Proud stockists of Ural sidecars & spares

Sidecar Building and Riding

Interested in sidecars? Must be, as you are on our sidecar page. Sidecar riding and building is truly an art form.

Building sidecars is an art and not really regulated in South Africa, so one has to be very careful what you get yourself into as a poorly constructed sidecar will lead to a dangerous, unsafe sidecar or one that you will only ride a few times and never again.

When you attach a sidecar to a motorcycle, one of the first things to consider are the mounting points. In all cases the mounting points on the motorcycle side have to be created by means of a sub frame of sorts. The sub frame must also transfer the forces that are achieved by attaching the sidecar, to the other side of the motorcycle so that the complete motorcycle pulls the sidecar along and not just the one side. It is extremely important not to weld on any part of the motorcycle. Pipe clamps are only to be used under correct circumstances as they can easily cause major problems if of poor quality or poorly attached.

The steering of the motorcycle will become harder once the sidecar is attached and this is remedied by reducing the trail of the front wheel – see  Steering a Sidecar - leading link forks

If you do not address the trail and get the steering lighter, you will not enjoy the sidecar experience and in certain cases the rig could be dangerous…

Another very important factor to consider is the braking of the sidecar. If no brake is present on the sidecar, the sidecar will push you off line under braking as the sidecar would want to continue at its present speed whilst the motorcycle is slowing down and this could potentially lead to problems. It is very important too, that one can adjust the sidecar brake independently from the motorcycle as different types of brake pads and other factors can influence the rate at which braking happens. Lastly it is good practice not to interfere with the motorcycle’s ABS or other braking systems in order to protect the integrity of these braking systems – so “cutting into” the existing braking system is not advised.

In summary it now becomes clear that once a motorcycle has been properly converted to become a sidecar tug, it is no longer like the solo bike it used to be and is best left with the sidecar attached. Obviously in an emergency situation the sidecar could be detached and the bike still ridden solo but it would not handle anything like the solo bike you remember.

It follows that to attach a sidecar to a motorcycle is not as simple as it at first may seem and there are many factors to be considered. If you are not planning to do all the basics mentioned above during your build or buy a sidecar with all the above present, rather use the money and take your family on a nice holiday or some other adventure as you will not enjoy that unfinished sidecar!   

However, if you have a sidecar that has been properly constructed like the Ural, or properly converted by someone with a lot of determination and passion for sidecars, like the team at Sidecar Africa, you will end up with a very stable platform from which to enjoy your riding and travels, be it on road or adventure riding. We specialise in the adventure riding aspect of sidecars and have as part of our offering a conversion of the BMW GS 1200 in which all aspects of sidecar building has been considered and developed like the sidecar Brake, Eezi steer trail reducer, turning aspects, strength of construction etc.

Riding a motorcycle with a sidecar attached to the side obviously has its challenges. To steer a sidecar you need to turn the handlebars. In South Africa the law requires that the sidecar be attached to the left hand side of the motorcycle. So when you pull off on a level and flat surface, the sidecar wants to stay behind and you have to “collect” the sidecar with the motorcycle and the net result is a pull to the left. The opposite is true when you decelerate, as the sidecar is happy to continue at its current speed while the motorcycle is in fact braking slightly against the engine. The net result is the sidecar trying to overtake the motorcycle and you will feel a push to the right.

These are the natural characteristics of a sidecar and we cannot change them, so we use these characteristics to ride the sidecar by doing the following. In a left turn apply a little positive throttle to help you steer the sidecar round the corner and by “riding” the bike around the sidecar. In a right turn, you will enter the turn with the throttle a little open and once you have turned the handlebar and entered the corner, close the throttle and the sidecar will release and try to ride around the motorcycle.

WARNING: Throttle control is of extreme importance and has to be done slowly by rolling on and rolling off the throttle. Extreme movements on the throttle can cause extreme changes in direction!