by Sev Pearman
This month’s selection will without doubt generate crabby letters to the editor, “Hey–what’s with all this sidecar and scooter crap? We want MOTORcyles!” [Boss Hoss Man, we’re counting on you here. ed.] MMM attracts different riders on a variety of machines, and we try to cover all bases. Besides, Driving a Sidecar Outfit is an excellent rider skill reference.
The author of Driving a Sidecar Outfit is listed as the USCA Sidecar Safety Program. They are a non-profit group dedicated to sidecar ownership and safe operation. Deeper reading reveals the thumbprint of noted hack guru David Hough. Mr. Hough has ridden tens of thousands of sidecar miles and has competed with his BMW/Ural combo in off-road desert races. He is also author of three excellent riding guides (Proficient Motorcycling, Street Strategies and More Street Strategies) as well as a regular contributor to Motorcycle Consumer News. MMM always appreciates a lack of BS and Mr. Hough knows his stuff.
The manual is structured like a lesson plan and workbook. The manual is divided into 35 sections containing general motorcycle riding technique as well as sidecar-specific knowledge and operation. Within these sections are 21 riding exercises that teach riding skills discussed in the section(s). You’ll need to find yourself an empty parking lot and cut a dozen tennis balls in half to use as markers. The riding exercises build cumulatively and sequentially. Following exercises build upon the skills learned previously. For example – you learn how to stop in a straight line without yawing before you learn to stop while in a curve.
Driving a Sidecar Outfit is geared for the complete moto-beginner. The first exercise requires you to sit on your sidecar rig and identify all controls and switches. Veteran riders are able to skip this and other exercises, but MMM likes the fact that DSO can teach absolute riding rookies with zero knowledge of motorcycles and/or sidecar principles how to safely and effectively drive a combo.
Not all of the material is beginner-level. Advanced exercises teach you how to use the front brake while under throttle in right turns, how to ‘fly the chair’ and how to drift three wheels in corners, even on dry pavement! Sound interesting? The more miles we put on sidecars at MMM, the more we grow to love them.
The biggest disappointment is in the photo illustrations. Printed in black & white, they are grainy and lack contrast. Specific details in the captions are often tough to see. Many of the backgrounds add clutter and further confuse some images. We deduct one half cylinder for this. Such photography may put off younger, more visual readers and that would be too bad. Perhaps the photo illustrations can be addressed in a revised second edition.
DSO is available directly from the publisher as well as from sidecar dealers and (some) motorcycle dealers who install hacks. If you are interested in a sidecar, MMM also recommends sidecar-specific periodicals such as Hack’d and The Sidecarist.
We award big bonus points for the manual’s spiral binding. You can lay the book flat on your workbench while studying or the seat of your sidecar while practicing. Why aren’t all technical manuals bound this way? Driving a Sidecar Outfit flies around the corner on two wheels and three-and-a-half out of four cylinders. Recommended to all hack owners as well as anyone considering a sidecar.
“Why would anyone want a Sidecar?”–This one ain’t for you, bubba.
Considering the ‘Third Wheel?’–Replace your panic with confidence.
Hack Addict–You’ll learn 3-wheel power slides and how to fly the chair.
Sev Pearman welcomes your comments and future book review ideas. Send e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org Please put “book review” in the subject line.