USCA Sidecar Forum

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Noob Question


Glad to find this forum, obviously lots of knowledge here. First I'll provide plenty of context, then I'll ask the question.

Been wanting a sidecar for awhile now for our BACA kids. Never ridden one before, but rode a trike just a little over the years. I'm aware they don't handle ANYTHING like a motorcycle. (The fact that they don't countersteer being just the tip of the iceberg.)

Anyway, I just found what seems like a really good deal and bought it. Haven't seen it in person yet, I'm in Seattle and it's almost 1000 miles away, south of San Francisco. I had a local friend go check it out for me. He's not a sidecar guy, just checked out the bike and the condition of the hack. I gather they're both in superb condition.

It's a Champion Escort connected to a 650 Vstar. (Seems to be a pretty small bike, but the price was excellent and it's super-low mileage so I jumped on it. Plenty of options if I decide I really don't like the bike once I get it up here.) The seller has owned the rig for 13 years. Garage kept the whole time, occasionally ridden.

I'm thinking about flying down and riding it back. I'm no stranger to long-distance motorcycle touring, and old enough to be very careful as I learn how the thing handles. I'm thinking the ride back would be a good way to get used to it. I'll replace the tires before I leave.

Reading this forum and others, I realize I am assuming the rig has been set up correctly. Toe, lean, etc. The seller tells me it handles fine at freeways speeds, but of course no matter how legit she is, that amounts to hearsay. I'm a very quick study and very good at following directions, so I suppose I could take a some literature and tools with me, and be prepared to make adjustments en route if necessary. I'm allowing three days for the ride. I'm aware if things get complicated it could be extended.

I'm also aware there are other options for getting it up here - I could drive down and trailer it, or have it shipped - but riding it is far and away my preference. I've always been adventurous (ridden hundreds of thousands of miles alone in the US, Mexico and Canada.) I'll stick to the coast to stay out of the snow. Other than snow and ice on the road, the weather isn't a huge concern, I'm experienced and well-equipped.

So now the question: Am I completely underestimating the challenges and complexities of sidecar riding, particularly long-distance? Being a noob, and given I haven't even seen this rig in person, am I nuckin' futs? (Note that I'm not asking about the chances of mechanical failure with the bike and/or sidecar, that's obviously a calculated risk no matter what the machine, and to each their own. I'm asking about the potential for serious problems specific to a noob riding a hack so far on a maiden voyage.)

Thanks in advance,


I posted a report describing my first ride a year n a half ago. I was at the time knee deep in experience with two wheels and an appetizer of experience with the hack. All in all it wasn't so daunting as I expected. I wrote of the mistakes I committed, as well as the pleasantries. The bike/car was not setup well so I had to deal with some handling issues. I was able to compensate for it and finished an enjoyable trip.

Good luck in your search and welcome to the insanity.

Thread: First ride Phoenix to Minneapolis


2014 CB1100 Std, 2000 ST1100 with DMC Classic, 1981 CB650C

Thanks for the reply. My takeaway is that if I'm crazy, certainly no moreso than you are. 🙂

Think 100 pounds of ballast is adequate?


That's about right, but my wife, son, and friends think I'm Bat**** crazy.

2014 CB1100 Std, 2000 ST1100 with DMC Classic, 1981 CB650C

Being new to this also I trailed mine home. I was only 300 miles from the dealer. I had driven a friends rig a few miles years ago so had an idea of the handling. I just felt I need to learn riding around home. Have over 1000km in the month of having it.

2015 Ural Patrol, 1980 R65, 1982 R65 original owner, 1975 R 90/6, 1959 TR3A Triumph Don

Roque, welcome to the world of individualism, where no two are alike.

You have the most important asset working on your side for a fly-n-ride, eyes wide open and a good attitude. Hmmm that's two things, oh well.

You seem to have a good grasp on your abilities and reality, the big unknown here is the machine itself. Go with your gut feeling as to the competence and diligence of the seller who you are counting on to serviced and maintained this rig properly. If you have doubts, best to trailer it home. If you feel the seller was anal about maintaining the rig personally or had a good shop do it, then a fly-n-ride option is viable.

The Vstar 650 is a mid sized bike while the Escort is a heavier sidecar. Not a lot of ballast will be needed unless you plan on traveling at interstate speeds. Speed will only exacerbate any sidecar driving error you make. Take it easy at or before the posted speed limit until you gain experience on how the sidecar reacts to changes in the road surface, turns, cross winds, etc.

A good analogy is, on two wheels, it is you and the bike against the road. On the three wheels, it's the road and the machine against you.

The yawling of the sidecar at first can be frightening, until you come to understand what is happening and why it is normal. You will do a lot of moving around, leaning, muscling the rig around turns while the rig stays flat, planted to the road.

Again welcome to the USCA world, where is really is impossible to have too much fun.


Why not take sidecar trike class, there are several offered in the Seattle area. If you do not have your three wheel endorsement this class should you pass will cover the testing for the endorsement. I recommend this time of year having the rig shipped, not all that much more money then the cost of picking it up. You could also drive down and trailer it back. If you do ride it keep in mind that you will be using muscles different then you do on two wheels and as such it takes some time to build stamina, allow an extra day or two. Yesterday my father in law drove down from the Seattle area to Redding and ran into snow, snow can be an issue even on a sidecar bike if you do not know how to handle it.
Once you get it back we do free safety checks, my office mangers personal bike is a V star 650 with one of our sidecars on it.
Jay G
DMC sidecars

Jay G DMC sidecars 15616 Carbonado South Prairie RD Buckley WA 98321 866-638-1793 Hours Monday - Thursday 6-4:30

Thanks Jay, you actually hit on what I'm most concerned about. I neglected to mention - maybe I'm in denial - that my shoulders get inflamed pretty easily these days, even when two-wheeling multi-state trips. I've heard that sidecars put quite a stress on the shoulders. I'm still vacillating but may opt for another method just so I don't cripple myself. I have a multi-state two-wheel ride planned for February I don't want to mess up. But again, still vacillating. Thanks for the input.

Whatever I decide, I'll likely take you up on that safety inspection.

A couple questions for you:

1) What would be good high-mileage tires for this bike, assuming it'll remain a dedicated sidecar rig? I've done some homework and I guess it doesn't lend itself to a car tire, so I'll skip that.
2) Do you know what size tire would be on the Escort? (I'm sure it's the original)

And just out of curiosity, what car does your office manager have coupled to the 650 VStar?

Thanks again, Jay.

The Escort should have a 145 13, on the rear of the bike I would go with what ever is the least expensive, lower priced tires are often harder rubber. My office manager has a Kenna which can be seen in the gallery section on our site, she has a custom triple tree to lower the steering effort.
Jay G
DMC sidecars

Jay G DMC sidecars 15616 Carbonado South Prairie RD Buckley WA 98321 866-638-1793 Hours Monday - Thursday 6-4:30

ncdave - 12/27/2016 5:41 PM

the scary part is the over-confidence that comes along with thinking you have a handle on it. I have gotten myself into a couple pucker-factor cases.

That´s exactly the point! Once you think you´ve got it right after a couple of hundred miles it becomes dangerous.

Reading your opening post I reckon you know what you are expecting from that 1000 mls trip. If I was you I would give it a try.
If I sell a rig to a newby I take my time and give him a two hour lesson. After that time he or she still can´t ride a rig but is aware of how the thing behaves and that this adventure should be started with care.
So everyone rode home safe till now.
If the former owner won´t or can´t teach you how to handle, you might want to educate yourself for half an hour or so on a square place without passengers. Ride some curves and circles to see when and how the sidecars wheel starts to lift and how the thing behaves when hitting the brake.
Take it easy and have a safe trip!