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Sidecar notes, April 2000

by Andrew Pattle

Sidecarrists in the club will be interested in “The Sidecar - A History” by Geoff Brazendale, a limited edition, 250pp, A4, quality hardback book covering the complete story of the origins and development of the sidecar in the 20th century.  The book includes a section on bicycle sidecars and an appendix of over 300 makes.  It is available from Geoff Brazendale, 1 Stainton Road, Etterby, Carlisle, CA3 9QT (tel: 01228 549445) at £25 plus £4.50 for UK P&P (£6 for P&P to rest of Europe)


Sidecar notes, June 2000

by David Stevenson

Long-time readers will be aware that the Sidecar Section has been largely dormant since the end of the 1996 riding season, with just the occasional note appearing when new information reached headquarters.  After almost a year's silence I have to report a sudden flurry of renewed interest in the early months of this year.  Two sets of plans have been dispatched and a most interesting collection of photographs has been received from Robin Dexter in Australia who is using a Watsonian sidecar and a Watsonian trailer so that he and his partner can transport their children.  Robin has made a body for one of the chassis that bears a passing resemblance to the first efforts by Watsonian themselves. If I understand Robin's letter correctly the trailer is an original Watsonian product, designed to take the sidecar bodies.  It's the first time I've come across one of these.  I don't know whether Andrew or anyone else has any more information.  The fourth letter from an active Devon member, has been accompanied by an offer to take-over the running of the section.  My own interest has become largely academic since Katy outgrew the sidecar and I do not now actually own a club eligible sidecar...  I hope that this offer may presage a revival.


Sidecar notes, August 2000

By Alistair Currie

I've volunteered to take over the running of the Sidecar section from David Stevenson, assuming that there is enough interest within the club to do so.  I have a 1940s Watsonian child's sidecar that I plan to fit alternately between my Raynal Autocycle and my Scott Cyc-Auto.  I also own a Cyclemaster and a Cyclemate.  Has anyone ever tried to pull a sidecar with one of these?


Sidecar notes, October 2000

By Alistair Currie

Following my piece in the last issue of Buzzing, I have been overwhelmed by the response I have received.  I had one phone call and that was from a non-member!  Never mind, all good things come to those that wait.

My own sidecar is now finished and I nearly killed myself on the maiden voyage.  It was awful.  The chair had a totally independent mind from my own.  The Raynal would not go where I pointed it.  Utter chaos.  I was relying on the patent Watsonian fixing, which allows the bike to lean on cornering.  However, I have since braced the chair to the seat tube.  At least now, it feels like I am now in control.  Is there an art to this or a book to read?  Let me know.  It looks very pretty though.

Alistair's \
Raynal/Watsonian combo

Sidecar notes, December 2000

By Alistair Currie

Many thanks to all those members who took the time and trouble to phone me regarding my problem with the strange handling on my Raynal and Watsonian combination.  It would appear that the fixing plate is at fault.  There is no adjustment on this to vary the angle between the bike frame and the side car chassis.  Another winter project, I think!


Letters, December 2000

Dear Andrew,

While researching an upcoming feature on bicycle sidecars, I discovered your NACC site.  It was quite a pleasant surprise, I assure you.  As I am a proponent of the 'pretty motors and snazzy sidecars are the kustom-est things you can do to a bicycle' school of thought, I recognized a similar sensibility afoot in Buzzing.  The NACC would seem to be a pretty wonderful group.

I have added your URLs to our excessively annotated links page, which may be found at http://bikerodnkustom2.homestead.com/links.html.

One of our past articles shows spandex/epoxy/foam core construction: http://www.geocities.com/~bikerodnkustom/spandex.html, which I feel has great application as a sidecar shell construction medium.  A fuselage constructed using this technique would be extremely light in weight, yet sturdy.  A zeppelin form, although not a sidecar, is depicted.  Of other possible interest to your membership is a pictorial survey of the latest American motorised bicycles and bike motors, many of the bikes in retro style.  It may be found at http://bikerodnkustom2.homestead.com/moto3.html.  An earlier article on the same subject is at http://bikerodnkustom.homestead.com/moto4.html.  Might I also suggest a peek at http://bikerodnkustom2.homestead.com/gallery12.html?  It shows fine examples of American-style 'stretched kustom moto-kruisers'.

Regards from your North American Kuzzins,
Jim Wilson, Editor-in-chief


Dear Andrew,

In reply to a question posed by Alistair Currie regarding sidecar outfits: having ridden various outfits for many years, two things assist in making life easy for the chair 'pilot'.  One is a bit of engine power and the other is good brakes.  I fear that on his machine he has neither.  The basics are as follows with a left hand chair:

  1. When you accelerate, the bike will try to drive around the chair or pull to the kerb; this is corrected by a gentle pull to the offside.
  2. When decelerating, the chair will try to drive around the bike or pull the bike to the offside; this is corrected by a gentle pull to the kerb.
  3. If correctly set up with an evenly spread load, the machine should travel fairly straight with only a gentle pull on the bars needed to go straight.

It is not unknown for the bike's handlebars to do a 'tank-slapper' if you remove your hands from the bars.  This can be cured by a steering damper - but it won't look very period.  Having taken note of the instruction you can now safely negotiate left and right hand bends by careful assistance of throttle and brakes. Any over enthusiastic cornering will have you setting in a ditch or kissing radiator badges.  The down side of a chair is the mechanical mayhem that can catch out the unwary, spokes that seem to stretch continually, the same with chains, wheel bearings that seem to go rough very quickly and tyres that seem to get eaten as you drive.  The only answer is to lower the gearing and give the engine and gearbox (if any) an easy life and take things slower.  Over the years I've covered over 100,000 miles chair-bound with great enjoyment.  With a larger outfit there is more scope for adjustment to cope with the strain, but I feel that for a jaunt of a few miles at a time the machine and rider should cope very well.

All the best,
Adrian Wooton

[This is all sound advice on riding a rigid combination and well worth reproducing here, but I feel I should leap to Alistair's defence and say I think he knows all this.  As I understand it, when Alistair had his chair bolted rigid, he could handle the outfit easily.  However, the Watsonian bicycle sidecar is meant to be a banking sidecar and it was when it was free to bank that Alistair had trouble.  With a banking sidecar, the theory is that the machine can be ridden just like a normal bike - although leaning very slightly to counterbalance the weight of the chair.  However, in practice, this ideal is not easily achieved.  Adjustment helps: the bearings that the sidecar pivots on can be adjusted with wing nuts.  They should be set so the sidecar pivots as freely as possible but without any play.  Keep them well greased too.  Riding a bike consists of a constant series of tiny, almost imperceptible, adjustments - mostly made subconsciously.  A little bit of friction preventing the bike from leaning plays havoc with this and the outfit appears to have a mind of its own.  As in all these matters, the best thing to do is practise until you get the knack - it'll come eventually. - Editor]

Sidecar notes, February 2001

By Alistair Currie

With Christmas behind us now, thoughts of the forthcoming rally season spring to mind. The Shepton Mallet Classic Bike Show in February is my first outing, with the Raynal and Watsonian combination having been entered on the club stand.

Many thanks to those of you who have telephoned me with items wanted and for sale.  I hope that deals will be done between you.

I hope to be getting hold of the plans for building your own sidecar bodywork fairly soon.  But, have you considered fitting commercial bodies? I have various pictures of tradesmen's sidecars for window cleaners, bakers, chimney sweeps and dairy deliveries.  Let your imaginations run wild! (Ice cream seller?)


Sidecar notes, June 2001

By Alistair Currie

David Stevenson, the previous sidecar marque enthusiast, dropped in (from Rotherham!) and delivered his collection of sidecar facts, figures, etc.  Very interesting reading.  I've spent hours getting it all photocopied.  I am now in a position to offer assistance.  I've got photocopied plans for building your own sidecars and trailers.  These are available at £1 per set.

I've been contacted by a gentleman who is desperately trying to get hold of a Watsonian mounting plate.  I have looked into having these re-manufactured, but the cost is prohibitive.  Does anyone have a redundant mounting plate that they are prepared to sell?  Or even a complete chassis with the plate attached?  Please let me know.


Sidecar notes, August 2001

By Alistair Currie

Had an interesting phone call from a chap in Northern Ireland who has fitted a Sidecar to a Cyclemaster.  I must admit that I'd thought of fitting one to mine.  He will be sending me some sketches and photos for future use.

I've also had some correspondence from the US regarding the restoration of a Watsonian.  A wadge of photos and news clippings are winging their way across the Atlantic.

So what are you up to?  Let me know.


Sidecar notes, October 2001

By Alistair Currie

A quiet couple of months.  Many thanks to Mark Daniels for sending me the Dunkley Whippet Commercial information.  This was a complete moped and sidecar outfit for sale at only £19-7-6 down and 38/- a week!

I saw a Watsonian sidecar and chassis but minus the mounting plate at the Dorset Steam Fair last month.  A snip at only £400.  I think not!


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