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Unacceptable Steering Effort

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'79 XLS1000 with Texas Sidecars Ranger. The motor is a Stage 2 S&S 72cu in stroker with the expected performance enhancing cams, carb, XRL valves, Dyna Ignition, Andrews gears, etc. Power is adequate. We got the chair because arthritis made it too difficult to ride 2 up, and it's no fun to ride without one's beloved. It won't be the daily driver. We have had it for 31 years, which is why it's worth it to us put $ into an Ironhead.

At this point I have ridden it 3 times with the hack and I am finding the steering effort to be downright unacceptable - as in turning almost requires a cheater bar.  I think this is the result of over abundant rake (30.1 deg) and trail (4.7 in). So far I have been unable to find anywhere that makes or sells trail compensated triple clamps for the 35mm Narrow Glide, which means custom made. I have so much $ in it so far that it's worth paying what it costs (~$1500) to have it steer easily. I want to be sure what trail I'm asking the shop to fabricate, because @ $1500 each the 1st one has to be right.

Since too little trail = tankslapper, I am asking what other people have found to work well. It seems like ~2" of trail is the consensus and I am planning to install a steering damper - looking for minimal steering effort (major arthritis in shoulders) with the necessary stability. Yes, I'm aware that the 35mm forks are kind of spindly, but that's what it has with fork brace added. It won't driven hard.

Asking for advice/input about rake/trail and anything else I need to know to resolve the problem. I have had motorcycles my entire adult life, but am entirely new to sidecars.




  I am sure others will join in. Jay has forgot more about mounting a sidecar on a Sporty than others will ever know.

Question you said you had a 30 degree rake already. Did you have it raked or are you assuming that is the bikes stock rake?

If I remember right that bike had a really different front end compared to most like it . Almost like it had a lot of rake from the factory.

Who mounted the car ?  Pictures would help a lot.

On that bike it should not be that big a deal Sounds like there maybe other mounting issues.


I have a never mounted UNITS leading link for the Harley Sportster narrow front end that would reduce your steering effort.  Shoot me an PM if interested. Am in  Houston, TX.




"Question you said you had a 30 degree rake already. Did you have it raked or are you assuming that is the bikes stock rake?"

Answer to a post on another forum: The responder said that Rake/Trail = 30.1 deg/4.7" It is the stock 35mm Narrow Glide with stock Rake and Trail. 

The hack was mounted at the local indie HD shop I patronize. It tracks straight, and Steve (owner of the shop) didn't seem to have a hard time with it. I know I need to get more ride time, but it's likely I will want do what is necessary to make it steer with less effort.

Pics: Will need to input from the camera to my computer for sharing.


This is what the UNITS leading link looks like.  You will need an experienced mechanic to help you install it.






Uploaded files:
  • UNITS-Leading-Link.jpeg

James, I'm recalling from memory, so I may be inaccurate:  We installed  5° triple trees from Hawg Halters on our 2003 XL883R  with Texas Ranger with excellent results - seems trail was reduced to ±1.5 -2.0 inches.

Presuming it matches your application, the Unit Forks leading link offered by CCJon could solve your situation, especially as leading links help eliminate the front-end drive under braking.

It may also be beneficial to contact (630-858-6416) to discuss your technical details of you application.  Look here are more information:


Lee / Summer Grove, Louisiana: Ural cT, CJ750, Burgman/Texas Ranger, Zuma 50F, MB5, TW200, CRF250L, GTV300

Keep in mind rake and trail are two different things. We are not worried about what the Rake is all that much. The issue is most people and companies that make trail reducing triple tree's say that they are "raking" the front  end.  What they are doing is changing the angle of the forks in relationship to the steering head. This does not change rake, just looks like it does. This is also why off set bearings that really do "rake" the front end do little to change the steering effort.

In any event how much trail you need depends a lot on where you are riding. If you are in the plain's state region where there is not a lot of turning once out on the highway you might find a bit more trail to be nice so that it is not following every grove in the pavement. If you are mainly riding in the twisties you may  want less trail. Or for medical reasons you may find that you want as light as possible and can live with hunting out on the highway. In general if we are not building a front end for a specific individual or use we shoot for about 2 inches of trail. My wife has shoulder issues. On her last BMW I set the trail at 1.2 inches. It was great fun to ride however people who are use to riding a bike with out modified steering found the bike to be almost not ridable as they were all over the road until they got use to it. 1.2 inches is about the least I would go with a stock front tire. Anything more then about 2 3/4 might not be worth the effort.

So in short, no easy answers to your question.

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

I have never seen the UNITS set-up before. Looks like the legs plug into the triple trees where the tubes are now, which means it would have to match the tube dia. (35mm) and adapting the wheel, brake, and fender. If that could be done without spending too much money it would be the ideal fix.

SwampFox answers my questions about how well the Hawg Halters 5 deg kick-out works. The later forks are wider and have 39mm tubes, which may mean that the 35mm is less rigid, but I don't plan to be riding it hard and it has a fork brace. Assuming the suitability of the 35mm ft end with trail-compensated triple trees it seems like that involves the least re-jiggering of wheel, brake discs and calipers, fender bracket, etc. - just install the new trees and put it back together. Thanks for the link.

I think I have spoken with Jay before and he referred me to Hawg Halters, who said 5 deg. So far it looks like a set of trees with 5 deg of kick out is what I am looking for.

I appreciate all the advice, and will check out Custom Triple Trees.

Swamp Fox has provided the answer to my problem. I am in touch with Bill @ Custom Triple Trees and anticipate sending them a cheque as soon as we decide on all the details. The UNITS set-up looks like the way to go if I had more $, but at this point we have a lot invested and the set up from Custom Triple Trees with 5 deg of kick-out is the most economical answer. I spoke with the folks @ Hawg Halters, who recommended 5 deg. I figure they know what they're doing, so that's what I'm going with. We don't anticipate putting a lot of freeway miles on it - more secondary roads with curves, so that seems like the way to go. I am really looking forward to seeing how it handles with the new trees.




James in short it's like the difference between night and day, just be careful when you first start out as it will be VERY input sensitive  but you will adapt quickly. let us know what you think once you have them installed and ride a bit 

USCA # 8913
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