Tuesday, March 01, 2011

The R90 Sidecar Rig - a Texas misadventure

O'Dark thirty, that's what we'd refer to it in the Army when one had to get up at some upgodly hour in the early morning in order to either "Stand To" and await a dawn attack on our artillery position (it's the rule, one attacks at dawn when there's growing light and your enemy is supposedly groggy from waking up) or to get things ready to get moving to the next position for more fire missions.

So, this past Sunday, it was O'Dark Thirty or 3:00AM when the alarm clock went off at my beside and I groggily got out of bed to get ready to drive the rental car down to Amarillo, TX.

Amarillo is where Perry, of Perry's Motorcycles of Fort Worth had agreed to trailer a R90 Sidecar rig and meet up to turn it over to me. I'd rented a car the day before and had packed it and ready to go so I was on the road by 3:36AM, leaving my family still sleeping warm in their beds.

The ride down was uneventful and it didn't take me long to get back in to the "swing of things" in terms of staying awake and alert while driving. I made good time and by 6:30AM I had crossed over the New Mexico state border, driven through Raton Pass, and got fuel and food at the junction with US287/87.

From there it was another 4 hrs to Amarillo, TX. Only one incident along the way, I was going 80 in a 70 mph speed limit area and one of the Texas State Patrol stopped me. I thought I was going to get a "performance" award for sure but when he found out I was enroute to pick up a vintage BMW motorcycle with a sidecar rig; all he said then was "That sounds pretty cool" and he let me off with a warning.

The Toyota Yaris I rented, 447 miles from my house to Amarillo International Airport

Keeping steadily to the 70 mph limit from there on, I got to the rental car parking lot without further excitement. The GPS in the rental car was useless in finding the place and so Perry had the same issues finding me! After a bit of wandering around the area, he and I finally met up in person after weeks of emails and phone calls.

She looked good didn't she?

She was quite beautiful to my eyes and I eagerly listened to Perry's instructions on its individual care and maintenance, it's controls and such.

Perry gave me the title, I gave him the remaining balance on the motorcycle, we shook hands and he went off back home to Fort Worth. The winds were pretty fierce throughout this whole time, making it hard to even stand in one position when the winds hit you!

I packed up the sidecar with my tools and stuff, returned the paperwork on the rental car and away I went to fuel up.

The R90 handled beautifully in spite of the increasingly stronger winds that kept buffetting me and the rig. The horizon, both in front and behind me as I rode on US287, was blotted out by a solid looking wall of sand and dust picked up by the winds.

The last time I'd seen dust storms like that, had been while on active duty in Saudi Arabia during Operation Desert Storm. Not exactly ideal riding conditions you might say.

Stil, the R90, with the Dneper sidecar rig pulled strongly in spite of the very strong headwinds I kept encountering. When the winds hit me sideways, she'd pretty much hold onto the road though there was one particular gust that blew me onto the neighboring lane.  That sure got my attention! When the winds hit me headon, I'd have to gear down to fourth gear and she'd still hold 60mph easily....I was quite pleased with her performance (in between fearing for my life) from the waves of dust clouds I road through.

Sorry, no pictures, just picture a big brown horizon-blotting cloud, coming at you at speed...no shelter around you, just wide open plains covered in dry grass.

I made it past Dumas, TX, now on US87, when I felt the transmission fall out of gear! Hmmmm, I thought, you dumbass, you didn't click it fully into gear. I snicked it back into gear and carried on a few miles west of Dumas. Then, the transmission fell out of gear again....dammit I thought, something's wrong.

Still I kept going seeking a safe sheltered spot to stop, until it started falling out of gear and not allowing me to move between gears. I limped into the hamlet of Hartley, whose claim to fame is the Dalhart Consumers Co-Op grain silos and the gas station. I called up Perry on his cellphone and damn if he didn't immediately say he'd head back and come rescue me!

Of course, by then, he was about 140 miles south of Amarillo, battling the same dust storms I had ridden through. He was driving a Mercedes Benz Sprinter Cargo van and pulling a trailer so you can imagine the rough ride he had in those winds which apparently gusted to a maximum of 68mph according to the news!

I had called Perry just before 3:00PM and it was a little past 7:00 before he managed to arrive at Hartley, he'd battled high winds and apparently a very large prairie fire that had invoked I think all the fire engines in the Texas Panhandle! This explained all the fire engines I saw racing back towards Amarillo I'd seen while parked, stranded, by the silos in Hartley.

Hartley, TX

On a sidenote, not one person stopped, as they cruised through Hartley enroute to other places to ask me if I needed help. What's up with that? Do motorcycle riders sit for hours on end by the side of the road in a parking lot in Texas?

I ended up moving the rig over next to the big silos, on the leeward side, to escape most but not all of the sandblasting effect brought on by the strong winds which blew all afternoon and into the evening.

Once Perry arrived, he did a quick check and told me he thought something had broken within the transmission and that he'd have to take her back to the shop.  We got her tied up on the trailer and headed on back to Dumas to get a room as it was quite late at this point.

Enroute to Dumas, Perry proved again he merited the great reputation he has within the BMW motorcycling community and offered me several options.  I chose the one where I'd return the motorcycle to him (he was selling it on consigment it turns out) and he'd refund me the full purchase price.  He returned my check to me and he said he'd mail me the deposit amount soon as he got back to his shop.  Now this, is a shining example, of a man standing by the motorcycle he's selling, even when he's only the middleman!

After a restless night in Dumas (Perry paid for the room to kind of make up for the inconvenience all the above had caused), he dropped me off in the early morning at the Greyhound bus station in Dumas.  Dumas is a small town and the bus station reflected it.  The waiting area was at best described as "disheveled", heated too warmly but the attendant was gruff but helpful.

Dumas' Bus Station

My view of the bus from my seat

The bus departed pretty much ontime and between uneasy attempts at napping (too much noise and movement by the bus), I was able to capture these pics and  film clips out the moving bus window.

Capulin Volcano National Monument

Lunch was 30 minutes in the border town of Raton, New Mexico.  Had I'd been on a motorcycle or in my own car, it would have meant I was 3 hrs from home.  It would be another 4.5 hours till we got to the Union Station stop in Downtown Denver.

The bus I rode home on from Texas

The rest of the bus rise went pretty much downhill in terms of travel comfort as it pretty much filled up in the town of Pueble (which is Spanish for town) and got filled up in Colorado Springs.  Nothing like a bus full of pregnant women with little ones along, what looked like just-released prisoners from CaƱon City's jails, and seemingly down on their luck folks to make one wish for the open road with a working motorcycle underneath him.

We got to downtown Denver around 5:30PM, rush hour traffic was in full swing and hectic as usual.  I got off at the last stop, right after most everyone had departed at the next to last stop, the main bus station for Greyhound.  Schlepping my heavy belonging and riding gear (what a pain) I walked the 1/2 mile or so to the RTD Light Rail station by Union Station.  The rest of the next trip was standing packed like sardines in a light rail car, with the daily commuter crowd, again wishing for a working motorcycle.

My loving wife picked me up at the nearest light rail station to our home, and I drove us home in the cage.  I was sure glad to be home, quite the adventure but nothing to show for it at the end.  Oh well, the search continues anew for a second sidecar rig.


Jay said...

I guess I should've warned you about that route and the State Troopers and their LOVE of giving tickets from Amarillo to the Border. Still it is the best way to get to Texas and Amarillo is the first stop to Whataburger.

bobskoot said...


Oh, what a disappointment after days of dreaming and counting the days until your new ride, then the rejection back to reality on a crowded bus dreaming again of riding solo with your new wheels and joying the fresh air instead of sandwiched between sweaty passengers on a bus. It just makes you realize how lucky you are not to have to endure the Bus as your only means of transportation.

Perhaps the good omen was it breaking down NOW, rather than later when you would have been stuck with another unwanted project, and too late to return.

Riding the Wet Coast

RichardM said...

Sounds like an adventure. Just curious, what year was the R90 and what kind of sidecar? And did the car mount directly to the frame or to some sort of sub frame?

Still looking at the possibility of adding a car to my R100.


Raftnn said...

WHat an adventure, bugger about the outcome. Kudos to Perry, it is good that a man still has honesty and intergrity now adays.

deanahop said...

Too bad it didn't work out; that was a beautiful rig!

I'm quite familiar with the silo in Hartley. Jay and I have made that drive many times to visit family in Texas, but I'm happy to say it was always in a car. You didn't mention the stench of the feedlots in west Texas, so perhaps that was the silver lining of all that wind?

Good luck in your continuing quest!


motoroz said...

Sorry to see that the bike did not work out, but great to hear Perry is a man of integrity.
That stretch of 287 from Amarillo to Raton can be tough. Glad you made it home. I did have to chuckle when I read you description of the bus riders.

Murfs Spot said...

Ok,so here's what we do.In the next few months i'll have the F350 sold,which will give me enough money to get myself and my bike shipped to Southampton.From there we ride through England(we blow thru England,it sucks!!) over to France.
We dilly dally in Paris for a few,then head on up to Ad Donkers(LBS Sideacars) in Holland.I get my 1150 hacked and you buy yourself a complete rig,there's a nice duo-drive for sale in his shop.We hang out in Europe for a bit and on the way back to the U.S. we take in the Elephant Rally in Germany in January.

I knew you'd like my plan.
Your very welcome... :-))


Circle Blue said...

Bummer about the overall outcome, but what a great story!

SonjaM said...

Oh no. But it wasn't for nothing. It seemed to be quite the adventure (especially the Greyhound trip...). Glad that the seller is a decent guy who took the bike back, and well, it could been worse, right? It could have happened on one of your next road trips leaving you stranded with no further option than towing it yourself and pay big bucks for fixing the problem. I am sure that you will eventually find your perfect match. Until then... more endeavors? Good luck with shopping!

RichardM said...

I noticed that this rig didn't look like it had a leading link front end. Any comments on the handling compared to Natasha.


Jack Riepe said...

Dear Charlie6 (Dom):

If you have ever watched old horror movies, you'll remember the scene where the newly married couple, who just bought this old house of their dreams, goes into the attic, where they here a voice that says, "Get out," in hoarse whisper from the grave.

Do you ever hear anything like that when you sit on these hack rigs?

Well you know what they say: "Threes the charm."

Fondest regards,
Jack • reep • Toad
Twisted Roads

Allen Madding said...

Wow, what a depressing kick in the ribs. The ride back on the bus was just insult to injury. The ironic part of it all is that as I was reading your story, I started recalling one of Peter Egan's stories where he decided to ride a British Twin to Seattle against the advice of his motorcycle mechanic. The twin coughed up a lung and he returned on a bus. UGH!

I am very sorry that the experience went to hell in a hand basket, but am glad that Perry was such an upstanding gentleman. I would recommend him to anyone in the future. It seems you seldom meet folks of that statue these days.

Here is hoping things work out better the next go round!


irondad said...

I better not hear any complaining about the trip. It's the kind of adventure we riders live for. I agree that being squished between a bunch of sweaty pregnant women my be a bit overboard.

Still, though, it beats sitting on a mall bench and watching the world pass by us.

Besides, it's a great war story, now, isn't it?

Oh, yeah, I'm back. Deal with it.

bobskoot said...

Mr Irondad via: Charlie6:

and what's wrong with sitting on a bench having a coffee and banana pie every morning with other old fogies talking about when we were able to ride bikes ?

. . . and another thing, were you gone somewhere ? You've been very quiet these days

Riding the Wet Coast

cpa3485 said...

I am so sorry about the new ride not working out. There are few things in life more disappointing than getting ones hopes up only to have them dashed around a bit. Interesting way to spend a weekend. Your video took me back a bit. I have a sister that used to live in Trinidad CO and the video of the Spanish Peaks and Raton Pass brought back some memories.
Here's to some better luck for you in the future when it comes to 2 or 3 wheels.

Chris Luhman said...

Good story Dom. Too bad the rig didn't work out. I'm also curious on handling vs the Ural. In addition to the top speed comparison.

Charlie6 said...

Jay, it was my fault, I was going too fast, I lucked out with a warning.

Bobskoot, yeah the bus ride was definitely not a fun time near the end when it was packed full.

RichardM, the R90 was a 1974 with a Dneper sidecar. I don't recall how it was mounted, was kind of in a hurry to get going you see. That would all have been documented later. Have you checked out Dauntless Motor's offerings for a R100? Is yours got the single swingarm or two shock absorbers for the rear? If single, it'll probably not be suitable for a sidecar rig.

Charlie6 said...

Raftnn, I agree, Perry is a man among men for being such a professional.

Deanahop, yeah way too windy for the stench to accumulate to danger levels! : )

Motoroz, thanks and my description of my fellow passengers was spot on.

Murph: sounds like a great plan but you know, Martha kind of likes me being around, continuing to bring in a salary .... she's funny that way.

Circle Blue, glad you liked it!

SonjaM: thanks for your continued visits and comments...yes the search continues and yes, better to find out then than much later. Perry definitely is a standup guy.

RichardM: no leading link forks, instead Perry had fashioned modified triple trees that extended the trail to enable easy steering....it was very easy to steer this rig.

Jack: Nope, never hear those whisperings.....must have been all the loud noises as things fell apart, that prevented me from hearing them. : )

Charlie6 said...

Allen, thanks and yes, it was kind of like that story from Egan's book, wasn't it? I wonder if he had recently-released convicts on his bus? Thanks for reading this stuff.

Irondad....about time you surfaced! Glad to read your comments!

Cpa3485, thanks for your comments. Check out my latest posting, things have indeed gotten better.

Chris: I already mentioned she steered easily...and when not being hit by 68mph head winds, she was able to cruise at 70-75 at 4200rpm! It was a damn sight better than our Urals in that respect.

RichardM said...

My R100RT has a twin shock swingarm. I talked to the folks at DMC, aka Dauntless, last summer quite a bit at the BMWMOA rally. I am thinking of seeing if their subframe will work with a Cozy car as the price seems pretty reasonable through Royal Enfield. DMC mentioned the heavy steering unless I modified the front end. I was hoping to be able to switch back and forth between 2 and 3 wheels.


Charlie6 said...

Hi RichardM

Well, I believe your airhead is the right type for mounting a sidecar to, assuming a good subframe.

DMC has its champions and detractors online. But I believe the subframes for the airheads have had all the bugs worked out. Talk to Jay Giese and he'll quote you the cost for the type of sidecar you mentioned. Some welding and cutting may be involved to do it right. I know to use my ural sidecar rig, cutting was definitely involved.

Some notes, given your comments re what you want to do:

1. Heavy steering w/o modifications: Sidecars w/o some kind of steering mod like leading links or modified triple trees which is the specialty of Perry's Motorcycles tend to require more effort to steer. I would say try it w/o modding the steering first and see how your shoulders/arms feel after a long ride. You can always add it on afterwards.

2. Trying to use one motorcycle for both 2 and 3 wheeled riding: Lots of riders, me included, thought to do it this way. In reality, it just does not work due to:

a. Taking the rig apart and putting back together can be "interesting". Then you have to worry about alignment of both units, which is important for tracking and wear. Depending on whether you link the brakes on the tug and sidecar, that adds to the job. Note: Brakes on sidecar are nice, specially on heavy sidecar.

b. If you mod the steering of the tug, you've probably lost the option of riding it solo. Bikes with leading links, I've read and been told, are not ridable solo. Perry definitely confirmed a bike modified with his triple tree is definitely not ridable solo.

c. You are aware, once a motorcycle becomes a tug, that rear or pusher tire wear increases dramatically? This is why most folks convert their tug (if possible) to using a car tire.

d. Your R100 is powerful enough to drag along a Ural sidecar rig, it may be too powerful to drag a Cozy sidecar, check with Jay. If the sidecar is too "light", then "flying the chair" too easily becomes a major issue.

Why not pick up another airhead instead and use it as your Solo motorcycle? I think you'll be happier in the long run.

Highly recommend you give Perry Bushong of Perry's Motorcycles a call and run your plan by him. He's been mating Airheads and Royal Enfields to sidecars forever!

Not to say you can't "make things work" in terms of using your current airhead for both jobs but methinks it's stretching what is already a "compromise vehicle" when mated to a sidecar.

BMW HACKER said...

Bummer...a decent used transmission can be had for a couple hundred bucks...I'm running the same transmission with a 1000CC engine and hack. I've got a spare 4-speed and a spare 5-speed just in case.