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Letters to the Editor, December 2000

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]

Dear Andrew,

A club within a club?

A couple of weeks ago, I was speaking with David Evans on the captivating subject of NSU Quickly brake shoes.  Whilst turning to his wife, Lorna, to continue this theme, I was promptly informed by Lorna that she was a fully paid-up member of the "Don't Care Club".

Upon my return home, I told my wife Lizzie about this, hitherto little known, splinter group.  Lizzie, without hesitating, immediately offered to be the "Don't Care Club" Life President.

Surely, there are no other like-minded wives in this fraternity that we have recently joined - are there?

Much appreciation goes to moped guru, Mark 'Danny' Daniels for his advice and for continuing to spark my enthusiasm in our beloved two-wheeled gems.

Paul Efreme

Dear Andrew,

Further to Paul Hornby's letter in the October issue of Buzzing regarding coil ignition conversions, I thought other members may be interested in my own experiment with an 'ignition impaired' Standard Power Pak.  The specimen in question was bought from an ad in Buzzing and described as a "good runner".  I went to view the machine, but despite the best efforts of the seller all that was produced was a few pops, bang and a cloud of blue smoke.  "That'll be alright" says the seller, "just clean the plug and points and you'll be away."  "If you say so" says I, "after all, you are a member of the NACC; here's your dosh, I'll be off."

Once home, I removed the flywheel to find an utterly useless set of ignition components held together with masking tape and dollops of solder.  Well, the seller said it was a good runner but forgot to mention that the last time it ran was probably the day the old king died.

I digress, on to the remedy.  I found by using the HT coil from a Morris Marina, a sealed Yuasa 12V battery, a new condenser from Halfords (Lucas part no DCJ303, which has the mounting bracket in the same position as the Bantamag original) I managed to resurrect the patient from its terminal condition.  The circuit diagram shows the layout.  Twelve or six volt batteries can be used which will sustain most cyclemotors for the duration of a club run between charges.

Coil ignition wiring diagram

Remove your dud Bantamag coil and HT lead, wire replacement coil to condenser through the HT lead hole in the Stator plate, connect battery & plug and away you go.  Don't forget to disconnect the battery when not in use.

Good luck.

Yours sincerely,
Graham Pike.

Dear Andrew,

I wonder if I might ask for answers or comments on a few points?

  1. I've been using a cyclemotor for daily transport for the best part of ten years and I have to use cycle paths for part of the route.  Eight or nine years ago I phoned the police to ask about the legality of this.  The call was put through to various departments and I got someone on the line who knew what a cyclemotor was: his dad had had a Power Pak.  He thought that it was actually illegal, but (off the record) agreed that a cycle path was a far better option than the main ring road!  Now, cycle paths are used by children, pedestrians, loonies, stray dogs and, worst of all, users of personal stereos who are oblivious to their surrounding.  Therefore, one has to travel slowly and carefully and have eyes in ones bottom!  I've never yet run one of them down, but I wonder how I stand insurance-wise if I do?
  2. Has anyone tried a front-drive cyclemotor on a tandem?  I'm considering this but I don't know how it will handle.
  3. How can you make ordinary calliper rim brakes function in heavy rain?
  4. Any comments on the merits of the three types of Mini-Motor drive roller?  My "Suregrip" (wavy patterned) roller was fine until it got really worn and now it slips badly in the wet.
  5. Has anyone got any information on the ABJ Auto-Minor please?
  6. How can we encourage the slower, more primitive machines to appear on NACC runs?  These flying new-fangled Wisps, Runabouts and Quicklys are too fast for me!

Lastly, how about a spot in the magazine for reader's questions, to be answered by someone with a wide knowledge of various machines (eg: our chairman)?  Power & Pedal magazine did a similar thing in 1952.


Dear Andrew,

I have just read a report in today's Daily Express about a chap who was 'riding' one of these fashionable motorised scooters called a Go-Ped without any documentation or safety helmet.  The machine went across a red light and when the 'rider' was challenged by the police it turned out that he was a disqualified driver!  When he came up in court he argued successfully (according to my reading of the case) that he was not riding a motor vehicle.  The Ministry of Transport were overridden and are now "seeking clarification".  This man was riding a petrol powered vehicle and I would like to think that as a result of this case we, as owners of cyclemotors, etc, will be able to ride them on the roads without number plates, MoT certificates or even insurance.

No doubt, I was not the only person to spot this case and I certainly will be waiting for round 2!

Kind regards,
Alan Knight

[As I understand it, "round 2" took place after Alan sent me this letter and it's "as you were" with the courts deciding that these scooters are, legally, motor vehicles requiring registration, insurance, etc. - Editor]

First published, December 2000

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