Saturday, September 11, 2010

Sidecar Rally and National Motorcycle Museum

I left the Twin Cities today at 5am because I wanted to get to the 7th annual east central Iowa sidecar rally in Anamosa, IA before noon.

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The rally was hosted by the National Motorcycle Museum. This was the first time I’ve left for a long ride before dawn. It was nice! I enjoyed the traffic free roads, and the sunrise over the corn fields outside of Rochester, MN.

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It was also the first time I’ve ever put in over 200 miles before 9am! The first two hours of the ride were a bit chilly since it was 50F outside of the cities. I wish I would have put on my electric coat. I was very happy to see the sun and with it some warmth.

CI-30328787230102056 chasing my shadow

I took the most direct route possible which meant taking 52 to 63 to I380 to 151. I made a brief stop in Cedar Rapids, IA to look around.

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Then, I headed East to Anamosa. I arrived before noon, so I was happy. 296 easy miles today on the SV650. The Ural is still waiting for the new wheels.

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I really enjoyed looking at all the different kinds and styles of sidecars.

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I enjoyed looking at the different options like gas tanks in the sidecar and mirrors for the passenger.

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I also enjoyed the early BMWs that the Ural was based off.


This Flexi sidecar allows the motorcycle to lean, and the sidecar as well! It has a pivot mount. This one was on a ST1100 and was for sale for $5300 including sidecar. I wonder how it would do in the winter…

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I’ve never seen so many in one place before – more than 42! Apparently, they do a big rally every year with hundreds of sidecars. I will have to think about that for 2011. There were only two Urals

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, and the most common sidecar seemed to be a Harley hack


with the Gold Wing hacks second.


During the rally, I attended a talk called “The Golden Hour” by Slider ‘Dick’ Gilmore.

Golden hour safety talk at sidecar rally

He talked about the first hour after a crash being the golden hour, the most important hour to save a persons life. He gave us some tools to help save some of that hour and hopefully lives. The two main things were staying calm and thinking. I won’t try to go into more detail; he is a great speaker. You should try to attend one of his talks.


While the sidecars were out on their ride,

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I took the chance to enjoy the museum while it was virtually empty.

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I took TONs of photos and a lot of video. After talking with another guy from Minneapolis on the way out, he mentioned there was an unofficial contest for photos. I talked to the front desk, and the current record was 380 something. I didn’t think I had beat that, but I checked anyways. She let me count the photos from the sidecar rally in the parking lot, so I ended up with over 500 before counting the videos! The new record!! I got a free sticker as a reward (the stickers are free for everyone :) ). The video will have to wait a few days since my netbook can’t edit HD video.

I really enjoyed the museum. They just moved into their new building, and have over 225 bikes.


They are still putting things together in some places.

new display

The exhibits were great. They have so many different kind of bikes. I found the National Motorcycle Museum much more interesting than the AMA Museum in Pickerington I visited last month. They have a bigger variety, and the displays are bigger. I really liked the board track racing display, and the wall of death

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It really made the bikes come alive. Here are some of my favorite shots. Enjoy!

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They also had a lot of motorcycle signs, art, and extra stuff that filled in all the extra spaces. I found it really made the trip, and I will be coming back soon (with my wife next time!). I just love that it is closer to Minneapolis than the AMA one too. They had dedicated motorcycle parking too! Which should be a requirement for any decent motorcycle museum.


A K75 for Jack with his favorite fairing.


I stayed the night at the AmericInn in Anamosa. They have motorcycle parking! They give a coupon for the museum, so check-in before you go not the reverse like I did.

Motorcycle Parking outside!

The entire place, including the room, is decorated with motorcycle art.

Motorcycle Art inside the room Motorcycle Art inside the room

Full Flickr album for the museum here (380+ photos)

Full flickr album for the rally here (170+ photos)

I hope to have the videos posted in a few days. Tomorrow, I will likely take the slow scenic route back along the river. We’ll have to see.


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  1. I'm itching to visit now. The place looks huge! I can see how this made the trip! Nice post.

  2. Sharon: It is huge. It's bigger than the AMA museum.

  3. Wow, what a great day, but I bet you wish you could have taken your Ural. The museum looks very good, witha huge amount to see. I am glad you were presented with a award, even if it was a sticker....

  4. Gary: Yes, I wanted to be there with my Ural. It felt strange being at a sidecar rally without a sidecar. I think it'd be like driving to Sturgis (without a trailer behind). The sticker is cool, but they give them to everyone. The AMA museum charged $0.50 or a $1.

  5. Chris, I visited the museum on the way to the BMW National Rally a couple of years's a really nice museum. Too bad you couldn't ride the Ural to it but at least you rode....

    Thanks for the pics.


  6. Dom: You should go again and check out the new facility. According to the staff, they have grown quite a bit in the last few years. It wasn't how I planned, but it was still a fun time.

  7. PS: if you do go, let me know and I will meet you there.

  8. I've wondered how a flexi car system would do in the snow. I've also wondered about the Piaggio MP3's, but suspect they would just be heavier to pick up when they fell down.

    Bummer about the Ural's wheel issue. Hope all is wonderful with it soon...after all snow time isn't that far away.


  9. Very nice man. You so seldom see sidecars, all those pictures were great. And another Minnesota boy to boot? Very nice. Not so bad driving through there in the early hours of the day with about .3 turns/mi. (I've been spoiled in the mountains of VA these last few years) You inspire me to get out one more time before the season cools too far and hit, at least, the AMA museum.

  10. Way cool. I was Anamosa this summer, but did not have time to stop by the museum. Wished I would of.

  11. Keith: You're not supposed to be knocking your scooter over. :) We should have two more snow free months if we are lucky. Plenty of time to sort the Ural out :)

    Brady: Thanks! Yes, motorcycles area bout 1% of the road traffic and sidecars are about 1% of motorcycle, so rare indeed. VA is nice. I was there last month with my wife. Mountains + bikes is a great combo. Yes, take OH-555 to the museum, you'll enjoy it.

    Motoroz: Hopefully the pictures will get you by until you can come up again. They are open year round.

  12. Dear Chris:

    There is something utterly fascinating about a motorcycle with a sidecar... And the fascination only icreases when you are around a lot of them. Now I don't know much about sidecars, but I was wondering:
    1) Why aren't all modern sidecars designed to lean with the bike?
    2) What difference would it make in the snow?
    3) How difficult would it be to buy a Ural, strip it down, junk the engine, and replace it with a modern BMW boxer mill? I realize the cost would be exorbitant... But the final product would be free of the gremlins.

    There are probably some very elementary answers to athese questions, but like I said, I don't know anything about sidecars.

    Thank you for the "evil twin" K75 picture. I cannot imagine what was running throught the empty heads of the BMW designers who thought a square headlight would look good. I have seen several highly worked K75's (with the square light) that do look cool, but extremely dated. The heavy windscreen frame on most of the square headlight K75s is just too hard to take. I think the Parabellum "Scout" fairing is so much softer on the senses.

    Great post today.

    Fonderst regards,
    Jack • reep • Toad
    Twisted Roads

  13. Thanks for the tip. I think I have a three day weekend coming up. We'll see if I can get motivated or if I just sit at home like bum.

  14. Jack:
    1) I don't know why more don't lean. probably complicated engineering to make it lean, and it's easy/cheap to weld and bolt stuff together.
    2) I would think leaning on slippery would make it handle worse than a non-leaning sidecar. You could buy me one, and I'd be happy to find out exactly what happens. :)
    3) In China, they have a CJ which is a copy of the Ural. It is common there to put in a BMW engine. CJ unlike Ural hasn't advanced and improved. I think a modern Ural (09/10) the engine isn't the problem. If you want a BMW sidecar, then build one. I saw a beautiful R1150GS turned into a sidecar. He had a 850 driveshaft, custom suspension, and the rear tires were from a old VW bug. He spent last weekend tearing up the ATV trails in Wisconsin. I think it'd even be possible to fab up a 2wd drive shaft from a bmw shaft drive. although I only used mine about 5-6 times last year on the road. Parts would likely be faster to get for the BMW than the Ural too.

    You're welcome for the photo. I saw it (K75) and instantly thought of you... good or bad I guess! LOL.

    Good luck with the trip. I have been in excellent bum form for the past two weeks, and I haven't accomplished much of anything.