Tuesday, May 03, 2011

Vikki the V-Strom gets a Dauntless Sidecar

Last Thursday, I took receipt of a M72D Model Sidecar from Dauntless Sidecars.  Past issues regarding mechanical reliability of my other sidecar rig, a '96 Ural Sportsman had led me to pursue a more reliable tug for a sidecar and things just kind of fell in line after my failed attempt to come home with a R90 Sidecar Rig in Texas.

After work, I started working on sorting things out, taking the plastic off Vikki, my 2004 Suzuki V-Strom DL1000 motorcycle, unpacking the sidecar from the shipping crate and just trying to figure out how things would be mounted.  You see, while Dauntless does send some pictures with the sidecar, there's a lot left to figure out on your own.  All the pictures related to the subframe mounting to the motorcycle, nothing on how to attach the sidecar itself per se.

Sure, during work hours, Jay the owner is readily available to answer questions but some more detailed instructions and photos would have been better.  Jay did end up sending more photos when I asked him about certain things and while some of the pictures didn't quite apply (wrong sidecar), they also helped somewhat.

Here's all the pieces involved with creating a subframe mount for the 
Suzuki and attachment hardware for the sidecar.  The workmanship is very good, very solid feel to it all.  Still, there was tweaking required at points.

Vikki, sans all the plastic and pieces required to provide mounting points for the sidecar mounts and subframe.    
Notice that the engine guards are gone, they can't be on due to the subframe mount.  
Not needed with a sidecar of course.

First thing to be mounted, a cross brace reinforcing the upper frame of the motorcycle and providing the rear upper mounting point for the sidecar, and the cause of the 
first WWID (What Would Ivan Do) moment.

You see, the charcoal canister is in the way of the right side rear upper mount above, 
I had to move the canister out of the way!  The canister is that object just hanging in the above picture.

Luckily, was able to free up the hosing enough to reroute it and the charcoal canister
and ended up securing it with zip ties to the right side of the rear swing arm.  
Can you spot it behind the hardware in the foreground?

Next, an unexpected but not totally surprising removal, the motorcycle's center  
stand had to go
since the subframe required one of its mounting points.

My good friend Oscar came by at this point with his lovely wife Janet and their son Stevie
who was quite fascinated with the sidecar still sitting in the crate.  Here are Stevie and my oldest son Patrick
goofing around inside the sidecar.

Next up in tasks was the mounting of the right side subframe mount.  
It would be one of the more difficult tasks as you will see.  

Here's where I relearned a bitter lesson, fitting metal parts to other metal parts requires a bit of "tweaking", "cajoling" and judicious leverage.  If you're forcing something, you're doing it wrong usually.  You have to keep things "loose" in all mounting points so mounting screws go in easy.  Otherwise, you're making the job much harder.

Note the rear mount point for the right side subframe above, it attaches to the mounting holes for the right side rider's foot peg.  Not much flexibility as to how it mounts huh?

Well, the trouble is, with the subframe mounted in the previous picture, it left the inner mounting point about one inch short of where its supposed to mate to the damn center stand mount point!  Oscar and I puzzled over this quite a bit and finally we got a solution.  

So, the second WWID moment.  

After much trial and cursing, finally ended up using one of the metal bushings that was part of the center stand I removed, to "bridge" the gap between the edge of the subframe mount and the center stand mount point. 

 Not bad eh?  I checked with Dauntless and while they couldn't figure out why I had to do it, they saw no issue with my solution.  I really hope they take a second look at the Suzuki V-Strom subframe mount for future customers' benefit.

So, hours later, the right side subframe mount is in place.  Quite the travail.

I now moved the sidecar alongside the V-Strom and after much guesswork, some emails and calls later, figured out the correct placement of the "A Arms, which form the mounting arms attaching the sidecar to the subframe mount anchor points.  Again, pictures would have been nice as the guesswork on my end resulted in wasted time and energies on my part!  

Here's what I learned only by calling and fortunately managing to catch the designer on the phone on a Friday evening.  You have to mount the rear A arm first, making sure the clamps straddle the rearmost eye bolt mounting hold in the sidecar frame.  Once that's lined up, you move the forward A arm around till it lines up with the forward lower mounting point on the motorcycle's subframe.  I had unfortunately copied the arrangement on my Ural, clamped down the forward A arm first and lined up the rear A arm second, that was not right.  Again, I blame the lack of pictures/instructions bundled with the sidecar.

As you can see in the picture above, there's two WWID issues.  The electrical plug sticking out of the sidecar body, where one connects the wiring harness for the lights on the sidecar,  is right above and near the mounting hole for the rear eyelet bolt for the upper rear support arm!  

I told Dauntless and apparently mine was the first sidecar where they'd done this, and they would ensure it wouldn't happen again.  Nothing like being a guinea pig.

The second issue is the damn inner portion of the clamping mechanism does NOT fit on the sidecar frame because of the square metal portion pictured above.  Just no room!  Dauntless told me it was supposed to be a tight fit but seriously?  I sent them email with pictures, and they would later confirm that cutting was involved.

So, cutting was done, using a Dremel cutting disk, a hacksaw and files.  Lots of work, a sawsall would have been better and has been added to the list of tools one should have.  Note the gap created above.  Once I cleared it up and painted it black, it looked pretty good.  Using my methods though, it took most of a morning.

The picture above shows how much of the inner clamp fit into the gap created, no way in hell it would have fit and clamped tightly without the cut above.

The rear A arm in place, clamped down, with rear upper support arm in place.
Note how the mounting eye bolt is in the way of the electrical plug as I mentioned before.  You'd think they would have noticed it when doing the work?  My guess, whoever installed the plug, did it on the sidecar, which was at the time, not mounted to the frame.

Ken, who was visiting, helped me do the final mounting work, doing most of the measuring and most of the tightening of the mounting bolts while I saw on the V-Strom to keep the suspension compressed as he ensure the sidecar remained level and I kept the motorcycle level.  We would end up coming pretty close to the right specs!

We took Vikki out for a short test ride, with Ken as the monkey, and she ran pretty good but I felt a steady pull to the right past the point when the rig should have been tracking straight.  Still, pretty good first run.

Over the next day or so, I would hook up the electrical harness with help from my loving wife.  A few blown fuses later, I had it all working.  Bolted on the last pieces of the left side subframe and rode the V-Strom sidecar rig to work today.

One final WWID moment, the way I'd mounted the left hand subframe had resulted in the gear shift lever being interfered with by the gear shift pedal!  I couldn't shift up past second gear!  Dammit.  I saw that the rubber boot covering the ball joint was catching on the pedal so I worked it loose enough to be able to shift.

After work, I swung by my friend Oscar's place to discuss perhaps bending the gear shift lever.  He analyzed the situation with that talent of his and came up with a better solution.  He added three washers to the forward mounting screw and two washers to the rear mounting screw and things bolted on not only fine but there was now clearance!  Damn he is good.

He also helped me unmount the rear upper support arm, which allowed me to extend it out by four turns, thereby increasing the "toe-in" of the sidecar.  I rode the sidecar home and she handled much much much better in terms of pulling to the right.  Oscar is the man!  

Sorry for this long posting, but it was quite the effort to assemble the sidecar onto the motorcycle.  Definitely not a simple bolt-on solution, some tweaking is quite involved!  Still, she's now assembled and riding well, I am for now a happy camper.

Some cosmetic work remains, you have to cut a hole in one of the plastic pieces to allow the rear upper support eye bolt to poke through; Oscar is doing that for me.  I have to tweak the sidecar windshield's apron mount so it angles a bit more to the rear; get used to not having a driven sidecar wheel (this is a glorious thing on the Ural I now realize); and of course, begin the farklization of the rig!

One final remark re Dauntless' product, very good overall, just be prepared for some small gotchas and some modifications.  I hope they will work on improving the instructions and pictures for future buyers.


Roger said...

Mate I dont know how you do it....I wouldnt of known where to even start. Looks good and well done.

Unknown said...


excellent write-up and thankful for having an Oscar around when you need him. You have become an expert in sidecar installations. Perhaps Dauntless should pay you to write an installation manual.

happy you are mobile again

Riding the Wet Coast

Unknown said...

Great write up Dom,and good job on getting it all together.
Down in Mehico right now,take Vikki for a long test ride down here,that'll put her through paces !!!.

See ya in a while..enjoy your new hack.


Gary France said...

I thought the lack of clear instructions was something only flat-packed furniture manufacturers were expert at. It sounds like you had quite a challenging time on this and I am not sure many would have had your obvious patience to work out how to get the various parts modified so they fitted. As you said, I hope the supplier listens to your experiences and makes it easier for future customers.

Well done for getting it all sorted- I am sure it will be worth all the effort.

I didn’t understand one thing right at the end of your post. Why does having a driven sidecar wheel make such a difference?

cpa3485 said...

Looks like a lot of hard work, but I have a feeling that this will end up being a very reliable and long lived machine for you. Congrats on the new rig!

redlegsrides said...

Gary, I too think all the work involved will be worth it in the long run.

As to why a driven sidecar wheel is such a difference:

Sidecars are basically a big weight hanging off the side of a single track vehicle, the motorcycle. Inertia and the laws of physics dictate that when you accelerate, the sidecar pulls the rig to the right until you overcome its inertia.

Conversely, when you're coming to a stop or slowing, the sidecar wants to keep going and so it feels as if the rig is pulling to the left.

Sidecar riders learn to compensate for these yaw forces through practice. I didn't have to with the ural because it had a driven sidecar wheel which negated these forces by supplying forward motion on the right of the sidecar and slowing motion when engine braking.

This made turns a breeze on the ural.

Once I get toe-in and lean-out dialed in, there will be less effort involved in turns and less steering effort involved in the straightaways.

Hope this makes sense.

redlegsrides said...


I believe this rig will indeed be a blast, thanks for the visit

redlegsrides said...

Raftnn, it was a bit puzzling at times, and lots of head scratching and a fair bit of cursing, but really, not too bad in retrospect....thanks for the visit and kind words.

Bobskoot, thanks though to call me an expert on sidecar installs would be a disservice to the guys who actually know something about such things. : )

Never was immobile though, still have the R80 and the Ural, both are running.


thanks, I think you'll like the rig when next you're in town. She pulls strongly off the mark, a fast sidecar rig, that stops nicely, what a concept.

Jack said...

So, how is the V-Strom Sidecar rig?

RichardM said...

Thank you for the write-up of the challenges of installing the sidecar. That is the same model I'm considering but, obviously, with a different subframe. Since I suspect that this one weighs considerably less than the Ural sidecar, how does that affect handling? Does the lack of a driven wheel mean that your bike feels like it is always pulling one way or another?


Allen Madding said...

Once again you have persevered and overcome all obstacles in your path. Congratulations!

Enjoy flying that hack.


redlegsrides said...

Jack, the rig is much more powerful than the Ural....even without the driven sidecar wheel advantage the Ural had, I much prefer riding the V-Strom rig. I've almost got the alignments dialed in too...

redlegsrides said...


Yes, the sidecar from Dauntless is MUCH lighter than the Ural sidecar. Ken told me he saw the sidecar wheel skipping up and down as I was slowly making right handed turns in the culdesac! Ballast will be key for a while.

Yes, without the driven sidecar wheel, you and MR inertia will have to establish a good working relationship. Even when you got the alignment perfect, there will always be a bit of inertia to overcome starting and stopping.

On the plus side, because the sidecar is so light, I dont see a need for a brake on the sidecar wheel....one other similar rig owner tells me he got the brake but the tug just drags the "locked" sidecar wheel when brakes are applied.

Note, be prepared for some wheel wobbles as well at low speeds unless you're going to get steering mods as well for the airhead. I'm going to ride without them for now and see how it goes.

redlegsrides said...

Thanks Allen but if its all the same to you, flying the hack is the last thing I want to do on the rig....did it in training to get a feel for it, but don't see a use for it really.

Jack said...

And your subframe is from DMC? I read a thread where it stripped out the motor mount and am a bit concerned...

I had a Ural for 4 years and loved it on the local streets, but we would like something we can take on the highway as well. Do 65MPH without killing the tug is what we are after.

redlegsrides said...

Jack - not Riepe....

Thanks for visiting.

You wrote:

And your subframe is from DMC? I read a thread where it stripped out the motor mount and am a bit concerned... >>>both the sidecar AND the subframe are from DMC, as to the motor mount getting stripped, one does have to be really careful and not force things into place. If you're mechanically inclined, and go slow and methodical, you should be OK. Then again, I've only had the hack less than a week...so who knows.

I had a Ural for 4 years and loved it on the local streets, but we would like something we can take on the highway as well. Do 65MPH without killing the tug is what we are after.

>>>today, I was holding 60 on the way into work, in fourth, and the RPMs were under 4000, the V-Strom has the power to pull the hack all day at 70mph I am told, but will have to verify that for myself soon.

>>>note, for the first time in my sidecaring days, not only was I keeping up with the traffic, I was passing folks! : )

Chris said...

Congrats on getting it put together. Fun to see you see the major difference between 1WD and 2WD. On my rig that little lever changes everything. :)

Also fun to see you learning about toe-in/out and the lean angle. the people who assembled my ural had it all wrong, but kevin sorted me out.

You may also find that roads are cambered differently which makes having an electric adjust on the lean angle a beautiful thing.

Gary France said...

Dom, that made perfect sense, thanks.

Mike said...

Wow, the Dauntless sidecar looks daunting to me and you always have the ability to make hard stuff look easy. I hadn't read your R90 post until now. What an interesting journey you've had getting to this point. Enjoy!

Jack said...

Regarding the 2WD Ural, I thought you were only supposed to use the sidecar drive in muddy or slippery conditions, much like engaging 4WD in a Jeep....

redlegsrides said...


you wrote:
Regarding the 2WD Ural, I thought you were only supposed to use the sidecar drive in muddy or slippery conditions, much like engaging 4WD in a Jeep....

yep, on the newer Urals, you only use 2WD in slippery conditions, can't steer worth a damn with it engaged by the way as the vehicle wants to go in a straight line as the pusher and sidecar wheels are locked together.

on my '96 sportsman however, there's an open differential (they quit making them this way) which means the sidecar wheel gets about 40% of the power output from the transmission and is "driven" fulltime. This makes her less capable in mud/snow but very nice to ride on pavement. You don't fight the inertia forces of the sidecar but flying the chair is definitely unsafe with this model final drive as the sidecar wheel continues to be "driven" when off the ground so it's spinning faster than your pusher wheel which gets all power diverted away from it by the differntial. Apparently, there were accidents and the factory quit making making Urals with differentials. I've no proof of that, just what I've heard.

SVBORADA said...

I agree re DMC. The engineering/manufacture quality is pretty good, but the fit is poor, resulting in a lot of bending the subframe in place. The spacing - U R 100% correct - on the right side subframe is wrong and it does not fit. The instructions are woeful, i learned more from your Blog. So be prepared for a lot more work than either u expect or it should take

Unknown said...

Great article, I'm about to do the same using a california friendship I sidecar on a V-strom 650

Thanks for the pics

redlegsrides said...

Thanks Marco Almaraz and good luck with the rig you're building. Should be a lot of fun. Be aware it's a light sidecar so she'll lift easily.