USCA Sidecar Forum

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Pulling to the Left

Hi All

Well it was time for the yearly big service on my BMW R75/5 with the Globe sidecar.  So off came the car and about half of the sub frame so I could get to the oil filter etc.  Putting the frame and car back was not as difficult as expected  except getting the car level proved to be a bit of a bear.  I set the toe-in at just over 1.5 inches and got a lean-out of a little more than an inch at the rear wheel.  This was about what I had on it before the take down so I thought it right.  But I now have a pronounced pull to the left especially at low speeds.  So do I have too much toe-in and lean or too little or could it be something else??






I'd say too much of both. Toe-in should be less than 1 inch in almost all circumstances, lean-out is usually measured in degrees 1-2, not inches. Seems as it was set-up badly initially if you're close to the original settings. Time to start over from the beginning.

Basically I agree that you have too much of both.  Too much toe-in will usually just result in excessive tire wear.  So, set aside the toe-in for the moment.  The bigger issue is that you probably have too much lean out.  Ideally both lean out and toe-in should be measured in degrees but they almost never are.

Your immediate issue is the lean out.  Did you sit on the bike or weight the bike with a weight equivalent to yours when you set lean out?  If you didn't, you're probably compounding your issue.  When you sit on the bike, lean out increases if the sidecar isn't also loaded equally.  SO... as a very rough place to start, either weight the bike equivalent to your weight or sit one the bike and get someone to strap the suspension so it holds the compression of your weight.  Then, adjust the lean out to about an inch and give it a try.  If it still pulls to the left WHILE YOUR A CRUISING DOWN THE ROAD, NOT at start up [All sidecar rigs pull toward the sidecar on acceleration and away from the car on braking.] decrease the lean out.  If it pulls toward the sidecar add lean out.  In the unlikely event you decide to use degrees [which would be ideal] start with about 1 degree of lean out and apply the ideas below.

If at all possible...

  1. Make some sort of mark to allow you to return to a setting before you move anything
  3. Make notes
  4. The only truth in all this is what works for you.  If someone says you should use exactly X amount of lean out or toe-in, RUN.  That person does not understand the process.  Using "rules of thumb" is just a place to start.  Testing will let you know when things are right.
  5. Remember, things will change when you change load distribution.  Having a person in the sidecar will affect handling BUT you will get used to it.

Believe it or not, we've set up IDENTICAL rigs with exactly the same parameters and got different results.

Good Luck!

Al Olme Minneapolis, Minnesota

Thanks for the great advice.  Now its time to get out to the barn and experiment.



I just read this trhead and am very interested in finding out how to properly set up the lean ot and toe-in but even moreimportant at the monment is finding out if my rig is set up properly now.

I recently bought this 2015 Indian Chief with a Motorvation Spyder sidecar. The fellow I bought it from said itwas intially installed at the Motorvation Plant, but he also said he's taken it off and on several times. He also said it is still set up properly but how can I tell.  

As far as I can tell. the unit rides well and feels like it rides straight without a great deal of pressure on the handlebars (however the handlebars and front wheel really jerks when I hit a road repair patch). BUT, the bike tires are in very good condition but the sidecar tire has almost NO tread except on the two outside edges of the tire, (habing a new on installed tomorrow).

Where can I find someone who can check out my rig? I'm in western Montana.

Hi Walt, I don't know if you're the same person I was communicating with a while back from Montana or not. If you are, this is a repeat. If not... Get in touch with Ralph Taylor in Libby. He's a heck of a good guy and the Montana state rep for USCA.

406-293-63six seven.

Tom Wells aka Reardan Tom


Wearing out a sidecar tire is a sure sign that there's something wrong.  Normally, sidecar tires dry rot before they wear out.  Since your's is worn in the middle it suggests that it's both over inflated and there's an alignment issue.  Probably too much toe in.  The wear issue usually shows on the rear motorcycle tire but with the big weight disparity between your heavy bike and light sidecar it's reasonable that the bike is pushing the sidecar down the road at too great an angle.

If you can't find some "in person help" look at the alignment videos on YouTube.  The basic Ural version is decent.  What you're looking for is the difference in the distance between two imaginary [or real] lines, one that is parallel to the rear tire and another that is parallel to the sidecar tire [note- on some motorcycles the front and rear wheels are not actually in line and you want to use the rear wheel].  Some folks set up these lines with long straight things like boards or strings or even eight foot fluorescent tubes.  I use a couple of cheap laser levels I got at Home Depot.  There are a couple of things to remember.  First is that where you measure is critical.  I measure right in front of the front tire but better practice would be to measure some set distance out in front.  Why?  By extending the distance to the measuring point you are measuring a greater difference in the angle.  Example - If I measure a difference of 3/4 of an inch at three feet in front of the front wheel, I'll get 1 1/2 inches if I measure at six feet in front of the front wheel.  It's easier to make small changes in a bigger dimension.  Whatever you do, measure at the same place every time.

Remember, If you make a change in the lean  out angle, it will also change toe in.  Sidecars are fundamentally irrational vehicles and therefore they are a rolling compromise.  If you make ANY change, there's a good chance it will affect something else.  Also, if someone tells you EXACTLY how much toe in you should have, thank them and then ignore them.  The set up that's right is the set up that works best for you. 

Please feel free to ask questions.  You'll get a number of answers and it's your job to sift through them and decide which ones make sense.

Good Luck!

Al Olme Minneapolis, Minnesota