutes today looking for motorcycle parking spot in downtown Portland, only to give up and take a normal car spot. Sometimes I wonder what the point is…then I brap down an empty street and my grin reminds me.
I will say, I haven’t gone full convert…there are five motorcycles in my garage right now…six in a couple weeks maybe. Hi, my name is Jensen, and I have a two-wheeled addiction.
That being said, a ride in a Slingshot makes you start thinking about what attracts one to motorcycles, or maybe sport bikes in particular.
On our quick stint through downtown Portland, the Slingshot turned the heads of young school boys who dream of going fast, as well as older boys, whose mid-life crisis have steered them wayward into the realms of Porsche, Lotus, and God knows what else. Rightfully so, too.
It may not have the same prestige factor, but then again Polaris is never going to win that crowd over, no matter how high they make the price tag. But as a viable option for fusing fun with transportation, it’s hard to beat the Slingshot formula.
The trike has plenty of punch from its GM-sourced, 176hp, 2.4L, “Ecotec” four-cylidner engine — a platform I might add that has a robust amount of tuning options for “cheap horsepower” enthusiasts.
The single rear tire means both easy to control slides through turns, but also wheel-spin at launch. That’s the compromise one makes for what is basically a cheap track car / expensive go-kart.
My trip with Tone was far too brief to give a proper review of the Polaris Slingshot, but I can say that it made me re-think my stance on this “motorcycle” offering.
The Slingshot is certainly outside of the box, and I think there’s no convincing the two-wheeled purists. But for the consumer that’s spending their money on a dollars per grin factor though, this might be an easier pill to swallow than a first-time sport bike purchase.
Polaris is casting a large net with the Slingshot, one that reaches beyond the traditional motorcycle community, and into the jet ski / go-kart / side-by-side realm where it is all about fun, not a pre-package lifestyle.
The only downside I can see is the fact that I can fit 12 bikes in my garage space, where only one Slingshot could reside. Maybe I can stack them on end…hmm.
If you have the chance, take one for a spin, or hitch a ride like I did. I think asses in seats will make some conversions. It certainly did with me. Thanks again for the ride Tone, and thanks for reading the site!
Photos: © 2015 Jensen Beeler / Asphalt & Rubber – Creative Commons – Attribution 3.0