Category Archives: Sidecar

Sidecar

A Little Light

With the sidecar fitted and aligned, before I can take it out on the road it needs lights to be legal.

With it being a 1937 machine I just need to show “a white light to the front and a red light to the rear”, after all at that time gas lighting was still common, but as this outfit is to be used on modern roads I need to be a  bit more practical.

What I am fitting is a spotlight set up as a Daylight Riding Light, a white front running light, a red rear running light, a stop light and indicators.

Indicators are totally out of period but in modern traffic on a sidecar outfit they are “A DAMN Good Idea!”.

I had a pair of the Hella round indicator/running lights in stock so these became the basis of my lights.

As the wheel and mudguard (fender) are on the outside edge of the outfit the lights need to mount onto this but as the guard is semi-circular this gives a problem, the Hella units are intended to fit onto a flat, vertical surface and the guard has a compound curve, at the point where the lights need to mount there is a 45° slope to the vertical.

First thing was to make the mounts for the lights. These need to fit onto the guard and give a suitable surface to mount the lights.

As the lights are 75mm in diameter I took a 6 inch length of 75mm OD alloy tube with a 1.5mm wall thickness and cut it into two lengths on a 45°angle.

Mount tube

The sawcut alloy tube

These, when mounted onto the guard will fit onto the guard part way up it and give the necessary vertical surface, unfortunately though the plain cut end does not match the curves of the guard.

tube onguard

Showing mismatch between tube and mudguard, it only touches at the ends

However from fitting the guard onto the sidecar I had a short length of it spare

spare guard

“Spare” length of mudguard

so I took this, fixed some 80 grit abrasive sheet to it.

I next took a black marker, used it to “black up” the cut end of the  tube

tube end blacked

“Blacked-up” end of tube

and then started rubbing the mount on the abrasive sheet.

rubbing in

Rubbing in end of tube to match mudguard

This gave me “witness marks” showing where the guard was contacting the mount and so, where the mount needed trimming back.

witness marks

Rubbed end of tube showing “witness marks” where material still has to be removed

This was done using a Dremel tool and a sanding drum.

Repeated re-blacking, trials and trimming gave me a pair of mounts that were a reasonable fit onto the guard and which, given some rubber beading, would make a sound joint against it.

finished job

Tube matched to contour of mudguard

I now needed bases for the lights themselves. To make these I took a pair of 10mm thick alloy disks of about 85mm OD.

These were each chucked up in the lathe

raw disk

Raw disk in lathe chuck

and had a central 8mm hole drilled through.

After this they were removed from the chuck their place was taken by a short length of 32mm OD bar. This had its end faced flat and then had a central hole drilled into it. This was tapped to take an 8mm bolt.

centrebdrilled

Disk centre drilled 8mm

This gave me a mandrel to work the disk on and so one of the disks was bolted to it, this meant that I could now turn the disk about it’s centre and it was able to have the edge turned down to size.

on mandrel

Disk mounted on mandrel for turning

This disk was now skimmed down to 75mm diameter, the same as the OD of the tube.

Next step was to turn a 4mm deep spigot on the disk to make a tight fit in the tube.

I then reversed the disk on the mandrel and another 4mm deep spigot turned on the other side, this time sized to mount the Hella lens onto.

finished turned disk

Disk turned to size and lens fitted

Suitable mounting holes were drilled and tapped into the alloy to take the lens mounting screws.

All that was now needed was to supply light to the lenses and rather than use incandescent  bulbs I opted to use LED lights instead.

Going onto Ebay, I ordered up 4 amber, two red and two white LED marker lights. These mount with a 10mm stud on their backs.

As these are the equivalent of a 10 watt bulb the intention was to use two amber LEDs to supply each indicator,one white for the front running light and two reds for the stop light.

Going to the disks, I marked off the horizontal diameter through the lens mounting screws and drilled a pair of 10mm clearance holes above it. One one disk I then drilled a single 10mm clearance hole below the centre line and on the other a pair below the line.

drillee disk + LEDs

Front unit disk fitted with LEDs

Mounting two of the amber LED’s above the line gave me my indicators and the fitting the whites or reds below gave me my front running light and my stop light.

I needed a rear running light as well and so a similar but smaller unit was made up using a 50mm diameter LED rear marker light to supply the lens.

All that was left to do was give the mounts a lick of paint, mount them onto the guard via the central hole in the disks and to run in the wiring.

Finished job

The completed light unit in place

 

Lining it up

It’s now time to start fitting the sidecar. I’ve not yet refitted the tank after the dynamo belt drive conversion so now is an ideal time to do this.

First thing is to get the chassis connected up to the bikes frame.

The chassis was laid out alongside the bike and put up on blocks.

The front swan-neck was put in position on the bike and loosely clamped to the sidecar chassis, as was the rear ball joint fitting.

Fitting a sidecar has been described as a black art, well now starts the black magic!

First thing to set is the lead, the sidecar wheel has to be set a bit in front of the bikes rear one, how much depends on the type of sidecar, the intended use and the bike itself.

A bike with rear suspension needs more lead than a rigid bike; with a heavy sidecar you needs less lead, with a light sports chair you need more. This all boils down to the answer to “How Much?”  being “It Depends” but it is not critical to a fraction of an inch, I’m starting with 6 inches of lead on a light sports sidecar and this can be adjusted, if needs be, after road test. On my later outfit, which does have rear springing, I’m running with 10 inches lead on a similar sidecar.

So the chassis was slid around on the blocks till I had the appropriate lead and the fitting clamps tightened a bit.

setting up

Lead and level have been set, now it’s the toe-in to do. Notice the two “fine alignment tools” by the front wheel

The chassis was now able to have the support blocks removed and, as the bike was now standing on her wheels as well, it was time to level the chassis.

Working with a rigid bike here it was set level side to side, when the bike has rear suspension you’ll need to have the bike loaded when setting this.

While you want the sidecar level side to side, going fore and aft you want it nose high, even when loaded, so the chassis needs setting with the nose rail between a half inch and an inch higher than the axle rail. Getting these right can be a bit fiddly as with the chassis I am using, adjusting the side to side level will also alter the lead if your not on top of the job.

Now comes the most important of the settings, the toe-in.

With a sidecar outfit, the power is all on the bike side, the sidecar wheel is unpowered.

This means that when running straight the sidecar wheel always drags a bit and tends to pull the bike towards it. It is not a heavy pull but it does get tiring compensating for it all the time, so the trick is to set the sidecar wheel to steer a little the other way by pointing it in towards the bike, to “toe it in”.

Thing is “By how much?” and the answer is “It all depends!”. This is the big variable and depends on the bike, the roads you use, road camber will affect it, how fast you are going etc. so you have to compromise and then make adjustments to suit.

Experience leads me to use an initial setting of around 3/4 of an inch over the length of the bike so a straight edge (here a length of 4 x 2 timber) is laid against the bikes wheels, I have the same size tyres fitted fore and aft so it’s set up on blocks and adjusted so as to touch evenly at four points across the wheels.

Similarly another straight edge is laid against the sidecar wheel, touching evenly against it and the distance between the two straight edges measured, first just behind the rear wheel and then just in front of the front one, the difference between the measurements giving the amount of toe-in.

This is adjusted to suit at the chassis clamps, the sidecar wheel being lifted off the ground and replaced and the straight edges reset before a check measurement is taken so as to remove any tyre distortion from the figure.

Once I had the required toe-in the two main sidecar clamps could be tightened up but this is another setting that will probably be modified after road test.

This left me with the sidecar lean out to set. The bike needs to lean a little way out from the sidecar. With a left-hand sidecar in UK you want the bike to be a little past vertical to allow for the road camber, so you drop a plumb line from the handlebar end and set the lean to around a half inch.

setting lean-out

To set the lean-out drop a plumb line from the handlebar.

I’ve got a right-hand sidecar however and any lean I set will be added to by the camber, if I set too much lean I’m going to feel the bike leaning over, so initially I’m setting so as to have the bike vertical on a level surface so on the road the camber will be giving the lean out.

This is set using the rear upper brace, that one goes to just below the saddle.

setting lean-out

Lean -out is set using the rear brace that goes to under the seat

That’s the main adjustments made and locked by tightening the chassis clamps. Some people will tell you these three fittings are all you need but a fourth one is definitely desirable, without it you can feel the outfit flexing in corners, not only that but the toe-in varies as the outfit flexes, Not Ideal!.

This fitting goes across between the front of the sidecar chassis and a low point on the bike to triangulate the swan neck. Normally you would take it off the front engine plates but a Panther does not have these.

However P&M supplied a mounting point on the engine right beside where the front engine supports are so its taken to there. All you do is adjust the fitting so that the clevis bolts slide easily into place and then lock it up in that position.

adding the body

The lower front brace goes between the front of the chassis and the bike.
Once it is in place then the body can be fitted.

With the basic settings made it now requires a road test to determine what adjustments need to be made to these.

What to expect is that as you pull away there will be a small degree of low speed steering wobble that disappears as soon as you are moving. This is normal and you soon do not even notice it, you don’t after all on your car and it does the same. You can reduce this with a steering damper, but too heavy a damper makes for heavy steering, careful attention to the setting up will minimise it, a better remedy.

Now try some slow turns, towards and away from the sidecar, ideally the effort should be about the same but if turning towards the chair is noticeably heavy then you need to reduce the lead to stop the wheel crabbing. But too little lead affects stability and makes the sidecar wheel more prone to lifting.

Does the outfit run straight under steady power? The ideal is to be able to hold it steady with one finger on the bars, does it pull to one side or the other? This is a pointer to the toe-in setting, pulling all the time towards the sidecar — increase the toe-in, pulling away from it — decrease the toe-in.

Open the gas and as you speed up you should pull a little round towards the sidecar; now shut the gas,as the bike slows on engine braking you should feel the sidecar pull round towards the bike.

If at steady speed you can feel it is pulling only slightly but enough to need constant input to stay straight then a SMALL adjustment to the lean-out can help but don’t overdo it, look on this as a final fine trim to getting the toe-in right.

So far all your tests should have been below 30mph, now it’s time to speed up a bit.

Take it gently and try at higher speeds, it may need a bit more fine tuning to get the outfit handling “Just So” but it’s well worth the effort as with a well set up outfit out on the open road it steers largely on the throttle, needing very little input to the bars.

Complete outfit

Final Result, ready for the road

First Offering

It’s been quite a while since I’ve added anything to this blog, main reasons have been idleness on my part and having been out riding around on the Panther and her stablemates.

I’ve now begun another stage of the project and am prompted to make report.

It’s always been my intention to put a sidecar onto the Panther since doing so will allow me to take my dogs with me on the events that I take her on, as it is, when I go to an event  I have to either use the more modern BMW outfit or leave them behind which is not always convenient.

The sidecar I intend to fit is this Steib

Sidecar 2

As you can see it’s in nice condition

but when I offered it up to the Panther it was immediately obvious that they were not compatible.

Problem was that the Steib was on a chassis dedicated for use with a BMW, the major fittings were in fixed position with no adjustment possible and not only that but they presumed the presence of a front down-tube on the frame.

A problem here straight away because the Panther does not have such a tube!, it uses the engine as a stress bearing member in its place.

Anyway, what it meant was that with the rear fitting coupled in place the front one wanted to be through the timing chest on the engine and undoing the rear fitting and moving the chassis forward showed there was no-where for the front fitting to pick up to when it was moved far enough forwards to allow it to clear the timing chest.

So a change of plans, if the Steib chassis wouldn’t fit then I needed one that would fit, but that would also take the sidecar body.

I began a hunt for a suitable chassis and determined on a Watsonian VG21, a chassis of the same period as the Panther that would also take the Steib body.

Last time I wanted a chassis, everywhere I went I was tripping over VG21’s, but now I wanted one they had become like hens teeth!

I eventually tracked one down and work began.

First thing to do was to convert it to fit on the right hand side of the bike.

Reason for this is that both my other outfits (both BMW) have right-hand sidecars so having another one with a left-hand sidecar is asking for problems.

While doing this I found that the Silentbloc bush that the suspension arm runs on had been replaced with a solid steel bushing and the suspension locked up solid!

After removing this steel bush, and it did not want to be removed!!, I next had to source a replacement Silentbloc but I had a bit of luck here because I found someone who had the correct bush in stock.

So, conversion done and wheel fitted (I’ve not even looked at sorting out the sidecar brake yet!) it was time for the first attempt at offering up the chassis to the bike

At the moment I only have the rear main fitting sorted out so with this loosely fixed onto the sidecar it was connected to the bike and some wood blocks strategically placed.

A bit of shuffling it round and use of a tape measure and there it was in approximate position against the bike.

 

Sidecar chasssis

First offering up

I was now able to get some other measurements I needed then it was all again dis-assembled.

Main purpose was to check the feasibility of a right hand chair on the old lady, I was fairly sure it would be ok as there is a proper rear mount point for a sidecar at the offside rear , and to get the dimensions for having a swan-neck made up for the job.

This will be a simple piece of pipe-bending, a length of 1¼ inch OD heavy-wall steel tube with a 90 degree bend in the middle, simple to make if you have the facilities, but I don’t so it has to be farmed out.

Back Up

When I first made this sidecar I had a seat made for it, this seat is not really satisfactory but when I tried to have one made up properly I was told it could not be done at reasonable price, reason given was “No-one does it like that now-a-days”, which is why I’ve now made up a new one myself.

2 seats

The two seats, commercial one on the left.

As you can see the “professional seat” has been made by simply taking two blocks of foam and putting a cover on them and has a much thicker apron than the one I made, which is copied from an original Steib seat, the “bought in” looks like something you’d find on a bus!. This extra thickness reduced the knee clearance inside the cockpit and also made it a bit more difficult to get into and out  of the sidecar. As the apron lies on top of a set of tension springs set into the cockpit floor it does not need to be as thick as this hence the thinner apron on the genuine Steib seats.

Seat "aprons" compared.

Seat “aprons” compared.

First thing in making up the new seat was sorting out materials.

What’s needed is a new back-board, foam padding and covering materials.

The seat has a wooden back that hooks over a tongue on the top of the rear bulkhead of the cockpit and at the bottom is shaped to fit into the octagonal body.
seat back

This is the tongue the seat locates over

Onto this board is fixed a block of upholstery foam which is covered and held in place with heavy calico and over this goes the reeded top-cover with lower “apron” that goes on top of the support springs.

Under the seat

The springs that support the “apron”

On looking round the ‘net I found “Woolies” from whom I could source the foam and covering materials and I went down to the local DIY shop for some 12mm plywood from which to make the backboard.

I ordered up some 50mm and some 38mm foam along with the red vinyl covering material and calico.

To stitch the covering together I used an old-fashioned “Singer” hand-cranked sewing machine  fitted with a needle intended for sewing leather.

A modern electric machine baulks at sewing the multiple thicknesses of the materials I’m using.

The foam was supplied as a rectangular block and had to be cut to shape, this was easily done using an electric carving knife, bought as a special offer and afterwards donated to the kitchen.

First thing was to make up the backboard

The flat main board has a top “overlap” that is made up from another three pieces of plywood fixed to this board to allow it to locate over the tongue on the seat bulkhead.

Backboard

Backboard

The two pieces “A” and “B” were glued and screwed to the top of the backboard as in the sketch and then the long piece “C” glued and screwed on top of those.

The piece of 50mm foam was cut to fit onto the side of the backboard away from the overlap and then glued onto the board with PVA glue.

The foam was then covered with a piece of the calico which was taken round onto the back of the board and fixed there, PVA glue again and a staple gun used to secure it.

To be continued:-

A Bit On The Side

The big Panthers are best known as sidecar bikes, back in the 1950’s and 1960’s it was very rare to see one being ridden solo, they normally were seen hitched to a big saloon sidecar such as a Busmar or a Carmobile and they were in fact normally sold as an outfit.

I intend to run mine both as a solo and with a sidecar so I need a sidecar and rather than a big saloon chair I’ve a nice little open sports job that’s based on the Steib S350.

Sidecar 1

This is a copy of an S350 Steib on an LS200 chassis

Sidecar 2

It’s in quite nice condition but is a right-hooker.

As you can see it’s not in bad condition but a new seat is required. There is one with it but while it is usable it is too bulky and is a poor copy of the original.

A problem is going to come up with fitting it because as you can see it is meant for fitting on the right side of the bike while in UK a sidecar is normally fitted on the left.

The sidecar is mounted on a Steib LS200 chassis which uses the German DIN standard sidecar fittings and it will mean sourcing a set of bike-side fittings to suit and will probably need a sub-frame to pick-up to that front mounting-point on the chassis.

Besides that the DIN fittings have the beauty that using them means that you have a sidecar that is both quick and easy to remove from the bike, not only that but you do not lose the sidecar alignment settings when you remove it, so when refitting the sidecar you do not need to re-align it.

However, a disadvantage of the LS200 chassis is that it only has a three-point mounting.

While this is adequate for on the smaller bikes (sub-350ccs) that the LS200 was intended for, on a more powerful machine it is better to have the more rigid four-point mounting and it will be necessary to arrange for this.

So, – –   Why fit a sidecar?.

Well it means that I can take the bairns with me when I go on events, it gives me extra carrying capacity for luggage and so on, and quite simply, I like them.

Riding a sidecar is totally different to riding a solo, it means learning a new and totally different set of skills but once you can handle an outfit they are great fun to ride, not only that they are great attention getters.