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A Ural Troyka bike with sidecar. (Ural Troyka/Ural Troyka)
A Ural Troyka bike with sidecar. (Ural Troyka/Ural Troyka)

Ask Joanne

Getting a handle on sidecars Add to ...

I recently took rider training and now I’m looking to purchase a motorcycle. I’d really like a decent-sized bike but I’m safety conscious and have occasionally had some handling issues with bigger bikes. I’m wondering if a sidecar will help? – Sara in Moncton

Completing your training and getting your license is worthy of celebration, but it shouldn’t necessarily prompt you to buy the biggest bike on the market. You must resist the temptation to stray beyond a bike you can control, and give yourself some time in the saddle to become more comfortable through experience.

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A sidecar will definitely get you noticed about town, and be handy to haul groceries and find out which of your friends really trust you, but is it the answer to your handling concerns?

“In a word: no. In actual fact, riding with a sidecar is a lot trickier and more difficult than riding without,” says Raynald Marchand, national co-ordinator of the Canada Safety Council’s Gearing Up Motorcycle Rider Training Program.

“Because the sidecar doesn’t lean with the vehicle, to go around corners you actually have to turn the bars and even use the brake on the sidecar wheel. If you’re not trained and capable, it’s pretty easy to lose control of a rig that has a sidecar attached” he says.

“A sidecar rig has a tendency to want to plow straight ahead. First of all, it has to be set up really well to track properly and it’s not everybody that can do that. You really have to be careful if you want to turn these things, and even a very experienced rider can get on a sidecar rig and can’t control it. If you’re petite to start with, the added sidecar weight and complications are really not going to help,” says Marchand, who also sits on a number of national and international motorcycle safety advisory committees.

Perhaps it’s the weight of a larger bike that you find tough to handle. “A sidecar is just going to add to this, so it’s not going to help there. You wouldn’t even think of adding a sidecar to a sports bike, so you’d have to move on to a rig such as a Ural, or something like that,” Marchand says.

It may be that you have tried bikes that are a simply a poor fit and this is giving you problems? It could be something correctable, such as the seat height. Sport bikes, for example, are notorious for having relatively high seats to provide clearance when going around corners on the track.

“Sometimes people feel they have trouble because they’re on their tippy-toes. If this is the case, there are quite a number of kits that will lower the whole bike a bit, or seats can be purchased which will give you the extra few centimetres that could make the difference,” Marchand says.

He also suggests considering a three-wheeled motorcycle. “Again, a trike doesn’t lean around corners, but it’s a little easier to manage than a sidecar. So you’d be better off with a trike, or even one of those Bombardier BRP [Can-Am]Spyders. You’re not going to fall over because they’ve got three wheels.”

Until you gain the proficiency and confidence that comes with significant time in the saddle, stick with a bike you’re completely comfortable with. As Marchand says, “If you have difficulty weight-wise with larger-displacement machines, you’d probably be best off to start with a smaller cruiser. That would be my recommendation, and I’ve been riding for 38 years.”

 
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