Category Archives: Sidecar

Sidecar

What’s New?

It’s been a while since I posted anything on this blog, too long! But there’s not been much happening with the bikes as they’ve been running well. However I’m feeling in need of a change now so –.

I’ve taken the sidecar off the big Panther, not the easiest of jobs when working on your own, but do-able, the body is now up on a pair of trestles in the shed and the chassis is in the back yard.

The Panther now stands as a solo in the garage, but she’s not on her own as the old BMW has been brought out of storage and is standing beside her, they make a good pairing, the 600cc 1937 Panther M100 and the 750cc 1940 BMW R12.

Although the Panther has the smaller displacement engine of the two she is the more powerful at 26bhp to the BMW’s 20bhp, but the BMW is a twin cylinder side-valve with a heavy external flywheel so is possibly the better slogger of the two, still neither was intended as a sports bike.

Anyway the BMW is set up with a full set of Steib quick release sidecar fittings so once I have the chair set up for her I can drop it on and off in around five minutes work, useful!!

Now, what does the BMW need doing to get her in commission again?

Well her battery is an AGM sealed unit and has survived her spell in the storage unit. It was still showing about half-charged when I put it on the charger. She is magneto ignition and that’s sparking well but I’ll treat her to a new pair of plugs.

How about oils?, well oil is cheaper than metal so it’s new oil all round, and owing to her age it’s an old-fashioned non-detergent type oil. Equally I needed new drain and filler plug gaskets.

On a machine of this age these should be the hollow rolled-copper type rather than the solid aluminium ones BMW now supply. A quick rake round on ebay soon found a supplier of these in the necessary 14mm and 18mm sizes.

Rather than run her up to hot on the old oil I let her drain out overnight and then it was just a case of fill the engine to between marks on the dip-stick, fill the gearbox and final drive until the oil reached the bottom of the filler hole threads and that was that.

Now the acid test! I put a half-gallon of fuel into the tank, no leaks visible! GOOD!!, turn on the tap (which way is “ON” and which is “RESERVE”??, I can’t remember!! ).

OK, the carbs filled up so a good tickle on each carb, crack open the throttle and turn over the engine several times to prime the cylinders, then it was just switch on the ignition and kick her over.

While she fired she didn’t pick up so a tad more throttle and try again and the old girl was running again! Tick-over balance is a bit off but I’ll need her warmed through to set that up so it will have to wait.

Now I know she’s a runner what else needs doing.

An immediate obvious is indicators!. Last time out she was hauling the chair.

I know it’s non-original, but on modern roads an outfit NEEDS indicators and now you can use LED units without overloading the electrical system so she was fitted up with lights on one side, the others being on the chair. So it’s get another pair of indicators and fit them.

I had to make up (and paint) a set of mounting brackets for them, run in the wiring and then tap it into the circuit to the sidecar indicators, a quick check and they were working..

Next thing was cosmetics, the front mudguard needed some serious touch-up where the paint has been badly scarred and had started lifting while the old lady had been in the storage unit.

Fortunately it can be redone while still on then bike as it would be serious hassle to remove it and then a dose of “T-Cut” after about a fortnight’s curing and then a polish job should see things OK.

As I’m writing this she’s standing in the garage with the first top coat on the guard giving it time to harden off before she’s put away for the night, another coat tomorrow should then see it ok.

I can’t really complain as both guards were in a bad state when I got the bike back at the beginning of the Eighties and they needed serious patching to be made usable, and she has seen some serious mileage since then!

= = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = =

When I had a look at things the next day I was very happy as to the finish, the “Craftsman” paint I was trying out as a replacement for my old favourite “Tekaloid” came through with flying colours.

Only trouble was the contrast with the old paint, this had weathered over time so the new paint stood out like the proverbial on a barn door!.

So I broke out the “T-Cut” and gave the guard a good rub down and that did the trick, you no longer noticed the repair unless you looked closely, snag is I now have to do the rest of the bike to get it to match the front mudguard!.

The R12 is quite heavily pinstriped so this repair has left a gap in the lining on the front guard that I’ll need to patch, so I now need to break out the lining brushes.

Lining is properly done free-hand and the difficult bit is getting a tight curve without smearing. My way round this is to mask out the line so that any smear goes onto the masking tape, problem is that with the BMW double line I’ll need to do one line and let it harden off before I can mask off to do the other.

I’ve also had the old girl out on the road for a run to see how things were.

I found that while she was willing to start and run, the start-up from cold was not as willing as it used to be and she was very reluctant to start from hot.

What I’ve done today is to treat her to a pair of new plugs, the old ones had been in for a long time now. I’ve also had the carburetters off and stripped and cleaned them, they have been standing for a couple of years and what fuel had been left in them had dried out and left a “varnish” of crud inside the passages and jets.

Fortunately she’s running on a pair Amal 276’s and these are an easy carb to strip down and clean.

I’ll need to synchronise the slide opening before I take her out again and while that’s a fiddly job it’s not that difficult.

I’ve also offered up the sidecar chassis to the bike, before I actually fit it I’m wanting to rig a sidecar brake. I had a sidecar brake on the Panther outfit and found it useful, after all the bikes brakes are from the 1930’s and brake technology has come a fair way since then so every little helps.

The rear brake on the R12 is with a heel operated pedal on the right-hand side. What I’m doing is to mount a pedal onto the sidecar chassis with a lever coming straight across to the bike and level with the rear brake pedal so its pad lies alongside the bike’s one. This means that when I apply the bike’s brake I’ll also apply the sidecar brake as well, and by rocking my foot I can vary their relative pressures.

However I’ll also be able to apply either brake on its own to give differential braking which can be useful to assist in cornering.

Only thing is that while I’ve the brake pedal set up I’ve still to arrange the cable fitment at the drum end of the system, as a “By The Way” the chassis I’m using is from an LS200 Steib. The wheel us from a Ural/Dneiper, a half width hub that looks in keeping with the R12 and the brake mechanism is an Enfield type from a rigid-framed Panther.

A Strip of the Old Bike 6

While this project set away as a touch-up job of the bike there’s also a bit of work needed on the sidecar, mainly cosmetic but there’s a bit on the underside will need a portion of a panel replaced.

There’s a place under the seat where water can accumulate, remember it is an open sidecar! and the base panel has corroded through here. It’s not at a point that’s structurally important so what I intend is to simply seal up and re-inforce the existing panel.

Rather than weld the new part in place, which could result in places where more water could accumulate I’m going to use epoxy to fit it and I’ll sandwich some glass mat between the old part and the new.

Another touch-up is at the nose of the body where there is an area where the paint has lifted away with rust underneath. This will need cutting back to bare metal, treating with a rust preventative and a repaint.

The body on the sidecar is a Polish made replica I fitted when the old body became beyond repair about 15 years ago and while a nice copy I don’t think the surface preparation of the bare metal was as good as it might have been, but still at least it was available!.

What I’m doing is to use a wire brush in the angle-grinder to remove the rust itself. This will need some care as the panel is edged with an aluminium trim.

With the panel scoured clean then the ally trim needs to be masked off, as did the surrounding bodywork before panel could be treated, I’ve some Bondaprimer that goes on first to etch into the steel surface before the primer/surfacer, a couple of coats of that, flatted down and then the top coats added.

So with the body upside down on the trestles and a piece of 2mm steel plate I began work.

First was to cut the plate to suit, and as the panel came up to the cross channel in the bodywork thats to clear the chassis cross tube I bent the end over at 90º.

The body area was well cleaned down and swabbed with Panel Wipe and then I turned to the patch plate.

This was given a good scratching to key it for the epoxy and then it too was swabbed down with the Panel Wipe, glass matt was cut to match the patch and then laud up on it with epoxy resin.

The beauty of the resin I used is its extended working time, there was plenty of time to then coat the damaged area of the body with more epoxy and then offer the patch plate up to it,

An old carrier bag was then placed on the plate and a heavy weight put on that to compress the joint and the whole thing left overnight to set.

Next day the exposed metal of the plate was given a coat of the epoxy resin and some glass cloth laid up onto it to seal the surface.

Once this had set up the whole patch area was given a couple of coats of paint, it’s on the underside of the sidecar body and masked by the wheel and mudguard so cannot be seen so it has not been necessary to camouflage the repair, the paint job being sufficient.

A Strip of the Old Bike 5

When you start any upgrade job you will normally find that it leads you onto others that you did not foresee.

So far this has led me into the fuel tank repair, I had anticipated retouching its paint but not the leak repair and full repaint that will need and now I have to redo the wiring for the rear lights and sidecar.

This has been done with a length of “choccy block” connector between the main loom and the rear light unit, it’s effective but not ideal, especially when exposed to the weather as it is on a bike. What I intend is to get a pair of 6-way vehicle connectors that will use 6.3mm spade terminals in place of the current terminal block.

For the bike’s rear lights I only need 4 wires, ground, light, stop light and left indicator but for the sidecar there’s these 4, the other indicator and the spotlight, (as I tow a small camping trailer with the outfit I need power for both indicators to the sidecar).

Equally, as standard the Earles fork model BMW had a DIN jack socket under the saddle. Originally this was wired in to the sidelight circuit and was the supply to the sidecar’s running light but when I fitted the sidecar, rather than just the running light, I also fitted it with an indicator and a stop light (remember I run with a right-handed sidecar in the UK) and later added the spotlight.

What I’m doing now is replacing the mare’s nest of connectors and wires between the two with a multiconnector and the DIN socket will become a permanent live socket that I can use to power the tent lights, run a mini tyre pump etc and to charge the battery if needs be.

I have a choice here as to the wire colours. The bike is a BMW and uses the DIN standard wire colour code.

I have a tow hitch on the outfit and this matches the standard trailer wiring code and so the two have to join somewhere.

What I’ve decided is that this will be at the sidecar/bike junction so all the wiring on the sidecar itself will follow the trailer colour code.

This has the advantage that I can use standard trailer cable for the wiring loom of the sidecar and not have to make up my own bundle, I only need 5 connections so I’ll use a 6-way connector block between the two and slide a length of pedal cycle inner tube over it for weatherproofing.

A Strip of the Old Bike 4

While I’m working on the old girl I’ll take the chance and make a couple of upgrades.

The first is the rear brake pull rod. The current rod is original to the frame and is over 50 years old. The adjuster nut is beginning to jump the thread so I’ll make up and fit a new rod while I have the chance, it’s been intended for a while so the materials are to hand, a clevis and a length of 6mm rod.

First step was to thread the end of the rod to take the clevis, with this in place the rod was cut to the same length as the old one and the free end threaded to match the old.

Next is the adjuster nut. The original is a brass wing nut so you don’t need tools to adjust it. The idea is good but proximity of the silencer makes it awkward so a new one made from a bit of brass hexagon rod is indicated. This can be adjusted using a deep socket and extension bar or an old-fashioned box spanner (tube spanner for those in the colonies).

Manufacture is simply just a case of drill and tap it 6mm, turn part of the length down to about 10mm diameter and cut to length. A bit of work with a file to shape the end to a saddle for on the lever roller and that’s it.

The other is the link in the gear-change train.

The original link here is a length of steel rod with a 90º bend at either end.

I’ve always found that this puts the lever a bit too high and have been meaning to change it for long enough. I’m doing it sophisticated like though, using a pair of rose joints and a threaded bar.

I’m being really posh though and having the rose joints left and right hand threaded so the final position of the pedal can be easily trimmed to suit, just means I need to get a left-handed 6mm die up from Tracy Tools.

The bike’s gear levers each have a 5mm clearance hole for the original rod while the rose joint mounting studs are 6mm thread. Tapping size for 6mm however is 5mm so rather than just open them out a bit I’ll run a 6mm tap through the levers, screw the rose joints into place and fit a lock nut as a “belt and braces” to secure them in place. I could have just done this using clevis joints on the rod ends but the rose joints are a neater answer.

I’m now nearly at the point where I can start the re-assembly, there’s just the rear swinging fork to repaint. Once that’s done I’ll refit it temporarily and take the opportunity to properly centre the rear mudguard.

At the moment it has been done by eye, the original position needed altering due to having a car tyre fitted at the rear end.

Normally on a BMW the wheel runs biased towards the right side of the swing fork. This allows space to remove the wheel so, while the wheel may be centred in the frame, the swing fork is not.

Using the wider car tyre meant that the wheel had to be shifted over a bit as the right side of the tyre was fouling on the swing fork so the mudguard was no longer centred on the wheel and had to be moved over as well.

While the guard was moved across a bit it was not quite enough as at full bump the left side of the tyre rubs a bit on the inside of the guard. It only happens on full bump though so I’ve been living with it but I’ll take the chance of fixing it while I have it, if I shift it by 10mm that should do it but any more and I’ll foul the other side.

A downside of using the fatter tyre is that to take the wheel out now means that I have to remove the final drive as well, but this is more than compensated for by the increased tyre life.

I’ve already checked the tyre against the rear mudguard and there is clearance, but not much so a future project will be to make up a wider guard.

UPDATE

I’ve just refitted the mudguard to measure up to find that the problem was not that I had not moved it far enough over the first time, the top of the guard was centred on the tyre.

The problem was that I had not moved the bottom front mount over as well, the front of the guard was still on the original mounting so the guard was twisted!.

All that was needed was to reposition the front mount and the job was done!.

A Strip of the Old Bike 3

Well that was the plan, but with the rear end stripped away there’s so much weight on the front wheel that it’s difficult to raise it off the ground when wheeling the bike on the dolly so manoeuvering it around is awkward.

Answer is to make up a “skate” for under the front wheel using some old castors, which has the added advantage of bringing the bike back to nearer level.

First try with the skate under the front wheel resulted in the wheel turning as the bike was moved forward and coming off the skate but a lashing round the front brake lever sorted this out, and I put a pair of eyes onto the skate and another lashing through these and the front wheel kept the skate in place.

Final piece of the strip was to take out the gearbox, this was strictly speaking not really needed but I’ll take the chance while I have it and clean off and lubricate the clutch splines.

Now I’ve the decks cleared it’s just a case of set to with a wire brush in the angle grinder and clear the sub-frame to bare metal.

As paint does not hold well if there’s any trace of oil on the bare metal it needs swabbed of with a non-oily solvent before it is coated, I’m using “Panel Wipe” which seems to be naptha based, wipes down well and dries quickly.

First coat is an etching primer, to “bite” onto the metal, followed by a couple of coats of a high build primer to level things off and this is allowed to dry thoroughly before the top coat is applied .

I decided to work on one side at a time so the nearside of the rear sub-frame was attacke with the wire brush and taken back to bare metal. Using a brush in the angle grinder is very effective for this but the downside is that the brush tends to shed bristles so a faceshield is a MUST when doing this, you also find that the shed bristles will snag into clothing and jag into you later on!.

Once it was cleaned down I then wiped it over with Panel Wipe and then applied the etch primer.

What I’m using is a rattle-can etch-primer filler from the local car-body shop, it does the job well but the downside is that you need to shake the can vigorously for two minutes after the ball starts to rattle, this is one of those occasions when time d-r-a-g-s on!!.

The job was then left overnight to dry out thoroughly, I’m not in a mad rush here after all.

Next day I went into the garage and was met with a strong smell of petrol. Initial thought was that I’d left a fuel tap turned on but investigation showed fuel wet along a tank seam and a s-l-o-w drip from it, bloody ethanol fuel finding a weak point on a seam!.

So I drained off the tank and reviewed the options.

These are:-

1 – Get a “new” tank.

2 – Use a tank sealant.

3 – Farm the job out.

Well, taking them in order.

Option 1. A replacement tank from Motorworks will cost around £300 and it will need modifying to fit on my bike.

The bike is a “convert”, an Earles fork frame fitted with a later and more powerful engine/gearbox unit. Why do this? Answer is that the Earles fork frame was built with sidecar use in view while the later one is not and a “convert gives the best of both worlds for sidecar use. However the tank moutings are not compatible so a new bottom will need to be put into the tank to match with the older frame. Option 1 goes out the window!

Option 2. The tank already has a sealant in, one that has failed. The existing sealant was put in back in 1986 when the tank was modified originally and it has succumbed to the attack of the ethanol added to modern ersatz petrol so this will need to be stripped out before any new sealant can be used.

On to the ‘net to find out options here and find various options most of which will not work because of the design of the tank itself.

On the net however I find reference to a firm only 20 miles away so I decide to investigate further and decide on Option 3.

They will bake the tank to clear it of fumes, cut it open, blast clean it inside and out, repair any “imperfections”, close it up again and buff out the welds. Then they will internally seal the tank and prime the outside.

As a bonus, the tank is an ex-police one with the radio box in the tank. They are going to remove that to open the tank for blasting but instead of replacing it they will patch where it was, giving me a bit more tank capacity and the possibility of using a standard tank cover and tank bag.

It’s going to cost around the same as getting another tank would, before paying out to have it altered

but it will in effect be a new tank, I’ll need to paint it, but that was on the schedule anyway.

A Strip of the Old Bike 2

With the body out of the way it’s easy to get to the sidecar’s mount points.

There are 4 of these, the two upper being clevis joints and the two lower are ball and socket clamps.

Once the top braces are removed the chassis will try to fold up towards the bike so first thing is to put the bike onto its centre stand for the first time in years.

I’m making all this sound easy, well there’s none of it particularly difficult but when you’re working on your own and have to manhandle the bike around it raises problems.

To make moving the bike around easier I’ve got one of those wheeled platform dollies that go under the centre stand so the bike can be moved around in any direction, I’ve just to get it under the stand, a pig of a job because the bike is on smaller diameter wheels than when it was a solo and so it’s not only a higher lift to get it onto the stand but the roll-on action only comes into effect once the rear wheel is around 2 inches clear of the ground, before that it’s a deadweight lift.

I’ve come up with a cunning plan to help with this.

I put a length of 2 x 4 timber on the ground behind the rear wheel with another length on top of it but stepped back so there were two 2 inch steps.

I then backed the bike back onto these and then I could lower the stand.

Unfortunately while there was enough height to lower the stand it wasn’t enough to slide the dolly under.

So it was a case of moving one of the 2 x 4’s to between the bike and sidecar, digging out the scissor jack from the sidecar boot and using that under the rear sidecar mount and at maximum lift I just managed to slide the dolly under the legs of the stand.

It’s now standing on the front wheel, the sidecar wheel and canted onto one leg of the stand but once the top brace fittings are removed it drops over onto both legs of the stand.

Both lower mounts have a drawbar to close the socket jaws onto the ball so it’s loosen this off, and then it’s twelve full turns to get the jaws wide enough to clear the balls before the chassis can be lifted away.

Well that’s assuming the jaws will open, one pair wouldn’t until given some “percussive maintenance” with a 2lb hammer!

Now, the aim of this job is to repaint the rear sub-frame so what’s in the way?.

First of these is the silencers, so off they come, they’re stainless steel, bought back in the late 1970’s and all they need is a clean and buff up, well worth the money they cost!.

Next off is the rear wheel.

When I took the rear wheel out I noticed that the tyre tread was down to just above the wear bars, so that means I’ll need a new rear tyre while I’m at it. This raises a neat point though.

The rear tyre is a 15 inch car type so it’s wear bars are set for car use, but the wear bars on a bike tyre are set lower, 1.6mm for a car but at only 1.0mm for a bike. I’ve no desire to try to argue the point with either the police or the insurance however so there’s a new tyre on the list now.

I’m going to go the whole hog here and remove the rear swinging fork as well, Think Big!.

To do this means splitting the shaft at the gearbox coupling, just undo the rubber boot and undo four twelve-point headed bolts and that’s done.

But first the rear mudguard has to come off , only hassle here is the electrical connections, I’ll look to improving these while I’m at it, while BMW themselves used a choccy block connector on the /2 models that this combo is based on, I’m going to change it to a multi-connector and tidy up the wiring.

Then you undo the suspension units, unscrew the pivot bolts and the whole thing lifts away.

All that’s left to do now is remove the seat and tank so they don’t get damaged and I’m ready to start stripping off what’s left of the old paint, a wire brush in the angle-grinder will make short work of that!

A Strip of the Old Bike 1

The R80/2 outfit has been on the road now for a goodly number of years now and the rear sub-frame is badly in need of repainting.

While in theory this can be done “as is”, access will be atrocious so to get round this the sidecar will have to come off.

Fortunately the standard fittings on a Steib are so designed that taking the outfit apart will not result in losing the alignment and I will be able to just bolt everything back together at the end so that’s one worry I don’t have.

Anyway, as I have the battery mounted on the sidecar chassis the first step is to remove that, it’s a car battery held in by base clamps so it’s remove the terminals, undo the clamps and lift it away, before going on to disconnect the electrics.

While I’m doing the bike I’ll take the chance to touch up the sidecar body as well and this means taking the body out of the chassis.

On an “S” model Steib the body hangs from four mounts in a loop chassis, the front two being pivots and the rear two sprung. Because the body is separately sprung in the chassis means that the chassis itself can be stiffly sprung, which improves the handling of the whole outfit and is why a Steib makes such a good sports outfit.

Since the body hangs in an open loop, before undoing the body mounts I’ve put a web strap under the body but over the chassis loop at front and rear to support it while I remove the mounts and once these are undone it’s just a case of lift the body clear. Sounds easy, BUT, because I’m working on my own here what is an easy lift for two is not for one!.

What I’m doing is to support both front and rear on jacks so I can wheel the bike and chassis forward from under it, but I’ve to be careful as there is a chassis cross member between the jacks so it means wheel forward for about 18 inches, reposition the front jack and than wheel forward again, all the time praying that the body does not topple off the jacks!.

What on paper is a half hour job winds up taking up most of the afternoon, Typical!

Chair Problems

A couple of posts ago I said I had a problem with the R80/2 sidecar outfit and I decided to get this sorted out before I started on the R12.

The problem I had was with the sidecar’s mudguard (fender).

On a Steib this is a big, Art Deco affair. Originally it would have been a pair of steel pressings spot-welded together but this was replaced with a fibre-glass (GRP if you prefer the term) replica about 40 years ago.

At the rear of the guard a chassis tube goes through it from side to side and the guard is held in place between a pair of conical mounts (there is a reinforcing cross tube goes here, between the two sides of the guard).

What has happened was that over the years the fibre-glass guard had gradually worn at the conical mounts until the inboard one pulled through. The guard then could move/bounce on the cross tube and by the time I got back home, I was some 150 miles from home when it went, the hole in the guard was not only oversize but oval. On further examination I found that the outboard mount was also “somewhat under par!.

Normally a repair on a fibre item is a simple matter, just clag on a bit more mat and resin! but here I needed to reform the seats for the conical mounts so I needed a former.

As I only needed to make up two mounts I just made up a temporary former using MDF board.

The maximum diameter of the conical mount was 50mm so I cut a round of inch thick MDF that size. The diameter of the cross tube is 32mm but as there needs to be a clearance on that I worked with 35mm as the minimum and I carved it down to a cone of those dimensions and 15mm high so I had a 35mm cylinder an inch high with a 15mm high conical base.

Next step was to make up a female piece to match this, as there was only space on the inside of the guard to take a 100mm square block this determined the outer dimension of the female mould.

When you are working with fibre-glass you normally have only a short “time window” to work in before the resin starts to gel and owing to the nature of my intended repair this was a problem.

However there is an alternative resin available, “Epoxy Resin” rather than the more usual “Polyester Resin” and this has a longer pot life, of around 6 hours plus rather than only 15 minutes and so I opted to use this.

Rather than just try to patch the guard I used the mould to make up a light support moulding for the main repair.

I took a 150mm square of MDF and drilled an 8mm hole in the centre, there was already a similar hole in the round male block so I fixed them together with a length of 8mm studding (allthread) and gave the resulting plug a good coating of mould parting compound, and I similarly dosed the female block.

Then I laid up the mould, using a layer of fine glass cloth and a single layer of chopped strand mat. I then put the female part over the centre piece and used the studding to force it against the lower part and left it overnight to cure.

When I extracted the “casting” from the mould I had what was to become the outer surface of the repair just needing trimming to size.

I then re-assembled the casting onto the mould plug, but this time sandwiched a sheet of polythene between them, the resin will not stick to this and it meant it would be easier to remove the plug.

A single layer of the chopped mat was now laid up onto the back of the casting and another onto the guard itself, being generous with the resin, the moulding put onto the prepared guard and the whole turned over to let me work on the inside of the guard.

The casting was adjusted for position to correct for the wear to the guard and the wear gap made good with mat and resin and then another two layers of mat and resin laid up on the inside of the guard.

I’d bored some 10mm holes through the guard so that the resin would bond through them to combine both sides of the repair together.

Once I had the inside laid up I put a sheet of polythene over it, put the female part of the mould over the plug and again squeezed the wet resin/glass layers together and again left it overnight.

Next day I removed the mould, a fairly easy job thanks to the polythene.

I then had to set to and repeat the whole process for the other side of the guard but once that was done all that was left to do was clean up the surface, fill the blebs with bondo, rub it down and get out the rattle cans to repaint.

It’s not a perfect job but you have to look to see it and as a new guard is around 250 quid plus carriage from Germany I’m willing to live with it for use on the road hack.

If I’d been willing to cut back with a sander on the outside of the guard after the repair it could probably have made to look as original but this is the main mount point for the guard and I’d rather a bit of strength over cosmetic perfection.

Blown Seal

After the run out to the Corbridge Show on the R12 the next outing was to the VMCC’s Scarborough Touring Week.

As this meant a week away under canvas I opted to take the old girl down there on a trailer behind the car. Reason for this was simply that I would have been unable to carry all the gear for a weeks camping for myself and the two dogs on the outfit.

On this event there is a road run each day and there is the social side each evening so it makes for an enjoyable week away.

Day One was the Friday with the run down the A19 towards York and then across to Scarborough. I chose this longer route because there are severe hill climbs with tight bends on both of the shorter routes, one being up Sutton Bank and that’s bad enough without a drag behind you!.

Anyway I got to the campsite in good time, offloaded the outfit and set up camp in time for the first evenings socialising.

The Saturday was a short run out, only some 60 miles around the area and everything seemed ok but when out on the Sunday problems arose.

The R12 has a separate Magneto/dynamo unit sitting on top of the engine. This necessitates a seal between the two and this blew. There is a carrier plate with a felt seal against the magneto end plate with a cork ring gasket sealing the plate to the engine housing and this is what blew, covering the left side of the motor in oil.

The oil got onto the plug lead and gave the spark on that side a pathway to track to ground and short out the plug.

Just to be awkward it would only track when the motor was under load, as when on a steepish climb, but when light loaded she ran OK! Typical!!.

I limped back to the main road on about one and a half cylinders and once on the main road it was a level run back to the camp-site so, of course she ran sweet as you like under the light load.

Monday was a run out to the aircraft museum at Elvington, near York, and rather than risk things I went over there with the two dogs in the car and had a good look round but I’d have preferred to be on the bike.

Tuesday was the “Extreme Hill Run”. I’ve done this run before using my R80/2 convert rig and it had tried the brakes on that lady so I had opted not to go on that run when I booked for the event.

This gave me a day “on site” when I could have a go at fixing the bike.

I tried various options at the “roadside get you home bodge” level but without success, it seemed the inner felt seal had gone and I was going to have to take the magneto unit off the bike to fix things.

This would have meant losing the magneto timing and this was not a job I wanted to undertake on a camp site, it’s not all that difficult but it is rather involved with an R12 outfit, meaning taking the sidecar off for access and then removing the gearbox to access the timing marks.

Wednesday I opted to stay on site again as the weather was rather inclement, i.e. it was p—ing down and while I could have gone in the car, I don’t see the pleasure in driving in rain any more than in riding in it!

Thursday dawned a nice day, but owing to other commitments at home I needed to back by Friday so it was a case of see the Thursday run out off, then pack up and drive home.

So, to fix the R12 I’ll need to get new seals and some other bits for her. These will have to be ordered up, probably from Germany, so it looks as if she’ll be off the road for the rest of the month, I’ve the R80/2 combo off the road with a repair to the sidecar so I’ve only a solo on the road at the moment.

Means I’m restricted in what I can do because of the two dogs, Looks like I’m just having to go to local events till I get an outfit back on the road.

First Run Out

Went out for a decent run on the R12 combo on Sunday, around 70 miles all told.

The sidecar chassis I’m using on her is the same one I took off her some 5 years ago when I started working on the Panther and needed the space in the garage.

When I put it back on I just bolted everything up “as was”, assuming the fittings had not been moved so, although Steib fittings are reputed to be good for this trick, I was a bit apprehensive first time out.

I’d taken her out first for a couple of miles to make sure there was nothing drastically wrong but this was to be the first real test of things.

So it was a case of load up, dogs in the sidecar, fire the bike up and away we go!.

All outfits tend to flutter their bars as you pull away, once you are used to driving an outfit you only notice this if it is excessive.

Use of a steering damper limits this but where your damper is the old-fashioned friction type it can stiffen up the steering generally.

I had my damper set at 3 clicks from off (one click gives JUST enough rub to keep the damper plates clear of rust when running as a solo) and did not notice any flutter worth commenting on so that was a good sign to start with.

Next was how stable the steering was. The R12 has a hand operated gear-change so you need to remove your right hand from the bars to change gear. If there’s any instability in the steering this is where it will show up and it didn’t, no wobble detected.

Now an outfit is a peculiar vehicle, it is a twin-track machine but is driven and braked on one track only. This means that, when the outfit is properly set up, on acceleration the bike tends to pull towards the sidecar and on braking the sidecar tends to pull towards the bike so that when on the open road much of your steering is done with your throttle. Much of the “Black Art” of sidecar riding is in getting to know how to use this.

If the set-up is incorrect then the outfit will tend to always pull to one side or the other. So, how was the R12?.

Answer is “Just about right!”. She steered nicely on the throttle and also ran straight when on a steady gas, it only needing one finger on the bars to hold her straight, always a good rule of thumb!.

After some 20 miles I took stock a bit, the R12 is lower built than the Panther, this results in the bars being lower than I’m used to with the Pussy and a feeling that I’d prefer them to come about a inch and a half further back and the same higher. I don’t remember this feeling when I was riding her before so it’s just going to be use.

The R12 has footboards whereas the Pussy has footrests, in theory there is greater choice of position on the R12, but it’s a boxer twin, you’ve a cylinder complete with carburetter in front of your foot so in fact there’s very little difference.

Another difference is that the R12 has telescopic forks in comparison to the Webb girder fork on the Puss.

Telescopic forks are at a disadvantage for sidecar work compared with either a good girder fork or a link fork, they have an inherent flexibility which does not affect handling as a solo machine but does affect a sidecar outfit, however those on the R12 have only a limited range of movement available, and given the limited performamce of the old lady this is acceptable in this case.

How did she perform?. Well remember the old girl is 80 years old and what was considered good back then is slow now. I have a Sigma electronic speedo fitted to her which has been set up on a measured half-mile nearby. On a major road along the level I was comfortably holding an indicated 41 to 44 mph. On hills this was dropping back to around 38 to 39 mph.

I was seldom over about half-throttle so there was power in hand, and one thing you rapidly learn with an outfit is to always have that “bit in reserve”.

Performance is comparable to that of the Pussy on chair, a difference being however that while the R12 is pulling sidecar gearing the Pussy was left to pull her normal solo gearing.

This means that under ideal conditions the Pussy will be faster on sidecar, she will tend to “bog down” more, requiring more frequent use of the gearbox and dependance on the intermediate ratios.

Conclusions are that I’ll soon get used to the R12 outfit again, that what is said about Steib fittings not loosing their alignment when the sidecar is taken off the bike is true, and that as I discovered when manhandling the two different chassis around off the bikes that the Steib chassis is considerably lighter then the Watsonian!.

Reason for this will be that the Steib is welded construction while the Watsonian is a hearth brazed fabrication with heavy forged lugs and straight tubes giving the Steib the same advantage the Featherbed Norton frame had over its rivals.