I had an invitation to speak on motorcycle safety issues at the United Sidecar Association 39th Annual National Rally. The event took place in Corning, New York. This is in the beautiful Finger Lakes region of upper New York State. It is scenic area with 11 large north-south oriented fresh water lakes. Upper state New York is very rural with mountains, elevation changes, forests and glistening lakes. There is excellent hiking, camping, fishing and beautiful winding roads through breathtaking scenery. This was my first National Rally.
There were numerous skill sessions, educational sessions, group tour rides and other activities for the over 210 sidecar participants in attendance. This was the largest national rally in its 39-year history.
I spoke on Saturday to a large crowd in the main pavilion on motorcycle safety, the latest helmet technology, motorcycle sidecar statistics (they are safer statistically), the importance of carrying UM or uninsured motorist’s coverage, the need for the Vulnerable All Road Users Act nationwide and dressing for the ride to prepare for a crash to minimize injuries.
One of the many events was the computerized weight and balance of everyone’s’ sidecar rig. This is an important safety consideration. Motorcycles are complex. Sidecars are even more complex. There is no counter steering in a sidecar with all three wheels on the ground. Lift up the sidecar in the air and it reverts to counter steering. Just like loading an airplane is critical within the design envelope, you have to keep the sidecar within its weight and balance limits in its designed envelope, so knowing this information is invaluable. I learned I must have at least 60 pounds of ballast in the sidecar or it could flip in a sharp right-hand turn.
There were sidecar games of skill including reverse sidecar racing. Only the Honda Goldwings and Russian Urals sidecars could do this reverse racing event. Urals are available with two-wheel drive and are excellent off-road motorcycles.
Dogs, kids and sidecars go together so they had a lot of dogs and kids there. This was a great family event. My baby grandson Miro got a taste of sidecar riding so the 1200-mile drive was worth it for that alone!
There was a huge dinner and awards ceremony Saturday evening with entertainment.
The best thing about an event like this is the many unique sidecars. There are some with Hannigan sidecars that have “swamp cooler” air conditioning systems. These had fully covered cockpits and luxury leather bucket seats for one or two passengers. Then they had the classic the Moto Guzzi, Harley Davidson, Triumph and Indian Chief sidecar rigs in full force. They also had several off-road rigs with custom off road style GS1200 BMW’s with huge sidecars. One such rig had its own LP gas system, a sleeping compartment, and a sleeping compartment for the owner’s dog in the first floor. Many of the large rigs were custom made with impressive sway bars to make them corner well. The creativity of the engineering was very impressive.
What impressed me is most of the participants camped with large tents in their sidecar or pulled a trailer with their sidecar. The rigs were from as far away as New Mexico, Alaska and Texas. Only a few trailered their sidecar to the event. Very impressive! The camaraderie of the sidecar community is very unique.
Take a look at the enclosed photos. One of these rigs may be just right for you!
GLENN C. McGOVERN
Motorcycle Attorney and MSF Basic Instructor