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Thread: History of the Sidecar

  1. #1
    "Running Out The Clock" grafikfeat's Avatar
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    History of the Sidecar

    Some great examples of sidecars through the ages...
    I linked it w/ Google Translate as it is in Spanish.
    Fair warning it opens w/ music, so if you are work...


    The Museum.




    You think your rig is uncomfortable?
    "Stupidity, if left untreated, is self-correcting."

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    Thanks for the tickle, GraficFeat.

    Motorcyclists in general aren't aware of the history of motorycling as it applies to three-wheelers.

    Back in the 1900-1920 time frame, the majority of motorcycles had sidecars attached. A solo bike was the exception. That's probably because of the state of the roads. Only big cities had paved streets, and once out in the country the roads were muddy, rutted, dusty, bumpy, etc. Balancing a two wheeler on a muddy, rutted road requires considerable skill and luck. A sidecar allows the rig to balance itself, so the driver can concentrate on the situation.

    Motorcycles were also much cheaper than cars, until Henry Ford created assembly-line auto production. Before that, a family might be able to afford a motorcycle, and a sidecar allowed it to be practical family transportation.

    It may be difficult to comprehend, but the first "macadam" (asphalt/stone) roads appeared in the USA around 1907. Paved roads out in the country didn't begin to materialize until around 1918, and it took many more years before hard-surfaced highways were more common between cities. The big push for cross-country highways really began in the late 1930s, and the "Interstate" highway system really put paving into high gear.

    The point of this is that sidecars were very popular up to WWII. Where the Germans perfected the military sidecar for wartime use, the Americans developed the Jeep. After WWII, returning servicemen were more likely to be wandering rebels, and with lots of paved roads they preferred bikes.

    It was not until the 1970s that motorcyclists rediscovered sidecars as a novelty, or perhaps a wave of nostalgia. Today, all motorcyclists add up to only about 2-3% of motorists, and sidecarists are only about 5% of motorcyclists.

    pmdave

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    There are a few examples of early "macadam" paving still in existence. The main highways usually had the original paving torn up, the roads widened, etc. But occasionally the old pavement was abandoned, or the early road merely repaved over the original surface.

    A good example of an early paved road is in Oregon, where a scenic highway was constructed from Portland east through the Columbia River Gorge, toward Cascade Locks. When the Interstate highway was built, it was located down closer to the river, and the old scenic highway was ignored. So, today you can still ride the old road, narrow and twisty as it was back then.

    And, if you choose to ride the scenic highway on a Sunday, youll run into the same traffic congestion, although with much wider cars.

    pmdave
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    Last edited by pmdave; 01-07-2011 at 11:34 PM.

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    One of the early pavement enthusiasts in the Northwest was Sam Hill, who built a mansion overlooking the Columbia Gorge that is now the Mary Hill Museum.

    There was a ferry across the Columbia River from Oregon to Washington, and the road on the Washington side climbed up a steep grade and continued north to Goldendale. The old road came up a ravine just to the east of where Sam build his Stonehenge Memorial. I can remember being overcooked in the back seat of the '37 Ford V8 sedan, climbing up that grade, the engine struggling and overheating.

    Later, WA 14 was constructed east-west through the Gorge, a bridge built across the Columbia, and a new highway constructed up the west side of the ravine toward Goldendale. This new highway completely bypassed Sam's macadam road at Maryhill, and apparently the old road ownership reverted back to the Hill family. A couple miles of the road north of WA 14 have been resurfaced, known as the "Maryhill Loops" and closed to the general public. Tom Mehren pays to get the road opened for participants of the SoundRider rally in the Gorge each July. The Loops road ends at the top of the ravine, although you can still see the old right-of-way twisting and turning through the pastures.

    There is still a section of Sam's old road with it's original paving, visible from the Stonehenge Memorial road, if you walk through the tumbleweeds a few feet to peer over the edge. It amazes me how narrow it is. I'm also impressed at how well the old macadam has survived the years.

    pmdave
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    I wonder how the border patrol would be doing today if they had just stuck with sidecar rigs.

    pmdave
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    Sidecars have been popular with bicyclists, too:

    http://bikerodnkustom4.homestead.com/sidecar.html

    pmdave

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    The Germans were heavy into motorcycle/sidecar outfits during WWII, as anyone will realize after watching an old war movie. You'd think there would be thousands of surplus sidecar rigs floating around Europe, but where are they?

    pmdave
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    WWII photo
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    Why sidecars?

    Suspect many reasons.

    Baalance for one when rising a solo wheeled device a balance is required.

    In the UK it was a taxation issue. Motorbikes and their attachments "(sidecars)
    rated a lower license fee that automobiles. Then too
    automobiles were very expensive for average low wage earner.
    The UK has had narrow roads; very small motor vehicles
    with physically small displacement engines for many years.
    The Austin Mini allowed the average person to be able to
    purchase a small modern (for the tmes)
    motor vehicle, similar to Ford's Model T.

  10. #10
    "Running Out The Clock" grafikfeat's Avatar
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    In the US post WWII the Interstate System changed everything.
    Bigger and faster was the order of the day.

    Enter the Airstream type camping.

    Here is an example of abandoned roadway here in WA State.
    How they used to get over the Cascades' Stevens Pass.

    ...At Highway 2.

    Old Cascade Highway.

    Old Cascade Highway.

    And below is a look from US 2 on the pass at what seems to be an old avalanche cover.

    Old Bridge, I think.
    "Stupidity, if left untreated, is self-correcting."

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    Columbia River Gorge

    pmD - THANKS (again) for sharing your vast knowledge. . . and the pictures. I can feel that Raymond Carver vibe, baby.

    For those contemplating a visit to Chelan -- DO NOT miss one of the truly spectacular and unique natural features on our planet: The above-mentioned CRG - the first word that is likely to come to mind is SURREAL. More waterfalls than you can count.

    Roll on, Columbia!

    Regards to all.

    Walking Eagle

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    '80 GL1100 Naked Wing w/ Watsonian Monaco - Old Son

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  12. #12
    "Running Out The Clock" grafikfeat's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by pmdave View Post
    It amazes me how narrow it is. I'm also impressed at how well the old macadam has survived the years.
    pmdave
    Yes! That's the point I forgot in my post. It clearly feels like a one lane road. My hack took up 3/4 of the road!
    If heading over Stevens Pass on US2 look for the Iron Horse Trail parking you can pick up some of the Old Cascade Highway there or in the Town of Skykomish.
    There are some nice segments scattered over the area.

    Iron Goat Trail Information Area.

    I'll explore and post more on a different thread.

    And a BIG Plus One on Dave's Gorge suggestion. I did it on the way to the National.
    It's a great ride all the way to Chelan as well up through various gorges and vistas!


    Below is a quick overview of where Old Cascade Highway is.

    Old Cascades Highway Sections.
    "Stupidity, if left untreated, is self-correcting."

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    It's interesting to observe that following big wars, sidecars were often popular as a means of cheap transport. That is, up to WWII. The Japanese needed cheap transportation, but Soichiro Honda apparently hadn't thought of sidecars. Instead he started bolting gasoline washing machine motors into bicycles--two wheelers. As the Japanese motorcycle manufacturers started improving motor bikes, they found markets overseas, including the USA.

    My point here is that the Japanese had a considerable part in NOT producing three-wheelers. Once the oriental bikes had gained a toe-hold, they pretty much dominated the motorcycle industry. BMW, struggling to survive, looked at what the Japenese were doing, and decided to upgrade the reliable old "slash 2" machines to a more modern "/5" configuration, eliminating sidecar lugs in the process. Today, most manufacturers will void your warantee if you attach a sidecar or trailer.

    Flash forward a few years. The Japanese recovered from WWII and began to prosper. Japanese businessmen started to think about the romance of motorcycling, which for them is epitomized by the CHIPS TV series. Trouble is, older Japanese wealthy businessmen typically have short legs that make it difficult to balance a big hog. So, sidecars have gained a foothold, especially big HDs with a left-hand Liberty hack.

    Curious how history unfolds, yes?

    pmdave

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