Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Advanced Sidecar/Trike Training

This past weekend was filled with motorcycle fun and learning. Saturday was the Minnesota Motorcycle Safety Foundation Advanced Sidecar/Trike Training which teaches the Evergreen curriculum.


The class was five hours long and it was entirely hands-on. It was taught by “Dusty” who is the only certified sidecar instructor in Minnesota. He also teaches the Motorcycle Safety Foundation (MSF) courses for motorcycles for the State of MN and for St. Paul Harley.


Five students showed up for class on their own rigs. There were two trikes: a Harley and a Goldwing. Two guys on two Spyders, and me on my Ural. Passengers or ballast as Dusty kept calling them were welcome to come for free. I brought my wife and John on the Goldwing brought his too. I of course, took my 2009 Ural Patrol and was the lone sidecar. Dusty, the instructor, used his Harley with an outrigger attached which temporarily made it a sidecar.

IMG_2424 IMG_2432

The material in the class was very similar to the MSF Experienced Rider Course (ERC). We started out by riding in a big loop to get the feel of our rigs in turns. Most of the people in the class had only used their bikes for a few weeks.


We practiced turning left and right in a big figure eight. This was important as everyone quickly realized how easy it was to get one of the wheels off the ground. Even the spyders had a front tire in the air a few times. We countered the flying wheel by leaning into the turn, and in my case, hanging off on the inside. This helped to keep all the wheels down and minimize the tip-over forces at work. For hard right turns, I was sitting on the edge of the sidecar!

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Dusty made us each try locking up our front tires in a skid to prove to us how stable three wheels is compared to two. The first time was pretty sketchy, but by the third try, I was able to stop in a straight line. We also practiced quick stops in the middle of a corner which is very different from a motorcycle. On two wheels, you’d straighten the bike out before stopping, but on a sidecar you can brake hard while turning. Just remember to keep leaning into the turn!

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Dusty taught me how to “fly the chair” with the Ural. By initiating a quick flick to the right with a little throttle, the sidecar wheel can be lifted into the air. I had done this a few times unintentionally and it always made me anxious. After practicing with him, I now understand how it happens and more importantly, how to control the rig with the third wheel in the air. Under his supervision, I was almost able to ride across the entire range with the sidecar wheel in the air. With the wheel in the air, it handles like a very poorly balanced motorcycle.

Flying the Chair

We spent the rest of the day putting it all together in off-set weaves, quick stops, and decreasing radius corners. We were tested at the end of the day and all of us passed. Even though I rode my sidecar everyday through the winter, I learned some better techniques to control the rig, especially in a skid and during quick stops. I was also reminded to increase my following distance to at least three seconds rather than two due the increased size and weight of the sidecar.

At the end of the day, Dusty offered to let me ride his HD rig. It was the first time I’ve ever ridden a Harley, and it was different. It had much more power than the Ural, but the steering was very heavy. The “sidecar” was also very light and easy to get off the ground. In return, I let him try the Ural since the last time he rode one was in the 90s. A lot has changed since then. We both enjoyed the swap, but agreed that we liked our own rigs the best.

IMG_2891 on a HD with an outrigger

Full Flickr Album here.

Video on this post: Advanced Sidecar/Trike Training Video


  1. Good writeup Chris, the advanced tng sounds like day two of the basic sidecar training I attended. I could fly the chair around the circle of cones just fine but going straight while flying the chair eluded me.

    I don't get to practice with my own rig since its got fulltime 2wd and I really don't like the sidecar wheel spinning at speed when it touches down! Not to mention it's probably stressing the final drive.

    Still, good training, I don't feel as anxious about accidentally flying the chair, learned about hanging off and can now do tight right hand curves much more confidently.

    Training is a good thing.

  2. Charlie6: Thanks Dom, I think it was like your day two also. I thought of you a few times while I was in class. Going straight while flying is far harder than tight turns. I ended up leaning away from the cart to balance it out. Handles very strangely like that.

    I'm a bit apprehensive about practicing more since I remember what happened to your drive shaft, and to the non-rider it looks like I'm stunting rather than improving a necessary skill.

    Yes, training is good. It builds the confidence, so riding is more enjoyable. I enjoyed the twisty roads before with the Ural, but now even more after the training. It was also fun learning to drift the pusher tire without the aid of snow and ice. :)