Friday, September 5, 2014

Homemade sidecar and Royal Enfield prove a success

Son Jesse goes for his first ride in Al Latham's home built sidecar.
Al Latham of Washington state didn't buy a sidecar to go with a Royal Enfield. He bought a Royal Enfield to go with his sidecar — a sidecar he built himself, and for a very special reason.

He built it so his son Jesse, with developmental disabilities, could share the fun of motorcycling with him.

Of course, Al couldn't be sure Jesse would agree to ride in the sidecar. So rather than invest in a sidecar, he decided to build a simple one for Jesse to try out.

Al's story of the sidecar project appeared in the November/December 2012 issue of Sidecarist, the club magazine of the United Sidecar Association.

Friend Bryan Hayes "just happened to have an old Watsonian classic sidecar frame for sale," Al wrote.

With advice from members of the forum, Al created what I would call a "bullnose" style sidecar.

"Having started riding bikes in the '60s, and having always liked the style and sound of the old British singles, I'd started fantasizing about the newer 500cc Royal Enfields — old style with modern improvements like fuel injection, electric start, etc.," he wrote.

"When I finished constructing the sidecar body I painted it green to match the British Racing Green Royal Enfield I was trying to find... Finally a beautiful chrome and red 2009 Royal Enfield G5 showed up on CraigsList and I couldn't resist. It meant repainting the sidecar to match the bike, but Jesse likes red and this helped him 'bond' with it."

Friend Randy Charrier of Eaglemount Marine and Salvage helped Al set up the combination in his shop.

"Now the moment of truth. Though I had fairly extensive solo riding experience the only sidecar rig I'd ridden was during the training course. Heading out from Randy's I experienced the low speed wobble that can be a common characteristic, but it decreased as the speed increased — the terror/fun ratio was way over on the 'terror' side at this point. We increased the tire inflation from the solo specs and that helped quite a bit, and the terror/fun (T/F) ratio inched over towards the 'fun' side.

"Fortunately I'd made contact with the Sidestrider himself, Doug Bingham, and he'd sent info for using a VW bug steering damper to address  the wobble issue. Fitting the steering damper from the sidecar frame to a bracket at the top of the forks completely got rid of the wobble, and the T/F ratio was now completely over to the 'fun' side.

Jesse got used to the sidecar, sitting in it while it was under construction and taking short rides.

"Later I said 'Let's go to the Chimacum Corner store for ice cream' and he agreed. This would be the test: our first ride on the highway at 40-50 mph, for 14 miles. He did it! ...Since then, whenever I've given him the option of car or sidecar, he invariably says (with enthusiasm) 'Sidecar!'"

With his concept proved, Al moved on.

Jesse poses at the controls for the family's Christmas photo.
"I'm now running a California Companion sidecar on my 2009 G5. It works fine for around here on my 20 mile trips to town — some rolling hills where I go to fourth gear with passenger and headwind. No problem maintaining the 50-55 speed limits. I would liken it to driving an old VW van power wise, but if you're not in a hurry it's fine. And it's a great looking rig!"

What happened to the bullnose?

"Still have the 'bullnose,' or as I called it the 'soap box derby' body, but sold the frame... I advertised it on CraigsList and got a call from a guy who said 'You won’t believe this: you have a Watsonian frame but no body; I have a Watsonian body but no frame.' So a perfect match. By the way the 'bullnose' is a section of 30-gallon plastic drum."

1 comment:

  1. Anonymous9/09/2014

    This is priceless! I didn't know "tacking on" a sidecar was so technical and changed the ride of the motorcycle so dramatically. Still love the Christmas photo the best.
    Nancy Wyatt


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