Why you need sidecar driving training
by Kevin Mahoney, Classic Motorworks / Cycle Sidecar
This article is going to be a very short version of the reasons to get sidecar driving training. I do not want to get too detailed in case someone gets the idea that reading this article constitutes training – it does not. This advice applies whether your sidecar is attached to a Yamaha, Suzuki, Triumph, BSA, Norton, URAL, BMW, Honda, Kawasaki, Harley Davidson, Indian or even a Stella or Bajaj Scooter.s
I learned how to ride a bike twice. Once as young teenager on a buddy’s big brothers old Matchless, without his knowledge of course. That was training in the 1960’s. When I was in my 30’s and decided that it was time to actually have a motorcycle endorsement I took a Motorcycle Safety Foundation course. This was one of the best things I have ever done. I learned things that I never would have learned on my own or from my buddies. There is more to safe and fun riding than just getting on a bike and going. These same fine people along with others offer sidecar training that is every bit as valuable.
You have heard it said that driving a sidecar is completely different from riding a bike, but have asked your self – this looks easy, how hard can it be? Well it isn’t hard, it is different and that implies that you need to learn new skills. Here are some of the areas to be concerned about.
We have all seen pictures of people driving a hack with the chair up in the air, commonly known as “flying the chair”. In the US where sidecars are normally attached on the right hand side of the motorcycle, it would seem obvious that in order to fly the chair that you would turn left. WRONG. Sidecars tend to go in the air when you turn right due to centrifugal force among other things. Wow – who knew? Turning left on the other hand tends to stick the sidecar to the pavement. There are separate techniques for each type of turn. They are not difficult skills but they must be learned as they do not come naturally.
Braking and speed control
A sidecar rig is heavier than a motorcycle alone and puts extra strain on the brakes. This is not the kind of thing you want to think about as your life is passing in front of your eyes while trying to stop a sidecar rig. You need to learn to think ahead and so more planning than with just a solo bike. In general terms a sidecar rig will not safely corner as fast as a solo motorcycle and this takes some advance thought and control. All skills which are taught in sidecar training classes.
It sounds simple, but it takes a while to get used to the idea that your motorcycle is quite a bit wider than it was before you attached the chair to it. I can personally attest to this as in my first sidecar venture (untrained and cocky) I took out a mail box and then after I thought I had it together, the side of a Custom Harley at Bikeweek.
Do yourself and your pocket book a favor and take the time to get some good solid sidecar training. If there is not a course near you, read everything you can get your hands and practice a LOT in a safe parking lot before you venture into the world. Here is one of the best links on this entire site, use it: http://www.esc.org/
Please give us a call with any of your sidecar questions.