Building sidecar rig for winter riding... what bike?

Discussion in 'Hacks' started by amadeusroy, Sep 29, 2012.

  1. amadeusroy

    amadeusroy Bosshole

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    A couple months ago I was rear ended on the freeway and my car was totaled. It was only six months old and treated me well (manual Focus) but I have decided to take this opportunity to acquire a rig that allows me to ride year round in Michigan winters. I am on a tight budget ($2500) but I know I can do this.

    I have narrowed my options for a motorcycle to an 80's 250cc street legal dirtbike, or a ~600cc 80's jap bike with shaft drive (both can be aquired for less than $1k). My thoughts and questions on each:


    dirt bike + sidecar:
    - lighter weight allows for more maneuverability?
    - I can ride trails in the warm months
    - easier start in cold temps?

    600cc shafter+ sidecar:
    - heavier weight is more stable and cuts through excess snow on road?
    - shaft drive is better protected from corrosion than chain/belt
    - easier to hack together with a sidecar?


    Thank you for your replies and suggestions!

    After deciding on a bike my next step will be seeing what the best options for a sidecar is. I only need a platform that connects to the frame with a third wheel, no passengers or crap to haul. If you have any insight on getting a cheapo third wheel, I would appreciate it!
    #1
  2. newellbc

    newellbc Adventurer

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    Hi there. Both have advantages and disavantages. What kind of top speed do you need? What size tires are on the street bike? Chain drive allows for easy gearing changes. With a 250, you'll have to gear it down to pull any kind of weight. I have both an offroad rig, and a street rig. What about heated riding gear? On the small 250, the charging system will be a lot weaker. What size fuel tanks do the bikes have? Whenever you put a sidecar on a bike, the fuel milage goes down a lot. My Suzuki Bandit went from 45 to 33mpg. My Suzuki DR650 went from 50 to 38mpg.
    #2
  3. Bar None

    Bar None Long timer

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    Call me mister negative but riding a bike year round in Michigan, really? I'd buy another econobox if you have to get places regularly.
    #3
  4. BeeMaa

    BeeMaa Hack Pilot

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    +1.
    A lot to be said for AWD/4WD/FWD vehicles in the snow.
    Gotta be able to find a beater Civic (or the like) for $1K for the crappy weather.
    Lots of 'em on Craig's list.
    Good luck with it...either way.
    #4
  5. tattoogunman

    tattoogunman Been here awhile

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    Look around and try to find an older Ural with 2WD. Seeing as how their values have seemingly skyrocketed recently, that may not be practical, but I've still seen some out there. There is someone on Fyimoto with an '05 (I think) Patrol they are selling for $2500. Lots of rust, but it still works.
    #5
  6. amadeusroy

    amadeusroy Bosshole

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    Excellent points that I have not concidered, thank you very much for the response.

    Top speed: 60mph - won't be going on the freeway, this rig would only be for snowy/icy/salty roads.
    Tires on street bikes: Stock sizes for 500-600cc Honda/Suzukis, I feel like they are all around the same size from my experience in the past, perhaps I am wrong here. Certainly much wider than 250 dirtbike tires.
    Fuel tanks: I understand fuel economy will be hit; I won't be going far and am not concerned at this time about reducing my range.

    From your experience, with loose snow on the road will a heavier bike like a 650 fare better than a lighter 250? The risk of sprockets rusting out alone is making me lean more towards the ~600cc jap bikes. This rig would be for nasty weather days and for when there's salt on the road - otherwise I can ride my GS.

    Thank you!
    #6
  7. MotoJ

    MotoJ Mobtown Hacker

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    Hi,

    I vote for the 600 shaft drive. We only had one bad snowstorm last year, but my BMW airhead shaft drive had no problem with just a Kenda 270 dualsport knobby on the back. I carried a come-along and some line just in case, but I never got stuck. Chair is a Dnepr, so it's pretty heavy, too.

    The 600 probably has a cradle frame, so finding universal mounts for it might be easier. Subframe and mounts for a dirtbike will be pretty much all need to be custom fabbed, and if it has a kickstarter it's an extra PITA.

    For cars, maybe try and find a Velorex or a Cozy or Globe. They all come up on EBay and Craigslist just about everywhere. You should be able to put together a rig within your budget.

    Powerwise, either bike would probably do OK if you're just driving around town, but both are probably underpowered for the freeway. The 600 might get you a few exits down the road in a pinch.
    The point made earlier about the charging system is a good one. Just the lights on the sidecar will drag on the alternator and battery.

    You may be able to lower the final drive gearing on the 600, but chances are it's geared OK anyway. I had a 500CX, and I remember first being pretty low and short. Maybe Honda figured CX riders would be carrying a lot of pizzas on those bikes!

    Have fun! Keep us posted...
    #7
  8. newellbc

    newellbc Adventurer

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    I live in Southern Illinois now. But for years I lived in the Chicago suburbs, and drove sidecar all winter. I had a heated vest and snowmobile bib overalls. As to traction in the snow. I used an aggressive dual sport tire on the back of my rig. At that time it was a GL1000, with a beefed up Velorex. I had now problems on the roads. I was not taking it trail riding. If you have a weak charging system, you can now get battery operated heated vests that are real nice. Also, one of the best things for cheap cold weather comfort, a set of Hippo hands. If you get a cheap pair of atv hand warmers, make sure you do something to hold the openings open. If you take yor hand out sometimes you can't put them back in with out a lot of fumbling. I sewed in hanger wire loops to hold the openings wide. Blaine
    #8
  9. Leaf

    Leaf Been here awhile

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    I suspect that the 250 won't do what you want. My 400 barely pulls 55 up grades (yeah, I geared it down, too), and that's in a lowish gear with the engine sounding like it's going to explode.

    As for choice of bike, I'd go with anything 40-ish+ ponies that is cheap and crappy, so you won't be crying too hard when you have to start patching crap into the exhaust system when the road salts start eating it away into nothing. The most annoying thing about my 400 is how the exhaust collector (under the bike, right in all the salt) likes to rust out, no matter what I do to it.

    Something with enough of a charging system to run a heated suit would be keen, too.

    Unfortunately, the two never seem to meet, for me. Most of the cheap old 80s UJMs have just enough charging system to run the bike, and that's it. An Oldwing with a poorboy conversion might do the trick, though....
    #9
  10. ricmachado

    ricmachado Been here awhile

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    I would consider a GEN 1 KLR as well, I had one with the sidecar and love it, but I don't have snow nor I ride off road so I traded the bike for a sportster.

    KLR's are checp, easy to work on but also very reliable,

    You can for sure do a KLR + used sidecar for less than 2500 depending on your upgrades and cosmetics needs.

    I can also sell you the subframe I have sitting on my backyard :deal
    #10
  11. jaydmc

    jaydmc Long timer

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    A larger bike is easier to find strong attachment points, It also has stronger brakes. I would go for a KLR 650 as they can be picked up cheap, lots of parts are made for it in the aftermarket and there are many people who have mounted sidecars on them both with their own mounts or our mounts. My last KLR I picked up for $1400 with 15,000 miles on it as it had a rattle can paint job. Vernon is also selling his training rigs (adventure sidecars) that are built around KLR's.
    Jay G
    DMC sidecars
    www.dmcsidecars.com
    866-638-1793
    #11