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Thread: Airhead Side Car Rig ?

  1. #1
    Registered User Manitou_Commando's Avatar
    Join Date
    Mar 2008
    Manitou Springs, CO

    Airhead Side Car Rig ?

    I want to put together an airhead sidecar rig. Airhead as I am quite familiar with their care and feeding as I have had an '88 R100RS for 15 years and nearly 70,000 miles.
    I realize that a full fairing is likely not a good choice as it may limit functioning and mounting of the sidecar.
    Anyone have such a bike? Ant recommendations on brands of sidecars?
    Other thoughts?

    "It ain't what you don't know that gets you into trouble. It's what you know for sure that just ain't so." Mark Twain

  2. #2
    '99 '03 '06 National Co-Rally Chair Friedle's Avatar
    Join Date
    Mar 2003
    Poughkeepsie, NY

    Airhead sidecar rigs

    I love my /2 conversion with a 75/6 motor hooked to a 54 Steib S-500. Been riding it as a part of my stable for over 30 years. Completely different from a solo bike, but when you master the techniques unique to side car operation, it is a blast to ride. The last frame BMW made to specifically accept the stresses associated with attaching a sidecar were the /2 frames. Newer models/frames need a sub frame. Just clamping a sidecar to a new frame is a questionable practice. The /2 models equipped with the Earls fork are also well suited for sidecar use since the front end rises during braking helping to better control the extra weight/mass of the sidecar. Steib sidecars are being reproduced to the original specs to the point where repo parts fit original units. I may be biased, but I think the S-500 chair is a object of beauty.

    Keep the 88 RS for your solo ride (I also have one of these) and don't sell the Commando to finance a sidecar (I also have a 74 MK IIA). Google the name David Hough for excellent guides to sidecar operation and set up. There are other sidecar associations on line, but David is the place to start.

    The main drawback is when travelling your buddies will treat your chair as a moving have extra room, can you take my kitchen sink for me?

    Ride fast safely

  3. #3
    slow&fast slowandfast's Avatar
    Join Date
    Sep 2006
    West Texas
    +1 What Friedle said!

    Never had a side car rig myself but grew up around them... /2. It was a mode of transportation in Europe but never a fast one... more economical than a car in post-war Europe.

    If the RS has its full fairing intact keep it as it is. Hans A. Muth will thank you in spirit. If you must have a "modern Airhead" (/5, /6, /7, and later) get an R60/6 to pull the side car. They are relatively economical to buy, the right gearing, and will do the job.
    sometimes one goes slow, sometimes one goes fast.

  4. #4
    Registered User 6322's Avatar
    Join Date
    Mar 2012
    Riggins, ID
    David Hough is one source but there are many. The airhead will make a good hack but you'll be dollars ahead to buy one that's been well built and already setup correctly. There are plenty of folks that will attach a sidecar to a bike but not so many who really know what they're doing.

    If you do a build, keep the sidecar you pick on the light side for best performance. Also with a more modern airhead you'll have more final drive ratios to choose from. Depending what you want to do with your hack, you can find a 3.20 or a 3.36 for highway use, or a 3.44 or 3.56 for off road. Also the /2 was good in it's day but there are so many newer updates in frames motors, drivetrains and braking. I'd suggest looking at something newer, but still having a dual sided swingarm. Even if you converted a /2 frame for a newer power plant, you'll have to modify the swingarm to receive a newer drivetrain and trans as well as updating brakes. Yes with a newer airhead you can add a subframe or build your own mounts. You can also add a leading link front suspension. They do make adapter plates but the /2 drivetrain isn't built to handle the horsepower of a healthy R100, and I wouldn't use less than an R90 for a hack build if you plan to get out of the slow lane.

    Lot's more to be said but you may want to talk to folks at a rally and look over some hacks before you make the leap. If you were nearer, I'd put you on one of mine to find out what it's about. I've heard it said, once you go hack you'll never go back! Good luck with your decision. For reference, I speak from in excess of 200k miles on hacks, /2's, /7, oilheads & K's, since the seventies. If you want more info, PM me.
    Gary Phillips - #6322
    Wildland Firefighter, Retired, Riggins, ID
    Heartland Moto Locos BMW Riders
    '77 R100/7 Dirt Hack, '83 R80ST, '85 K100RS w/EML, '00 R1100RS

  5. #5
    Rally Rat 1074's Avatar
    Join Date
    Sep 2004
    Las Vegas, NV
    Keep the current bike as a solo ride. Look for an airhead that already has a sidecar attached. it will be cheaper than building a rig by yourself. Look for one that has a stiffening sub-frame. Decide what size sidecar you need before buying one that ends up too large or too small.

  6. #6
    Registered User lmo1131's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jan 2010
    Pismo Beach, CA
    The "RS" fairing would be a great hack fairing; there's always tangential airflow off of the sidecar windshield that hits you in the right side (but you would probably end up having to trim some of the fairing to clear).
    The trick might be finding the right sidecar rig that fits the "flavor" of the RS.

    If you've never driven a sidecar rig (you don't ride them in the sense that you ride a motorcycle) you might stop by a Ural dealer for a test ride. Urals are, by BMW standards, exceedingly slow, not to mention incredibly crude, but the way they drive is the same and most are fitted with leading link from suspension. One item in particular that IS superior on the Ural is the 3.5mm spoke diameter.

    Near Denver try,

    Unique Rides (Sales and Service)
    2322 E 13th Street Loveland, CO 80537
    (970) 416-5986

    And if you're unfamiliar with the geometry required to rig a sidecar you may want to consider having someone do it for you.

    Keep the current bike as a solo ride. Look for an airhead that already has a sidecar attached. it will be cheaper than building a rig by yourself. Look for one that has a stiffening sub-frame. Decide what size sidecar you need before buying one that ends up too large or too small.
    ALL of the above, with underlines, italics, and bold font.

    As an example, in the Denver area right now; asking $9,000 >>>

    For more info (discussions, buy/sell parts, complete rigs, technical questions, etc.) go to >>>
    "It is what you discover, after you know it all, that counts." _ John Wooden
    Lew Morris
    1973 R75/5 - original owner
    1963 Dnepr

  7. #7
    Knight-Errant 1957mpd's Avatar
    Join Date
    Feb 2018
    Las Cruces,NM
    Quote Originally Posted by 1074 View Post
    Decide what size sidecar you need before buying one that ends up too large or too small.

    Size of the sidecar? That's easy. How big is your dog?
    "Soló el que ensaya lo absurdo es capaz de conquistar lo imposible." Miguel de Unamuno 1905

    Mark - Las Cruces, NM - '10 K1300S and '17 R1200 GSA

  8. #8
    To minimize the chances of a problematic build, I think I'd either buy a Ural that's made for the task, or look for a well-sorted EML rig (basically a complete frame replacement with a leading link fork).

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Mar 2006
    Wilmington, NC
    Depends what you want to use it for. I had a '94 Guzzi with a Hannigan sidecar, the Guzzi was pretty close to my airhead in horsepower. I traveled from Florida to Michigan to Alabama with it. It couldn't really pull the car in top gear so 4th gear on the freeway. Finally had too many miles so I sold it. Rather than buy a full size rig for my 83 R100RS I bought a Champion Escort last year for my '09 R1200RT. The R12 pulls the car with no effort and the whole ride is far more enjoyable.

    If you want a hack to ride around town I'd suggest finding a small sidecar for your airhead. If you want to travel buy a DML or Champion and put it on a bigger, newer bike. My Champion set up on the R1200RT was about $14K. A small car is probably half of that. So a significant investment either way.

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