Sidecar Info

The following sidecar info may be helpful to anyone considering buying an outfit.

UK Sidecar Law

The rules covering motorcycle licences in the UK (and Europe) changed on 19 January 2013. As we understand the situation, you need a full (Category A) motorcycle licence in order to ride a motorcycle & sidecar combination.

You can only use a motorcycle with a sidecar for your test if you have certain disabilities. The rules for a motorcycle with a sidecar are the same as for a solo motorcycle, but:

  • categories A and A1 can’t have a power to weight ratio of more than 0.16kW/kg
  • passengers are not allowed to ride in the sidecar during the test

If you pass your test in a motorcycle with sidecar your licence will only be for motorcycles with sidecars.

For more information visit The motorcycle practical riding test.

Helmets and sidecars

In the UK a sidecar driver and pillion passenger must wear a helmet, but sidecar passengers do not require a helmet. At Watsonian Squire we strongly recommend that all passengers travelling in a sidecar always wear a road legal motorcycle helmet.

How sidecars work

Most sidecars are attached to the motorcycle by four arms; because the forces placed upon the bike are large, careful consideration of load paths and triangulation are essential. Fitting a sidecar is a skilled job so factory-fitting is recommended. Home-fit is possible, but should only be undertaken by technically-competent individuals. Beware of advice from armchair ‘experts’ and ‘engineers’. Handling is affected mostly by three factors;

1. Toe-in – the sidecar wheel should point slightly inwards to the front

2. Lean-out – the bike needs to lean away from the sidecar

3. Axle-lead – the sidecar wheel should sit in front of the bike’s rear wheel


Top five rules for driving outfits

1. Get some expert tuition in a wide open space away from traffic & obstacles, where you can get accustomed to the handling, which is very different to a solo motorcycle.

2. Think about road position – you need to ‘drive’ an outfit as if it is a car, allowing plenty of space for the sidecar next to you.

3. Corner entry speed is the key to confident sidecar driving and enjoyment! Sidecars behave differently on left & right hand bends, so you need to start slowly until you have got a feel for how they corner. You’d be amazed how quickly & cleanly a skilled sidecar pilot can take a corner.

4. Remember to STEER not lean!

5. Switch off the engine and leave in gear when parked (think of it like a handbrake on a car)

Riding with a sidecar

The following advice was taken from Safe Driving For Life, produced in partnership with the UK Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA)

Before fitting a sidecar to your motorbike, you’ll need to;

  • check that your motorbike is suitable for use with a sidecar – speak to your motorbike dealer
  • make sure that the sidecar is fixed correctly to the mounting points and aligned correctly
  • fit the sidecar on the left-hand side of your motorbike if it was registered [in the UK] on or after 1 August 1981.

You’ll need to use a different riding technique when you have a sidecar attached to your motorbike. The sidecar will affect the braking, steering and overall dynamics of the machine.

  • When you’re turning, you’ll have to steer using the handlebars because you can’t lean the machine over.
  • On left-hand bends, the sidecar wheel will tend to lift as the weight is thrown outwards: take care to keep the wheel on the ground.
  • The extra weight of the sidecar will increase your machine’s stopping distance so brake earlier.
  • The sidecar will tend to pull to the right when you’re braking heavily unless it has its own brake.

Most motorbikes used in sidecar combinations are specially adapted for this purpose – for example, the suspension settings or tyres may be changed. If you want to ride the motorbike without the sidecar, it’s likely to need changing again so it’s suitable to ride on its own.