How To Ride a Sidecar

How To -


How To Ride A Sidecar

6. Use the brakes

Like a motorcycle, the front brake is operated through the right hand lever and the rear brakes work via the right foot lever. Just in this case, there’s two rear brakes. You don’t need to over think this, just use the front and rear as you would on a regular motorcycle, it’s the front that provides most of the stopping power.

A notable exception is in snow or other low traction situations, in which the front will easily lock, but the rear may have some stopping power remaining thanks to the extra weight over those wheels. FYI – You do lose steering when you lock the front wheel, that’s something to keep in mind.

How To Ride A Sidecar

7. Reverse

To engage reverse on a Ural, the only manufacturer of sidecars, find neutral, then reach down to the lever immediately behind your right heel. With the clutch pulled in, push the lever backwards, then use the gas and clutch to pull away just as you would in 1st gear.

8. Two-wheel drive

You’re only going to need this to get you unstuck. Don’t leave 2WD engaged on pavement or other firm surfaces, the differential locks in 2WD, forcing the wheels to spin at the same speed. As on an ATV, this can lead to dangerous instability in high-traction situations.

With the bike at a complete stop, grasp the lever on top of the driveshaft and wiggle the handlebars to move the coupler as you move the lever rearwards. It’ll slide into a detent and, voila, nothing in the world will prevent you from moving forward. Deep snow, slick mud, a steep slope, no matter what, you’re driving.

To steer while in 2WD, you’ll need to initiate a slide, but this becomes very easy simply by rolling on the throttle or dropping a gear.

How To Ride A Sidecar

9. In deep snow

Riding in feet-deep snow? Use the front tire like a rudder. You’ll still turn left to go left, but instead of traditional steering, you’ll need to wait for snow to build up in front of the turned wheel, pushing it backwards and turning the bike with it. So throttle on to help that process along, no matter which direction you’re going.

How To Ride A Sidecar

10.  When it all goes wrong

About to flip? Steer left to open your turning radius and ride it out. You obviously don’t want to turn into a lane of oncoming traffic or into a moving obstacle, so you really need to plan your actions far ahead on a sidecar. The best defense is a good offense.

How To Ride A Sidecar

Sound complicated? It is, but with some practice you’ll be able to hustle a sidecar around just as well as your car or bike. How long did it take you to learn to ride? Budget that amount of time and effort into operating a sidecar. Why bother? Imagine a Willy’s Jeep with more off-road ability, much smaller dimensions and a tighter turning circle. If that sounds appealing, then it’s well worth the effort.

Have you ridden a sidecar? What did you think?

  • Brian

    I really wish Eagle Rider or any of the rental bike outfits would rent Urals, because I’d really like to hustle one around on a weekend to REALLY check one out.

    • Matt Gertsch

      Because of my own experience with Urals, I wouldn’t rent them out either. It would get too expensive to keep them fixed, because you’d be renting to people with too much two wheel riding and no three wheel riding.

      If you’re in Northern Cali and want to scoot around a parking lot on one for a half hour or so, hit me up. I may be persuaded to take a stranger for a ride, then let them try it out.

  • hugh

    Or with a sidecar-ised R1, like this:

    • Kr Tong

      I think I want a versys track bike…

  • Tim Watson

    This is what happens when it goes wrong when you’re racing a sidecar outfit.

    • Scott Sweeney

      Whatever dissipation of energy the water provided saved his life! How lucky were they both!?

      • KeithB

        The water helped but WTF is a ditch doing in the middle of a race track!

  • SteveNextDoor

    “… , girlfriend or anything else heavy into the sidecar to help keep it planted in right hand corners.”

    If she asks why you’re so insistent she ride with you, be very sure you don’t mention it’s because she’s ‘heavy’. Even the ole “It’s for counter-balance, honey” explanation is not going to save you methinks. You’ll most likely find yourself sleeping in your sidecar for awhile.

  • Michael Howard

    I thought you just sat in it and hung on tight. ;)

  • Clint Keener

    The socal people should check out sidecar speedway action at the OC fairgrounds. CRAZY! You guys should do a story on speedway bikes.

  • kent_skinner

    Yikes. What’s up with the tire on the hack? Do they all do that, or is it under inflation or crap tires?
    Please tell me my street bike tires don’t do that when I’m not looking.

    • Wes Siler

      Sidecar tires are more like crossply car tires than motorcycle tires. But yeah, that one looks pretty underinflated.

      • Matt Gertsch

        You’ve got most of the weight of an 800 pound bike, under heavy braking, on that one wheel. I was surprised to see how much crap was stuck in the bead of that tire/wheel when I flipped my rig.

      • theUg

        That said, Ural’s tyres are not sidecar-specific (like some models offered by Metzeler, Heidenau or Avon). Ural uses Duro HF308 nowadays, which is a copy of Pirelli MT-53 thread pattern — famous flat-tracker rubber.

  • Rameses the 2nd

    This is how you ride a sidecar:

    • Jesse

      Flying hack monkeys, that’s crazy

    • D Mosley

      I want to see these guys fly up the Pikes Peak Hill Climb!

  • BillW

    “To engage reverse on a Ural, the only manufacturer of sidecars,…” Um, are you sure about that? They may be the only current manufacturer of complete sidecar outfits, but I’m pretty sure there are still other companies making sidecars.

    And, Wes? I’m pretty sure this all came from Ural, but do you really expect us to take sidecar driving advice from a guy who famously crashed one? :)

    • Wes Siler

      Absolutely. Ural is the only manufacturer of complete sidecar outfits in the world and has been for some time. Some other companies make extremely limited numbers of aftermarket sidecars, but are not considered “manufacturers.”

      • theUg

        I suppose it depends on the definition of “extremely limited”. And also “only” and “complete”. Yes, complete sidecar outfit is IMZ’s bread and butter, but I am sure that Indian RE with their own Cozy car can also be considered factory-made complete outfit with numbers that may edge over “extremely limited”, and, possibly, ahead of the whole IMZ production (which is very limited any more, export only). That in mind, Cozies are said to be heavy and crude. But there are aftermarket companies to the rescue: Velorex (Czech, similarly priced, lighter, better quality), Texas Sidecar Co. (US, mid-range), Liberty Sidecars (US, expensive, H-D-centric), Champion (US, spendy), Watsonian (UK), Steib etc. etc.

        • Wes Siler

          Right, you back up my point by listing several aftermarket conversion companies. Including RE, which sells the Cozy as a kit, not a standalone vehicle. Ural is the only manufacturer of complete sidecar vehicles in the world.

      • Jeffrey E Forsyth

        hello Wes n BillW.. try Swift Horse…China made,,about $4,000 USD should get you one -plus yr freight and customs … tried to get one to PHP, but I think I would have a hard time due to slight corruption,,, which is being sorted out,, tax was 65% ++…

        l will wait for ural and see how,, here is the Swift horse,,chrs, Live to ride n Ride to Live !!

  • Avboden

    Okay, this finally made me sign up to post here. #1 is completely incorrect. I have a LOT of milage on sidecars and you do not “Steer with the throttle”. Not one bit. Yes, you have to understand how the dynamics of the sidecar change throttle on and off but you don’t use the throttle to steer. You may adjust the throttle depending on how aggressive you’re riding and tight you’re turning, but that whole section is so completely wrong it isn’t even funny. To steer right, you turn right, to steer left, you turn left. When throttling on you have to counter the pull of the sidecar backwards through a firm press on the handlebars the opposite direction. When throttling off you do the opposite. Etc. You never teach someone first learning to pilot to “Steer with the throttle” that’s just absolutely ludicrous! Yes, throttling off can make turning left easier, and on right easier, but that isn’t the main part of steering, it’s just an added thing to consider….like trailbreaking to make turning in on 2 wheels easier.

    4 year old picture, but these are the 2 hacks I have a lot of time on. yes, that’s a CBR1100XX blackbird hack and yes, it can do 150mph :D

    • Matt Gertsch

      I’d love to see a Blackbird in person.

      • Matt Gertsch

        Plus, a lot of what he’s saying is generalized and dumbed down a little. This is not a comprehensive article, nor is it proper rider’s training.

        • Avboden

          I see what you mean, but when he says “how to ride a sidecar” and #1 is “steer with the throttle” it’s pretty out there! And the blackbird is some of the most fun you can ever have. I love that machine so much. It gets loads of attention everywhere too, people never know what to make of it other than “whoa, that’s badass”

    • Wes Siler

      Well, it’s the first thing they teach you when you hop on a sidecar for the first time. Obviously you steer with the handlebars too, but setting the bike up for the turn with the throttle is also a crucial component.

      • Avboden

        Who’s “they”? Because i’ve taken state certified sidecar licensing courses and none of them so much as mentioned that. Perhaps it’s something dramatic with riding a Ural (i’ve never been on one).

    • Ted Larson

      I think when the author made the statement to steer with the throttle, he was talking about around long corners where it really does help. BTW, I like the CBR1100 Blackbird.

  • meryle

    Just wanted to thank you guys for posting so many sidecar-related articles lately. The Dnepr I just bought is gonna be in the shop for another week or two, but the info has been really helpful for that sad, sad, snowy time of year.

    • Jeffrey E Forsyth

      man are you gunna have fun,,, I had one in the 70′s -80′s,,, it went anywhere, towed a bike with a broken gear box through sand 2ft deep for 30miles,,, rode from Qld to Bathurst races,, never failed.. Cheers.–. I miss mine.. so had to build my our chair here,,, thats before Ural advised me they are coming… Ride to Live n Live to Ride…

      • mms

        Thanks for the pictures, that’s awesome! Wow but now I miss Australia, some of the best riding anywhere. Enjoy :)

        • Jeffrey E Forsyth

          this is just a ps.. note,,, The pic with the black Ural/Victory styled sidecar,,, was made in the Philippines,, and thats where we Live now..But Ural inform me that they soon will be here in the PHP,, as long as they dont price themselves out of the market like Royal Enfield did.. the Chair cost me $500 , chrs,, and take care on those icy roads,, ha ha

  • Matt Gertsch

    I’m a newb to hacks and I found the hard way that you can’t let off the throttle coming into a right hander. Also, if you’re suddenly heading for a three foot ditch on the side of the road, threshold braking isn’t the best idea. Three flips of the bike, $8400 and 4 months later, my bike is finally getting back into riding shape. All I can say is thank jeebus for low deductibles.

  • lemieuxmc

    ” Just prepare for a sore back after a ride due to the constant pulling effort you’ll be applying through both arms.”
    If that’s the case you are either a 98 pound weakling or your hack is set up way wrong…

  • Ted Larson

    This is probably the best article dealing with how to drive a sidecar rig. These are all things I have learned in past year. Again, great article.