Saturday, January 15, 2011

As I prepare Natasha for departure...

Truly amazing all the knowledge I was lacking when it comes to mating a sidecar to a motorcycle.  I knew that I'd bypassed such lack of knowledge back when I first started thinking of buying a Ural Sidecar Rig.  I figured that since they build their rigs from the ground up to be sidecar rigs, that all the details of mating such things together would be designed in and worked out.

For the most part, I was proven right with the Ural rig I rode for almost 18 months.  No need to mess with the alignment, or necessitating a subframe mount on the motorcycle to use as mounting points and as a bonus, they sport the capability to go into reverse and offroad with minimal hassle.

As I now start the process of figuring out how to connect my Ural sidecar rig to my 1987 R80 Airhead Beemer (Brigitta), some of the things I am learning are weighing heavily on my mind:

1.  I am going to need a reinforcing subframe mount that gets attached to the R80, to provide mounting points for the sidecar and it's frame.  You can buy something pre-made and have it shipped to you for assembly but there might be some welding and cutting involved to make it all come together.  Roughly $1000.

2.  You can ship your motorcycle and sidecar rig to PA where an outfit called cstanley motosports will handcraft and assembly together to mate your motorcycle and sidecar together.  You'll lose your motorcycle while they work on it of course, roughly 4-6 weeks assuming nothing weird is encountered or their workload is too heavy.

3.  The value of the Ural tug in terms of parts and the rarity of my sidecar due to it being designed for a fulltime 2WD tug apparently exceeds her current book value as a whole motorcycle sidecar rig!  In talking to other mechanics/dealers, they've expressed interested in the final drive, as broken as it is...the 750cc engine is apparently of value as well since a new one will run you $5k or more.  The sidecar, when new and without all the extras it's got on now, ran $4200 for just the tub and wheel!

4.  If I keep the Ural sidecar, I'll have to buy a way 1WD swing arm that bolts onto the sidecar frame to secure the sidecar wheel to the sidecar, that job is presently done by the propshaft that connects the sidecar wheel to the failed final drive.  That obviously goes away with a different non-Ural motorcycle tug.

5.  And, if I was to pour more money into Natasha, her broken final drive can be replaced as a "bolt on" operation for about $900 or so with a new final drive with engageable 2WD.   This option however will face resistance from my loving wife in terms of "what, more money down that particular money pit?".

The benefit of course of keeping the sidecar in some sort of fashion is retaining the ability to go offroad with relative ease though getting stuck will be far easier with the loss of 2WD.  Riding on snow though should still be doable and the R80 should be able to move things along at 70-75 mph all day long.  Finally the option to carry one of my family as a passenger.  Keeping up with highway traffic while attached to a sidecar, what a concept.

So the above mess of data and options will continue to swirl about my head.

In preparation for the hopefully soon sale of Natasha as a parts motorcycle, I separated her from the sidecar this morning.  It was not as complicated or difficult as I feared.

Here is the sidecar rig to the left and Natasha on the right, separated probably for the first time 
since she left the factory.

A closer, lower view of the mounting points on the sidecar frame

Natasha as a solo motorcycle.  

Before you even ask, I've read and have no reason to disbelieve that trying to ride the motorcycle without a sidecar can be difficult as she's got leading link forks which are great for steering a sidecar but not so great when it comes to a solo motorcycle.

I've also received marching orders from my loving wife to procure a second motorcycle to use as spare while I figure out the above.  She's great isn't she?  I'm thinking a GS, which model, I don't know.  Some would say the 1150/1200 series but their heavy bulk could make offroad adventures more "interesting" and involving heavy lifting operations than I want.  The F800s are not much lighter and I read of folks riding around the world on the 650GS which are much lighter.

Given all the above, your feedback would be appreciated.


Jay Barry said...

Perhaps you and I should go looking at the F800 together as I might want one of those too.

Gary France said...

Wait a second! I was feeling very sorry for you after reading about the loss of Natasha and then right at the end, wham! You hit us with that simple line “I've also received marching orders from my loving wife to procure a second motorcycle to use as spare while I figure out the above.” Wow, I like it. Well done Mrs Redlegs. Great? She is fantastic!

Circle Blue said...


Oh, I know that stew of thoughts you describe. Even though I don't have garage space (or $$) that hasn't stopped me from researching sidecars and rigs. Of course, Chris has been so kind as to send suggestions my way. He is so kind :)

I'll be interested to hear what you decide. I was out at the Ural dealer this morning. They do attach sidecars to other motorcycles, so, we've began to talk. Oy vay! This is not an inexpensive hobby.

My sweetie and I are figuring on another bike. She gets it, too. We are lucky to have these women in our lives, yes?

Good luck and I'll be most interested to follow you through this process.


Martha said...

Wifey here. I told the man to get a hobby years ago. He got one, the least I can do is make sure he has what he needs to enjoy the hobby.

bobskoot said...


You are so lucky to have such a good support system with Martha. I also think it's the right decision not to pour anymore $$ into Natasha. I really like the idea of buying. another "spare" bike. How about the X-country series. I know nothing about them but perhaps they are more rugged for offroad adventures. GS650X. I saw one today at breakfast.

I use the same excuse everytime I purchase a new camera. I say it is my Hobby. so far it worked

bobskoot: wet coast scootin

SonjaM said...

@Dom: Since I am thinking of attaching a rig onto my F650 (one day maybe) I am highly interested in your future endeavors. I agree with Jay and vote for the F800GS.
@Martha: I am sure your hubby knows that you are a gem. My better half also greatly supports my riding hobby a.k.a. known as money pit. Dom and I are very lucky that way.

Jack Riepe said...

Dear Charlie6 (Dom):

I cannot tell you how sorry I am that despite all of your work and effort, the Ural has again experienced another mechanical setback. In reading Chris Luhman's blog today, I saw the part where he mention the new alternator went on the fritz again too. (Did I get that right?)

I have absolutely no valuable knowledge nor practical insight regarding hack rigs, but I thought if you could get up to $9 grand for the sidecar and the motor, you might be able to pick up a decent BMW hack rig, where the engine is already proven and the heavy lifting has been done.

My thought was to keep the other Beemer intact, not to miss a good day of two-wheeled riding, and to take the surprises out of the next project.

Once again, I 'm regret your dealing with this issue again.

Fondest regards,

Raftnn said...

Martha.....I love you, ever thought abot marrying a KIwi!! It is great to see your support for gonna show this blog to my missus!

Brady said...

I'd say keep the Ural, but that's just because I want to get my hands on a bike with a sidecar... desperately. I wouldn't give up either of my bikes at the moment, though, not for much of anything. I can tell you it's totally worth getting a BMW F650GS - it's what I'm riding right now most days. Light, quick, torquey. It vibrates a good bit from the single cylinder design, but I still like it quite a bit. Not quite big enough for lengthy road going - but I managed to take it from VA to MN and back. If you're serious about taking it offroad, I can't advise anything bigger, to unwieldy.


Behind Bars - Motorcycles and Life

Jack Riepe said...

Dear Dom:

I was thinking of you today. The Mac-Pac January breakfast convened this morning and a guy, Joe Dille, rode in with his sidecar rig.

I didn't get the details on the side car, but the tug is a K75, with a the oversized alternator. Joe was cruising along at 60mph, with his auxiliary lighting, and his full gerbings heated gear.

If you want, I can put you in touch with this guy. I also know someone else selling a K75 with 24,000 miles on it for $2,000. The bike is mechanically sound, with some cosmetic imperfection.

I was thinking you could pick up a K75 for $2 grand, mount the sidecar to it (another grand for the hardware or modifications), and then take your time fine-tuning the appearance. The acquisition stages would cost less than the value of the Ural engine.

You could easily find a "K" bike out your way in the $2/$3 grand range, and leave that gorgeous "R" machine of yours intact. (Joe's bike does not have a reverse gear.)

Or, you could look for the oldest LT you could find, that was made with the reverse option (off the starter motor).

Just my thought

mike said...

I have come to the conclusion the only reason my 2 wheeled habit is accepted is Tiffany and her love of scooter rides. I tend to agree with Jack on this sell the whole rig and buy a prebuilt one. According to sidecar guru Doug Bingham, duel sports bikes have too much travel. He off road raced a Honda 750/4 hack for years with great success. You sir are a lucky man.

RichardM said...

I will be watching this space to see what you decide to do. I have been looking and Dauntless in WA has subframes for about $800 or so. They used to sell the Ural car so they may be a good source of information. Are you thinking of looking for a leading link front end?

Another rider up here has both an older F650GS thumper and the newer twin. I'm told that the gearing and torque curve on the thumper is much more suitable to gravel and unpaved roads than the twin. But the twin is much nicer for on the open highway.

Looking forward to see what direction you decide to take.


Chris Luhman said...

Dom, I'd sell the whole thing. The Ural tub is quite heavy, as you've probably already figured out by removing it. If I was going to start over with a sidecar, I wouldn't use the Ural kart. I'd want a proper disc brake and auto tires.

Your family may also enjoy a tub more like a motivation 2 or a velorex with a covered top or one with much more wind protection.

Keep your BMW as it, and get another hack already built or have one of these guys get a bike and sidecar and build it for you.

ScramblerCycle in WI: (my sidecar mechanic)

Dauntless in Washington state:

Motorvation in Iowa: (saw them at the sidecar rally)

Mobtec Duo Drive 2WD kits:

Are you planning your unpaved rides to be like the ones you did on your Ural? The Ural weighs 700-800lbs. Nearly any combination from a R1200GS->GZ250 is going to weigh less since they won't be made of solid steel.

If you need to see some pics of other sidecars, here is my flickr album from the sidecar rally:

Chris Luhman said...


your family might like something like this one:

or ROFL this one:

-Chris @ - year round riding in Minnnesota

irondad said...

Firstly, I echo the cheers towards Martha!

Secondly, I echo Chris' comment about selling both the tug and the hack. Here's why.

I saw a Honda Silverwing scooter with a sidecar the other day. Think outside the box and you, too, could be setting a whole new standard. And with the right pair of crocs.............

George F said...

Wow, I have just been updating myself on the blogs after my vacation and then find this sad entry :-( no more beautiful pictures of the Ural up in some remote location :-( I agree with the others, your wife is wonderful :-)
Whatever you get, I'm sure there will be more adventures up those beautiful mountains. Good luck ;-)