Tuesday, November 22, 2011

There's Somethin' About a Sidecar

I've been riding riding scooter for 3 and a half years now. For most of that time I've been fascinated by sidecars, also known as "hacks" or "rigs." Who isn't? Right? Sure, I had people tell me that they're not all they're cracked up to be, but my interest continued.
Here's the Stella after I had ridden her to the rally.

My interest hasn't always remained high, though. I had the opportunity to ride/drive one about 20 miles in May of 2010. We were having a scooter rally and my friend Meta, who has a 2005 Stella with a sidecar, and I traded scooters so she could ride unhindered in one of the rides. I had been jonesing to ride one, so I didn't hesitate to let her take my Stella on the ride, so I could take the sidecar across town to the next rally location.

I was underwhelmed, to say the least. I had no idea it took so much work to control one of these things! Because there is no brake on the sidecar, every time I came to an intersection, the whole rig would swing violently to the left. Because the sidecar isn't powered, every time I would accelerate at any rate harder than a snail on quaaludes, the hack swung hard to the right. It was all I could do to stay between the lines.
Argh! Beware of the corners!

Cornering? "Fuhget abowd it!" I made a left onto a street with three lanes for cars and one for bikes and still almost ran over the curb! Right hand turns were nightmarish as well. I don't think that the sidecar actually went into the air on any of turns, but I have seen enough YouTube videos that I felt like it was going to. I think I made every turn at 5mph or less. I never knew how much roads sloped in one direction or another, until I was on that rig. That was yet another disturbing sensation. By the time I arrived at my destination, my arms were limp with the exhaustion of fighting the scooter.
My SIL, Raoul, my eldest grandson, Zak, and I on the hack.

Now that I had ridden a sidecar 20 miles or so and was, therefor, an "expert" I told some of my friends how I foolishly wanted one before I had piloted one, but now I knew better and would never get one. I knew those foolish sidecar fantasies would plague me no longer.
My daughter, one of the grand twins and I on the rig.

Apparently, sidecar fantasies are not easily eliminated. Time went by and my thoughts about them ceased being as negative. I have a daughter, son-in-law and grandson who all live in Cape Town, South Africa. When we first learned, in May, that they were going to come and visit, my wife mentioned, in passing, that sidecars and grand kids would make a pretty good combination. I wasn't too sure about that idea but it fell into one of the many lesser used parts of my brain and began to germinate.
My other daughter, mother of the grand twins, my other grand twin and I

Before I knew it, I was thinking a lot about sidecars again. I was googling them. I was watching YouTube videos. I even started following a blog about Hubert Kriegel, who travels the world on a Ural Sidecar Rig. I began think "What better way to transfer my love for scooters and riding on 2-wheels is there than taking them for a ride in a sidecar?"

As the time for the South African contingent's visit got closer, I asked Meta about borrowing her hack for the visit. She never hesitated a moment and said I could have Stella and "the Rocket" (her sidecar) for as long as I wanted them. In the end, we actually traded rides. Meta took my RV-250 and I took her Stella w/sidecar.
Zak loved all the scooters.

The kids were actually in town before we managed to make the trade. I met Meta at Scoot Over (Tucson's finest scooter source) and rode home. This was the same rig I had ridden 18 months earlier, but I didn't have quite as many problems with it riding to my house. Perhaps it was because there weren't as many turns. I also was real easy on the brake and accelerator.

I got home fine, but knew I had to practice a bit lest I scare to bejeebers out of my 2 year grandson. As I was sitting there on the bike, up drives a car with California plates. My daughter and SIL were expecting some friends from CA who wanted to see them now that they were in the states.

Here, dear friends, is the allure of the sidecar. I had never seen these folks before in my life. They stepped out of their car and I called over:
"You must be the Dunlaps. Want to take a ride in my sidecar?"
To which Kendra replied: "Are you kidding?"
"Nope." I said, and she jumped in.
It's great for picking up pizza, too!

I did advise her, once we were out of sight of the house, that she was the first person i had ever ridden in the sidecar. We zipped around the block and when we pulled up to my driveway, it was clear that Justin was ready for his ride. I took him around the block and when we got back to the house, I took them in the house to introduce them to the family. People will take off with total strangers, if it means they get to ride in a sidecar.

For the next ten days, I gave rides in that hack almost every day. I learned to anticipate what the scooter would do on take off and with braking. I learned to slide my butt off the side of the seat in the turns. I learned that even "cool" high school boys, smoking cigarettes, will point and shout "Look at that!" when I rode by. The more I rode, the more I enjoyed this scooter.
Smiles before & during each ride, tears afterward.

If the fact that Zak, my grandson, cried every time he got out of the Rocket is any indication, I would say he really liked it. Additionally, everyone else in the family liked it too. I am pretty sure that I don't want a Stella with a sidecar, though. I think it's a little much to expect a 150cc bike to pull the extra mass associated with a sidecar much less a passenger.
What is NOT to love about this?

I am finding myself attracted to the Ural. The fact that the Ural looks just like the hacks you see in the old movie about WWII kind of cements it in my head. I will be looking at scooter and various motorcycle w/sidecar combos over the coming months. I don't know how I'll ever afford one, but we'll wait and see how that goes.