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Introduction to driving


An atypical machine that does not like to go straight and refuses to turn

There was a time when everyone (or almost) knew how to drive a sidecar: the sidecar was the family vehicle of the working classes who did not have enough money to buy a small car. In the West, the decline was marked at the beginning of the 1950s, when governments decided that the working classes had the right to private cars and launched ad hoc industrial plans in their respective countries. And this is how the 2 CV Citroën and 4 CV Renault, the Fiat 500 and 600, the VW Beetle, the Austin Minor blacklisted the sidecar, except in the countries of the former Soviet bloc where the Urals, but above all the MZs and Jawas resisted until the fall of the Wall, then being replaced by Skodas and Dacias.

Because, let's dare to say a truth: a sidecar is useless. It takes up space, it doesn't lean and it's complicated to drive.

This is why it is essential in the contemporary motorized landscape which tends towards standardization. Because life is too short to drive sad, don't you think? And his rating of sympathy with the general public is a constant source of wonder.

Today, you will probably have noticed two things: sidecars are rare and they are mainly driven by experienced motorcyclists proudly wearing Barbour and flowery beards. Which means that the sidecar is the machine of those who have already gone around the motorcycle question and that, if it is not really useful, the sidecar remains a formidable machine for traveling far or quite simply, experience the road differently.

Contrary to what many people think, three wheels are not a guarantee of stability. A retro or neo-retro motorcycle weighs 200 kilos; an equipped pilot is often at least 80. On the other hand, the basket on its frame weighs from 80 to 100 kilos. We therefore have 75% of the weight on the two left wheels and 25% of the weight on the right wheel, if the side is driven solo. With a passenger or luggage, the proportion can increase to two thirds / one third. Anyway, the side remains an unbalanced machine. Its good driving is linked to the understanding of the balance of the masses, its geometry and also and above all, its center of gravity! This last point is extremely important. A sidecar placed on 18-inch wheels   will have very different reactions from another sidecar placed on 19-inch wheels, whereas in the minds of the general public, these are very close in spirit, if not identical.

In fact, this article excludes sides with "small wheels" (14 inches and less), which are more sporty or even downright "track".

Go straight, the side doesn't really like it...

You might think that going straight is the easiest thing. Already, you have to understand the logic of the side, unbalanced machine par excellence: when you accelerate, the side pulls to the right; when you brake, it pulls to the left.

The Changjiang are now equipped with disc brakes on all 3 wheels. The foot brake therefore brakes all wheels at the same time, which stabilizes and brakes straight.

Unlike a solo motorcycle which is single-track, the side will suffer from the irregularities of the road, the camber of the bitumen, the potholes, the various imperfections. It will undulate, live. It's up to you to find the right balance between firmness (keeping him on the road) and freedom (letting him dance the samba that is part of his DNA). The sidecar is constantly embroiled in a ballet of clumsy sensuality.

To turn left, all you have to do is steer and the side follows the trajectory, after a slight moment of resistance. We realize in use that the more abrupt it is, the more incisive the response. Until the discovery of a critical moment: by dint of leaning on the suspension of the basket, the side can touch the bitumen in a slow turn, which is not without unbalancing the whole.

As always, you have to anticipate and break down the movements. A small dose of additional braking will make it possible to register the side in turns in a natural way; it is then up to you to take charge of the rest of the operations.

The side don't like to turn right (and you have to respect that)

Warning: moment of stress! The right turn is tricky in the sense that it involves a transfer of mass that can, in an extreme situation, lift the basket to a point of reversal of the machine. In other words: and bam, the hut on the dog!

The problem is that when this happens, there are not many other solutions than to get out of the trajectory and the reflex is to brake (which increases the probability of leaving the road), whereas by accelerating and exaggerating the mass transfer to the basket, it will eventually spin. Yes, it's shaddock.

We have seen that accelerating stabilizes the side by making it pull a little to the right: it is therefore necessary to take advantage of this state of affairs by sacrificing its speed when entering a turn, putting the chassis of the side under tension by steering, with his left arm extended to the maximum, then accelerate gently aiming for the exit of the turn and trying to have the most tangential trajectory possible.

Conclusion: different but intense pleasures

In side "neo retro" placed on wheels from 16 to 19 inches, the performance cannot be at the rendezvous. These atypical machines are entirely dedicated to the ride, at a leisurely pace, knowing that these few basic rules stated above will be challenged according to the profile of the road, hairpin bends, slopes.

Even more than on a motorcycle, the sidecar requires real humility and requires thousands of kilometers of practice before you can feel comfortable and be able to contemplate the road with serenity. In any case, an initiation to driving is strongly recommended. Afterwards, you will discover another way of traveling, like a car fan who decided to drive only in Traction Avant and only take abandoned departmental roads. Another pleasure, just as dense.

This is why Moto-Addict offers you an introductory course in driving these endearing sidecars and vectors of social contacts. Reserved for holders of motorcycle driving licenses.

Our introductory courses will allow you, in about 1h30, to understand the behavior of these teams and to familiarize yourself in complete safety with the addictive driving of these crabs which stubbornly refuse to go straight:-)_cc781905-5cde- 3194-bb3b-136bad5cf58d_

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