Rigid Sidecars (Hacks) – Neither the Bike or Sidecar Leans

Rigid Hack Sidecar

Rigid Sidecar Combination – Hack

There are many choices to attach a sidecar to a motorcycle. In this article we will be discussing attachment as a Rigid Hack Combination. But before we begin, it is important to explain some terms.

Solo Rider: Riding a motorcycle without a sidecar attached.

Solo Rider

Counter Steering: The method of leaning a motorcycle, that a solo rider uses to steer the motorcycle into corners and bends.

Solo Rider

Outfit: A sidecar.

Rig: A motorcycle.

Hack Combination: An outfit rigidly connected to a rig. “Neither Motorcycle nor Sidecar lean”.

Rigid Hack Sidecar Motorcycle Combination

Double Combination: Two sidecars are attached, one on each side of a motorcycle. “Neither Motorcycle nor Sidecar lean”.

Double Sidecar Combination

Leaner Combination: An outfit connected to a rig that allows the rider to counter steer as the motorcycle leans while turning, meanwhile the sidecar occupant and boat remain upright. “Motorcycle leans and the sidecar doesn’t.”

Leaner Sidecar

Leaner Sidecar







Flexible Combination: An outfit connected to a rig that allows the rider to counter steer as the motorcycle leans while turning, with the sidecar occupant and boat leaning in the same direction as the rider. “Motorcycle and sidecar both lean”.

Flexit Sidecar Motorcycle Rig

Parallelogram Combination: An outfit connected to a rig that allows the rider to counter steer while turning, with the sidecar boat and occupant remaining upright, while the sidecar wheel will lean in the same direction as the rider. “Motorcycle and sidecar wheel lean and the passenger doesn’t”.

Parallelogram Sidecar Motorcycle Combination

Chair Driven: Outfit is driven from a wheelchair in the sidecar. “Usually attached as a Hack and driven by a wheelchair occupant”.

Chair Driven Sidecar Motorcycle Combination

Tow In Adjustment: Adjusting the outfit wheel to angle slightly toward the front of the rig. Necessary for all four combinations.

Lean Out Adjustment: Adjusting the outfit to lean out vertically, slightly away from the rig, enabling it to straighten when the weight of a passenger is added. Necessary for a hack only.

Wheel Lead Adjustment: The centre hub of the outfit wheel is located forward of the central hub of the rig’s rear wheel. Necessary for all four combinations.

Flying the Chair: Driving a hack with the outfit lifted off the ground. Hack Combination only.

Flying the Chair Sidecar

Flying the Chair Sidecar

Leading Link: A modification to the motorcycle’s front forks. Telescopic forks were designed by manufacturers to enable the solo rider to lean into and out of corners and for the motorcycle to self-centre. When a sidecar is fitted to the motorcycle, the rider can no longer counter steer and therefore is now required to drive, instead of ride the hack. This requires much more effort from the driver. When Leading Link is used to replace the telescopic forks, the trail is reduced, which reduces the effort required to steer the hack. This modification is necessary for a hack only.

Motorcycle Telescopic Forks



Telescopic Forks



Motorcycle Leading Link



Leading Link



Steering Damper: A steering damper is connected to the front of the motorcycle to prevent steering wobble. Necessary for a hack only.

Motorcycle Sidecar Steering Damper

Time to Watch a Video

Now that we understand the various methods to attach a sidecar to a motorcycle, lets “Chill Out for a Minute” and look at some “Nice Sidecars” at a Sidecar Rally:

As you just saw in the video, Rigid Sidecars may not LEAN, but they come in many varieties and can be attached to many types of motorbike.

Rigid Sidecar



Image: Wheelchair Accessible Sidecar Hack, (my daughter and I).




Attachment Points

Attachment: The measurements indicated are to be used as starting points from which finer adjustments can subsequently be made.

The following information and images from the American method of attachment has been modified to Australian, wherein the sidecar is attached to the left-hand side of the motorcycle.

Sidecar Attachment Points

Attachment points indicated on four basic frames. X marks indicate alternate attachment points.

Toe-in, Wheel Lead Vertical Lean and Steering Damper Explanations


In the diagram below you will notice the distance between the motorcycle front wheel and a piece of straight timber inline with the sidecar wheel (C). You will also notice the distance between the motorcycle rear wheel and the timber (D). When Toe-in is adjusted, the measurement of (C) is less that the measurement of (D). Therefore, the front of the sidecar is “Toeing-in” toward the motorcycle front wheel. Correct Tow-in adjustment is important to reduce a slight “crabbing” tendency of the motorcycle’s rear wheel, which would cause tyre wear. Incorrect Toe-in will cause handling difficulties as the sidecar will pull to the right or left.

Tow in Wheel Lead

Tow-in and Wheel Lead Diagram

Normal Toe-in is approximately as follows: (C) is less than at (D) by 3/8 to 3/4 inch (9.5-19mm)

To measure this, place a straight edge or straight piece of wood along the edge of the sidecar wheel, and  measure from the inside edge of the straight edge to the centreline of the motorcycle wheel rims. Alignment is best accomplished on a smooth level floor.
An incorrectly aligned sidecar will drag the motorcycle to either side, which not only makes the combination difficult to handle, but also causes excessive tyre wear. It is very important to check sidecar alignment at scheduled maintenance intervals and if the motorcycle is difficult to steer.

Sidecar Toe-in Adjustment
Image Source: Sidecar.com

Adjust Toe-in by loosening the fastening bolt/nut on the lower rear attachment between the motorcycle and the sidecar frame. This adjustment will also affect the position of the upper rear attachment between the motorcycle and the sidecar frame. Therefore, also loosen this upper mount while adjusting Toe-in and don’t forget to re-adjust lean-out on completion of Toe-in adjustment.

For a more detailed procedure/instructions, download the Year 2000 Ural Repair Manual http://www.sidecarafrica.co.za/Repair Manual.pdf

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). This is the same as if 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.

Sidecar Rear Wheel Lift

You can see how dangerous this is, 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.

For best performance with most motorcycles, driver weight, passenger weight and road conditions, the hub of the sidecar wheel should be positioned approximately 8 to 12 inches (200-300mm) forward of the axle of the motorcycle’s rear wheel (B) on diagram below.

Wheel Lead Diagram

This is the standard which is followed by the majority of sidecar builders. There are exceptions, however, such as the Harley-Davidson rig which was set up with the sidecar wheel in line with the motorcycle’s rear wheel.

Vertical Lean

Vertical Lean is an adjustment using the top brackets between the sidecar and motorcycle to lean the  motorcycle itself very slightly away from the sidecar, when the combination is unladen (E) on diagram below.

Vertical Lean Diagram

Normal Vertical Lean is 1/16 to 1/8 inch (1.5 – 3.2mm) at 24 inches (610mm) on a carpenter’s square aligned with the motorcycle’s rear tyre centerline or sidewall unladen and 1/8 inch to 1/4 inch (3.2 – 6.35mm) with a rider on the motorcycle and the rear shocks compressed. Vertical Lean is adjusted by loosening the lock nuts on the upper bracket between the sidecar and motorcycle.

Road Testing

The true test of toe-in and lean-out adjustment is a road test, preferably on a smooth, straight, level, paved road with typical camber slanting off towards the road edge. At a steady speed of 40 mph (60 Km/hr), the motorcycle should not pull to either side while running at normal road speed.

Damper to Prevent Steering Wobble

Sidecar Wobble

A steering damper is fitted between the motorcycle frame and the Leading Link to reduce this problem. A great website explaining the causes and cures of steering wobble can be found here.

Attach a Sidecar

A Universal Mounting Kit makes it possible to attach a sidecar to virtually any current motorcycle with a round tube frame, but the motorcycle chosen should be powerful enough to accept the weight of the sidecar, passenger, and luggage.

Sidecar Universal Mounting Kit

Universal Mounting Kit example


Attaching a sidecar should involve these steps

  • Attach the frame of the sidecar to the frame of the motorcycle using Universal Mounting Kit Brackets.
  • Adjust the Wheel Lead, Toe-in and Lean-out of the motorcycle in relation to the sidecar.
  • Connect lights on the sidecar to the motorcycle.
  • Connect the brake on the sidecar wheel to the master brake cylinder of the motorcycle.


Now that you know a bit more about connecting and adjusting a sidecar/motorcycle outfit, before you purchase a sidecar and attach it to your motorbike, you will need to know about Leading Link.

Leading Link

Because there is such a big difference between riding solo and driving a sidecar, practice is necessary to develop a good and safe sidecar driver. The word driver is important since one drives a hack (push steering), while one rides a solo motorcycle (counter steering). Before attaching a sidecar to a solo bike, the telescopic forks need to be replaced by a Leading Link.

Hack Project Steps – Connect Outfit to Rig as a Hack

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

2. 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 correct pressure. Place 150kgs 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.

3. Locate the Sidecar Wheel Lead. To locate the Lead, place the centre of the sidecar wheel hub 8-12
inches (200-300mm) forward of the motorcycle rear wheel hub.

4. Locate Attachment Points

5. Attach Universal Mounting Kit

6. Adjust Toe In and Lean

7. Install Brakes. If necessary, move the sidecar brake lever to a suitable position, beside the motorcycle gear change lever (Australia), beside the motorcycle foot brake (USA), to allow easy operation. Install the sidecar brake, via a brake line to the motorcycle master cylinder. Test brake operation.

8. Test Ride and Adjust Tow In if necessary. Test ride the Rig (motorcycle) and Outfit (sidecar). Adjust Tow In as required.

Guides and Manuals for Hacks

If you have a motorcycle and would like some knowledge about how sidecars are attached and aligned, I have provided a few links below.

Sidecar Attachment Guides

Sidecar Attachment Guide: ClickHere

Sidecar Fitting Guide: Click Here

Steering Damper Guide: Click Here

Leading Link Explained: Click Here

The Warkshop Guide: Click Here

Sidecar Manuals

Manual for Enthusiasts of Riding with a Sidecar: Click Here

Driving a Sidecar Outfit – Step by Step Manual: Click Here

Original Sidecar Manuals: Click Here

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

The Flexible, Leaner and Parallel Sidecar Provide Solutions

  • Effortless Counter Steering
  • Sidecar tire steers with the motorbike
  • Motorcycle Modification: 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
  • A Leaner Sidecar can easily be removed and replaced to allow solo riding with minimal adjustments on replacement


As you can see, there are many benefits of creating a Leaner, Flexible or Parallel Sidecar in preference to the standard Rigid Hack. However, if you decide to build a Rigid Hack combination, 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.

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

12 thoughts on “Rigid Sidecars (Hacks) – Neither the Bike or Sidecar Leans

  1. Barry Lewis says:

    G’day mate,
    What a wealth of info and knowledge..
    I picked up a 1979 Moto Guzzi T4 (commonly called the spare parts bin of the Le Mons) I finally got it home and started it up for the first time. What a machine. I made the right decision to grab the boxes of bit and start the long road to a glorious bike. At the same time I came across a Dusting sidecar in reasonably good nick. Two problems. Only three anchor points and no brake on the sidecar wheel.
    I was thinking of an adjustable bar from the car chassis to the T4 frame. That is relatively easy. The brake is a problem that I have not sorted out yet other than replacing the wheel n hub with a later model!
    Oh well keeps me off the streets… at the moment.

    • admin says:

      Like all projects there are many challenges and obstacles along the way.
      I hope you find an engineer/fabricator/mechanic to assist you on the project.
      If you like you may email photos of your bike and sidecar with measurements to share on Haul N Ride.
      This will allow any visitors to this site to offer advice.
      Ride safe

  2. Ian McKenzie says:

    Hi Dave,

    You posted a photo of your daughter in a new wheelchair accessable side car. Do you have plans for that Hack as I am about to start a build on one my self . I intend to attach it t my 2015 Harley Ultra Limited. Can you give me any idea’s or thought that may help with my build. I would appreciate the opportunity to talk with you if at all possible?
    Kind regards

  3. Christian Orman says:

    I have a 2014 Moto Guzzi California Custom with many of the Touring models additions. windscreen, driving lights, comfort seat and custom made panniers. I think the bike with its torque rich 1400 engine, shaft drive, and robust frame would be perfect.
    I like the idea of a “leaner” in that I could detatch the bike and ride it conventionally.
    I would like to use a Vetter Tereplane sidecar because I like the wedge styling. I think with appropriate paint and detailing it would compliment the Moto Guzzi perfectly..I am well versed in welding, bodywork and painting and I have plenty of time..
    I don’t Know of a Vetter sidecar ever being converted to a “leaner”. What do you think? Any advice re:positioning, etc.,etc? Thank you in advance, Christian

  4. David Ready says:

    Great info. I have a 2006 Aprilia Scarabeo 500 GT. I have been looking at a sidecar solution as I’m 68 and wife a bit younger. Would like to see parallelogram rigs that might work.

    • Tarn mott says:

      Hi Dave just found your site , very helpful info as im just finishing my compleet rebuild of a 1978XS1100 hack and having never ridden a side car im glad I did find your site . Sounds like there is a lot to learn re riding and setting up than I anticipated! Ill definitely be purchasing the how to ride book and ill be working my way threw the info on your site for tips and help . Cherrs for taking the time to mataine this resource. Tarn

      • admin says:

        Hi Tarn,
        I am so pleased you have benefited from the information on Haul N Ride.
        Here is a link you may enjoy:
        and some safety tips:

        You may notice that if you accelerate quickly the bike may try to overtake the sidecar and if you decelerate quickly the sidecar may try to overtake the bike.
        I’m not trying to scare you, I am just saying that this may pull the steering right or left and you will need to be aware of it and compensate.

        Another thing you will notice different to riding solo, is you will be Push/Pull steering rather than Counter Steering.
        A little practice and you will be fine.

        My Rigid Hack Combination has a pump up shocky on the sidecar wheel. This allows me to add air while carrying a passenger and release air when empty.

        I hope all goes smoothly in your setup. Attention to Lean-in/Lean-out, Wheel-Lead etc will assist you in the combination travelling straight.

        Thank you for visiting Haul N Ride.
        Ride Safe and have a great day 🙂

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