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Leaner Sidecar Combination – Bike Leans and Sidecar Doesn’t

Leaner Sidecar

Leaner Sidecars – Minimal Modification Required

Why build a Leaner Sidecar?

Are there any issues with a Rigid Hack Sidecar combination?

The answer is yes. This article will address the Pros and Cons of a Leaner Sidecar and the benefits of building this combination rather than the more common Rigid Hack.

If you are not sure what a Rigid Hack is, then perhaps read Rigid Sidecars (Hacks) – Neither Sidecar or Motorcycle Lean first and return to this article.

Here is discussed the attachment of a sidecar to a motorcycle as a Leaner Sidecar Combination.

Leaner Sidecars are very unique and quite rare. This method of sidecar combination is very safe, due to the motorcycle counter-steering as designed by the manufacturer.

Armec Sidewinder

Flexible, Parallel and Leaning sidecars have been around since 1903.
In the hands of a professional, they outperformed a conventional Rigid Hack.


  • Minimal Modification: No need for Leading Link modifications or Steering Damper.
  • Safer cornering with counter steering
  • Cannot accidentally “Fly the Chair”
  • Experienced solo riders can easily ride a Flexible, Parallel or Leaner sidecar
  • In many designs, easy removal of sidecar to allow solo riding


  • In Width: In the case of a Leaner Sidecar, the sidecar must be mounted further away from motorcycle to allow for lean. This is not a disadvantage for the Flexible Sidecar
  • Drivers of “Hacks” will need to re-learn to ride a leaner sidecar (counter steering)


Leaner Sidecar in Action

A demonstration of a beautiful BMW K1600 Sport Leaner Sidecar

Manufactures – Past and Present

Following is presented an explanation of leaner sidecars, manuals explaining the construction/attachment and links to past and present leaner sidecar manufacturers.

What makes leaner sidecars unique is that the sidecar remains straight while the motorcycle leans.

As pointed out above, this is the preferred method of attaching a wheelchair accessible sidecar to a motorcycle.

With this design, (unlike a Flexible Sidecar) we are able to keep the occupant close to the ground.

Leaner Sidecars
Leaner Sidecar Videos

Proof you can’t “Fly the Chair”

Kalich Leaner Examples: Click Here

Watch a Leaner in Operation

Another Leaner in Action

A Clear Video of the Pivots

Thank you Shahn for posting this video on YouTube. This video provides a clear view of the Leaner Sidecar attachment and the raised Front Mount. To see photos of the bike and read about the build, look for Shahn’s comment on this page:

Leaner Sidecar Manufacturers

1. Armec Sidewinder Leaner Sidecars

armec sidewinder leaner sidecars
Below is a video of an Armec Sidewinder Leaner Sidecar.

Armec Sidewinder Sidecars are located in Switzerland. The website is not in English, but it contains good examples: Click Here

Armec Sidewinder Owner – Living the Dream

Armec Sidewinder James Ferry
“The Armec Sidewinder weighs about 150 pounds (68 kg), it is quite light.”
Photo taken by photographer James Ferry in 2003.

10 Years Later – Still Living the Dream

Same family, same Armec Sidewinder, but how the children have grown up.

Armec Sidewinder Leaner Sidecar

“2013 photo, 10 years later. Now 2018, we still have both bikes and rig, and have added a 2016 BMW R1200RS that my wife now rides, and a 2011 BMW K1300S that I ride as my primary. Our oldest daughter has her motorcycle license, but we are waiting until she is done with college before she gets a bike. Our other daughter, will get her bike license when she feels ready.
My top bucket list goal is to ride across the USA with all of my girls, each on their own machine.” Cheers! Edwards
Thank you Edwards for sharing your story and photos with Haul N Ride. I am honored to have the opportunity to meet a Leaner Sidecar owner willing to share with our visitors.


2. Kalich Leaner Sidecars

Kalich Leaners
Kalich is a manufacturer of Swing – a Leaner Sidecar in Germany.
The website is not in English, but it contains some good photos: Click Here

3. Trans Moto Sidecars

Transmoto Leaner Sidecars

Trans Moto Sidecars are located in Canada: Click Here

4. Saur Sidecars

Saur Leaner Sidecars

Sauer Sidecars are located in Germany: Click Here

Leaner Sidecar Attachment

The fore and aft Pivot Mounts on the motorcycle are to be placed on its center-line.
The front Pivot Mount is simply placed slightly higher than is that of the rear.

This then “steers” the sidecar wheel slightly as the motorcycle is steered to the left & right.

The front Horizontal Mounting Bar has a slight upward bend near the Pivot Mounting Point, while the rear  one is straight.

Compare the slight difference in the height above the road between the front and rear Pivot Mounting  Points on this BMW:
BMW Leaner Motorcycle
As the motorcycle leans the front Pivot Mount moves further outboard than does the rear Pivot Mount.

This will steer the sidecar wheel as the motorcycle is leaned over. The higher front Pivot Mount steers it in the direction of travel. Think of the arc the pivot points are traveling on as the bike is leaned in and out. The center of this arc is the ground. Claude

Source: Click Here

Please watch the following video for further understanding:

Photographic Examples of Sidecar Chassis, Horizontal Mounting Bars, Pivot Brackets and Pivots

Example 1 Sidecar Chassis, Pivot Bracket and Pivots

Leaner Chassis Diagram
Example 2 Pivot Bracket and Pivots

The pivots need to be inline with the center-line of the bike so the load is directly down.

Otherwise, just like standing on one foot peg, a motorcycle is going to fall over. So to mount on one side of  the motorcycle frame, you would be fighting that effect all the time while riding.

Having the front Pivot Mount higher than the rear Pivot Mount makes the sidecar turn/steer in the direction of the corner when you lean. As the front Pivot Mount being higher it has a longer arc radius than the rear Pivot Mount which pushes or pulls the front of the sidecar across more than the rear Pivot Mount does. Pete-NZ

Source: Click Here

Leaner Off Road Bike Sub Chassis

Example 3 Pivot Bracket and Pivots

Leaner Attachments

Armec Sidewinder Leaner Sidecar Measurements

Edwards, mentioned above, was kind enough to send in some measurements of the Pivot Points on his Armec Sidewinder Sidecar. Thank you Edwards 🙂

Rear Pivot Mount is 6.75 inches from the floor to the center of the bolt.

Leaner Sidecar Pivot Measurements

Front Pivot Mount is 10 inches from the floor to the center of the bolt.

Leaner Sidecar Pivot Measurements

Front Pivot Mount from a different angle.

Leaner Sidecar Pivot Measurements

Sidecar Wheel Lead

Sidecar wheel lead refers to the sidecar wheel hub being forward of the motorcycle rear axle. Average  Wheel Lead is between 8 to 12 inches (200-300mm). To understand why Wheel Lead is important, imagine a sidecar/motorcycle combination without Wheel Lead, (the sidecar wheel hub is in line with the motorcycle rear axle),

Now imagine you take one of the front wheels off a car. If you turn too fast, or reduce speed suddenly, you will raise the rear wheel off the ground and nose dive the front of the car toward the ground, (on the missing wheel side). This is why Wheel Lead is important.

The more Wheel Lead is forward, the better weight distribution, the further toward the rear, the less  scrubbing of tyres on turns. Therefore, Wheel Lead is placed slightly forward of the motorcycle rear wheel to find the best compromise between reducing scrubbing and safety.

Early Harley Davidson rigid hacks did not have wheel lead, whereas racing hacks designed for the track have very large wheel lead.

Sidecar Wheel Lead

Extracted from the Sidecar Manual2003: Manual.PDF

Tow In Adjustment Guide

Tow in Adjustment Sidecar
Image Source: Click Here

The sidecar wheel should be angled slightly toward the front of the motorcycle.
An incorrectly aligned sidecar will drag the motorcycle to either side, which will not only make the combination difficult to handle, but also cause excessive tire wear. Alignment is best accomplished on a smooth level floor.

Toe-in is checked by placing a straightedge along the motorcycle wheels and a straight edge along the sidecar wheel. This creates two parallel lines. The solid straight edges form a measurement line parallel to the center-line of the motorcycle and a  measurement line parallel to the sidecar wheel.

The spacing between the straight edges at front and rear determine the toe-in. Measurement points are below the front and rear axles of the motorcycle. Take care to measure along a line perpendicular to the straight edge, and to keep both straight edges in contact with the tires.

Recommended toe-in is 3/8 inch (9.5 mm). That is, toe-in is correct when spacing between the two straight edges at the front axle is 3/8 inch (9.5 mm) less than that at the rear axle.

Again, this is only a starting point but will get you close. After this, it is trial and error to try to get the rig (motorcycle) so that it does not pull left or right when braking or accelerating. The process can be a little frustrating the first time, but some patience will go a long way. After the first time it will be much easier. Time spent aligning the sidecar is time well spent.

NOTE: When making toe-in adjustments, make corrections in small increments, then recheck. Very small adjustments in position of the Rear Pivot will have large results in toe-in.

CAUTION: Tighten all bolts securely.

Road Testing

Unlike a Hack (Rigid Sidecar), a Leaner Sidecar does not need Lean Out adjustment prior to road testing.

The true test of toe-in adjustment is the road test, preferably on a smooth, straight, level, paved road with typical camber slanting off towards the left (in Australia). At a steady speed of 40 mph (65,km/h), the  motorcycle should not pull to either side while running at normal road speed.

Extracted from the Year 2000 Ural Repair Manual:…

Replacement Stand

These pictures are an example of a replacement motorcycle stand on a Leaner Rig and Outfit.

Leaner Motorcycle Sidecar Stand

Proposed Leaner Sidecar Project Steps

These Steps are a Guide only, Please Use Common Sense 🙂

1. Inspect Sidecar Welds If necessary, re-weld any messy welds on the sidecar chassis.

2 Locate the Lead and Clearance

To locate the Lead, place the sidecar wheel hub 8-12 inches (200-300mm) forward of the motorcycle rear wheel axle.

To locate mirror and handlebar clearance, place the motorcycle beside the sidecar. Using chain blocks, lower the bike towards the sidecar between 45 to 50 degree lean.

Rotate the handlebars to ensure there will be enough clearance.

3. Make Pivot Bracket (Shadow Frame) and Pivots

Use some tie downs to hold the motorcycle straight upright and use other tie downs to compress the  motorcycle shockies to simulate a rider sitting on the motorcycle. This will give the correct distance between the road and the motorcycle lower frame.

Manufacture a Pivot Bracket to connect to the motorcycle frame.

Do not drill or weld the motorcycle frame if it is oil filled.

Attach Pivots to this Pivot Bracket. These Pivots will be located in the centreline of the bike, one to the rear, underneath the frame and the other slightly higher in front of engine as per the above examples.

The Pivots are to have a rotating bush or ball joint at one end to allow free rotation and a threaded rod on the other end to connect to the sidecar chassis allowing Tow In adjustment.

4. Inflation

Place the rear and front of the motorcycle side of the sidecar on stands to ensure the sidecar is sitting level.

Pump the sidecar tyre to manufacturers recommended pressure.

Place 150kgs (to represent an electric wheelchair and occupant) into the sidecar to confirm correct shocky compression.

If after pumping up the shocky, it is not suitable to support this weight, replace the shocky.

5. Manufacture Leaner Horizontal Mounting Bars

Extend the sidecar chassis to create Leaner Horizontal Mounting Bars which will be used to attach to the Motorcycle Pivots. (Ensure the motorcycle stand will still operate and also check that you are still able to put your left foot down at stop signs without the Leaner Horizontal Mounting Bars getting in the way). Relocate the motorcycle stand if necessary. Refer example mentioned above.

The front Leaner Horizontal Mounting Bar will bend upward to reach the higher front Motorcycle Pivot.

The Leaner Horizontal Mounting Bars will have a nut welded on the motorcycle end. This will allow the Motorcycle Pivot’s threaded rod to adjust Tow In.

6. Install Brakes

Install the disc brake and assembly to the sidecar.

Connect motorcycle rear brake to the sidecar brake via a proportional valve.

Test brake operation.

7. Test Ride and Adjust Tow In

Test ride the Rig (motorcycle) and Outfit (sidecar) by counter steering the motorcycle.

Adjust Tow In as required.

Summary of the Problems with a Rigid Hack Sidecar Combination

  • The need to convert the front end to Leading Link and add a Steering Damper (expensive and requires an engineer and modification approval)
  • The danger of Flying the chair on a bend will steer you in a straight line until you can return the sidecar to the ground to regain steering control which could collide you with oncoming traffic (You would have to steer toward the oncoming vehicle to lower the chair)
  • More effort to steer, I know because I steer my 650kg Rigid Hack (in comparison counter steering is effortless)
  • Turning scrubs the sidecar tire (the sidecar tire does not steer)
  • Tow-in and Lean-out are required to be adjusted every time the combination is separated and rejoined

Transport Authority Deny Approval of Leaner Sidecar

Unfortunately, I was denied the right to build a Wheelchair Accessible Sidecar and was only given the option to build a Rigid Hack. The decision to deny was based on overall width on Lean-Out. Although the maximum allowable width was 1800 mm, my mirror was outside this restriction, making a width of 2700.

FJ1200 Leaner Motorcycle Sidecar

FJ1200 Leaner Motorcycle Sidecar

FJ1200 Leaner Motorcycle Sidecar

FJ1200 Leaner Sidecar

FJ1200 Leaner Sidecar

Extract from the Modification Application

FJ1200 Leaner Motorcycle Sidecar

This could be solved by building a sidecar from the ground up, rather than converting an existing tub. A motorcycle tire on the sidecar would reduce with significantly, as a car tire and wheel guard add extra width.

Also, if the sidecar was fabricated closer to the ground and a non solid tub was selected, the motorbike could be mounted closer to the tub, without the left hand-grip hitting the tub.

The manufacturer of Kalich Leaner Sidecars has demonstrated that this is possible in a discussion I had.

Leaner Sidecar Forum – Discussion on Leaner Wheelchair Accessible Sidecar: Click Here

The Leaner Sidecar Provides Solutions

  • Effortless Counter Steering
  • Sidecar tire steers with the motorbike
  • No Leading Link or Steering Damper modification necessary
  • Flying the chair is not possible
  • Tow-in and Wheel Lead only needs to be setup once. Lean Out is not necessary
  • Sidecar can easily be removed and replaced to allow solo riding with minimal adjustments on replacement


Share Your Homemade Leaner Sidecar Project

We have now seen the benefits of a Leaner Sidecar. Before you begin your Leaner Sidecar project, remember to document your journey, taking photos and writing descriptions that you will be able to help others with their projects as you share on Haul N Ride.

To take a look at more Homemade Leaner Sidecar Combinations and to Submit Your Project, Click Here

Haul N Ride website was created to explore Innovation and Human Creativity with a focus on Interesting, Rare and Unusual Motorcycles and Accessories. Haul N Ride welcomes the sharing of projects and ideas, creating an enjoyable and educational online resource. We like to hear from readers so please leave a comment below and let us know if this post helped you or if you have any questions.

Thank you for visiting Haul N Ride. Dave

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10 thoughts on “Leaner Sidecar Combination – Bike Leans and Sidecar Doesn’t

  1. Greetings Steve,
    Thank you for sharing your project with us. I highly respect Ralph and his experience, and therefore would also be sure to take on any advice he has to offer. I think an 1100cc is an excellent choice due to the extra weight you will encounter. Remember to take plenty of photos during your build that you may share on Haul N Ride and other websites. This greatly helps and inspires other Leaner Sidecar enthusiasts. Good luck and keep us posted. Have an amazing day. Dave

  2. Greetings Dave,
    I have several rigid side car rigs but really want to build a proper “leaning” rig , to that end I just acquired a pristine very lo mile 1980 Yamaha XS1100. Thought about doing it on my R1 but Ralph Kalich told me that would be crazy. Given he feelings in that regard, going with the XS11. Wish me luck and I will keep you posted

  3. Hi Tom, Sorry that all I can offer to answer your query is that the Front Pivot Mount is raised slightly higher than the rear Pivot Mount. I have not been able to find any working specifications. The photos above of the BMW and the Dirt Bike show the area in the front of the engine as a good guide. I recommend you ask the experts that build these sidecars all the time on the following forum.
    The wealth of knowledge will be well worth joining and they are happy to answer questions. I love the advantage of the higher mount steering the sidecar rather than scrubbing the tyre.
    Alternatively, would you allow me to give Edwards your email address as he owns a sidewinder and you could perhaps ask him to send you some measurements?
    See Edwards comment above.
    Let me know. Cheers Dave

  4. been playing with these for a while on and off have been trying to get a unison leaner to work on a 1950 sunbeam although i think the sunbeam has lots of limitations on the pivot points so im considering building a sidewinder type just wondering what the height difference between the front and rear pivot points should be i can see the plus points of this type as opposed to the unison setup ie simpler and lighter lightness being the thing im looking for as the bike only has 23 hp and brakes to match

    thanks Tom

  5. Yes Edwards, very rare indeed. Thank you for sharing with Haul N Ride. Haul N Ride shares many unusual creations and motorcycle modifications, but Leaner Sidecars share a special place in my heart. Simple modification, motorcycle counter steering steers (rather then scrub) the sidecar wheel, no flying the chair, no rear wheel lift, no leading link necessary, the list goes on. Such a safe combination. Thank you for stopping by and sharing. Enjoy riding your Leaner Beema. Have a great day. Dave

  6. Thanks, Dave. I sent two emails with photos of the rig. I have not ever come across another Sidewinder on the road, and have only seen two for sale on the internet in the past 16 years.

  7. Hi Edwards, it is so exciting to hear from a “real owner” of a Leaner Sidecar combination. You are so lucky to have had the experience of an Armec Sidewinder.

    I have a Rigid Hack FJ1200 and it requires much effort to steer, even though it has Leading Link. Mind you it is in total 630 kgs (1380 pounds).
    Then I ride my Honda Shadow solo and treat myself to counter steering, so relaxing in comparison.

    Leaner sidecars are so much safer and easier to handle, if it weren’t for regulations, I would convert my Hack to Leaner.
    You can read about it here:

    I would truly love to share your pictures. Have you ridden with or found any other Flexible or Leaner Sidecar owners?

    Thank you for your feedback and comment. Have a great day. Dave

  8. Dave- Great article! I have owned an Armec Sidewinder since 2002, on a 1999 BMW R1100GS. It is red, and appears in Armec video. Our two girls grew up riding with us, both in the sidecar and pillion, since ages 20 months and 4.5 years (now almost 21 and 17 years old). It is a lot of fun and we use it for events like Ride for Kids, etc. Highly recommend it, if you can find one. Dave, email me for a photo if you would like. Edwards Holliday

  9. Hi Nate, I am glad you enjoyed the Leaner Sidecar article. They are easier to learn than a Rigid Hack combination if you are experienced riding a solo two wheeler. And yes, they are very rare indeed, although perhaps no in Europe. Have an awesome day and ride safe. Dave

  10. These are some very interesting videos. At my first glance I thought “no way” would I ride on one of these but actually as I kept reading I realized these are constructed very well and are safe.

    I did not know these had been around for so many years. Actually I have never seen one before. I could see myself using this maybe in a setting where the streets were not so busy, but I am interested enough to ride one now. Thanks for sharing.

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