Hack safety compared to two wheels?

Discussion in 'Hacks' started by BryanD, Jul 8, 2010.

  1. BryanD

    BryanD Adventurer

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    I can see a time coming several years from now (not yet!) when I will want a "safer" ride, or possibly give up riding altogether. I currently ride a 650 V-Strom and I'm very safety conscious. I know that some folks switch to sidecars because it can be less physically demanding -- things like throwing your leg over, balance, holding up the bike, etc... But how about safety? Anyone care to comment on whether they think hacks are safer (or less safe?) than two wheels?

    FYI: If I chose a "safer" bike it would be a cruiser or a scooter -- the "safer" part is because I would ride these differently, lower speeds and more about relaxation rather than testing my skills. I'm guessing that a hack might be like that too, I know I'd ride one slower and the skills to be built and tested seem like they might involve less risk of: highside/lowside, running off the road, hitting an obstacle. It is also possible that a sidecar rig (with second running light) would be more visible/imposing and reduce the risk of "I didn't see you" that is so prevalent on two wheels. Aside from safety, I've got other reasons for being interested in sidecars like taking my dog(s) and/or my grandkids for rides.
    #1
  2. BinDerSmokDat

    BinDerSmokDat Been here awhile

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    I just ordered a Patrol T and have never even driven a hack.

    My reasons were all "sort of" safety related:

    1. Increase my winter riding. 2 wheels don't like hidden ice, 3 wheels increase the chances the shiny side stays up.

    2. My wife won't get on the back of the Rocket. Something about feeling like she will fly off the back when I'm blowing sport bikes off the line. Women.

    3. I want to venture off road, but not sure I want a full on enduro bike and the attendant bumps, bruises, sprains and "Oh F*cks!"
    #2
  3. bvardi

    bvardi Probably not Deciduous

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    Safer? In some ways - but it depends on the driver, on the road and on the conditions.

    Driving a rig - at least for someone just learning how - is probably slightly MORE dangerous, because your motorcycle skills won't translate immediately into sidecar driving skills. It's not hard to pick up, but either you do a lot of parking lot practice or take a course or both.

    As for me - I drive motorcycles, scooters and my Ural rig.

    Scooters - lighter (generally), easier to drive, not necessarily slower. (Mine is a 250 and can hit 130kph.... so slower than some but still easily enough speed to kill you if you aren't paying attention.) Possibly more dangerous for small ones that drivers tend to get WAY more impatient behind a scooter - even if you're going the speed of traffic or above. (Your experience may be different, but this happens around here - you learn to watch for it and deal with it.) Smaller tires may not absorb rough road conditions as well, and not all scooters have have equal braking power. (Mine's got front and back disc and is at least decent - but a smaller machine with two drum brakes and el cheapo tires may not have the grip to stop you as quickly.)

    Motorcycle - mine's a vintage machine so it's probably the least safe of the bunch. Drum brakes, 6v lighting, etc. But people give it more space than the scooter and I do drive with that in consideration (I take side roads more often with it, drive with a bigger cushion of space, etc.)

    Sidecar (ural rig) - It doesn't go as fast, and it takes a fair bit of work to fall over. On gravel or lower traction situations I'd much rather be on it than a two wheeler (personally, your experience may again vary) as it'll skid a little bit rather than go down. However, it doesn't brake as well as a solo motorbike or scooter generally will, and steering around curves takes some experience. (Learning how to handle flying the chair, etc.) Biggest advantage I have found is that drivers DO tend to see you a fair bit better on it - and with the Ural I find they give me WAY more space and are more patient than they are with my other bikes. So I can do the speed limit and (mostly) they aren't riding my rear end like I've stapled gummie bears to it.
    It also allows me to carry a wider variety of gear - so I don't get overly cold or hot, which makes me more alert in my opinion.

    I think safety comes down primarily to the driver: You have to be aware of the limitations of your ride, your own personal failings as a rider (going too fast, being impatient, distractions, etc) and also the drivers around you and what they are doing. The bike helps, but it won't ever replace the eyes and brain as your primary safety equipment.

    (Yours, not anyone elses. Attaching someone elses eyes and brains to your vehicle is not recommended as a safety procedure.)

    Bvardi
    #3
  4. Threewheelbonnie

    Threewheelbonnie Long timer

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    If you want safe, buy a Volvo or take the train.

    Sidecars are a completely different vehicle that just happen to share a few major components with bikes. You can slide without ripping your clothing, but they are very heavy when laid on top of you. Physically it's again just different, you may not need to push an outfit off the stand, but it won't change direction with just a bit of pressure on the opposite bar.

    Get test drive befote you buy IMHO.

    Andy
    #4
  5. BryanD

    BryanD Adventurer

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    Thanks for the responses so far :) A couple of things to note:

    I wasn't trying to imply that scooters "are slower" but that I know for a fact I would ride one slower than my V-Strom. For me (at least) each bike's performance envelope has an area where it is "fun to ride" and having ridden both a scooter and my Strom, I know that I find scooters more fun to ride slower.

    I completely understand that safety is mostly about the rider and his training. I plan to take the S/TEP training if I do decide to get a sidecar, and assume that after that there would still be a learning experience involved.
    #5
  6. hugemoth

    hugemoth Big Brother is watching you!

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    IMO a hack is less safe and more physically demanding than a two wheeler. Maneuvering and braking are slower and some effort is required to steer. A hack will roll over while a 2 wheeler will slide. A small positive on the safety side is that a hack is more visible and attracts attention, especially if painted bright pink.
    #6
  7. Montague

    Montague UDF Adventurer

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    Having crashed both types off road, I can say that in general hacks are safer in some ways but as already pointed out, they require an entirely different driving technique.

    Cars will be more likely to notice you on a Ural, as a matter of fact they will do so to the point of danger, i.e. tailgating, veering, etc, all to have a better look at the rig.

    For passengers, they are probably far safer. You cannot drop the hack but you could roll it, however that goes back to learning to ride it safely.

    If a meteor hits either one at 100,000 km/hr, things even out.
    #7
  8. RedMenace

    RedMenace Adventure Sidecar

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    I think they are safer to ride than motos for a number of reasons. Two of the most obvious:they don't want to fall over(you have to make them do that) and car drivers tend to actually see them(probably a combination of being unusual and presenting a silhouette similar to a car, which more easily registers on the sub conscious or unconscious mind of the cager).

    You aren't far-there are still some openings in my last sidecar class of the season, August 27~29 up in Hood River. We spend a good deal of the classroom portion addressing safety issues and strategies and you get to drive my sidecars! It really is a great way to see if it is what you want to do before dropping big coin on a new sidecar.

    [​IMG]

    #8
  9. windmill

    windmill Long timer

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    I think sidecars are safer, once You have had proper training, have mastered the basics, and understand their limitations.

    As to being "less physically demanding", I find them to be the exact opposite. Other than not having to hold it up when stopped, they take more physical effort to ride.
    #9
  10. SwampFox883R

    SwampFox883R Been here awhile

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    With 3 sidecar rigs in the family, I concur with windmill.
    #10
  11. BryanD

    BryanD Adventurer

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    Fair enough. Maybe "less physically demanding" was a poor choice of words, but I have read posts from folks who switched to sidecars because their balance was shot or they had lost confidence in being able to hold their bikes up when stopped. I was trying to find a term for these very specific cases where folks switched for physical reasons. I do already understand that sidecars in many cases require more "strength" to operate.

    Not this year... I'm wise enough to know that if I take the class and LOVE driving a hack, I'll desperately want to go buy a rig, and I just can't afford that right now. Let's see where I stand by next year...
    #11
  12. windmill

    windmill Long timer

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    I think I see what You are getting at.
    Beyond physical strength, a sidecar is more demanding to ride because it is more dynamic. A simple set of sweeping turns that can be negotiated with little conscience thought on a 2 wheeler can be more challenging on 3 wheels.
    Beyond the usual issues such as traffic and debris, First is the asymmetrical dynamics, turning right is different than turning left, and accelerating and braking add additional effects to it. You have 2 tracks to be conscience of, the bike may hit a pothole the same time the hack hits a bump. The camber and crown of the road must be watched, an off camber right hand turn can have the hack flying in an the blink of the eye.
    Then there is the transition between from being on 3 wheels to 2 wheels when you don't expect it, poor balance, a delayed, or improper reaction can have dire consequences.

    IMHO, the line between not being able to ride a 2 wheeler, yet being able to ride a sidecar safely is a very very fine line, For someone who is missing or has limited use of a leg/legs, a sidecar could be ok. For someone with a balance issue, perhaps something like the Can-Am Spyder would be the wiser choice.
    #12
  13. BinDerSmokDat

    BinDerSmokDat Been here awhile

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    Speaking of safety, hacks and rider courses, does anyone know of a hack course on the East Coast? I know lots of guys are friendly and have offered to show me what is what when I get my Ural, but I'd still like to take a formal course.
    #13
  14. RedMenace

    RedMenace Adventure Sidecar

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    windmill brings up some good points. To drive a sidecar, particularly a light rig or a tall, narrow offroad type rig in a spirited manner requires strength and balance.

    However, there are many rigs out there that are wide and low and very stable. With front end modifications the steering effort can be quite light, and by choosing a stable outfit and matching your driving style to your skill and ability, it is possible enjoy sidecars without great balance, mobility or physical strength.
    #14
  15. drrider1

    drrider1 just running amuck

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    you might be suprised how in-expensively you can get into a side car rig.
    #15
  16. Sidecarjohn

    Sidecarjohn SidecarJohn

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    Solo motorcycles and sidecar rigs are completely different vehicles, save for control layout and actual operation, i.e. throttle, clutch, gear change, etc. Riding techniques are poles apart. True, previous experience of a conventional two wheeler, not an auto scooter, gives you a head start over such things as clutch and throttle control. However, most things from thereon in require some insight and above all experience.

    Key issues are about steering, braking, and cornering. The chance of the sidecar levitating has to be watched. For we UK types, it's left handers, so this can be a potential for mishap. All manner of "cures" are suggested, but the fact that a laden sidecar reduces the tendency to lift the chair might indicate that ballast is a good idea. I personally think so, unless of course the sidecar itself is a heavy piece of kit.

    Not to be ignored are turns where the sidecar is on the outside of the bend, when drifting can occur, sometimes presenting control issues. Not as visually dramatic, or probably as serious, but still to be heeded.

    It's difficult for me to compare with riding a solo, not having done so for some years, but I would agree that there are physical demands riding an outfit, especially with lengthy mileages, and if maintaining elevated speeds. Factors that highlight the need for a good set up.

    However, I couldn't go along with the sentiment that "a hack is less safe than a solo", or that a "hack will turn over whilst a solo will slide". The nature and situation of a serious incident could provide a number of variations, some of which we might not contemplate i terms of outcome.
    #16
  17. Sidecardoug

    Sidecardoug Pleasantly pleasing

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    Good post.

    Sidecars just look like they're motorcycles, but they aren't. Not at all

    I read somewhere that the UK authorities had statistics that sidecar rigs were involved in fewer accidents (proportionately) than motorcycles. That may well be true. But if so, it's from a number of factors, not the inherent "safety" of a rig.

    Like anything else motorized, the safety of the vehicle depends on the operator more than anything else.

    I suspect more sidecars mishaps occur at rallies with showing off, but that's just my observation.
    #17
  18. Steve In Ireland

    Steve In Ireland Been here awhile

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    I once heard that the much quoted statistic from the UK regarding accidents involving outfits was an urban myth as sidecars are not identified as a separate entity in crash statistics here. However, I reckon it is probably true because sidecar outfits are generally ridden at lower speeds and are much more noticable to car drivers and therefore have less SMIDSY incidents (aka "Sorry Mate I Didn't See You") than solo bikes. In my personal experience I have much fewer incidents when on my outfit than my solo, although I did end up in a ditch on my first attempt to ride an outfit several years ago!
    #18
  19. Richard-NL

    Richard-NL Sidecar Fan

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    Most sidecars accidents happen with noobs (these are most of the times the people that tell you they are “riders of a solo for many many years”) and with people that have been riding sidecars for a while and “think” they can ride one.
    <?xml:namespace prefix = o ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:eek:ffice:eek:ffice" /><o:p></o:p>
    Physical strength (compared to a solo) has nothing to do with it. If you think so, you ride the wrong outfit.
    <o:p></o:p>
    It’s all between your ears.
    <o:p></o:p>
    Richard-NL :bmwrider <o:p></o:p>
    #19
  20. windmill

    windmill Long timer

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    I have been a commercial truck driver for over 25 accident free years. The best advice I have ever heard, and the rule I live by is, You are not as good a rider/driver as You think You are.
    Anybody who thinks they have nothing to learn, has a lot to learn. :deal
    #20