The renowned adventure rider gave three wheels a try. Here's what he learned.
Writer and photographer Helge Pedersen is an ambassador for adventure riding. He has traveled 250,000 miles through 77 countries, a journey he documented in his book 10 Years On 2 Wheels. On one of his trips, he saw some adventure sidecar rigs. They intrigued him so much that he decided to try it out for himself. This video shows how he set up his bike and what he learned on three wheels.
I WANT TO RIDE MY TRICYCLE
The obvious adventure sidecar choice is Ural, with its two-wheel-drive and ruggedness built for Soviet Russia. These did not appeal to Pedersen, however. He found the Urals to be too slow and unreliable for his taste. Instead, he chose a big BMW, what appears to be an R 1200 GS. With 125 horsepower and modern features like cruise control, this was much more to Pedersen's liking, despite being only one-wheel-drive.
His sidecar comes from DMC (no, not the hip-hop group or DeLorean Motor Company). It features a rugged design with electric height adjustment to level the sidecar rig. Pedersen has an unusual wheel arrangement that allows any wheel to be used in any position on the bike. The front has a modified rear wheel. The back actually uses an automotive wheel and tire, what many call the "Dark Side." Its extra width and flat rather than round profile likely helps the bike gain extra traction, since it doesn't lean much. The sidecar wheel is a modified BMW wheel that also allows it to be used in the front or back of the bike. This way, if he has a problem far from civilization, or even just finds one tire's tread to be running low, he can switch that wheel to the sidecar, which has significantly lower loads than the bike itself.
Steering a sidecar rig takes a completely different technique than a two-wheeled motorcycle. In many places you even need a special license endorsement to ride a sidecar. Since it has three wheels, countersteering and leaning into the turns doesn't work like a two-wheeler. Instead, you must turn the handlebars in the direction you want to go. This is more difficult because you're fighting the centrifugal force of the front wheel rather than working with it.
Leaning into the turns is still important though, perhaps even more important than on two wheels. In this case, it's all about keeping weight on the outside of the turn so the bike doesn't flip over, particularly in right turns (or left turns when the sidecar is on the left of the bike). Having weight in the sidecar, such as a passenger or cargo, does help, but leaning into the turn is absolutely critical. The end result is a much harder upper body workout than a two-wheeled bike requires.
In return, you gain the advantage of superior stability. Pedersen says that where traditional adventure riders struggled in rough terrain, he barely had to work at all since the bike stabilized itself. He also found that the sidecar attracted the attention of friendly locals much more than typical two-wheelers.
Pedersen's unconventional approach to sidecars may not be for everyone. It works for him, though, and it's interesting to see a different sort of adventure bike.