Driving a sidecar rig is a lot like smoking cigarettes. When you first try it you’ll hate it but after you do it a few times it actually becomes enjoyable. Once you get started it’s hard to stop and all the while you do it you know that it may kill you someday.
In 2002, my friend Mark Foster first brought up the idea of running a Saddlesore 1000 Three-up. Mark had done a little research and could find no evidence that anyone had ever done it and that was all the motivation he needed. Having just sold his sidecar rig though the three-up ride lay un-attempted until the winter of 2003 when the bug bit him again. He expressed interest in attempting it as part of the 2004 Minnesota 1000 so I set out to build the machine.
The chassis I had available to use is a stock 1981 CB750C with a ’79 CB750F engine installed in it. The only front suspension I had around was off of an ’80 CB750C so it was pressed into service in all of its single-disc-braked glory with a fork-brace fabbed out of bits of half inch thick aluminum plate. The sidecar itself is a Velorex of unknown vintage that I picked up a few years ago and had lying around ever since. When my friend got word as to what I was building the donations of parts and stickers started rolling in. Windshield, fork seals, a case of oil, saddlebags, and a luggage rack were all bolted on as the man in the magic brown van dropped them off. One notable item was a sticker that read “Metallic Waste”. The name stuck.
As a test run we entered Metallic Waste in the annual I-Cycle Derby held each January 1st in Minneapolis. The I-Cycle is a timed event through the streets of Minneapolis and St. Paul. With my friends, Bob Johnson on the back and MAC in the sidecar, we finished a respectable mid-pack and found several break points in the rig, namely the suspension. At every stop sign the front suspension bottomed out. In left corners the sidecar shock absorber neither shocked nor absorbed and the bikes rear shocks were bottomed from the start line. Bob solved that with the donation of a set of air shocks off of a 1100 Goldwing. I then set to the task of building a new suspension for the sidecar out of half-inch thick plate steel, the wheel and axle from a Goldwing and a pair of shocks off of a KZ650. I also rebuilt the front suspension and stiffened the fork-springs.
Meanwhile online, we put the word out that we needed co-pilots. A dozen or so riders volunteered, but most faded from the screen as the time got closer and they realized we were not joking. It appeared that only Mark Foster, MMM Editor Sev Pearman, and Iron Butt Veteran Jim Winterer truly had the fortitude (and proper medication) to attempt the feat.
Once the battery tray was moved to the trunk of the sidecar to accept a car sized battery the brute was given a fresh set of tires and a carb cleaning and handed over to Sev for its historic date with destiny. Sev and Jim cleaned the carbs again once they got it to Jim’s place in an attempt to address its nasty habit of draining its gas tank out onto the ground via the carb overflow hoses. They then bolted a 3-gallon fuel cell (on loan from Mark Foster) onto the rear rack of the sidecar to increase their fuel range from 75 miles all the way up to 150 miles when fully laden.
There, a brief training period for Jim which mostly entailed reminding Jim of a few of Newton’s basic theories such as “a thirteen hundred pound body in motion tends to stay in motion.” Which is also as a friend, Bill Ager once said, “There is ‘over’ and there is ‘through’. There is no ‘around’.” Once everyone was declared fit and ready they headed for the start/finish line of the Minnesota 1000 in Montrose, MN.
At the start the team and machine were treated much like the Jamaican Bobsled team at the Winter Olympics. Which is to say that few expected them to finish at all. Those that did think they’d finish expected them to cross the line sliding upside down on their helmets with the underbelly of their ‘sled’ shown to the sky. A betting pool was quickly established where riders could bet on whether or not Team Metallic Waste would finish and how many miles they would have completed when the event occurred. However, as the naysayers were placing bets as low as 300 miles, the intrepid trio were busy laying out their route. The plan was simple, travel five hundred miles in whatever direction the wind was blowing during the day, and collect whatever bonus locations were on that path and reverse travel after dark. They only needed to maintain a 43-mile per hour average so there was no need to push the machine hard. On this day the winds blew to the East. Effort was also made to avoid all hills, for any hill they went down meant a corresponding climb back up towards the finish line. With only 50 rear- wheel horsepower on tap and an engine of unknown history or maintenance, they knew to not ask much of the powerplant.
On the flat sections they cruised at 65mph in 5th and downshifted to 4th when needed to pull hills. As the miles rolled past the fuel stops resembled classic Cannonball Run fuel stops. They would pull the rig up between two fuel pump islands; two riders would jump off. One rider would fill the main tank while the other filled the fuel cell. Their efficiency and fast fuel stops allowed them to roll up 1009 miles in 20 hours 19 minutes.
Since then, my wife, three-year-old daughter and I have toured as far as the Minnesota Arrowhead region as well as the eastern half of South Dakota. As I write this, we have over 5000 miles on Metallic Waste this year. Other than a countershaft seal leak it has been a noble steed. I still can’t explain my attraction to sidecars. It’s a filthy addiction that I hope to keep for a long, long time.