Autocycle – Car or Motorcycle?

The Polaris Slingshot is back in the news as the Minnesota state legislature debates how to classify the vehicle. In April the Senate Transportation Committee examined whether it should be classified as a motorcycle or a car.

The Slingshot is part of a small, but unique, group of vehicles called autocycles. An autocycle is typically defined as having three wheels, but the rider sits in a cockpit similar to a car. The rider does not straddle a saddle like a motorcycle and the controls are typically car like with a steering wheel and pedals. Current federal law classifies autocycles as motorcycles and as such operators were required to abide by helmet laws and have a motorcycle endorsement to operate.

The Transportation Committee adopted a hybrid position, which allows the Slingshot to live in both worlds as a car and a motorcycle. The committee decided autocycles are carlike enough to not require a motorcycle endorsement to operate. But, they also will allow auotcycle owners to carry either motorcycle or automible insurance. Their decisions now move for debate in other committees.

Sen. LeRoy Stumpf, D-Plummer, has sponsored legislation, at the request of Polaris, which changes state law so no motorcycle endorsement is needed to drive the Slingshot.

Renville OHV Park.

Renville County officals recently commissioned a study of the feasiblity of developing a 272 acre site along the Minnesota River into a OHV park. The site is located on Renville County Road 15, part of the Minnesota Valley Scenic Byway, 10 miles south of the town of Renville. The site is comprised of pasture, hillside, and reclaimed gravel pits.

The study delivered to the Renville County board in December recommended moving forward with a second phase to determine enviromental impact of the of an OHV park on the site, recommend mitgation of site issues, and provide a cost estimate for development.

The finding of the initial study was met with disapproval from local residents and neighbors of the property. Their concerns include the noise and dust created by the park as well as potentially dimished property values. Others in the community have shown support of the project as a source of revenue for the area and a valuable recreation oppurtunity.

There are no other OHV rding areas in that region of the state. Currently, the closest OHV park to the prosposed site is located in Appleton, MN 60 miles to the northwest. A survey of the DNR map of OHV parks and trails shows a distinct lack of off-road riding oppurtunities in southwestern and south central Minnesota. Only three: Appleton, Elm Creek, and Tri-County are located in the region.

Crash Fatalities This Spring

The Department of Public Safety is reporting an unfortunate start to the motorcycling season with five fatalities as of April 20, 2016. Last year Minnesota had a total of 61 motorcycle fatalities for the season. This start has put the state on track to top that number for 2016. Motorcycle registrations were up for 2015 with a total of 238,000 registered for the state, a record number for Minnesota.

Gas Gas and Buell Ride Again

In April the Spanish off-road maker Gas Gas and Wisconsin’s own Erik Buell Racing (EBR) resumed production of motorcycles. Gas Gas and EBR had ceased production last year after filing for bankruptcy.

Rumors and speculation swirled around Gas Gas the long time producer of trials and enduro motorcycles. They emerged from bankruptcy late last year after being purchased by Torrot, a Spanish producer of scooters and mini-bikes. Production of the Gas Gas’s best selling model the 300 TXT trials motorcycle resumed in the Girona factory early in April with a production goal of 2000 machines for 2016. The sale to Torrot was welcomed by Gas Gas employees who had sent a clear message to KTM executives touring as prospective buyers by hanging an effigy dressed in KTM garb outside the factory entrance with a sign reading “KTM dies nicht zu hause” (KTM this is not your house).  

EBR also began production of two models in late March of this year, the naked 1190SX and the faired 1190RX. EBR had been forced into bankruptcy early last year after Indian motorcycle company Hero pulled their financing of EBR production. EBR was eventually purchased by Liquid Asset Partners who have infused needed capital to resume production. The facility in East Troy, Wisconsin now has a staff of 12, with three dedicated to bike production. The target production number for 2016 is 500 bikes. The $12,995 price for the SX model and $13,995 for the RX represents a significant price reduction of the previous EBR models.

A Smart WindSheild?

174_SmartWindshieldSamsung and Yamaha have partnered to develop what their calling a Smart WindShield. In essence it’s a heads up display that projects on to the windscreen of your motorcycle. The display would be able to display information from a smartphone like your speed, directions, or traffic alerts. It also could trigger automatic response text messages or phone calls.

The idea is being touted as a safety feature, allowing riders to focus on the road while still receiving valuable information from their phone. The Smart Windsheild is still only in the conceptual phase and not available for sale. A short video explaining the concept is available here: https://youtu.be/dAWpq4eW7FE. The concept seems aimed squarely at younger riders resistive to the inherent disconnection from mobile phones that motorcycling provides.


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