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Building Your Very Own Sidecar

Building Your Very Own Sidecar

Ever since the inception of the motorcycle in North America and Europe in the early part of the 20th century, man has been customizing their rides to stand apart from the pack. From tame to wild paint jobs, elaborate fairing modifications and engine swaps, there's no limit to how you can make your motorcycle yours. While many people may be content with the normal two-seat setup found on stock bikes, there are still a select few that prefer to make things a bit different. The sidecar is an aesthetic mod that drastically changes the way your motorcycle handles, from the braking to the cornering and acceleration. You're adding a considerable amount of weight to the right-side (or left-side, depending on where you live) of your machine, so it's necessary to take the proper measures to ensure everything is stable when out on the road. If you're planning a heavy modification such as this, you'll need to make sure the essentials – tires, wheels, suspension and engine – are capable of handling such a feat. But once all is said and done, your new sidecar should bring you and your passengers plenty of joy out on the streets.

Mindful Modifications For Safety

1. Mindful Modifications For Safety

Building your own sidecar is more than just adding a piece of metal, fiberglass or plastic to the side of your motorcycle. In order to carefully and successfully pull off this build, you must swap out some other key ingredients in your bike's makeup. For most motorcycles, a suspension upgrade is in order to make sure your new setup can handle proper cornering, because you now run the risk of tipping over without the ability to simply stick your foot out for balancing. In most situations, a sidecar setup will add one extra wheel to your bike's configuration, which can make things rather unbalanced in the grand scheme of things. And that brings us to our next modification of your bike – the tires and wheels. You'll need some new shoes for gripping the pavement, because all three wheels will need to be balanced together to ensure proper weight distribution of your newly modified vehicle. And don't even think about leaving your engine bone stock, because you'll need the extra torque to account for the extra weight added to the side of your motorcycle.

2. Performance For The Sidecar

Under normal conditions, adding a passenger (roughly 100 to 150 extra pounds) isn't necessarily going to hurt your performance, but adding that passenger weight plus an additional shell will really put a damper on how your motorcycle performs. You'll need to properly assess the current performance of your motorcycle's engine and add the necessary parts to really create some power to the rear wheel. Upgrading your exhaust from the manifold back is always a good way to gain some extra horsepower, but to really boost that torque, you'll need to concentrate on the gearing ratio of your transmission. Consider upgrading to a race ready transmission, something that's built to tackle corners and accelerate quickly off the line. You'll need the power in the low end because of all the weight you're adding to the side of your motorcycle, so it's best to stick with something that can handle proper weight distribution. Additionally, you'll want to tune your bike so that it accepts these new upgrades, because simply adding a new exhaust system or bolting on a new transmission won't cut it. Consider running your bike on a dyno before and after the sidecar addition, giving you the best knowledge of your bike's setup.

Suspension For Better Handling

3. Suspension For Better Handling

While ensuring the power behind your bike's muscle is properly adjusted to handle the new sidecar, the suspension is probably the most important aspect of this upgrade. Imagine yourself cornering as low as you can on your motorcycle. All of your weight is transferred toward the inside of that turn, and there's little to no room for error between you and the pavement. Now consider what the opposite side of your motorcycle is like when you're fully leaned into a hairpin. No matter if you're on a street bike or cruiser, the angle of your bike is positioned up. If you're adding a sidecar to your motorcycle, cornering becomes a whole new process. Of course, you'll have suspension setup on this new fiberglass, plastic or metal shell, but your stock bike will need an upgrade to handle its new-found cornering techniques. You won't be able to actually lean into turns as fluidly any longer, but you still want to maintain proper performance and weight distribution. There are shock and suspension kits built specifically for the use with sidecars, so it's best to find a set that works best in this environment.

4. Tires and Wheels: Aesthetics and Performance

Quite possibly my favorite upgrade of motorcycles – mainly because of their looks over performance factors – tires and wheels are the very contact point for your machine to hit the road. It's important to have a set of wheels that not only compliment the very looks of your bike, but also help stabilize and maintain a balanced setup. Wheels strong enough to handle the extra weight of a sidecar are certainly necessary, but how well the two on your bike react with the one (or sometimes two) attached to the sidecar are extremely integral in the overall handling and performance of your motorcycle. After all, you'll want something that grips the pavement with force, because you'll need all the traction you can get with the added weight. Avoid slicks and street tires with light groove patterns in their tread, because you'll need something a bit bulkier to handle the daily tasks of carrying a sidecar.

Tires and Wheels: Aesthetics and Performance

Yes, modifying your motorcycle is one of the true joys of owning a two-wheeled beast, but it's up to you to make sure everything is properly balanced, well maintained and actually beneficial to your bike. Don't get stuck with adding performance upgrades that actually hinder your bike's performance with a sidecar. Always speak to a certified professional if you're unsure of which parts work best for your customizing needs and above all else, have fun out on the road!

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