Motorbike Sidecars – what the heck has happened to them?


In many years gone by it was a common sight in Britain to see a motorbike with a sidecar attached and a passenger, or even children, travelling relaxed alongside the driver cyclist. Not any more, eh? These days, only perhaps a pillion passenger desperately clinging to the cyclist driver?

Why is that then, are they still around and legal in the UK? Well yes they are, but they are no longer mainstream and fashionable. You see fifty years or so ago the motorbike (or Vespa and Lambretta scooter), were the cheapest form of private motorised transport and certainly an important part of the youth culture in the fifties and sixties (mods on scooters and rockers on motorbikes), because even small cars were very expensive at that time, weren’t they? The motorbike those days was a simple, robust and an affordable vehicle – however, they did present the problem of get driver’s clothes soiled and women wearing dresses or skirts made riding conventional motorcycles a challenge, which was why the scooter was a popular innovation.

But all such things have all changed nowadays though, haven’t they? Yep, motorbikes in the developed world are now frequently ‘recreational’, rather than transport essentials, and have in general gone very upmarket ‘price-wise’ (rich macho men are desperate for sexy heavy bikes, as well). Guys are crazy for designer motorcycles and the so-called classic bikes, so they are no longer generally affordable to poorer people, while cars have become ultra cheap. The most expensive bike will cost over half a million pounds (US Harley-Davidson gold plated), and the cheapest car is just under six thousand pounds (Romania/ Colombia Dacia Sandero). Contrastingly, in developing countries, like in Asia, cheap motorcycles with low fuel costs are ‘overwhelmingly’ a preferred means of motorised transport to replace the humble bicycle.

While the first commercial self-propelled motorcycle (Butler Petrol Cycle) was indeed designed and manufactured in England, well over a hundred years ago, these days the market has been cornered by the Japanese (Honda and Yamaha) and the Indians (Bajaj and Hero). While the UK young certainly will still go for a small motorbike, as the basic models can be relatively cheap (under four grand), and popular because disgracefully our youth are allowed to take to the road unsupervised at only sixteen years old (when they have to be supervised and seventeen to learn to drive a car), so then many of them quickly go onto kill themselves or sustain permanent injury in road accidents (some statistics say fatalities per vehicle mile travelled some thirty-five times higher for motorcycles than for cars (and certainly in the UK it is much worse than those of our youngsters in cars which is bad enough, surely?).

In reality, to attach a sidecar to a motorbike, one needs to have a reasonably powerful machine (say 650cc?) and suitable construction in type of frame, and a stable low centre of gravity ‘long’ bike (like say a cruiser?). Anyway, let’s say it costs eight grand to get a suitable bike (Triumph Bonneville?), then another six grand for a sidecar (Meriden?), so the total outlay is fourteen grand (to carry one passenger or two counting the pillion). Car of the year SKODA FABIA costs about ten grand for the cheapest and carries four passengers in safety and comfort, while fourteen grand gets nearly the top model. Furthermore, there at least ten cars costing under ten grand, aren’t there?

The desperate can certainly fit a lightweight sidecar to say a Vespa scooter, but even that won’t be all that cheap – perhaps eight grand [scooter four grand (Vespa 300?) with a four grand sidecar (Zanzara?).

Is it isn’t any surprise is it then that motorbikes with sidecars have gone AWOL from our congested roads and very inclement weather? Ah well, if global warming subsequently gives the UK a continental sunshine climate as the pessimists predict, perhaps we will see them start to come back? [Only if we get rid of all the bloody cars though, perhaps?].


[Britain and all other counties face constant change – but not all for the better, eh?].

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