Side Strider racing rig takes to the air circa late ‘60s with Doug at the wheel.
would have been Doug Bingham’s 45th
Griffith Park Sidecar Rally this coming October, 2016 but his “flying
chair” will be empty this next go-around. After nearly half
century’s full-time dedication to the promotion of the sidecar
experience, on this past January 27, 2016, Doug passed away at age
Doug lived, breathed, ate, slept, dreamed sidecars would be no
exaggeration. He expressed that passion by constantly promoting
public consciousness about the sport, fought for its rights and
safety improvements, and of course designing and building sidecars as
he helped put untold numbers of people on three-wheels. In 1964 he
established Side Strider, Inc., the shop located in Van Nuys where
over the decades he melded all makes, models and years of street
bikes into sidecar combinations, the “rigs” fitted for the
street, off-roading and the tracks, literally different strokes for
all kinds of folks.
when you’re talking unique machines, that goes hand and glove with
the unique individuals piloting them, men, women, veteran and
young…from 70cc tiddlers to ferocious multi-cylinder superbike
powerplants, Doug had them on his radar and those in the sidecar
network knew that “Mr. Sidecar” was the go-to guy. One of his
main endeavors as a national sidecar ambassador, including serving as
the Director of the Sidecar Industry Council, was helping the new
generation transition to the experience of “sidehacking.”
also put his skills to the test, and himself literally on the line as
a top level track competitor that earned him the 1968 and 1969
Sidecar Road Racing Championships. While he enjoyed bikes of all
flavors, in this case he was piloting a Harley-Davidson powered
sidecar “rig” of his own design with Ed Wade as racing
only a few of his accolades, the 50-year AMA and Charter Life member
was voted the winner of the 1998 AMA MVP Award for advancing the
cause of motorcycling, followed in 2003 by induction into the AMA
Motorcycle Hall of Fame.
no longer with us, but his legacy will certainly live on, not only in
the pages of motorcycling history, but in the hearts and minds of the
many, like myself, who enjoyed his company, his talents and his
efforts to share that which he loved. Naturally we can just see Doug
blasting around whatever three-wheeling event he’s moved onto and
no doubt leading the way as always.We’ll
miss you, Doug.
keeping with that legacy, this rider/writer, having known Doug for
some 30 years, would like to add an interview he gave me some ten
years ago when I asked him to give bike fans an overview of
sidecar-ing…in Doug’s case…side-careing.
Here it is:
Doug, how does one get into riding a sidecar for the first time?
you want to get into sports cars not everybody goes out and buys a
Ferrari. Maybe you buy an old MG and say, hey this is fun? The same
with sidecars. You could start with an economical Cozy sidecar and
match it to a nice used Japanese bike or even to one of the new 500cc
single Royal Enfields.
raises the question, what size bike do I need to haul a sidecar?
in England when sidecars were popular after WWII, a big bike was a
500cc. Even the BMWs of the time, 500cc bikes, were purpose made for
sidecars. So today you hitch a sidecar up to a 400 or 500cc bike and
it will be fine. Even the new scooters will take a sidecar. The only
rule about shopping around for a used bike for your sidecar is to
make sure it has an exposed frame rather than a bike covered up with
body parts. You need to be able to attach the sidecar to the frame.
You’ll also need to stiffen up the rear suspension and we recommend
a steering damper. And you need to know how to use a phone…so you
can call if you need help.
you need to have special training and a license for riding a sidecar
a sidecar requires understanding new techniques in addition to riding
a solo motorcycle. If you go to www.sidecar-industry.com
under the “Tech” menu there’s a description how to line up a
sidecar and how to drive one. There are also some books available.
Meeting up with experienced sidecarists is another way to go, for
instance at one of the various sidecar events across the country. And
remember a sidecar will never fall over and you don’t even have to
put your feet down when you stop.”
a first-timer attach his own sidecar or should he go to an expert?
course if there’s someone in your area that’s available, sure
it’s better to go that route. What I tell people if you’re
mechanically inclined and have regular shop tools, you can handle.
Most sidecars are attached via clamps, while occasionally some of the
models require simple welding.
I need to change the tires on my solo back when I attach a sidecar?
regular motorcycle tires will tend to wear flat since with a sidecar
you’re not leaning as on a solo bike. A lot of guys switch to a
heavy treaded tire, for instance dual sport or trials tire, which
gives you more rubber to wear off and of course they work better on
dirt roads and snow.”
kind of price tags are we looking at for an entry level sidecar?
more economical entry level sidecars run between $3-4,000 include the
Velorex, the Cozy, and the Texas. Another way to go is the complete
package like the Ural. Enfield also has a package of bike and
sidecar. Another sidecar and bike package is offered by
Harley-Davidson, but that’s a pricier package.”
the legal rules and regulations regarding sidecars? Are they bikes or
California, you’re not required to have a motorcycle license to
operate a sidecar. You might remember when Gov. Schwarzenegger had
the accident with his sidecar where the driver backed out in front of
him, and they made a big stink that he didn’t have a motorcycle
license. Well, the truth was, he did have a license, a car license
and that’s all he needed as a CA DMW says with a trike or sidecar
you can operate with a standard driver’s license. As far as I know
that only state that requires a specific sidecar license is
how do I convince my better half that it’s a good idea for us to
get a sidecar?
you talk about sidecar safety.
England a while back they used to cut your insurance in half if you
rode a sidecar because of the increased safety. You just can’t fall
down. And when you go through an intersection in a sidecar, you’re
such of a spectacle that they can’t help but see you which means
they’re not going to run into you. And you can carry more, people
and stuff, and it’s just a great family adventure.
In 1969, Doug’s shop began producing his own Bingham Mark I sidecar which brought renewed interest in the sport, even spotlighted by a feature in Popular Science magazine. A few of Doug’s racing and motorcycle industry awards shared space with his extensive collection of vintage motorcycle related toys.
major element of Doug’s legacy can be found in both the machines he
helped put on the road and the enthusiasm he fanned in the hearts of
those who entered his world of three-wheelin’ and certainly all the
better for it. Here are a few examples of the wide and wild spectrum
of “flying chairs” that rallied to Doug’s rallies and that
continue to draw interest wherever they go. Call them Doug’s
Three-wheeled Harley SUV with seating for family of four.
Harley-Davidson Grey Fellow with factory sidecar and friends. Turboed Sportster makes for a real “flying chair”. 1960s /2 Earles Fork BMW and stellar Steib sidecar. 1948 Indian Chief in high contrast to paint free H-D sidecar.
‘50s BSA matched to real boat converted to sidecar and yes, it detaches for use back in the water via rear motor.
Minty AMF Sporty makes for classic combo.
Dragon’s flamin’ H-D brings off vintage and future co-existence.
Sidecars are a dog’s best friend…safe, secure, sniffable…
Modern sidecars get super swoopy. Note integral, covered headlight. Gotta love that Plumb Crazy Purple paint.