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  #1  
Old 1 Mar 2012
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Sidecar trans-continental

I've put this in the bar just because its an idea at the moment, nothing much more.

I'm hoping to do a UK to Japan trip in 2014 (or Japan to UK) as my brother and family live there. At the moment there are two options I'm considering:
  • Fly to Japan, buy a Mitsubishi Delica and drive home via russia, mongolia and the stans. Straightforward(ish) but expensive.
  • OR, the subject of this post, ride to Japan on my XT with a sidecar. Ship home. Should also be straightforward(ish) but less expensive. Harder but more fun?
I've always thought sidecars were cool. Not sure why, maybe its a Great Escape/Indiana Jones thing. But there's a couple of things I'm wondering about.

I'm going to have to get a sidecar made - I thought a basic platform to which I can fit my own aluminium body. It wouldn't be designed to carry people - just stuff. Anyone know someone in the UK that would be able to build something like this? Simple and robust is what I'd like. And cost is a factor. I'd be looking to spend about a grand or so, certainly under two, is that unrealistic?

In the UK you can't use a sidecar on a bike on the right hand side unless you are visiting from abroad. I'm going to want to use the car after I get home, so it will need to go on the left. Is this going to cause me strife at customs or with police abroad?

Any thoughts on this? Anyone know any brits (or other left hand siders) who have done some overlanding with a sidecar recently?

Cheers for feedback,

Matt
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*Disclaimer* - I am not saying my bike is better than your bike. I am not saying my way is better than your way. I am not mocking your religion/politics/other belief system. When reading my post imagine me sitting behind a frothing pint of ale, smiling and offering you a bag of peanuts. This is the sentiment in which my post is made. Please accept it as such!
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  #2  
Old 1 Mar 2012
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Iain and Debz (currently away on denises scoots across the sahara) have an overland sidecar set up - you could try contacting them or andy and maya in Dumfries who are sidecar nuts as well and done lots of sidecar stuff. Here is a link to Iain and debzs rebuild at the workshop in Newcastle where the sidecar and bike frame were reformed quite a bit to suit his overland need. They are setting off in may rtw for a couple of years.http://advrider.com/forums/showthread.php?t=762454
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  #3  
Old 1 Mar 2012
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Hi Matt.
It's a great idea for a trip, one i started to pursue a couple of years ago (Triumph Trophy 900, Squire sidecar, Wasp forks,etc...) but kids moaning about being bored/cold/wet made me abandon the project. It would have been such a good challenge too...Here's what i found though.
Using L/H chair abroad - not a problem as long as it complies to the rules of the country it is registered in and where resides the owner.
Fitting a small spotlight on the L/H side of the chair as a running light is a good idea unless you want it chopped off by passing trucks.
As far as the chair itself goes,either Squire or Watsonian are pretty solid(and cheap) basically BUT the weak point is always how it is fitted to the bike.The mountings would need to be much better than what would suffice for normal road riding in this country. Also the sidecar suspension units are pretty crude on the above mentioned,no more than trailer-spec Indespension units on the older ones.
Then you need to consider the bike suspension. It'll be too soft as standard, especially the rear.Then the steering and forks......can you see where we're heading? It sounds like overkill but to just do a half-cooked job will make an unbearably tiring, ill-handling outfit that will rob you of the pleasure of the trip.Trust me i have ridden several of them!
The most knowledgeable guy i can think of to talk to would be Robbie at WASP engineering, although he can be hard work striking up a decent conversation with (he is an expert engineer after all!). 01722 792827.
Personally what I would do if i was going to build a genuine go-anywhere,do-anything outfit is find a motocross or enduro rolling chassis(WASP,EML,etc...) and fit the motor and bits from your bike.I have a good friend who has done just this and the result is astounding. If you want to talk to him PM me for his phone number.
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  #4  
Old 1 Mar 2012
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I think you should decide if you really need any real kind of off-road ability. Because most people don't stray that far from the asphalt on long distance trips really. Coping with rough roads doesn't require anything particularly special. The forces put on a sidecar and mounting arrangement when cornering should be more significant than what they'll suffer going over a few potholes.

I like to think I know more than most people about sidecars (I'm probably wrong), as I built my own from scratch. I am not a trained engineer by any stretch of the imagination. If you make something yourself it's easy to get exactly what you want. I think a sidecar specialist would be quite expensive for a totally custom setup. Some info about what I did might give you ideas.

I built it for an xs750, and chose to weld mounting brackets onto the frame of the bike as I wasn't bothered about resale value (it was a heap) and because it's easier/cheaper than making or buying frame clamps and more versatile. I made the sidecar chassis from very thick tubular steel (same outside diameter as scaffold, but thicker walled, 5mm I think) - I don't know if it was the most appropriate stuff to use but it was free reclaimed from the pub where I worked at the time. I used a trailer indespension unit - Hint, the lightest duty trailer unit you can buy will still be too stiff, you need to lengthen the 'arm'. I built a "trademan's box" body from 2mm thick steel sheet, the lid was removable, securely lockable, and about 99% watertight.

I later fitted a fiberglass body for carrying people, and narrowed the chassis to fit it and removed one of my mounting struts.


The first incarnation of my outfit handled really well. The sidecar tyre did seem to wear quite quickly though (maybe 6K to one tyre I think), and the bike rear tyre also wore quickly when on 'interesting' roads (eg in the alps). The second incarnation handled a lot worse, it was fine for sedate riding but not at all suitable for going fast round corners. I only followed the basic geometry universally advised for sidecars, not a specific design or plan.










The sidecar still exists in that (last) form, attached to a K series BMW, and I believe it is still going strong. The metal box setup was great, but in the end I found not being able to carry a passenger frustrating.
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  #5  
Old 1 Mar 2012
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Thanks for the replies, folks!

Interesting feedback and some great pics of the build on ADV. Adapting a second hand Watsonian/Squire might be a good way to go. I hadn't realised I'd need to uprate my bike suspension. I guess fitting stiffer springs would do the job, or would I need to go further?

Nath, I'm really intrigued by the possibility of building a sidecar. I had thought it would probably be beyond me but that set up looks quite simple. I guess it would be by far the cheapest option. Interested by your statement about not being an engineer. I'm willing to give things a shot, but more importantly my dad is an engineer (OK, roads not bikes!) and restores vintage cars in his spare time. Maybe if we put our heads together and I do the donkey work, we could build something that would work? I should say that full off road capability is not necessary - it just needs to be able to handle bad roads.

One question I have (and I'm really going to show my ignorance here!) - is there any movement between the bike and the car or do they form a single rigid unit? Some of the stuff I've read suggests that a sidecar can allow a bike to lean, other stuff that you are effectively riding a trike and the skill is completely different?

Thanks again for the replies. This forum never ceases to amaze in terms of how broad peoples knowledge is!

Matt

PS - love that last photo!
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*Disclaimer* - I am not saying my bike is better than your bike. I am not saying my way is better than your way. I am not mocking your religion/politics/other belief system. When reading my post imagine me sitting behind a frothing pint of ale, smiling and offering you a bag of peanuts. This is the sentiment in which my post is made. Please accept it as such!
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  #6  
Old 2 Mar 2012
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Feel free to copy anything you see here:

https://sites.google.com/site/yorkshireoutbacksidecar/

or here

https://picasaweb.google.com/1044429...87208674638290


I'd go with the build idea too, or at least an upgrade. The Watsonian was last really subject to serious design work on the 1970's. Since then they've in effect got away with it because most sidecars are bolted to a CB500/Bonneville/Enfield/Airhead and used to trundle the kids about for an hour or two on a Sunday. That said you'll see Velorex's fastened to Goldwings with scaffolding clamps that somehow survive. The Watsonian is infinately superior to some of these lash ups but not really UK-Japan ready.

Compare Naths 5-point mounting to the Velorex clamps you'll see used.

Wasp will make something that will work and keep working.

I'd avoid the platform idea. Having done the calcs there is no real weight or cross section saving, you loose the chance to use a box to strengthen the chassis and have the same woes as guys using soft luggage.

My chassis was made by another home builder, I did my own body. The chassis is just box section, if you can make a luggage rack no worries. The fittings you can buy from the sidecar builders (do not use scaffolding bits the heat treatment is wrong for use on something that vibrates). The running gear is a Ford Escort swing arm with a shock ordered online, so any car/bike restorer will manage. The body is just a box that any sheet metal work apprentice should knock up in a few hours.

99% of outfits are rigid and handle like nothing else on earth. If you've never DRIVEN one (think defective quad bike) you need to try before you buy. Leaners are rare and different again.

Happy to help if you need dimensions etc. I'm 200 miles South of you if you drink Tea or Coffee.

Andy

Last edited by Threewheelbonnie; 2 Mar 2012 at 15:54. Reason: Clarification.
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  #7  
Old 2 Mar 2012
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Matt I have to agree with Andy - before you go down this road go and ride a sidecar for a good few miles, they are a real skill to drive and steer totally different in right handers to left handers and don't really want to go in straight lines, You love them or hate them I do not think there is any middle ground more so if you are looking at big trips on one. Bye the way I fit into the hate to be on, in or ride them category (but I still can't help but admire the madmen that are the charioteers) Have a look at this link the russian take on these weird contraptions and if you watch it right through you see how well they can be ridden,but thats Cossacks for you. !http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dN5PAwc1ns8

Last edited by adventure950; 2 Mar 2012 at 20:32.
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Old 5 Mar 2012
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Trying out an outfit would be definately good if you could arrange it. But you can probably work out whether it's what you want even never having ridden one.

A solo motorcycle is quite elegant and works with natural forces, something to do with gyroscopics I think? All sweepy and smoothe throught the bends. A sidecar outfit is fighting against natural forces. I've never tried earles/leadinglink forks, but I'm told this makes things a lot easier. But you're still working against natural forces. The chair can easily lift up and flip over the bike when you go around left hand corners. I personally found riding outfits very rewarding. In comparison bikes are boring and easy, any idiot can learn to ride a motorcycle fast around corners, it's only about learing the limits of the bike/tyres/surface etc. If you want to ride an outfit fast you've got to be properly on the ball, and have a shed load of miles experience behind you, or else it's very easy to end up in the next hedge.


If you get any enjoyment from making things, then self-build is a good idea. If you hate getting your hands dirty then it won't work, but the alternative will be expensive. Materials, consumables and purchasing some tools might run you to £500. Times that by four at least to get a custom outfit from a professional I reckon. By the sounds of it you have plenty of know-how between you and your dad to do it. You'll need to do plenty of research on the web, and also in looking at sidecar outfits at rallies or bikemeets etc, to come up with a plan of what you're going to make.

Don't hold me on that 500quid figure though. If you need to buy any powertools that'll go up, and maybe also if you want any fancy components like specialist sidecar parts for your mounting arangements, or clever suspension. Though it could also go down to next to nothing if you have a stockpile of welding/grinding consumables and source of free steel and large bolts etc.
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Old 6 Mar 2012
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Nath View Post
. .....

A solo motorcycle is quite elegant and works with natural forces, something to do with gyroscopics I think? All sweepy and smoothe throught the bends. A sidecar outfit is fighting against natural forces. I've never tried earles/leadinglink forks, but I'm told this makes things a lot easier. But you're still working against natural forces. The chair can easily lift up and flip over the bike when you go around left hand corners. I personally found riding outfits very rewarding. In comparison bikes are boring and easy, any idiot can learn to ride a motorcycle fast around corners, it's only about learing the limits of the bike/tyres/surface etc. If you want to ride an outfit fast you've got to be properly on the ball, and have a shed load of miles experience behind you, or else it's very easy to end up in the next hedge.


........
+1 to that. An outfit involves as much observation as skill. Things like road camber and using gradients become important. The left hander that results in a trip into the hedge (if you are lucky, it'll usually be the hedge on the right so involves crossing the oncoming traffic) is usually a downhill tightening corner trap. You set up the line (wider than a solo with the intention to chop into the apex) and adjust the speed for what you can see. The trap is that the corner tightens so you need to be slower and drops away so you need the brakes. The cure for the tightening corner is gentle application of power to drive the bike round the chair, but adding power increases speed on the slope and so makes things worse. The brakes required to slow you are on the wrong side by a factor of 2:1 so will widen the curve into the oncoming traffic. (I can apply by sidecar brake on it's own but the resulting swing is vicious and can also lift the chair). Keep the combination of speed and radius and the chair will lift. Tiller steering ends and reverse steering resumes albiet with a 200 litre pannier on one side only. You can now hopefully complete the corner with a flying chair, see far enough to borrow the other side of the road to increase the turn radius or pick a soft looking bit of hedge. The right hander that follows is mostly just a case of seeing how much traction is available, none of the above applies chopping the throttle and hitting the brakes tighten the turn until you lift the back wheel and find yourself riding a motorbike again but sitting on the pannier with the worst case of wheel misalignment you'll ever see.

If your thoughts at this point are that it sounds like a challenge you are a potential sidecarist, if it sounds like something that will be tedious after six hours in snow sleet and rain, I'd go with that 4x4.

Off road you have different issues. A MX outfit is very nimble to the point that you can literally pick up the chair wheel and hop it over the odd tree branch. The long distance capability of an XT400 with 50 kg of stuff hung on the side isn't great though. A road outfit even something designed with a bit extra ground clearance is still going to be restricted to places you can get with a 4x4 and usually has the additional disadvantage of not having a reverse gear. On snow, sand or gravel an outfit with the righ tyres will go anywhere a 4x4 can, but no faster. In mud you'd take the car. Like the 4x4, the point at which you cease skipping over the surface and start plodding through comes sooner than with a solo off road bike. as noted previously oufits that can take off road use are made not bought in kit form.

The physical effort is IMHO no different to a solo bike. Like a solo bike you change the mechanical stuff to match the weight of the outfit, so while my old Ural had straight teles the Bonneville needed wider bars and both BMW's needed links. What new drivers notice is that using a tiller to steer uses the shoulder and back muscles while a solo bike allows use of the legs and wrist. Having found that the trail you are following is a dead end, the resulting 97-point turn that involves Rugby Scrum type shoving back does involve more physical effort. This is why you often carry a labour force of one in the sidecar, the monkey is mostly ballast but has other functions (he says hopeing the wife isn't reading this).

Outfits wear faster too. You can get past things like the 2000 mile rear tyre with a bit of modifying (fit a car tyre they last 30000), but you will never stop a gearbox bearing designed for a 500 kg vehicle wearing faster when moving a tonne. Know your outfit and it's just like any other vehicle that needs maintenance, but chances are there will only be you who really knows it.

This all seems horribly negative. Think I'll go terrify a car drivers with a bit of chair flying and power sliding

Andy
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Old 6 Mar 2012
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I have a few questions to throw into this and a some ideas.

If I put a sidecar on a solo bike do I have to inform the DVLA to change the V5 from a solo to a combination?
If so does the V5 record whether the sidecar is on the left or right.

I believe you're not supposed to use a R/H sidecar on anything registered later than around 1983 but I know there are some fairly new registered Urals on the road with R/H chairs. I don't know if their riders ever get stopped by the police or what action might be taken if they were.

In days gone by it wasn't uncommon for a Dad to use a solo motorcycle for work during the week and bolt on a sidecar at the weekends to take the family out. It's not something I'd want to do now because of the complexity of modern outfits but would our UK laws still allow for this?

I think one problem with fitting a R/H chair would be MOT time when the tester could refuse to issue an MOT for a vehicle which didn't match the regulations.

Going along the lines of home design and build it doesn't seem unreasonable to construct a chassis which could be attached to either side of the bike by turning it over. So attach to the left for UK Mot and riding in the UK, but would be worth the effort of changing sides for an extended trip abroad.
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Old 6 Mar 2012
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I rode a sidecar outfit once, albeit on a run of just over 400 miles. I disliked the experience, compared to riding a bike it was like running in a three legged race.

Looking around at options that would allow me to carry more gear and thus be more comfy I have come down to either using a bike + hotels or perhaps a small hatchback diesel car. These do more MPG than most bikes (up to 75MPG) and offer more options. All you need is a big sunroof definitely the way to go when you are considering two up.
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Old 7 Mar 2012
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mustaphapint View Post
I have a few questions to throw into this and a some ideas.

.....
In the UK a sidecar is like a trailer, you don't have to tell anyone except your insurers. If you want to take it off on MOT day that is between you and the in-sewer-ants or if you don't tell them your consience. Your MOT won't mention the chair if it passes, the only clue is on the receipt for how much they charged you.

Any bike made after 1981 with a chair on the right is illegal. Plod don't know if it's New Year or New York so yes they mostly get away with it. You will be refused an MOT and if you crash your insurance is invalid. Some Ural dealers broke the law by what plod would see as ringing if they cared to look. Registering an outfit as a Trike or taking engine and frame numbers from a pre-1981 scrapper is illegal and solves nothing. Such bikes taken back to these dealers for the MOT might be passed but that can only continue until they get caught. You will notice many such Urals have NI or private plates to throw further doubt into their legality. SVA and the computerised MOT make Chinese outfits with fake BMW badges, 1957 paperwork and claims they were used in Indiana Jones films, sold by Lovejoy style antique dealers a serious mine field.

Dads Sunbeam and Double adult Watsonian had two drum brakes, telescopic forks and tyres off a Sopwith Camel. At 40 mph solo or as an outfit it was managable at 1950's traffic volumes and insurance was just a case of waiting for the Co-op man to knock on the door and tell him what you'd done. The law hasn't changed. My K100 though has a 185 section car tyre on the rear, leading link forks and the battery is in the sidecar body. It'll pass anything except a petrol station. The scum bag In-sewer-ants I have to phone once a year charge £30 in admin per go and whenever we have contact that doesn't involve me showing them a contract they've already agreed to they try and call the bike "modified" and triple the premium. You could take something like an Enfield or maybe an XT600 and make it bolt on bolt off but the performance would be limited. Tyre wear in particular could ruin it for distance. Once out of the UK the insurance issues go away but so does the need to take it off.

A chair on the "wrong" side is never a problem in my experience. In many ways its better, your turns towards the chair are on a wider radius. The hassle of getting the set up right after unbolting and switching your head from a left to right hand fitting would IMHO be the greater problem. A passenger in the sidecar may not agree, but I think an intercom is a more practical solution.

If you are prepared to stretch a point on legallity/insurance and really want Duo-drive and a right hand fitting for an extended trip, maybe just buy in Holland or Germany and be out of the UK before they catch you?

Andy
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Old 7 Mar 2012
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Thanks folks,

These are really interesting responses. I'm not expecting an outfit to handle anything like a bike, and in a way that is what appeals. I'm a sucker for new experiences (just look in my garage!) and this seems like an interesting one. My head says the 4x4, but my heart says sidecar! Fortunately I am not much of a speed demon and like to potter along most of the time, so the outfit might suit!

My dad has lots of tools that I don't and I have a reasonable selection of the basic stuff. I know a mechanic who races those off-road buggies in his spare time and builds his own frames - would probably get him to do the welding.

The insurance issue is also worth looking at. I'd like to be able to take the sidecar off/put it on at short notice if I want. Will need to do some phoning around.

Matt
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