Sunday, January 14, 2007

Midwest Scooter Enthusiast


If you're young enough you might not know what the term "sidehack" means. It may be that the only experience you have with one is seeing them on late night television: Hitler's army is advancing. Tanks and strange open-air truckish vehicles with tracks where the rear tires should be, roll across your screen. Then come the higher-ups in their black limousines, escorted by men in dark trenchcoats riding BMW motorcycles equipped with sidecars. The roads are snowed in but no one misses a beat getting around in these purpose built vehicles.

Nowadays about the only place you might chance seeing a sidecar is on a magazine cover. Someone recovered a gem in the rough from a trash heap in the back of a farm. After countless hours and exceedingly high amounts of money they restored some rarity more out of love than utility. Personally I wouldn't have it any other way. Someone's got to remind us.

There was a reason sidehacks were built.

Somewhere recorded in the annals of modern history it was accepted that if you rode, you might even continue to ride if you could just get that motorcycle to stay upright even on ice. You could certainly dress warm enough. Leather and wool have been considered the peak of durability and warmth only until very recently. Even canvas in its various forms has done pretty well. But modern fabric construction is on a molecular level now. There's even heated clothing. Were it not so I'd be hard pressed to think anything could ever improve on leather and wool.

It seems that here in the northern reaches of the upper Midwest, winter's spell puts all motorcycles into hybernation.

Well the scooterists aren't buying it. They're willing to ride any chance they get. The problem is it turns into a pretty big risk sometimes. When the temperatures are hovering around freezing that's one thing. We'll still stay warm in our windproof heated clothes. But the roads are a different matter. We have to contend with loose sand, salt, and ice. We're still on two wheels. We can still hurt ourselves pretty badly.

Enter the Sidehack.

You can find sidehacks bolted to old Vespas. Sidecars made for scooters. They look great. They were useful and people who owned them could take those winter days and still ride with confidence.

Fast forward to the present. The modern Vespa has a following not unlike the vintage Vespas have. The passion is the same. These New Era Mods (I can't think of a better way to say it) are just as single minded. You don't make excuses, you ride.

When the weather turns and the days grow shorter, enter the Sidehack. While the vintage Vespas could handle the extra weight the rigs brought to the engines and transmissions, I wonder if today's CVT designs could handle a sidehack? I know that if it could be done, scooterists would be considered some of the toughest riders of the two wheeled world.

It comes down to whether or not modern Vespas can pull the extra weight without burning their drivetrains into the ground. Whereas mounting a sidehack to an LX150 or larger might not prove to present a serious problem, the first issue is still the important question.

The Roadbum

The Roadbum


Bryce said...

Curt Fargo on MV has a Burgman with a sidehack. I'm not sure I could deal with a sidehack, and that severe of winter weather.

American Scooterist Blog said...

Haha Yeah it gets a little chilly here in central Minnesota. Currently -1 degree. But for temps in the mid twenties and up, it would be nice to have that third wheel in the case of sand and icy patches. That's what's appealing about the idea.


Combatscoot said...

Been there with a russian rig, and it was pretty fun. Not much use for long trips or high speeds, but especially capable on ice and snow. Like riding a big ATV, only you lean harder turning right than left.
As far as CVT's being able to handle the extra weight... I would say anything 250cc and up could probably do it with the addition of a Kevlar belt. 50 and 150cc scoots just seem too willing to break even kevlar belts at the slightest provocation. I know of an ET4 that broke a belt because the rear tire was low.
The dry, centrifugal clutches used by scooters are capable of some severe abuse, no problem there. I guess the challenge would be attaching the chair in a safe way, and with the proper alignment.

American Scooterist Blog said...

Combatscoot: I'm thinking on the line of a rig that's nothing more than framwork with an outrigger wheel. I don't foresee passengers but who knows?