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.


  1. You're first assessment after riding with a sidecar is similar to my own ---"Why would anyone ever want to ride one of these things?" It's especially strong after years of fluid riding on two wheels. But like you say the dream doesn't die easy.

    My third lengthy encounter with a sidecar rig -- a 2012 URAL Patrol -- has the dream still burning. Once I abandoned comparisons to a motorcycle and began thinking about it as it's own unique ride I was able to see what applications it would sing for. Hauling grandchildren just being one of the them.

    Anyways, your post sums up the the mental gymnastics surrounding these rigs pretty well. The camo URAL looks really nice. You know you want one!

    Steve Williams
    Scooter in the Sticks

  2. I've been thinking hack to allow me to ride on those days when snow and ice prevent me from riding now. Alas, it is only a few days of the year and as you mentioned there is the "How would I ever pay for?" question. Plus, where would I keep it? So I get all rational and tell myself it just doesn't make sense . . . and, then I'm reminded of the things you can do with a hack that you just can't do with a scoot/bike, like carrying camping gear, a great platform for taking photos, or riding three up as we had a chance to do when we visited Chris' and rode in his rig:


    Oh well, good luck. Like Steve said, a nice Ural camo sure looks good and it sure calls my name.

  3. Most of my experiences with trikes was in the Philippines during my Navy days. There the are used as mini-taxi's, with small 125-175cc motorcycles. Worked fine from what I could tell, Hondas were the bikes of choice for the trikes. Trikes are not for me, prefer 2 wheels. One word of caution, may want to do some research on the Urals. Have read many stories about there power and reliability issues, hopefully the newer ones are getting better.

  4. I have just added a detachable sidecar you can take on or off in less than a minute that mounts onto most any 49 cc motor scooter and has plenty of power and speed if 40 miles per hour is fast enough for you. One of the two most important factors when buying a sidecar is to make sure the toe in effect is right of it will bobble on you and will make you have to work alot harder. Also mounting a 20 dollar steering dampener will help as well. The sidecars I build are lighter weight and much more affortable than the steel ones built in overseas. I currently working on makeing one with a plastic tub instead of fiberglass in order to reduce the cost even more. My goal is to get the price under a thousand dollars. My name is john and I own Keltic sidecars here in Tarpon springs, Florida. One little interesting side note is 80 percent of the people buying them from us are pet owners. So they can take their dogs for a ride, who would of thought lol. Peace and great riding.

  5. Check out a company called Keltic sidecars in florida they build a sidecar designed for 50 cc honda scooters like the ruckus and metropolitans. I will try to post a pic of it from their site if i can figure out how or just put sidecar for ruckus in google and a video will pop up in you tube.