Tag Archives: Sidecar

Do not let the parting grieve thee

The Bishop has gone to a new life in Lowestoft.  He went in the back of a Transit and spent the trip looking out of the window fascinated by the way the road flashes by at 65mph.

I didn’t really want to sell him. To open the garage door and find an empty space in his corner is another giant step away from my life with the Wingman. Yes, there were some tears as I went to wheel him along the back alley for the last time. I tried to call back to my mind’s eye the Wingman trotting ahead of me, lead trailing behind just in case he decided to do a runner towards the road, wrapped up warm in his racing green Equafleece tank top and ready for an adventure. I find it hard to picture him these days and that makes me sad.

When I bought the outfit it was a bit of a basket case, having stood for a long time and then had a brief resurrection for trials riding. It would run for 20 minutes and then cut out, which is quite trying when you are trying to get to rallies.

I de-rusted and restored the brake caliper, changed the piston pin because it was rattling, removed and de-rusted the tank, sorted out why the regulator wasn’t charging properly, and tidied up the questionable wiring around the replacement fuse box. Steve from the MZ Riders Club came and helped me put an external switch on the back brake light after the internal tang fell off inside the hub.   I replaced the master cylinder and had to come up with a solution for the choke because despite how it was described and sold it wasn’t a direct replacement. I sourced a new front disc which was skimmed by the now late Joe Feast, blessings on his memory.  I returned the float to book settings. And I bought the Wingman the large screen from Watsonian for  his Christmas present and had to quickly learn how to drill acrylic without breaking it.

My heart said “keep” but that would have been just indulgence and greed on my part. The new owner is an older gentleman who has become a bit unsteady on his pins and wants to have the security of a sidecar while he carries on adventuring. I think the Wingman would approve.


Filed under MZ

Acts of Kindness

It occasionally troubles me that I seem to need more looking after than a normal person. I do try to be self-sufficient, mainly because the Wingman lacks opposable thumbs and is rubbish at holding ladders, but when things go wrong I sigh, I dry my tears and then, incurring the wrath of all the efficient and effective women in the world, I ask a man for help.

Sometimes it’s even a man I know, though one of my more narrow escapes was when I had to flag a passing driver down to help me pick my Africa Twin up off the garage floor and he was most concerned that I should take his phone number and that he should come back on his way home from work to make sure I hadn’t dropped the bike again.

It’s World Kindness Day today. I’m not a very kind person. In fact I’ve recently been declared the most offensive woman someone has met in 50 years of rallying. But I do know lots of kind people and so I thought I would tell you about all the people who have helped me cure the MZ of all his various ailments. But that’s more stories than will fit in one post. So here’s just one of them…

Back in September I loaded up the tent and the dog and set off to Yorkshire for the MZ Riders Club Pheasant Camp. I didn’t get any further than Hayfield on the Friday because the bike stopped running in the rain, but that was OK because Hayfield has a brilliant camp site with a pub within the Wingman’s event horizon so we took an early bath and dried out in The Sportsman. Yorkshire was achieved the following day, and we had a lovely week trundling about, apart from the days it rained solidly which is a bit rubbish when you are stuck in a small tent with a wobbly dog.

While sitting in Middleton-in-Teesdale waiting for a bicycle race to come through I realised my lovely new whitewall tyre had stripped all of its tread. This was Not Good. I’d bought it in July because the previous tyre also had no tread in the centre. To have one bald tyre could be old age but to make another bald in about 200 miles of gentle 2-stroking – well, that wasn’t good news.

Yes, said the wisdom of the Fed. This is probably a set-up problem. They said things like “My narrow car is .5 toe in level sidecar frame and wheel at 90deg until I lean bike out 3 degrees then the sidecar frame has .187 to .250 rise on bike side so both cycles lean 3 degrees out and car tire ends up leaning opposite direction of m bike wheels the that’s done unweighted then when I sit on bike both my sidecars wheels are at 90 with only bike leaning away.” (It helps to read this in the voice of the recruiting sergeant from Alice’s Restaurant).

I needed a man who knew what that all meant. And by immense good fortune I knew one and he lives about 20 minutes from me.

Sure, said Matthew. Bring it along when you get home and I can look at it.

I didn’t much fancy 200 more miles on a bald tyre. But the north is a practical place and if you need a high-speed trailer tyre then the nearest garage will tell you where you can get one. After declining an invitation to swop the outfit for a Ducati Monster I sat with a cup of tea while a couple of highly efficient chaps refreshed my rubber, though in 20 minutes rather than an F1-style 4 handful of seconds.

And on a sunny Friday morning a week or so later, instead of setting out north for the Haggs Bank Adventure Bike Weekend I headed south for my induction into the mysteries of toe-in.

You need a washing line prop, a tape measure and a BFO hammer. You also need a lot of experience of setting up sidecars and a good eye.

It turned out to be only a one-cup problem.

The washing line prop and the tape measure revealed that my toe-in was immense – less camel toe, more moose knuckle. There was brief contemplation of removing the 8-inch wheel and fitting a big ten inch, but that escalated too quickly into needing to cut and weld the frame, so ambition was scaled back to deploying the BFO hammer to adjust the alignment so that the sidecar wheel was pointing in more-or-less the same direction as the bike.

It’s always a bit worrying watching someone take a hammer to your bike but the MZ is made of sterner stuff than me and raised no complaints. One quick lap of the village later to check for handing problems and we were done. I trundled home and Matthew got on with whatever he actually had planned for the day.

If you don’t have the good fortune to live near Matthew you can buy his book. And if you buy the book you will get to admire a picture of the Bishop illustrating one of the finer points of sidecar geometry.

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Filed under Introspection, MZ


Temporarily in funds after selling the Lomax I decided to treat AdventureDog for Christmas and buy him an OEM screen for his sidecar from Watsonian. While it is certainly – theoretically – possible to buy a sheet of perspex and bend my own, I thought for once I would go straight to the source and buy something brand new.

It came in a splendidly large and branded box. I took it home and parked it in the hall, waiting for a day when he wasn’t paying attention so I could pop it on the chair for him and surprise him on Christmas day.

Imagine my horror when I took it out of the box to find a beautiful, smooth sweep of plastic – WITH NO FITTING HOLES.

On thinking about it, it’s perfectly reasonable that you should have to drill your own – I’m sure every chair is slightly different in the spacing and location of the mounting holes.
But I know one thing about drilling holes in hard plastic and it’s this – hard plastic cracks. A lot.

I asked my team on Twitter for their tips.

There were many. Use a wood bit. Use a metal bit. Make sure it’s sharp. Blunt it on a grindstone before you start. Drill quickly. Drill slowly. Melt a pilot hole first. Don’t let heat anywhere near the plastic.

I read them all. And watched a couple of YouTube videos just to make sure.

It seemed to me that the most important thing was to have maximum control over what the bit was doing. And that meant a hand drill.

You can’t buy them any more. If you look for Hand Drill on B&Q or Argos you get a cordless power drill.

But for once the gods were smiling and an ebayer 2 miles away was selling a pair of Stanley hand drills with the auction ending on Christmas Eve. Yes, they wouldn’t mind me picking them up. And the sun was even shining so the car would start. (Hortense is Unhappy at the moment, doubly so when it’s raining).

Christmas came and went. I wasn’t feeling brave enough. I didn’t want my first attempt to be on a three-figure piece of plastic.

Then a small lightbulb moment. I had a perspex laptop stand that would still work with a few holes drilled in it. Game on! Six practice holes – and one jammed drill, still need to figure out what has happened there – later, it was time.

The beauty of the hand drill is that you can feel every shaving come off the plastic. There’s none of the brute force of hammer-drilling a blunt bit into a brick wall. If the bit feels like it has jammed, just wind back a fraction, don’t press on until lumps break off.

Into the garage.

Second blow! The screen wasn’t a brilliant fit round the top of the chair. It was a bit uneven, and one of the holes would have been perilously close to the edge.

I felt a bit outraged. I had paid for this ill-fitting white elephant!

I checked in with Boffin. Calm down, dear, he said (though he used more words.) Plastic forming is always a bit hit and miss, the shape changes as it cools. You will always need to do the fine-tuning yourself.

Cup of tea.

Out with the Dremel and the files, and an upturned plant pot to sit on. That went well – it lasted 5 seconds before splintering to pieces under my arse sending me sprawling back into the arms of the Triumph. AdventureDog managed to keep a straight face while I retrieved my dignity and found something sturdier.

Once I’d set about the edge, I felt more confident about drilling the holes – it was the point of no return. “If she dies, she dies.”

It was still a bastard fiddly job though. Because the screen doesn’t sit flat on the fibre-glass. It sits in a rubber gutter. But if you sit it in the gutter you can’t see where to mark the holes….and if you roll back the flap to reveal the hole (ahem) you move the screen.

Reader, we guessed. Or perhaps we Estimated how much clearance to leave between the chair and the bottom of the screen. And checked as we went along. Middle hole first, test fitting, check marks for next two holes. Test fitting, check marks for outer pair.

Five holes, and no problems.

Much pride.

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Filed under Garage stuff, MZ

Beginners Mind

So we start again. Reuben from OLAS Motorcycle Transport dropped off my new Jawa outfit last night and tonight, with tax and insurance in place, AdventureDog took his new seat and we wobbled off down the road. In defiance of advice from the three chaps from the MZ Club who allowed me to gatecrash their breakfast on Sunday. They said “For God’s sake don’t go on the road.” But it’s a quiet road and it’s mostly straight, so not too many people were endangered. Today’s learning task was to get used to stopping and starting.

I do wobble to work most days on my little 125, but that doesn’t seem to count psychologically as riding. Tonight I zipped up my boots, put on my ancient blue Triumph jacket – bought with a bonus 15 years ago – and felt like a proper biker again.

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Filed under Riding

We are coming out of the dark.

Instead of standing in the back garden looking at the stars, I am now standing in the back garden listening to birdsong while RescueDog picks a good spot for his early morning pee. 
He does not like to go outside in the dark, so I bought a big torch on ebay to shine on him.  Having a spotlight trained upon you while you go to the lav is undignified, so he is very pleased with the way daylight is creeping in a few minutes earlier each day.
My new responsibilities as Dog Entertainment Facilitator come with just one big challenge. RescueDog cannot ride pillion with me, because his feet don’t reach the pegs. But he has seen Spirit riding with his human, Ara, and he wants his own set of doggles.
So we are investigating sidecars. Opinion on this move is sharply divided among my friends. RescueDog’s Dogfather says that sidecars live only to dive into hedges and are the quickest way to an unplanned death. Others say that an outfit is the most fun you can have on three wheels, especially if it’s a Ural. Perhaps they enjoy exploring hedges.
Sohorider, from the XRV Forum, has an Africa Twin with a motopodd attached – that’s it in the photo. A couple of weeks ago he brought it up from London for me to try it, with a view to buying. We met on a very windy day on the farm where he keeps his workshop. For once this winter the sun was shining, but the puddles gave a great opportunity for a demonstration of the outfit’s off-road capabilites!
RescueDog sat in the chair quite happily, which is a good sign. I sat on the bike quite nervously, which is normal. It feels very odd to sit on a bike and not have to put your foot down. But it wasn’t a bike, it was an outfit, and different rules apply.
We rode erratically up and down a farm track and for about three seconds I managed a straight(ish) line. Given a big enough car park and plenty of time, I think I could get the hang of it, but on something a bit smaller and less daunting.
  • Big thanks to Sohorider, who was very kind and reassured me that he’d enjoyed the rideout and it was no problem that he was taking the outfit home again; and to RBR Jackie and Phil who came to give the bike the once over before I bought it. Or not, as it turned out.

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Filed under RescueDog