Motorcycle Sidecar buyer’s guide

By: On: July 25th, 200911 Comments »Updated: September 5, 2013

Sportbike SidecarMotorcycles 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. original Steib sidecar nameplate s250They 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 sidecar on dirtKMZ Sidecar MotorcycleUral 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. Scooter SidecarPrices 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, Goldwing Sidecar from Hanniganthe 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?  Velorex sidecar model 562Or 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 Companion GT sidecar  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.2009 Harley-Davidson FL Sidecar

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!Enduro Sidecar

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.

For more related motorcycle info, a few organizations to look into are the United Sidecar Association and the Sidecar Industry Council.

About John Clay

John Clay is the author of MotorcycleInfo.Org. He and his family reside in North Carolina in the United States. A graduate of the Motorcycle Safety Foundation's Experienced Rider Course, he enjoys riding his Moto Guzzi in charity rides and serves as a volunteer motorcycle marshal for an annual bicycle charity event in the Carolinas.

» has written 130 posts

11 Responded

  1. K3zimmerman says:

    Had to change out my front springs for Seco Side because it damaged my front fender.

  2. JMBrya71 says:

    Love to keep in contact have a 2009 FLTHP with sidecar looking for shorter windshield for less drag

  3. john holliday says:

    dear sirs,
    I have a 2009 YAMAHA T MAX 500.
    MY problem is I want add a sidecar to it .
    I cant find one that says it will mount to a maxi
    scooter. There is a guy in TEXAS who attached one
    to a Yamaha Majesty 400 -TEXAS Sidecars it was
    custom made. I live in central florida and cannot
    afford to ship it there and HE dosent know if he can even do it. Do you know of a manafacter that makes one that will fit with some modifications?

  4. Peter Krogsten says:

    20.000 dollars for a 1967 750 KMZ is a lot of money, except if the previous owner was Nikita Khrushchev. In Europe a restored goes for around 3000 euro, and you can pick them up in Russia any of it’s former republics for close to nothing. Spares are readily available, and once the mechanicals have been repaired , replaced or reconditioned they are indestructable. After all 1967 is 45 years ago and be sure it has passed the hands of somebody with no money but a need for cheap transportation.
    I spent last winter rebuilding mine, and this year I have done 5000 miles on it with nothing else than an oil change. The engine has no oilfilter, so I change oil often. I don’t carry any other tools than to be able to change a wheel.

    These bikes were designed to work in nowhere in Siberia, where a non-starter could be a question of life or death. It keeps up with traffic, but it is not suited for higways as realistic cruising speed is about 55 mph. It has 27HP, 5 less than a OHV BMW of similar age, not bad for a 75 year old SV design.

  5. shelly says:

    I am looking fort a side car for a 2012 kawasaki vulcan 900 classic lt. I need to know what type of side car that is suitable for that type of motorcycle and where i can get one for a reasonable price range.

  6. Stephen Muir says:

    I own a 2002 Concourse 1000.cc and I want to mount the motorvation sidecar which is presently mounted on my ’91 ZX1100. (which is quite uncomfortable for a 68 year old chap)–is there anyone out there in Hacksterville with suggestions where I can acquire parts and info. please. Thanking you. Stephen

  7. Robert Eriksen says:

    I have a 1986 Honda with a side car. My first experience. I replaced the forks and front wheel bearings. Also adjusted center shaft. The steering still shimmys real bad if the side car is attached. No shimmy if it is not attached. What to do?

  8. John says:

    The steering shimmy or wobble only when your sidecar is attached could be coming from a variety of things. I recommend checking the sidecar mounts to see if bushings are worn or sloppy, check the sidecar wheel toe setting, adjust suspension settings, adjust tire pressures, and you can install a steering damper if you don’t already have one on the bike. Sidecars change the dynamics of the motorcycle’s handling due to the geometry change and the offset weight, and it is normal that you would see the problem go away when the sidecar is removed. It will probably take a bit of experimentation with settings until you find a good combination for when you have the sidecar attached.

  9. El says:

    Looking for mounting kit to attach freedom1 California sidecar to 2007 Harley ultra classic.

  10. John says:

    California Sidecars parts/service phone (434) 263-8866

  11. peter boyle says:

    I have just bought a brand new Yamaha BOLT … 942cc

    Due to some leg orthopedic deficiencies I find the bike uncomfortable and a bit too heavy for me

    I also own a Ural … 750 cc with sidecar about 5 years old and have no trouble riding this

    I see sidecar advertised as “suitable for all Yamahas” What do you think about a BOLT with sidecar? thanks