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Title: Sidecar  
Author: World Heritage Encyclopedia
Language: English
Subject: Motorcycle accessories, Motorcycle fork, Philippine English, Sokół 1000, GG Duetto
Collection: Sidecars
Publisher: World Heritage Encyclopedia


An NSU 601 motorcycle from the 1930s fitted with a Steib sidecar. Sidecars are generally an aftermarket product manufactured by companies independent of those producing the driving vehicle.

A sidecar is a one-wheeled device attached to the side of a motorcycle, scooter, or bicycle,[1] producing a three-wheeled vehicle. A motorcycle with a sidecar is sometimes called a combination, an outfit, a rig or a hack.


  • History 1
  • Design 2
  • Handling 3
  • Sport 4
  • Regulation 5
  • Bicycle sidecars 6
  • Manufacturers 7
  • See also 8
  • References 9
    • Notes 9.1
    • Sources 9.2


German bicycle sidecar, 1931
German troops on motorcycles with sidecars invading the Soviet Union during Operation Barbarossa

Mr M Bertoux, a French army officer, secured a prize offered by a French newspaper in 1893 for the best method of carrying a passenger on a bicycle. The sidecar wheel was mounted on the same lateral plane as the bicycle's rear and was supported by a triangulation of tubes from the bicycle. A sprung seat with back rest was mounted above the cross-member and a footboard hung below.[2] A sidecar appeared in a cartoon by George Moore in the January 7, 1903, issue of the British newspaper Motor Cycling. Three weeks later, a provisional patent was granted to Mr. W. J. Graham of Graham Brothers, Enfield, Middlesex. He partnered with Jonathan A. Kahn to begin production.

One of Britain's oldest sidecar manufacturers, Watsonian, was founded in 1912. It is still trading as Watsonian Squire. Automobile producer Jaguar Cars was founded in 1922 as a sidecar manufacturer, the Swallow Sidecar Company.

In 1913, American inventor Hugo Young, of BMW and Zündapp sidecar motorcycles. On German, French, Belgian, British and Soviet military sidecars, the side wheel was sometimes also driven, sometimes using a differential gear, to improve the vehicle's all-terrain ability.


Sidecar on Vespa scooter

A sidecar motorcycle is a three-wheeled vehicle with the side wheel not directly aligned with the rear motorcycle wheel, and is usually powered by the rear wheel only. This is different from a motor tricycle (trike), where both rear wheels are powered and share a common axle. However, either P.V. Mokharov of the Soviet Union or H.P. Baughn of Great Britain seem to have been the first to employ a driven sidecar wheel in 1929. Baughn two-wheel-drive outfits were so successful in trials events in the early 1930s that there were attempts to have the ACU ban them from competition. A great many companies experimented with two-wheel drive in sporting events and indeed many companies employed them in military vehicles prior to the commencement of WWII. Currently, the Russian manufacturer Ural produces several models with two-wheel drive that can be engaged as desired.[3]

The sidecar consists of a frame and of a body. The frame may either be fixed to the bike, or it may be attached in a way which makes the bike able to lean in the same matter as bikes without sidecars.[4]

The body typically provides one passenger seat and a small trunk compartment behind. In some case the sidecar has a removable soft top. In some modifications the sidecar's body is used for carrying cargo or tools, like a truck's platform). The sidecar is typically mounted so that the motorcycle is closer to the centre of the road, i.e. with the sidecar on the right for right-hand traffic.


An eRanger motorcycle ambulance in southern Sudan

A sidecar makes the bike asymmetrical. A fixed mounted rig with right mounted sidecar can go faster in left turns than in right turns because the sidecar prevents it from tipping over.[5] In right turns, they can tip over if curves are taken too fast.[6] Some techniques can be used to take a right curve faster without tipping, like usage of the brake on the sidecar, which some are fitted with.[7]

While a sidecar pilot is described as driving rather than riding, with all but the heaviest rigs, the comparison to a car is weak. Driver and passenger body position affect higher speed handling, especially on dirt or other uneven surfaces. If the sidecar and bike geometry are not coordinated the combination will be unstable, especially at speed, with shimmy upon acceleration or deceleration.

In rigid mounted rigs, leaning the motorcycle by clamping it rigidly a few degrees opposite the sidecar is used along with a few degrees of "toe-in" of the sidecar wheel toward the centerline of the vehicle to provide a balance resulting in comfortable, straight line travel. Most sidecars are also fitted with steering damping devices of either friction or hydraulic type to lessen the effects of sudden inputs, as encountered on rough roads, upon the vehicle's handling.[8]


Racing sidecars at the Isle of Man TT

Sidecar racing events exist in Motocross (see Sidecarcross), Enduro, Grasstrack, Trial, road racing and Speedway with sidecar classes. The sport has followers in Europe, United States, Japan, Australia and New Zealand. The sidecars are often classed by age or engine size, with historic sidecar racing often being more popular than its modern counterpart. Older classes in road racing generally resemble solo motorcycles with a platform attached, where modern racing sidecars are low and long and borrow much technology from open wheel race cars. In all types of sidecar racing there is a rider and a passenger who work in unison to make the machine perform, as they would be almost unrideable without the passenger in the correct position.

Road racing sidecars began to change away from normal motorcycle development in the 1950s with them becoming lower and using smaller diameter wheels and they kept the enclosed "dustbin fairing" banned in solo competition in 1957. By the 1970s, they were using wide slick tyres with a square car like profile, the rider kneeled behind the engine instead of sitting on a seat and the motor of choice was generally a 500 cc two stroke. In the late 1970s sidecars began to appear with hub centre steering and later the engines moved to the rear of the rider, to lower the centre of gravity further still, making the sidecar very long. Sidecars raced in the world championship known as Superside are all hub centre long monocoque framed machines, the most common being LCR, ART or Windle, with 1,000 cc four-cylinder four-stroke engines, the most popular being the Suzuki GSX-R1000.

These at club and national level are known as Formula One sidecars, as opposed to Formula Two. Formula Two sidecars are short front engined bikes, which must have a frame made of steel tube and have leading link forks as monocoques and hub centre steering is banned. Engines are 350 cc two strokes or 600 cc four strokes. F2 sidecars are raced in their own championship but are often on track at the same time as the F1s, but competing for their own points. Since 1990 at the Isle of Man TT, the Sidecar TT has been solely contested by Formula Two sidecars as Formula Ones were deemed too fast, then lapping at 108 mph (174 km/h) average. By 2006 however, F2s were faster than this lapping at 116 mph (187 km/h).


In the UK and other countries which drive on the left side of the road, sidecars are normally fitted on the near-side (left side) of motorcycles so that the rider is on the off-side (right side), just as car-drivers are seated. In the UK sidecars fitted to the right-side of the motorcycle are prohibited on motorcycles registered after August 1981.[9]

In the Republic of China (Taiwan), Article 39-2 of the Road Traffic Security Rules (zh:道路交通安全規則) prohibits the registration of new motorcycles with sidecars but does not specifically restrict fitting them later.

Bicycle sidecars

Sidecars have sometimes been fitted on bicycles. The "Watsonian" brand was popular from the 1930s to the 1950s in the UK. The Philippine trisikad is a type in current use.


Sidecar with enclosed cabin

Although sidecars have become much less common since the mid-1950s, a number of manufacturers worldwide have continued to produce sidecars for many popular motorcycles and scooters.

Active sidecar manufacturing companies include
Manufacturer Country
Inder Auto industries India
Cozy India
Inder Exports India
Divjot exports India
EML Sidecars Netherlands
Hongdu and Zhuzhou China
Watsonian Squire England
IMZ-Ural and VMZ for Izh Russia
Premier[10] Australia
Harley-Davidson USA
Louis Christen Racing Switzerland
GG Duetto Switzerland
Wasp Motorcycles UK

See also



  1. ^ Oxford English Dictionary - "b. A vehicle designed to be attached to the (near-)side of a motor-cycle to accommodate one or more passengers. Occas. attached to a bicycle."
  2. ^ Sheldon, J.A. p. 42–43
  3. ^ "Ural Comparison Spec Sheet" (PDF). IMZ-Ural. Retrieved January 28, 2012. 
  4. ^ Hal Kendall p. 98-99
  5. ^ Hal Kendall p. 109
  6. ^ Hal Kendall p. 67
  7. ^ Hal Kendall p. 70
  8. ^ Hal Kendall p. 40 - "Section 2 - SETTING UP AN OUTFIT: A properly set up outfit is a joy to behold and a pleasure to drive. Conversely, an improperly set up outfit handles like a beast, is dangerous, and sheds tires rapidly."
  9. ^ "The Road Vehicles (Construction and Use) Regulations 1986 - Section 93". UK Government. 25 June 1986. Retrieved 9 December 2012. 
  10. ^ "Premier Sidecars". Retrieved 7/5/2013. 


  • Oxford English Dictionary (2nd ed.). Oxford University Press. 1989. 
  • Sheldon, J.A. (13 January 1955). "Origin of the Sidecar". The Motor Cycle (London: Ilife & Sons) 94 (2701). 
  • Hal Kendall (2003). Sidecar Operation Manual (PDF) (1st ed.). The United Sidecar Association (USA). 
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