VIDEO: Taking a ride in the Polaris Slingshot SL
All you baby boomer bikers who are starting to lose your balance, rejoice.
The Kansas House has approved a bill that, if it also gets through the Senate, will allow you to get a trike license, so you can keep your knees in the breeze without having to worry about keeping a motorcycle up on two wheels.
House Bill 2436 would allow owners of three-wheel cycles to take their cycle driving test on their trikes. Those who do would be restricted to three-wheelers only.
“Some of us are going to lose our knees pretty soon and can’t hold up those 950-pound Harleys, and so you can’t take a test on a two-wheel,” said Rep. Larry Campbell, R-Olathe, who carried the bill on the House floor Thursday.
The bill got bipartisan support from Rep. Pam Curtis, D-Kansas City, who said there’s not much reason to make trike riders get licensed on a bike.
“Some of them are not able to really have the balance to be able to do that, so it seems very common sense” to have a separate test for the three-wheel riders, she said.
The bill was sponsored by House Speaker Ray Merrick, R-Stilwell, and passed out of committee with strong support from the motorcyclists-rights group ABATE, A Brotherhood Against Totalitarian Enactments.
The bill passed on a near-unanimous voice vote with final action scheduled for Monday.
Can’t come too soon, said Ross Reed, owner of Mid America Powersports on West Street.
The skill sets for riding two- and three-wheel cycles are very different, said Reed, who has had decades of riding and racing experience on both types of cycles.
There are a lot of people buying (three-wheelers) that never want to ride a motorcycle in their life.
Ross Reed, owner, Mid America Power Sports
“There are a lot of people buying (three-wheelers) that never want to ride a motorcycle in their life,” he said.
And older motorcycle riders are increasingly turning to the more stable three-wheelers. “With the aging population of America, they still want to ride motorcycles but they can’t hold up a two-wheel cycle,” Reed said.
While three-wheelers can evoke mental images of grandpa’s welded-together chopper trike, the past couple of years have seen the introduction of new and more sophisticated styles of trikes with two wheels in the front and one in the back.
They’re generally considered to be more stable and have better cornering performance than the older designs with the single wheel in front.
The three-wheelers covered by House Bill 2436 are styled more like motorcycles, with straddle seats and handlebars.
New class of vehicle
Another part of the three-wheel trend is toward vehicles blurring the line between racing bikes and high-performance sports cars. They’ve bred a whole new class of vehicle, the “autocycle,” which started showing up in numbers on American roads last year.
Vehicles like the Slingshot, made by Polaris, which is better known for off-highway four-wheel drive hunting vehicles.
The Slingshot has characteristics of cars and motorcycles. It’s built on a three-wheel chassis, two wheels front, one back like a trike, and it’s open-air. But it has two side-by-side seats and a steering wheel, a 190-horsepower motor and tops out at 140 mph.
Neither bike nor car, it was a bit of a licensing problem until Congress passed a law last year defining the autocycle as a new class of vehicle for safety, emissions and fuel-economy purposes. Kansas lets motorists ride autocycles with a regular car driver’s license.
Baby boomers are getting off motorcycles, but still want to have fun. This lets them have fun.
Brian West, general manager, Biker’s Edge
Brian West, general manager of Biker’s Edge on East Central, said the typical customer trades in a traditional two-wheel cycle.
“Baby boomers are getting off motorcycles, but still want to have fun,” he said. “This lets them have fun.”