I like sidecars.
They are unwieldy, awkward, off-centre, totally unique, and loads of fun!
For years I had harboured a half-formed and totally un-researched notion that involved a sidecar rig, a long trip and my German shepherd dog. This idea gradually took on a life of its own, not-with-standing the minor problems of not owning a sidecar rig and never having driven one!
Fast forward a couple of years to a lovely R100S BMW that I had acquired and ridden many miles in considerable discomfort. I had lusted after this model for some years based entirely on the looks of the bike. Sadly when I finally owned and rode one, I discovered much to my horror that my arms and wrists did not approve of the riding position at all! Then a timely add appeared on the IBMWR website listing a 1982 R100RT/sidecar rig for trade for “something interesting” about the time that I was considering what to do with the R100S. As the saying goes “the rest is history”.
I trailered the ‘S’ to Marquette in the U.P. in absolutely miserable April weather and met with the vendor of ‘the rig’ – which he was also hauling by trailer. We poked and looked and talked and swapped bikes. Neither machine was started that day – it was just too darn miserable.
Mid-June 2003 found the rig and I (sans dog) in Midland, Mich., to partake in the Advanced Sidecar Course as sponsored by the Evergreen Foundation. I expressed my doubts to the instructor about me taking the ‘advanced’ course. He asked me how far I had driven to get there (450miles) and replied that I definitely didn’t need the introductory course! It was time and money well spent – and good fun besides.
Minor modifications and general tweaking of the set-up followed – and then time devoted to passenger training. This was the easy part as Cassie (dog) saw no reason to ever abandon her own chauffeur-driven, open-air vehicle. We did short trips and had a lot of fun that summer. I even became moderately proficient as a sidecar pilot.
The following spring on the last day of May we pointed the rig west and waved goodbye to husband and house. Five weeks and 8,000 miles is a lot of riding and only once or twice did my passenger complain. Turns out that she had a much better bladder than I, so pit stops were at my discretion and, as I stopped for a stretch break every hour, she had plenty of time to do doggy things and stretch her legs as well. This was one of the most relaxing and rewarding camping trips that I have ever undertaken and I think we were both sorry to see it end.
With callus disregard for Cassie, I sold the rig the following spring (trip was a success, time to move on …). However, what was not anticipated by me was the utter dejection of my dog without her sidecar. Every time I picked up my helmet we re-played the pouting and panting and whining to go … she even went so far as to climb, uninvited, aboard the passenger seat of my solo bike! So I bought another chair and started the process of creating a rig from scratch. Unfortunately, the following winter we tragically lost Cassie to a sudden medical calamity. Now what? Sidecar and no passenger … not good.
Springing ahead to 2008, now “Elfie” has discovered the joys of the open-air ride. Although still a pup at just under two, she is a reliable (mostly) and happy passenger. We still have minor issues about her preferred nose-in-the-wind riding position, but I will win that argument in time. No major trips planned at the moment, but we are having lots of fun – and that is the main thing.
Elfie and the new rig.
I have deluded myself into believing that my dog was partly the motivation for getting another rig. Truth be known, I am absolutely hooked! Sidecars are insidious things: completely illogical and definitely not motorcycles – and yet they are more fun that I ever thought possible. One more unanticipated reward of driving a rig is that everyone smiles and waves. No-one who drives a sidecar could possibly be perceived as a threat: children want to ride, grandmothers wave and smile, elderly men come over to chat and relate tales of sidecars and motorcycles … Putting a smile on a stranger’s face just by driving past – Now that is a rush! -- Alison Green