Adding A Third Wheel: The third part in a series on sidecar attachment
by Sev Pearman
Welcome to part three of MMM’s series on adding a sidecar to your existing motorcycle. In parts one and two, we examined sidecar basics and selected a Suzuki GSX-1100G for the tug. This month, we commit our dough and buy a new hack.
For the purpose of this series, we’ll separate sidecars into four types: used, budget, premium and high-performance. High-performance sidecar rigs are engineered as an integrated complete machine. These designs call for extensive modification to the motorcycle that eliminate the ability to ride the mule as a solo bike. While big-ass fun, these are outside the scope of this project and weren’t considered.
Used sidecars are readily available on the Internet as well as in sidecar periodicals. Prices range from $1,000 to whatever you want to pay. The main advantage of buying used is cost. With patience, you can find a functional Velorex 562, California Friendship II or Ural car for $1,000.
The downsides of buying used are hidden potential costs and condition. If you are unwilling or unable to pick up your new sidecar, you’ll have to ship it. The carrier may require that the sidecar be crated prior to shipping. Crating costs additional money. There is always the potential for “buyer’s remorse” when you discover your purchase has battered paint, rusty and/or missing hardware and a dry-rotted tire.
Older sidecars have cruder suspensions and smaller axles and bearings. These smaller components are less able to handle the wear and stresses of sidecar operation. Further, they have been subjected to these forces for unknown miles and years. We want to spend as much time as possible riding our new sidecar rig, not sourcing parts for a twenty-year-old sidecar. For all of these reasons, we went with the peace of mind, better components and dealer support of a new sidecar.
The Budget Hack
For the purposes of this article, we’ll define a budget sidecar as a car that costs less than $3,500.00, an amount that coincidentally happens to match the remainder of our total budget. This figure includes the cost of the sidecar, the four mounting struts, a seat, wheel assembly and DOT lighting. They come in basic paint schemes and have no frills. Note that the $3,500 doesn’t include shipping, motorcycle mounts to receive the struts or any other extras. The Kenna (Dauntless Motors,) the Russian-made Ural and the Velorex from Czechoslovakia are examples of solid budget sidecars.
There are many premium sidecars offered for sale in the United States today. These are usually made of fiberglass and offer a higher level of refinement, comfort and luxury. These can be ordered color-matched to your motorcycle from the factory. Prices range from $4,000 to five digits. It is easy to double the base price of a new sidecar with the addition of options, custom paint and chrome. Champion, Hannigan, Liberty, Motorvation and Texas Sidecar are examples of quality; premium sidecars. Our paltry $3,500 purse eliminated any of these.
Engineering and Style
It is important to match the mass of your sidecar to that of the bike. If the car is too light, relative to the mass of the tug, your car will feel “light” and float over bumps and in right-hand turns. You will not enjoy the planted feeling of a well set-up rig. If the car is too heavy, you lose performance and mileage. Who wants to run a heavy steel sidecar on a 400cc twin that tops out at 40 mph, and gets but 25 mpg?
While I have never been accused of being stylish, I realize that looks are important to many of our readers. Sidecars come in different styles and you’ll want to find a car that has the lines and ‘look’ to complement your machine. Here is where the Internet is a Godsend. By searching sidecar sites you can find images of different sidecar/bike combinations. You may even be able to find pictures of your dream sidecar mounted to your exact bike.
Behold the Ural!
By early April 2005, I had decided on a Ural sidecar. I had driven the Publisher’s Ural outfit enough to know that I fit in them, they can hold two weeks worth of gear and that they are robust. Ural cars are made of solid steel and fare well in Minnesota winters (remember – this rig will be driven year-round) At 227 pounds it is heavy, but this mass is well matched to the 620 pounds of our GSX Suzuki tug. Best of all, the Ural has that cavernous trunk.
I waited through April. May came and went, as did June, July and August. I kept in contact with the U.S. importer, IMZ-Ural, and remained upbeat. I was repeatedly assured that a solo car was on the way. By mid-September, I knew something was up. As IMZ was no longer returning my calls, I looked for help. One call to Doug Bingham, President of the Sidecar Industry Council, solved the riddle. Evidently, IMZ would no longer be importing (unattached) sidecars. While they continue to import complete Ural rigs, import and sales of solo sidecars has shifted to sidecar specialists Dauntless Motors.
Go with Plan B
Doug Bingham is a lifelong sidecarist. In addition to leading the S.I.C., he runs Side Strider Sidecars. I asked about my second choice, the beautiful Velorex Model 565. With a MSRP of $3,500 I was able to afford it, but the cost would empty my account. One week of paperwork and shipping arrangements and a stinky-new 565 was on the way to my installer. The only hitch was the shipping. I ordered the car during the height of Fuel Fear Frenzy and shipping was a staggering $480 dollars. I’m already 13% over budget and I haven’t even seen the sidecar!
What do you get for your money? While a basic fiberglass sidecar, the 565 has many nice features. The car rides on rubber doughnuts over the steel chassis. It has a cool spoked wheel and brake. A weatherproof vinyl roof w/ zip out windows and tonneau cover are standard. Lighting includes a front marker light. Nice extras include a mudflap to keep your paint clean, and a chrome front bumper, perfect for mounting auxiliary lighting.
Current Velorexes are much improved. They have a beefier axle, swingarm, chassis and an adjustable coil-over shock. The 565 model features a forward-opening clamshell design that aids entry and gear stowage. The car has additional carpeting to reduce noise and improve appearance. Unlocking the improved seat accesses additional secure storage. It is a very nice car for the price and I am happy.
Next up: “The Installation Matrix”
California Sidecar. Sidecars, mounts and parts.
Dauntless Motors. Sidecars (inc. Ural,) installation, mounts, parts & accessories.
Jay Geise 866.638.1793
Hannigan Motorsports. Sidecars, mounts and “Bandito” performance sidecar rig.
IMZ-Ural. Ural motorcycle sidecar rigs.
Liberty Sidecars. Retro sidecar for H-D and other cruisers.
Motorvation Sidecars. Sidecars, installation and mounts.
Sidecar.com. Online home of the United Sidecar Ass’n. Deep website with forums, classifieds and chat rooms.
Side Strider Inc. Sidecars, installation, mounts and literature. Doug Bingham 818.780.5542
Texas Sidecar Company. Sidecars, installation, mounts and literature. 903.640.2149
Velorex Sidecars. Sidecars, parts and accessories.
United Sidecar Association. General sidecar information and publisher of the Sidecarists magazine.