All of our sidecars are designed to be fitted at home by anyone
with reasonable mechanical skill. They do not just clip on and
go, fitting can be time consuming and will be different for every
motorcycle. This page aims to give a good basic guide and cover
many of the problems a home fitter may encounter. Ultimately it
is the person doing the fitting that must be responsible for the
security and safety of the finished motorcycle and sidecar combination.
We are more than happy to offer additional advice if needed. Many
customers bring their bike to our workshop and discuss fitting
before purchasing their sidecar. By doing this we can make suggestions
for clamp location, flag up any potential problems and suggest
THE RIGHT MOTORCYCLE
Some motorcycles are easier to fit a sidecar to than others. Our
sidecar fitting system is only designed for tubular steel cradle
frames. That is a frame made entirely of steel tubes which form
a complete cradle round the front and under the engine. Ideally
this should have two tubes in front of the engine, although some
lighter bikes such as the Royal Enfield 500 may only have one
tube. Most twin shock bikes and most custom cruisers would have
this type of frame. The frame steering geometry of the original
bike should not be at all sporty, so again most retro or classic
twin shock bikes as well as most cruisers are correct. A long
bike will generally be more stable in a straight line than a short
one. A low center of gravity is more stable when cornering, so
again cruisers win. It's good to have an under stressed engine
with plenty of torque. So for ease of fitment and a very stable
easy ride a cruiser would be a good choice. There is however one
potential issue to look out for when choosing a cruiser, this
is trail. Some cruisers have excessive trail as standard, great
for stability but it can make the steering very heavy. Before
buying a cruiser quickly check on line and find out the manufacturers
rake and trail figures, ignore the rake, but look at the figure
for the trail, 100 mm to 120 mm will be stable and light to steer,
121 mm to 140 mm will be very stable but starting to get heavy,
141 mm to 160 mm really will be heavy unless you have very wide
bars, above 161 mm and you should probably pick a different bike.
Retro and Classic bikes make a good choice, offering straight
forward fitment and slightly livelier handling usually having
between 100 mm and 115 mm trail
a sidecar to any motorcycle is going to highlight any existing
weaknesses in the suspension, steering head bearings, swing
arm bushes, etc. Before fitting a sidecar check the motorcycle
carefully. Any slight play in the wheel, swing arm, or steering
bearings will cause low speed wobbles and will wear to a dangerous
condition very quickly once the additional stress of a sidecar
a look at the tyres, they do not need to be anything special
but ideally they should be flattish on the top to get as much
contact area as possible. Ribbed tyres really mess up a heavy
fast combo and should never be used, if the front tyre has long
lines in the tread going inline with the bike change it before
the sidecar is fitted.
about the suspension as well. If it is adjustable, adjust it
to the hardest settings. If it still feels soft even as a solo
bike, consider getting aftermarket springs which are stiffer
than the originals. Sometimes the non adjustable front forks
can be pre-loaded by adding a spacer above the spring inside
the forks. Do not rush out and spend a fortune on leading link
forks, before even trying the standard set up.
Our frame clamps (part # SC/3) are designed to fit steel frame
tubes with a diameter between 25mm and 32mm. The clamps should
be as far apart as possible to spread the load as evenly as possible
across the motorcycle frame. Remember we are very happy to offer
advice and suggestions. The unique clamp is both strong and compact.
LEAD AND TOE IN
Sit on your motorcycle to see how much the suspension drops with
your weight. Use ratchet straps to slightly compress the suspension
so the motorcycle remains at this level when you get off. If possible
support the motorcycle securely with blocks of wood so it is on
its wheels and upright.
first measurement to look at is how much the sidecar axle is in
front of the rear wheel axle of the motorcycle as shown at C and
D on this picture. This needs to be between 20 and 30 cm, less
axle lead (20 cm) will produce a sidecar outfit which turns quickly
but is less stable at speed. It will also require slightly more
toe in. More axle lead will produce a sidecar outfit that is slightly
heavier to turn but it will be more stable at speed. It will also
require less toe in.
the sidecar chassis on blocks of wood next to the motorcycle so
it is level and the axle lead is correct. Loosely attach the two
lower mounts. The front lower mount should be as low as possible
and as far forward as possible, This can usually be attached to
the main horizontal frame tube just before it turns to go up towards
the headstock. The rear lower mount should be as far back as possible.
This one often needs an additional subframe making to take the
mounting point as far back on the motorcycle as possible.
You will need four bricks and two straight lengths of steel. Place
the two straight edges on the bricks either side of the bike and
sidecar. On the bike side measure accurately and adjust the straight
edge so it is 25 mm away from the wheels rims. You should be able
to measure this at four points. Rear of rear wheel, front of rear
wheel, rear of front wheel and front of front wheel. Then do the
same on the sidecar wheel but as you only have one wheel you will
have to rely on two measurements. Finally measure the distance
at right angles to the bike just behind the rear wheel (marked
A) and again just in front of the front wheel (marked B). This
is the amount the vehicle toes in over the whole length. There
are no hard and fast rules for this but a good starting point
is 15 to 25 mm. So to be clear the distance between your two straight
edges should be 15 to 25 mm greater at the back than it is at
the front. (These measurements do assume that the wheel rim is
the same width front and back even if the tyres are not the same
size). If you had near 30 cm axle lead set the toe in close to
15mm and if you had near 20 cm axle lead set the toe in close
to 25 mm.
Once the toe in is set and the lower mounts reasonably tight the
lean out can be set. Loosely attach the two upper mounts. The
front upper mount should be as high as possible. This is usually
clamped round the frame near the head stock. The rear upper mount
should be high up and as far back as possible. It is usually possible
to clamp very close to the rear shock absorber top mount. The
motorcycle must lean very slightly away from the sidecar. This
must be measured with the steering straight ahead but the measurements
are usually carried out on the rear wheel. Tie a washer to some
cotton and hold the free end of the cotton near the top of the
wheel so the weighted end hangs down on the outside of the wheel.
Note where the cotton touches at the top and measure the gap between
the cotton and the similar spot at the bottom of the wheel. Over
the height of the wheel the lean out should be 4 to 6 mm. If the
sidecar will be used most of the time with a heavy load this lean
out should be increased to 8 to 10 mm. Once the toe in and lean
out are set. Tighten everything and remove the supports from the
motorcycle. Release the ratchets used to compress the suspension.
This is the distance
between the centre line of the tyres on the bike to the center
line of the sidecar tyre. Measure this just where the the front
edge of the sidecar tyre touches the ground, or roughly half way
between the front and rear wheels of the bike. Generally the width
of the track will be governed more by practical considerations
such as can you still operate the gear change if the sidecar is
too close, or will it actually fit through your gates at home
if it's too wide. Mounting further away makes the sidecar outfit
more stable when turning left, but means the sidecar will push
and pull more on the bike as you accelerate and brake. So it's
a compromise. As a guide a track of about 110 cm seems about right
for a light bike with a Velorex and about 135 cm for a heavier
bike with a Velorex.
is less important than axle lead, toe in or lean out but still
worth considering. As the bike turns right the suspension on the
sidecar will compress and the suspension on the bike will lengthen
causing some body roll. In turn this will mean in hard right turns
the top of the sidecar wheel will move away from the sidecar as
the bottom moves towards it. At rest the sidecar wheel should
be set to either upright or slightly leaning in towards the sidecar.
It should not be set leaning away at the top as this will increase
when cornering. When set slightly leaning in at the top the outfit
will be more stable in corners and the forces will go through
the wheel and bearings in a straighter line putting less stress
on the spokes and bearings.
AND OTHER SOLUTIONS
universal fitting kit is incredibly adaptable, but sometimes
the chosen motorcycle will not have a good strong mounting point
just where it's needed. Small, but strong subframe's can be
easily made by anyone with the ability to cut and drill steel.
It is very important that the sub frame is supported by triangulation
both up and down and side to side. We are happy to offer advice
and suggestions if you get stuck. The example shown to the right
fitted to this Triumph Scrambler uses three lengths of 6mm thick
steel. Part 1 is simply drilled and bolted to and existing strong
mounting bolt. Part 2 is almost the same but has a arc removed
to clear the main motorcycle frame. Part 3 bolts to the other
side of the motorcycle to give side to side support. Part 3
is bent in two places close to each end. All three join at the
eye bolt which holds all three together. There is no welding
needed and no modification to the original motorcycle.
solution to tricky mounting locations can be seen on the Kawasaki
cruiser shown below left. The front lower mount has to go just
below the frame to keep the front of the sidecar low enough.
The original motorcycle is fitted with foot boards on substantial
mountings. The block from the our standard clamp (part # SC/3)
is welded to the 6mm plate steel foot board support. It is welded
both front and back to ensure strength. A lock nut is then added
to the back of the block (part # SC/NUT27)
a mounting prop (part # SC/5) will cut across the controls of
the bike. The forward controls on the Honda, shown below right,
interfere with the location of the front prop. The prop has
been bent in a professional pipe bender and a fillet cut from
4mm steel plate and welded in to support and hold the curve
of the prop.
usually fitted are front white marker, front amber direction indicator,
rear red marker, rear red brake light and rear amber direction
indicator. If your bike does not have indicators there is no requirement
to have indicators on the sidecar.
motorcycles have a main wiring loom going to the rear lights and
indicators located under the seat. This is the best place to connect
the wiring. Our sidecars are all supplied pre-wired with plenty
of spare length. A waterproof connector is supplied and this should
be connected in a place which makes it easy to unclip in the event
that the sidecar needs to be removed.
original left hand direction indicators should be removed from
the motorcycle if possible. If it is not possible to remove them
completely the bulbs should be removed so they no longer flash.
or not to fit that is the question. Whether it is nobler in the
mind to suffer the low speed shakes of an undamped outfit. Or
strengthen thy arms against the opposing forces of a damper. (sorry
sidecars we prefer not to fit them. If the original bike is in
good condition with no play in any wheel bearings, if the correct
tyres are chosen, if these are at the correct pressure and if
the sidecar is fitted and aligned correctly there should be little
or no handlebar shake other than a small amount as you pull away,
which can be corrected by correct riding technique. However some
people like steering dampers, and if you do, then go ahead and
fit one. If you are fitting one it should be as near parallel
to the ground as possible, mounted securely on high quality rose
joints to allow for the up and down movement of the forks and
obviously it should not limit the steering lock in either direction.
Pros. If fitted correctly they will eliminate steering shake completely
unless there is something seriously wrong with the bike or setup.
If you have leading link forks with very little trail because
you wanted lighter steering but now find it is so light it wobbles
all over the road they are a useful way of adding some weight
and feel to the steering.
Cons. They will make the steering heavier in all situations but
most noticeable in traffic and at lower speeds when the steering
would otherwise be pleasantly light. They can go wrong, not often,
but they can. The can disguise small faults such as wear in the
wheel bearings or bad set up which may lead to lack of correct
AND THE SMALL PRINT
sidecars are designed to be fitted by competent home mechanic.
We are happy to offer advice. BUT ultimately it is your responsibility
to ensure all work is carried out to a safe standard. We strongly
advise that any welding, or specialist bending is carried out
by a professional fabricator.