Dear MOby,

Does it make any sense at all to get a Polaris Slingshot for a first “motorcycle”? I’m not really sure how I’ll like being exposed to the elements all the time, but I like the idea and the “elements” aren’t usually that bad here in the Silicon Valley. I’d also love to use the HOV lane on my commute. Would a trike be any sort of introduction or good training for graduating to a “real” motorcycle later? I guess my biggest question concerns my hair: Do you have to wear a helmet in a Slingshot? I’d rather not, as I’d prefer to arrive at work looking as marvelous as I feel.

Jungle Jane in Palo Alto


The hard part of learning to ride a motorcycle, which isn’t all that hard, is learning to balance the thing when you’re barely moving – which is the biggest reason it’s best to learn on as light a bike as possible unless you’re a really strapping kind of a strong-legged person. Pretty much like an infant learning to walk, sometimes you just fall over for no real reason except that the ground’s a little uneven. It takes some people a day or three to get their “sea legs.” The Slingshot cannot help you with that.

All four Slingshot models use five-speed manual transmissions, though, so if you don’t already know how to use a clutch to shift gears, it could teach you that whole concept (also not brain surgery).

Whether you have to wear a helmet or not depends upon where you live. In California, the law seems pretty clear-cut that you will wear one. The California Highway has this to say:

Motorcycle

A motorcycle is a motor vehicle that has a seat or saddle for the use of the rider, and is designed to travel on not more than three wheels in contact with the ground per California Vehicle Code (CVC) 400 (a) and whose motor displaces more than 150 cubic centimeters (150cc).

  • Two-wheeled motorcycles require an M-1 endorsement.
  • Three-wheeled motorcycles or motorcycles with an attached sidecar require only a Class C driver license per CVC 12804.9.
  • A Department of Transportation (DOT) compliant helmet is required.

The good news is you can use the HOV lane, and you don’t need to jump through the hoops to get your M-1 (motorcycle) endorsement. The bad news, which isn’t bad, is yes, the law says you must wear a helmet. Not that that stopped our man Kevin Duke, who drove the latest 2018 Slingshot SLR occasionally helmetless in this recent review because someone told him helmets aren’t required in a three-wheeled car with seat belts.

Whatever the legalities are, judging from the height of the Slingshot’s windshield, you’ll be wanting eye protection anyway. Ever had a piece of gravel or something crack your windshield while you’re driving your car? You don’t want to catch a thing like that in the nostril, and you really don’t want to catch a lug nut in the forehead either, so a helmet really does makes sense even if you do have seat belts and roll bars. Besides, there are some really cool scooter helmets that will give the protection you need while opening up a whole new world of fashion. Get a size too big to keep your coif comfortable if you insist, (though our legal department would NEVER endorse this for a vehicle you’re not strapped into); inside a helmet is usually better for your hair than blowing in the breeze.

Something like this HCI 15 scooter helmet could work in a Slingshot, though there are tons of other scooter helmet options.

California and many other states classify the Slingshot as a motorcycle; quite a few others classify it an autocycle; all the legalities vary from state to state. Luckily, Polaris has a handy tool on its website to let you see your state’s requirements. None of them seem really onerous.

When you’re not commuting, you need to hop in that thing and head west to Alice’s Restaurant – 17288 Skyline Blvd, Woodside, CA 94062 – to hit some of the best motorcycle roads in the country. If you like driving around endless series of curves, and if you find yourself communing with the people hanging around Alice’s on any weekend morning, you might want to get a real motorcycle later. I think a Slingshot is a great way to test the waters (seeping into your crotch when you get caught in the rain). Good luck!


Send your moto-related questions to AskMOAnything@motorcycle.com. If we can’t answer them, we’ll at least do no harm in the time it takes to seek out a believable answer. And we’ll occasionally even admit we were wrong, even if we were right at the time. Depends on what the definition of “is” is.

Recent Ask MOs:

 

Is a Polaris Slingshot a Good First Motorcycle?

Why Did Kawasaki Detune the New Z900RS, Why?
Do I Really Need a New Superbike?

 

 

  • Sayyed Bashir

    Regardless of the CHP’s definition, the Slingshot is not a motorcycle. That’s why the M1 endorsement is not required. They should have called it a autocycle like everyone else. And it does not belong in the HOV lane. Motorcycles are allowed in the HOV lane to encourage more people to use motorcycles and thus reduce traffic congestion. The Slingshot doesn’t do that.

    • Old MOron

      LOL, c’mon Sayyed. You know darned well that if KTM had put three wheels on its X-Bow, you’d be singing, “Yup, it’s a motorcycle. It’s a badass motorcycle. Amen.”

      • Goose

        Putting words in other people’s mouths is so much fun, isn’t it MOron?

        • Old MOron

          It’s a time-honoured tradition, often used for rhetorical purposes.
          In this case I’m inviting Sayyed to reconsider his position.
          Sorry if I offended your sensibilities.

          • Goose

            Amused, not offended. You never issued an invitation, you simply implied he was a KTM zealot. That may be true but your method was less than kind.

          • Old MOron

            Ah yes, that’s the risk one takes when addressing a zealot with sarcastic hyperbole. Sometimes one is mistaken for being less than kind.

          • Goose

            You seem to enjoy rewriting history, do you work for Fox News? I updated my post less than 5 minutes after I wrote it. Your reply was an hour later. I thought you were one of the more interesting and intelligent people who post here, less so now.

          • Old MOron

            Ouch, now who is being unkind?
            In any case, YOU updated your post, so YOU’RE the one rewriting history at Fox News.

            This started out as some fun wordplay. I’m happy to rein it back in.

          • Goose

            Agreed, I’ll retract the Fox news comments, that was over the top. I still don’t get your point however, I wrote a post and realised I missed a point I should make a few minutes later. You responded to the post well after I made the update. It would be different if I changed my post after you made your post, that would indeed be Fox-like.

          • Old MOron

            Actually, I had already replied to you. We must’ve been typing at the same time. When I checked back later, your content had changed.

            No worries. If I don’t see you on the road, then see on this MOron forum.

      • QuestionMark666

        No I would not, I want these three-wheeled abominations called autocycles and burdened with all the safety requirements of a passenger car in America.

        • Old MOron

          Why?

          • Rocky Stonepebble

            Are you unable to read?

          • Old MOron

            I can read YOU like a book.

      • SerSamsquamsh

        Sayyed is also a HD Zealot and hasn’t advocated Tri-Glides in the HOV lane:)

        Anyway, Slingshots were in the news for ending up in the ditch more often than not, so maybe they should get some KTM dirt expertise?

        • Old MOron

          You raise an excellent point.
          Tri-Glides are already legal in the HOV lane.
          Hey Sayyed, how come you aren’t raging against Tri-Glides?

          • Sayyed Bashir

            I go to work and all hell breaks loose in the comment section. I didn’t know Tri-Glides were allowed in the HOV lane. At least their front end is a motorcycle. The front end of a Slingshot is a car. I love the KTM X-Bows but have never seen one in person nor can I afford one. I also don’t mind Urals in the HOV lane since they are basically a motorcycle with a sidecar. The Silngshot is not related to a motorcycle in any way. And it is not going to teach anyone how to ride a motorcycle. Which is why this article and its headline makes no sense.

          • Old MOron

            I get the sense that you’re somewhere up in the SF Bay Area. Next time I get up there, I’ll let you know. I hope we can ride together, maybe have a sammich at Alice’s Restaurant.

          • Sayyed Bashir

            I am in the Sacramento area. I have been to Alice’s Restaurant when I first got my KTM 1190 R. Got a little crowd around it at the time. Fun place and fun riding down the curvy roads to the Pacific coast. I used to work in the SF Bay Area and used to hike in those hills every weekend. Have stayed many times at the Pigeon Point Lighthouse Youth Hostel on the ocean. The ride from Pacifica to Santa Cruz on Hwy 1 is one of my favorites.

            https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/143c7e02a2ccac35b7f5dc13d3181ba8cf56b4fd3cb718e315a5931a8a2bf80d.jpg

          • Old MOron

            Sacramento, got it.

    • Vincent Swendsen

      I actually think the Slingshot would make a good first car since it does drive like one.

    • badluckbill

      All true! But, if the slingshot has two passengers, it should be allowed in the HOV lane, just like any other CAR.

      • Sayyed Bashir

        Yes, if it has two “persons”. Some freeways require three “persons”, so the Slingshot would be SOL. A dog is not considered a “person”.

        • badluckbill

          Sounds like the Slingshot and a Corvette may share the same limitations regarding the HOV lane. They also share powertrain components manufactured by Chevrolet. Next, a Slingshot will show up in a TV commercial surrounded by clueless “actors” going ga-ga over its J. D. Power ratings. A car it is!

  • MARC

    I have owned a Ural with sidecar, which operates almost like a two wheeled motorcycle, but does not require the rider to put his or her feet down at a stop. It would be a better introduction to motorcycling than a vehicle with a car engine and a steering wheel. I also presently own a Harley Tri Glide trike which is also closer to a bike than a Slingshot. Also own 6 2 wheeled motorcycles but that another story:)

  • Old MOron

    Go for it, Jungle Jane. Start by enjoying the HOV lane in your Slingshot. Soon you’ll want to split lanes. Then you’ll have added motivation to try a two-wheeled bike. (Take the California MTC, of course.) In the meantime, do as JB suggests, and ride out to Alice’s Restaurant and make some friends. Thumbs up!

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    • Sayyed Bashir

      Hey, you got upvoted by serial spammer “Barbara”. So far “she” has posted 190 Google spam messages in 5 months. “This user’s activity is private”. Ha ha!

      • Old MOron

        Hmm, she looks hot. I wonder if I can engage her in some private activity. Ha ha!

        • Larry Kahn

          Don’t be sexist. Bitches don’t like that.

  • Ronald Vennell

    The Slingshot is not a good motorcycle regardless what number is assigned to it. It is a really fun toy vehicle but it does not require any skills to operate that differ from a highish performance four wheeled vehicle. With the possible exception of how to dodge potholes.

    • Extremely on the “ish”

      • Ronald Vennell

        Less due to the actual horsepower numbers and more due to the effect of putting what power it has to the ground through one wheel and compounded by a short wheelbase.

        • Sayyed Bashir

          The Duke had fun with it, even though it is the only “motorcycle” on earth he couldn’t do a wheelie on. I am really disappointed. How could the CHP be so wrong?

          • Ronald Vennell

            I agree that it’s a fun vehicle. The government also classifies a Honda HRV as a “truck”.

    • Sayyed Bashir

      Hard to avoid potholes with three wheels.

      • Ronald Vennell

        My point exactly.

  • Lance H

    Motorcycles don’t have steering wheels and gas pedals.

    • Gail

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  • Joe DeBiasi

    Grrrr 2 wheel, Bicycle. 3 Wheel tricycle. 2 wheel motorcycle. 3 wheel BMW Isetta…… You go urkle.

  • LimitedGovernment

    The big question (alluded to earlier) is if you can lane split in one of these. That’d be fun.

    • Sayyed Bashir

      It is not even a question. The thing is the width of a car, How can you split lanes with it?

      • Ronald Vennell

        I hear it’s actually slightly wider than a new Corvette. It sure seemed wide when I demoed one.

  • QuestionMark666

    NO!! A Slingshot in not a motorcycle, it is an auto-cycle. Get a new FIAT 124 Spyder if you want a great cheap sports car.

    • Born to Ride

      Why the hell would I do that when it’s only a grand cheaper than a Subaru BRZ? I’ll even take the new Miata before Fiat gets my money.

      • Sayyed Bashir

        Not too happy with Fiat, are we?

        • Born to Ride

          As an automotive mechanic by trade my whole adult life by trade I can assure you, there are no American or European cars that I would own over their Japanese equivalents. If you wanna drive a fancy European car for the style and performance, more power to you, lease it. That way it’s not your responsibility to keep it on the road. Japanese cars seem to be the only vehicles engineered primarily with ease of maintenance in mind.

      • Ronald Vennell

        The Fiat 124 Spyder IS a Mazda Miata.

  • Joe DeBiasi

    After the sarcasm… The truth is its not a motorcycle. However if it makes you happy and you have fun operating it. Good Gosh! Life only affords so much happiness. Don’t miss out!

    • Rocky Stonepebble

      Yes. So true. But discuss this POS at:
      POS-Three-Wheel-Girl-Car.Online.Com

  • Auphliam

    For ALL of you that INSIST on replying “Not a motorcycle” on every single Slingshot article published everywhere…They don’t care that you don’t think it’s a motorcycle! Give it a goddam break already.

    • Johnny Blue

      We don’t care they don’t care, so no break!

    • Sayyed Bashir

      No one is saying it is not a fun vehicle. We are just saying it is not a motorcycle so it should not be afforded the privileges allowed only to motorcycles because it does not provide any of the benefits of a motorcycle. It should be called what it is: a autocycle.

  • Judge Jane, That moment when you begin to think of helmet hair as another marvelous look would be a turning point, otherwise you’d never break thru to a 2-wheeler.

  • webheadwilks

    I just wish that Motorcycle.com and all the magazines would stop kissing Polaris and Can Am like these are motorcycles. Let them get their own forums.

    • Johnny Blue

      I couldn’t agree more.
      Motorcycle – noun
      1. Also called: motorbike
      A two-wheeled vehicle, having a stronger frame than a bicycle, that is driven by a petrol engine, usually with a capacity of between 125 cc and 1000 cc

      • therr850

        I don’t want one, ever, but, where do plug in electric bikes, motorcycles, fit in that definition? And they do really have motors:}

        • Johnny Blue

          Right… well, I do want an electric motorcycle…I guess we can bend the definition a little bit to include the electric ones. 🙂
          But only after the range will be greatly improved and the charging time reduced to the time it takes to sip an espresso at the charging station along the way on that multi-day, several thousand kms vacation trip.

      • denchung

        By that definition, electric motorcycles aren’t motorcycles.

        • Johnny Blue

          See

    • denchung

      Depending on where you are, many jurisdictions legally consider these to be motorcycles, even if you, and many other people and jurisdictions don’t. And that’s fine. You don’t have to read about it if you don’t consider them to be motorcycles. But for those that do, we’ve got them covered too.

  • FreeDominion

    The operation of the slingshot is entirely different than a motorcycle. While it is an interesting vehicle in its own right, it absolutely does not make a good first motorcycle for the simple reason that it won’t teach you the key principles of riding a motorcycle. I don’t believe it can teach a person ANY of the principles of riding a motorcycle. In no way does it simulate or approximate the feeling of, or sensations involved in riding a motorcycle. Want the wind in your face? Ride a bicycle. It’s a closer approximation of the wind-in-your-face sensation of riding a motorcycle, and it won’t cost $20k. Beyond that simple feeling, the slingshot won’t help you determine if you’ll like a motorcycle. The slingshot is the least like a motorcycle of any 3-wheeled machine though, and will not work as a first motorcycle. If the first motorcycle MUST have 3-wheels, the Can-Am Spyder would be a better start. It still operates differently, but is much closer to the operation of a motorcycle than the slingshot.

    If a person wants a slingshot or any other 3-wheeled machine, go for it. They’re all fun in their own way. If your intention is to get into motorcycling, get a motorcycle. The Suzuki tu250x is a great start at a very low price point. Used ones can be found for $2000, and when you sell it a year later to move up in size (or decide you don’t like motorcycling), you will still be able to resell it for $2000. That’s what my wife did when she moved up to another bike.

  • Gary

    They should at least put a turbo on the wretched thing. Two hundred fifty horses might make it more interesting.

    • Ronald Vennell

      Polaris had a hotrodded version on display at Americade in 2016 that made around 250 horsepower. I don’t recall whether it was done with a turbo or was normally aspirated. 250 horses is easily attainable from a 2.4 liter EcoTech without a turbo. The 170+ horsepower it makes stock is enough to overwhelm the drive wheel at lower speeds as it is.

    • kenneth_moore

      The goofy “swing-arm” it has can barely handle the power the standard engine makes. It jacks and bangs around behind you like it’s coming loose when you try to power around a corner.

      I guess it would be “interesting,” but not necessarily a fun type of interesting.

  • Sayyed Bashir

    Count on JB to start another controversy and fan the flames. Surely wakes up all the half asleep MOronic readers.

  • SRMark

    No, it’s not.

  • jeff benson

    If I ever got so I could no longer ride a motorcycle for touring I’d get a Miata, not one of those things. They have no advantages over either a bike or a sports car that outweigh the downsides.

  • Does a Boeing 737 make a good first helicopter? Would a Remington 700 chambered in .308 Winchester make a good intro into archery?

    A good first motorcycle would be a motorcycle.

  • Joe DeBiasi

    Yikes this one got contentious

  • jeff benson

    Actually it is a car. That’s how the old Brit Morgan line was designated. There is at least one in the Southbay area of LA that I’ve seen several times over the years. It had a regular automobile license plate. Complete with wooden frame.

    • Kevin Duke

      Actually, the impetus for the Morgan was to take advantage of 3-wheelers being classified in Britain as a motorcycle, thereby resulting in cheaper registration/road fees.

  • JnQO

    Silly question. The Slingshot is not a motorcycle so can hardly be a good first one.

  • JnQO

    Can a person sit in it? Does it have a steering wheel? Then it’s a car, albeit an ugly one.

  • JnQO

    Is the Morgan 3 Wheeler a motorcycle? Of course not and neither is the Polaris Slingshot.

  • Can I point out a few things?

    -Slingshot is NOT a motorcycle per the CA DMV, as it weighs over 1,500 pounds.
    -Therefore, no helmet is required.
    -But no, you can’t use the carpool lane or lane split with the thing.
    -Buy one anyway, but it’s not a good first motorcycle, as it is not actually a motorcycle.