What is it about sidecars that makes people smile, point, give the “thumbs up” and sometimes stop the rider to ask giggly questions? We’re not sure, but we have the same reaction ourselves — except for the giggling, of course.
Doug Bingham knows all about the attention sidecars draw. In fact, a little more than 36 years ago, Doug and a few of his sidecar-driving buddies stopped for a break in Los Angeles’ Griffith Park while out for a ride one day. That impromptu stop grew into a tradition: the annual Griffith Park Sidecar Rally.
Even though the fall season brought wildfires throughout southern California, the 2007 event occurred as scheduled Oct. 28, drawing more than 300 sidecar rigs from all over the U.S. along with thousands of spectators. The event attracts all kinds of rigs, including modern and classic Harley-Davidsons, Urals, BMWs, Triumphs, BSAs, Moto Guzzis, Yamahas and more. While a few of the Harley, Ural and some of the older BMW motorcycles came from the factory with sidecars, most are highly customized modern and classic motorcycles with sidecars added by owners.
Ural love it
Ural always has a significant showing at the Griffith Park event, as this Russian marque is currently doing more to promote sidecars than just about any other manufacturer (visit www.imz-ural.com to learn more about Urals). Ural started production early in World War II, with a mandate by old Joe Stalin himself. The machines are basically copies of World War II-era airhead BMW boxers, and some of their sidecars have powered drive wheels. One of the Urals at the Griffith Park meet, a beautiful turquoise and cream rig, featured a transplanted 1,000cc BMW engine and is a daily driver. These machines are not trailer queens!
Modern and older sidecar-equipped Harleys also put in an appearance, including an awesome 1979 Electra Glide Classic (in the original two-tone tan) and a drop-dead-gorgeous, candy-apple red flathead Harley.
Meticulously restored military rigs, including an awesome World War II 750cc boxer-twin Zundapp, added to the event’s variety. The rally attracted many older civilian BMWs, equipped with Steib, Ural, Dneper and other sidecars.
The custom sidecar rigs were incredible, and many of them came from Doug Bingham, who’s known as “Mr. Sidecar” in the sidecar community. A self-proclaimed wild man in his youth (he went to the same reform school as Bud Ekins), he got into competitive sidecar racing back in the 1960s as a way to ride on a suspended license! Success on the track led to forming Side Strider Inc. in 1969 (www.sidestrider.com), and almost 40 years later he’s still importing sidecars, building sidecar rigs and providing sidecar services for bicycle races, marathons and the movie industry. If you’ve seen the great sidecar chase scene in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, you’ve seen his work. Doug was responsible for the first Griffith Park gathering 36 years ago, and he’s been running it ever since.
So, what is it about sidecars that makes them so much fun? Doug calls them “the world’s best kept secret,” and figures riders just need to get familiar with them to want one. Throw in rising fuel costs and a sidecar rig’s ability to haul the family groceries, and Doug figures they’re a natural for a new generation.
Be sure to attend the 37th Griffith Sidecar Rally Oct. 19, 2008, to see just what we mean! MC