Are you an adrenaline junkie to the point that others believe you have a death wish?

Is tipping over bikes owned by 1 percenters outside of their favorite bar not enough? (Don’t know who the 1% are?  Click here!)

Does screaming down the highway at warp speed just not give you the same rush it once did?

Then perhaps motorcycle sidecar racing just might scratch your adrenaline itch.


What is motorcycle sidecar racing?

Let’s start with the sidecar itself.

When people think sidecars, they typically picture this.  However, racing sidecars are not the traditional Ural sidecar with cushioning, a place to sit and sidewalls.

Instead, we have what’s essentially an oven tray on wheels with a handlebar to hang onto for dear life as your riding partner hurtles you through time and space in the never-ending pursuit of a lower lap time.

The SRA (Sidecar Racers Association) allow five classes of sidecars:

F1 (Formula 1)

F2 (Formula 2)

F3 (Formula 3/Period 3)

P2 (Period 2)

P1 (Period 1)

F1 (Formula 1) is the way to go if speed is your primary thrill.  Commonly referred to as long bikes, the engine is behind the driver and the maximum allowed displacement is a 1000cc 4 stroke engine. 

F2 (Formula 2) has a 600cc four stroke or 500cc two stroke maximum displacement limit.  This class is built more for cornering and a skilled F2 team on a corner-heavy racetrack has a solid chance of winning against a F1 team.

The remaining three classes are all about replicating older models of sidecar racers and experiencing the same thrills the pioneers of sidecar racing had during the respective time periods each class represents.

What is the role of the passenger?

A motorcycle equipped with a sidecar is an inherently unbalanced vehicle.  What does that mean for those riding one?

It’s very likely to flip over if handled incorrectly.

The passenger scrambles around in a constant effort to redistribute weight to maximize speed and prevent the vehicle from flipping over.

When accelerating and braking, it’s important for the passenger to lean in the opposite directions to counter the forces at play that could flip the vehicle.

On right turns, the sidecar wants to rise, especially when more speed is involved.  The co-pilot leans over the outside of the hurtling death trap to use his weight to bring the side car down.

If you’re looking for a fun party trick, you can use this concept to pull off a sidecar wheelie!


You can have more speed with left turns but you still deal with the same concept, just on the other side of the vehicle; the sidecar can dip and the motorcycle’s rear wheel can lift if there’s too much speed going into the left turn.  To compensate, the co-pilot shifts his weight in the opposite direction -often by throwing his body over the rear of the bike- to keep the pilot in control.

In a race, you’ll see the co-pilot constantly climbing all over the vehicle at breakneck speeds in an effort to keep the sidecar on the ground while not losing grip and flying overboard himself.

Imagine trusting someone with your life like that; the two riders need to be absolutely in tune with one another with every split-second decision to keep the vehicle upright.

Why go sidecar instead of standard motorcycle racing?

Here’s why:

Stability: The third wheel gives an additional contact point with the road.

Cornering Grip: traction + co-pilot throwing themselves around = more grip to take corners at higher speeds

Braking performance: An additional wheel equals more brake.  More brake means increased stopping power and the third wheel reduces the chance of losing control from over-braking.

These attributes allow for sidecar-equipped motorcycles to take corners at higher speeds as compared to regular motorcycles.

But most of all, you get

A unique riding experience:

You know how people who ride naked bikes love how the lack of fairings or windshields gives them a rawer riding experience?

When riding in a sidecar during a sidecar race, you get to supersize that feeling.  For the passenger, you’re just inches off the ground with no suspension.  Feeling your sidecar reacting to every bump while screaming down the racetrack while trusting your riding partner with your life is an intense feeling that can’t be found anywhere else.

For both the rider and co-pilot, what was once a solo endeavor is now a team effort where you need to completely trust each other’s split-second decisions to live to race another day.  The Isle of Man TT (IoMTT) even has an opportunity for people to sidecar race there.  Check out how wild the IoMTT race is here!

Would you ever take part in a sidecar motorcycle race?  Who would you trust to be your racing partner?

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