Motorcycle info about licenses, trikes, sidecars, scooters and more!
Motorcycles with sidecars stir up an emotional response, even for those that are not active motorcyclists. People usually like to see a sidecar on a motorcycle, but why? I think it’s because riding in a sidecar is daring and exciting!
Some images that come to my mind when thinking about sidecars are the WWII-era military bikes. Steib sidecars are what most people saw on the BMW and other German motorcycles back then. They were made in Nürnberg Germany and were one of the most popular sidecar manufacturers in the world.
As motorcycle sales fell in the late 1950’s, the Steib company switched over to making farm equipment and eventually closed. Sidecars have come a long way since those days, or have they? Steibs are still sought after today and several companies make replicas of the iconic Steib designs.
Ural is one manufacturer that offers a full range of motorcycles with sidecars. They have classic street versions and military styled off-road models too.
Like Ural, another Russian sidecar motorcycle manufacturer was KMZ or Kiev Motor Zavod. While KMZ no longer exists, they are an interesting collector bike if you happen to be able to find one. A red 1967 K750M recently appeared on eBay with a $20,000 price. If you’re into collecting vintage motorcycles, that’s probably not too bad of a price for one, but I think I’d rather put that towards something I could ride every day without worrying about it too much.
Cozy sidecars, made in India since the 1960’s, are a pretty good looking addition to a Royal Enfield Bullet or just about any vintage or retro-styled standard motorcycle. A Cozy sidecar can be attached to some motor scooters also., including Vespa.
Hannigan Motorsports of Murray, Kentucky offers a huge variety of sidecars to fit just about every type of motorcycle. Hannigan sidecars can fit some scooters, standards, cruisers, touring motorcycles, adventure motorcycles, and even sport bikes.
There’s a long list of options available, and Hannigan will even install the sidecar for you. Prices for a new Hannigan sidecar as of 2009 start around $3295 US plus installation which varies from $550-$950 US depending on your type of motorcycle, or you can install it yourself.
Motorvation Engineering of Sibley, Iowa has a nice variety of sidecars also. Prices from Motorvation are pretty similar to those from Hannigan. I’m fond of Motorvation’s Spyder since I tend to like the looks of vintage motorcycles. They carry mounts to fit Harley Heritage, FL, Dyna, Sportster, EVO and FXE. Kawasaki Voyagers, Honda Goldwing and Shadow, Yamaha Royal Star and BMW R100.
Velorex sidecars have been a popular choice over the years. These are also made of fiberglass and sit on a tubular steel frame that attaches to your motorcycle with a universal mounting kit and instructions supplied by Velorex, or you can have your Velorex dealer install it. The 3 body styles offered by Velorex, the 562, 565 and 700, don’t have quite the wild styling like some of the Hannigan sidecars, the Velorex does looks good on just about any style of motorcycle. Again, I like the more classic look, so I prefer the model 562. Standard Velorex features include a drum brake, single adjustable shock absorber on swingarm type suspension, tonneau cover and more.
“The home of British sidecars since 1912” is Watsonian-Squire of England. They are still producing a large variety of sidecars for just about every type and style of motorcycle you can imagine, and for scooters too. This is no exaggeration. For example, the Watsonian Oxford DL can seat 3 to 4 people! Is your motorcycle up to the task? Or better yet, are you? If not, Wastonian has plenty of beautiful single seat and some double seat sidecar choices too.
California Sidecar in Arrington, VA (californiasidecar.com or call 800-824-1523) is a company that is more than the name implies. You can get a trike kit and trailer for motorcycle touring too. Their current models are the “Friendship II SE” and the “Companion GT”. Harley-Davidson owners may tend to choose the Companion GT since it matches well with the classic H-D styling.
Mounting hardware specifically to fit your make and model of motorcycle is included with their sidecars. A quick-disconnect system allows you to remove and re-attach the sidecar in about 15 minutes. California Sidecar recommends their sidecars to be used on 1000cc or larger motorcycles.
In 2009, Harley-Davidson claims to be “the only major motorcycle company that makes its own sidecars”. Harley sidecars, for the FL series bikes only, have been made in Tomahawk, Wisconsin for many years. I never did take the tour there, like I did in York, PA, but I did drive through Tomahawk to see where this factory is. I was surprised that this Harley-Davidson facility didn’t look like a traditional factory building. From my perspective just driving by, it looked something like a white farmhouse building that had several additions put on over the years. To me, that interesting old building just adds to the Harley mystique and coolness factor. As with sidecars in general, it’s nice to see something that has tradition and hasn’t been fooled with too much.
While Harley-Davidson does not offer a sidecar for non-FL series models, you can get a sidecar for almost every Harley motorcycle though some of the various manufacturers that I mention in this article. If you’re not aware, there was a very cool little scooter years ago, called the Harley-Davidson Topper, which I had written about previously. I mention it here because it too was available with a dealer installed sidecar.
Dauntless Motors in Enumclaw, Washington offers some awesome heavy duty sidecars designed for dirtbikes or enduro bikes that look like a blast to ride in. They also sell very attractive street models too from Velorex and Champion, and some Steib replicas. Dauntless has dealt in Sputnik sidecars and offers some parts for those too. I have to say that their enduro sidecar looks like pure fun, especially on a Kawasaki KLR or maybe a BMW GS!
Riding a motorcycle that has a sidecar takes some training and some getting used to. Sidecars are normally mounted on the right side of the motorcycle, except for places like the UK where it is mounted on the left side. When turning too fast, it will want to lift up off the ground. This is not for the faint of heart! Some other things a sidecar will do are pull to one side when braking or pull to the other side when accelerating.
While researching motorcycle sidecars, I found Doug Bingham of Side Strider Sidecars in Van Nuys, California. Doug is known as “Mr. Sidecar” and is quite the sidecar guru to say the least. He has built and raced sidecars for decades. He has also been the sidecar motorcycle go-to person for several well known celebrities over the years. He and his creations have been featured in loads of magazine and newspaper articles over the years. What more can I say; if you are looking for expert sidecar advice, give Doug a call at 818-780-5542.