Not a motorcycle and not a car, a sidecar is an entirely different vehicle to either, requiring a specific set of skills equal to that of learning how to ride or drive. Luckily for you, we’ve put in the hard work figuring it out, so you don’t have to. This is how to ride a sidecar.
1. Steer with the throttle
With the sidecar mounted on the right side of the bike, handling is totally different depending on which way you’re turning. To steer right, open the throttle. That has the effect of lifting the rear and tilting the entire contraption down towards the front right, where the front right wheel “should” be. Want to go left? Close the throttle, this acts a bit like a differential, allowing the rear wheel to spin slower than the sidecars, which is traveling in a wider circle.
2. Steer where you want to go
Unlike a motorcycle, you turn the handlebars in your chosen direction of travel. Turn right to go right.
3. Try and go in a straight line
With three wheels sitting on odd planes, the sidecar does not want to travel in a straight line. As you can see above, giving it gas makes it steer right, lifting off makes it want to go left. You’ll need to keep both hands on the bars and make a conscious effort to track a straight line. Just like riding a bike, looking far ahead, where you want to go, will help you subconsciously do this. Just prepare for a sore back after a ride due to the constant pulling effort you’ll be applying through both arms.
4. Right hand corners
Using the throttle-on method you learned above, approach right hand corners slowly while shifting as much of your body weight as possible over the sidecar. Ballast helps here. Throw a couple sandbags, a tool chest, your dog, girlfriend or anything else heavy into the sidecar to help keep it planted in right hand corners. As you turn in, get on the throttle to initiate the turn and look through the corner to where you want to go. As you begin to “fly the chair” avoid tightening your line further. It’s totally normal for it to come off the ground at speed, but you should be able to control its angle of dangle by setting a nice, predictable, constant radius through the corner.
5. Left hand corners
Enter fast and throttle off as you turn in, this will force the whole rig to steer left. As the bike turns, it’ll push against the sidecar, allowing surprisingly high cornering speeds. You shouldn’t need to hang off, but doing so will ultimately aid traction a little bit. Left handers are the easiest in which to initiate a slide, just downshift as you enter to break the rear loose.