Archive for sidecar

Sidecars Part II

Posted in American Motorcycle, ArtBiker's Thoughts, Custom Motorcycle, Product Reviews, Uncategorized with tags on October 23, 2008 by ArtBiker

I have listed a few of the OEM Sidecar Manufacturers in North America, but again, there are sure to be more out there… Here is an attempt at a more complete list.  Please feel free to add companies and builders, as we would love to find them!

Love, Respect, and Ride Safe,


Cool sidecars, past and present…

Other really good sidecar sites to check out:



Sidecars Part I

Posted in American Motorcycle, ArtBiker's Thoughts, Build Your Own, Custom Motorcycle, Harley-Davidson, Motorcycle Industry News, Uncategorized with tags on October 21, 2008 by ArtBiker


Today we make the leap from trikes to sidecars.  Those unusual little bikes that bring to mind a lone stranger traveling across the states with his dog in the dead of winter, or the rig that is slowly putting down a country road with an elderly woman enjoying the scenery as her driver tries to keep the bumps to a minimum.  Sidecars have a decidedly nostalgic feel to them.  Besides early America, they also bring to mind small towns in Europe where the townsfolk move at a slower pace and the beauty of life is more appreciated.



A quirky mode of transport to say the least, the sidecar is also ultimately useful.  It is stable and can be run off road as well as in the snow, it has a wonderful carrying capacity and can be used to pick up and deliver items as well as a mobile vending unit, it gives those with certain physical limitations another option in enjoying the open air of a motorcycle, and your narcoleptic buddy can ride in the car and fall asleep without you worrying that he is going to fall off the back.



I have just purchased my first sidecar rig and it serves my purposes perfectly.  It gives me a way to take my two young daughters for a ride around the block, it gives me a nice space to stash my things on my way too and from work without having to ride with overflowing saddlebags, it also gives me a place to ride and photograph the world from a unique perspective.  Besides, my Ol’ Lady rides and she can use it to get groceries and other items that she can’t carry on her two wheeler, pick up the kids from a play date, or take a couple friends for a spin to the local pub for a girl’s night out.  So for us, it was a fantastic investment.  Not that it was expensive by any stretch.  We picked up a 1975 Yamaha XS650 with an American Eagle sidecar.  Nothing fancy, nothing too shiny, nothing but a fun workhorse for us to play with.



For those of you who have never ridden a sidecar rig, and I expect that is most of us, it is a very different animal.  Yes, it is a motorcycle, but it steers like a car.  Because of the third wheel, you cannot drive the rig with the same counter steering techniques used on a two-wheeled machine.  This is really not difficult to get over, and it has not given me any trouble thus far.  The thing that is a little hard to get used to is the fact that during right hand turns the sidecar, or “chair” as it is sometimes called, will “fly.”  Now that sounds fun and all, but if you go into a right hand turn at any significant speed at all, the “flying of the chair” can cause a little squinting action.  I am working on mastering the technique now and understand that it can be an exciting and fun thing to do when you are prepared for it.  The thing that is hardest to remember is that when the car goes up in the air, you are suddenly on a two-wheeled motorcycle again and need to counter steer to keep yourself going where you want to go! 

Alas, I am still a newbie when it comes to these things, so I am probably not the best purveyor of advice.  So, I will direct you to the authority.  I just picked up a copy of “Driving a Sidecar Outfit: a manual on learning to drive a motorcycle/sidecar combination” by David Hough and published by the USCA Sidecar Safety Program, Inc.  These folks have put together this manual to be used as a guide for a sidecar safety course.  Because I cannot find a course in my area, I am simply walking myself through the exercises whenever I have a chance to get to an empty parking lot. 

I did spend some time looking at sidecars before actually taking the plunge.  There are a few companies that make fantastic products out there and I would like to share these with you.  The first is probably the best-known sidecar manufacturer out there, Ural.  In 1939 the USSR Defense Ministry decided to reverse engineer the BMW R71 motorcycle so that it could produce them in preparation for World War II.  In 1941 the first test samples rolled out of the plant and were approved by Stalin. The “new” Russian motorcycle was labeled the M-72 and put into production.  Export of the Ural began in 1953 and hit the shores of developed countries by 1960.  Eventually the company was bought from the Russian Government and became privately owned.  This happened in 1998 and allowed the company to grow, create better quality control, modernized design, and updated technology.  We are looking at a whole new Ural here.  They offer four major designs, the Retro, Tourist, Patrol, and Gear Up.  Check out their site and I am sure you will find one you like.



If you are looking for something a little more tailor made, contact Liberty Sidecars in Seattle, Washington.  These folks put sidecars together to fit your exact specifications.  Well, they do use their own chassis and dimensions, but you can order special items like luggage racks, custom interior, tonneau cover, detachable windscreen, custom wheels, spotlight with or without turn signal, sidesteps, and more.  You may have seen one of Liberty’s sidecars in the movies… every see Wild Hogs?  Yup, William H. Macy took a spin in one of these when he lost his bike to a member of the Del Fuegos MC.  Check it all out at



California sidecars ( makes a pretty cool sidecar called the Friendship III.  This little number fits two people in the car with its bench seat.  It also has 9 cubic feet of trunk storage!  What could make it any better?  Well, the Friendship III has an integrated disc brake system on the car, which improves handling during braking as well as stopping time.  Truly a state of the art hack.



Speaking of state of the art, Spalding Side Motorcycle Sidecars has some pretty trick looking chairs.  These are sleek and contemporary.  Gone are the “bullet” look of the classic cars and in are the sports car front ends; you can even order one with an air scoop on the hood.  These little numbers open up wide and the passengers step in rather than climb in, very upscale and really good looking.  Check them out at



Sidecars, like trikes, seem to be making a comeback these days.  I can’t say they will ever replace the chopper or bagger in popularity, but I certainly think you will see more of them on the roads in the near future.  The utilitarian nature of the sidecar rig was one of the reasons I was attracted to them, but they are actually so fun to drive that I think I will keep one in the stable for a while.


Love, Respect, and Ride Safe,





The Future is Coming

Posted in American Motorcycle, ArtBiker's Thoughts, Biker News, Custom Motorcycle, Harley-Davidson, Motorcycle Industry News, Product Reviews, Uncategorized with tags , on October 13, 2008 by ArtBiker

Taking a queue from our Native American Brothers of yore, I have been keeping my ear to the ground.  What do I hear? A rumble.  But, there is something a bit different about this roar.  You can hear the bikes running side by side, two by two, flying down the highway as they come closer and closer.  Problem is, the engines are too in tune, the rpm’s too in time, the cadence of rubber to asphalt, too in sync.  It is almost as if the bikes are in perfect time.  One barreling forward as the other keeps time in a high and mighty wheelie, running perfectly alongside his Brother.  But that can’t be, can it? No, it is something else. I hear the future coming down the road and it is a three-wheeled world.

We all know that baggers are the hot things going right now.  I myself have been a big fan of Brian Klock of Klockwerks for about six or seven years, and I have really appreciated some of the newest works by Paul Yaffe.  Not that I wasn’t a fan before, quite the contrary, it is just that the new work he has been doing with Bagger Nation is really exciting.

It seems that as the current biker population continues to age, and as a new population of riders comes into the fold because of rising gas prices, and as those with certain physical limitations refuse to be kept back, trikes and sidecars are going to be more prevalent on the road.  As you have probably heard, the Motor Company itself has come out with their own production trike.  For Harley-Davidson to put it back into production, there has to be a market (their last trike, besides the servicar, was produced about 30 years ago). And as far as sidecars go, HD has had them available for a long, long time.

But the Factory is certainly not the only company with a foothold in this segment of three-wheeled fun.  In fact, they may not even be considered the leaders.   Depending on your point of view, there are a few industry leaders.  Everyone has his or her own opinions, and you are soon to be subject to mine.  Watch for the next few posts focusing on trikes and sidecar rigs.  And keep your ear to the ground; you can hear the rumble.


Love, Respect, and Ride Safe,



A Bike for Every Man (and Woman)

Posted in ArtBiker's Thoughts, Product Reviews, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , on October 3, 2008 by ArtBiker

With all the bikes out there in the world there is surely something for everyone.  With the exception of a few folks like Jay Leno, most of us will only own one or two bikes at a time.  I am very fortunate to have four scoots in the stable at the moment.  But they each serve a distinct purpose.  There is the 2003 FXSTDI Deuce that I bought after recovering from cancer. She has been my touring rig for the past six years taking me to Sturgis, Daytona, Myrtle Beach, Laconia, and many other destinations throughout the country. There is my tried and true daily rider, a 1949 Panhead, rigid frame, foot clutch, jockey shift, and more fun than I can fit into a day.  Just kicking her over in the morning makes getting up worthwhile.  Then there is the 2002 Shadow 600, which is my wife’s pride and joy.  She loves her “Hondee” and it has been hard trying to talk her into a Harley.  The Shadow just fits her small frame so well.  While I think it would rattle my teeth loose, she has no problem riding it across country.  In fact, I could hardly keep up with her on the last trip to Daytona.  Then there is the newest addition to the family, a 1975 Yamaha XS 650 with American Eagle sidecar.  I just bought this one for the kids.  Mamma has a little trouble with the idea of me taking our two girls (aged 1 and 2.5) out for a spin on the tank of my Harley.  Sooo, I figured a sidecar rig would be perfect for trips to the girls play dates and pre-school activities.  Besides, I can pull the seat out and take the puppy for a ride, or simply fill the sidecar up with ice and beer for the next club run.  The possibilities are endless.

There are a few other models I would really like to own, and I don’t feel like I am being greedy about it.  I am not asking for the world here, although it feels like it financially.  If I did have the cash, I would want to get myself a Ducati Monster.  The last time I rode a sport bike was when I was about 20 and a friend let me borrow his for a spin.  He told me to take it out onto a nice smooth road in Albuquerque where he lived and wind it up.  As I pulled out of the parking lot, I heard him say to watch the speedo because I would hit 100 before I knew it and the brakes on the bike were in bad shape.  Well, I did take it out and I did hit 100 before I knew it… in fact, before I got out of third gear!  The bike was like glass.  A great ride, but even I knew that I would probably kill myself at that age on that bike.  But now that I am a bit older, and a little more relaxed, I think I could handle it.

The Little Monster (695)

The Little Monster (695)

The Monster has beautiful lines and, being a Harley guy, I love seeing the engine with the bare naked frame.  This bike is truly a piece of art.  Actually, the Ducati Sport Classic would also be a fine piece to add to the collection.  This bike reminds me of those beautiful café racers that were so popular in the 50’s and 60’s.    While my dad was dating my mom, he rode a gorgeous BSA.  He tried to teach my mom to ride and actually got her to give it a try.  He got her situated, showed her where the clutch was and how to shift with her toe.  He walked her through starting it up and giving it some gas.  Next thing you know she is cruising across the yard and directly up a tree.  Seems dear ol’ dad forgot to tell her where the brakes were.  We really don’t talk about it much anymore.

Ducati's Answer to the Cafe Racer

Ducati Sport Classic

Speaking of family members, my grandfather was an Indian Man.  And the brand new Indian Chief is one slick bike.  I like the Vintage myself, but fully loaded the thing costs nearly 36 grand.  I am very happy with the thought that this time the alternative American brand just might make it.  If you have not had a chance to check out their proprietary engine, be sure to take a gander.  Beauty.

Indian Chief Vintage

Indian Chief Vintage

Now for a little fun for the family, I think it would be really cool to have a set of dirt bikes.  Actually, because we live in Houston, where the off road terrain is slim pickings and the MX Tracks are quite a ways away, I would totally dig a dual purpose machine.  This is the kind of thing I drooled over in 1985.  Living in New Mexico, I thought the opportunity to ride on the street and play in the dirt on the same machine would be the perfect blend.  Kawasaki has come out with a completely re-designed KLR 650 that looks like it would totally fit the bill.  In fact, I am already planning on looking for a used 2008 model.  I will start looking for it in 2013, but I am planning on looking for it.  The bike is priced very reasonably new so I figure I could get one for a couple grand used.

Kawasaki KLS 650 Dual Sport

Kawasaki KLR 650 Dual Sport

I have also been thinking of putting my soon to be middle aged rump into the seat of a new FLHXI Street Glide.  Harley has finally upgraded each of their bike line-ups and they have really hit one out of the park with their touring models.  I remember after the Dyna upgrades chatting with a sales person at the local HD Dealership.  He asked me what I thought Harley should do next.  I said stiffen the frame of the touring line.  He looked at me like I was nuts and said there was no reason for that.  Well, he no longer works there, so I suppose I don’t have to worry about some idiot trying to sell a bike to me without even having an idea of what the customer base wants.  I personally think Harley has done right by their loyal following.  And, their current marketing trends, while being open to some question, seem to be getting more riders on their bikes… but that whole issue is another story all together.

FLHXI Street Glide

FLHXI Street Glide

Actually, I am a bit torn between the Street Glide and the Electra Glide Standard (FLHTI).  The Standard has a raw engine that is just simply Old School Cool.  It looks beautiful the way it is.  The Standard also offers itself up to full customization by coming in two grand less than the Street Glide and offering a bare bones set-up.  That two grand can do a lot.  However, I would probably lower the Standard, add a radio, a short windshield, and maybe even new mirrors.  Before you know it, I have spent the two grand making the Standard into the Street Glide.  Merging the two models; the sleek, low stance of the FLHXI with its small bullet lights, tucked in mirrors, and short windscreen, with the sexy raw motor of the FLHT and it’s passing lamps would make a perfect platform.  Bump the engine to a 103in, add a 21in front wheel, black out the front end, throw on some pipes and you are ready to travel across country and back in style and comfort… no need for crazy trunk packs and leg fairings, and the other jive that is on the FLHTCU (Ultra Classic).  Keep it a bit simpler, a bit lighter, and a bit sexier.  Yeah, that is the touring rig I would like to have in my garage.

FLHTI Electra Glide Standard

FLHTI Electra Glide Standard

Now, I know there are hundreds – thousands – of you who would say, “what about this or that machine…  You can’t live without the new so and so from so and so… and what about the classics that you can’t get anymore… what about them?”  Well, I could go on and on and on, but I am trying to be practical in my daydreaming.  With any luck, I will own all of the bikes on my list.  Not all at once mind you, but for a short period, one at a time.  Really, that is all the Average Joe can hope for… that is, unless Jay Leno wants to lend you access to his collection.


Love, Respect, and Ride Safe,