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June 2022 Club News

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My New Bike and Sidecar

by Bob Rees

So, my modified BMW sidecar outfit was going great... although a few times I have nearly fallen while hopping off. I have to hang on with one hand while assembling my wheelchair with the other hand and it can be fraught with danger as sometimes it's in the early hours of the morning.

But they were good fun nights so... I was thinking about what I could do when Loose Bruce sent me a photo of this great-looking, radical-looking Harley outfit with a platform for a wheelchair. Ummm, I thought, that would work!

Mick and Bob with the new bike.
The bike:
What I wanted to do was find a bike without cylinders sticking out like BMW's. So it has a narrower profile and I could get the wheelchair closer. So off I wheel to Great Southern Motorcycles. On the showroom floor was a Harley Davidson Sport Glide.

Wow, nice looking bike and I could get the wheelchair up really close, so I could hop easily from wheelchair to bike seat without the use of a slideboard. The frame is perfect for a sidecar outfit as itís a Softail, so itís rigid with the wheel bouncing up and down and the exhaust is a two into one on the right hand side and nice low seat and wide handlebars.

I rang Brendon Flower who modified the BMW outfit and my car. He's a brilliant engineer, innovator and great bloke. As it turned out he was across the road, so over he came to have a look at the bike to see if he thought it was good for modifying. Yep, checked it out, ideal and yep, ideal with the seat height too.

I'd ridden Harleys for Albany's Down Under Harleys for five years and had heaps of fun. Remembering the photo that Loose Bruce had sent me I also ordered another rear wheel for the sidecar, or platform. This was going to look good.

One thing I needed was reverse gear. Mick the owner of Great Southern Motorcycles did lots of research and found a Harley Davidson reverse gear kit in the USA that we could adapt to use. That was ordered and in the meantime the bike was licensed in my name. After a little while the reverse gear was installed at Great Southern Motorcycles and Mick took the bike out of the shop into the carpark to start it up and show me how the reverse gear worked. Brilliant!

When I bought the bike, I said to Mick I don't want a noisy Harley, so I'll just keep the standard muffler. Well, shit, it sounded terrible, my BSA sounded better, so I said OK we'll make it a little bit noisier. So a different muffler and air cleaner was ordered which was a good idea anyway as it allowed the 1750cc motor to breathe better.

A little while later and it was all fitted and ready for taking out to Brendon's Engineering shop in the Porongurups. I was very pleased with it, sounded great and reverse was perfect. At the same time, I insured it as a modified motorcycle outfit.

Trick hand-controls for gearchange.
Now for Brendon to do his magic:
Brendon was excited about working on it as it would all be new, not an older bike like the BMW. Cause I can't use my legs or feet I need hand controls same as on the BMW. These were bought from England, fabulous, well-made parts that paraplegics use from all over the world.

I even noticed Wayne Rainey using the same controls on a racing bike on YouTube once. These were one of the first things Brendon fitted, and of course he had to manufacture various fittings to make it work. The controls for the handlebar come complete, but all bikes are different, so there was a lot of work for Brendon to do at the footbrake and foot gearchange end of things, as these are obviously no good and had to be changed for me.

These Brendon made and it looks like a work of art as well as working perfectly. The parts are sculptured beautifully. The foot pegs had to go as there's no way my feet would stay on those, so Harley runner boards were found and fitted in place. Brendon also made some rails to go around the outside of the boards, so when my feet spasm they won't jump off.

I've got to be careful with things like this as I don't know without looking if my feet are in the right place or not. I remember using a electric wheelchair in Fiona Stanley, I was whizzing around and I could feel my left foot getting warm. I'd been dragging it along under the wheelchair for a while, but not realising it. Lucky it wasn't broken. So that's brakes and gear change finished.

Now the platform: As I said, I'd bought a second Harley rear wheel to match the bike. I went up to the Porongurups and wheeled the wheelchair to where we figured it would have to be after hopping from wheelchair to the seat of the bike.

Cardboard mockup of platform.
Brendon made a cardboard cut-out of how the platform should be shaped. He then set about making the frame and suspension for the sidecar wheel. He also fabricated a mudguard to match.

The bare sidecar frame.The bike was starting to take shape and looked very impressive. Of course, a lot of Brendon's time was spent figuring out how things would be shaped and fitted so as they would work correctly.

Sidecar platform and mudguard. Next the sidecar attachments to the bike and the plate were made, also a fabulous hubcap was shaped for the centre of the sidecar wheel. When all this was fitted you could visualise the final outfit. It was looking fabulous.

Ramp fully out.Next the ramp: Dummies were made up and I would take a run up and see which angle worked without me pulling wheelies. Once the length of the ramp was worked out then it was to figure out how that would work.

This was a bit of a headache and a lot of thought was put into it. I'd seen a ramp on a Mexican Cartel gangster Netflix film. It was scissor-like and looked and worked good.

The ramp fitted and folded.It was easy to say this to Brendon but to manufacture the parts and source the electronic gear took a lot of time and effort. But once sorted it looked and worked perfectly.

To have the ramp exactly right, Brendon manufactured the whole thing including drilling countless holes.

Nearly complete - Bob trying it out for size.
I drew a rough sketch of the box I wanted at the front, this I thought would be good for my catheter stuff and would fit my slideboard and pick up stick. It turned out perfect too. At the back of this is an extra fuel tank which Brendon came up with, it holds 16 litres and has a pipe which fits into a fitting already underneath the Harley tank. A switch was fitted on the side of the auxiliary tank so I can transfer the fuel directly from one tank to the other while sitting on the bike. Brilliantly done and the pump and extra battery fitted into the box.

Next was a holder for the travelling commode/shower chair which is essential when I travel. This fitted nicely between the box and mudguard. This I can strap in. I reckon itís the only Harley in the world with a toilet attached!

An extra plate was made next to the belt drive on the bike to enable me to get closer to the bike seat when I hop over. Then everything that was needed to be painted was sent off to Albany Powder coaters for a black coating to match the bike.

Finally, the sidecar lights (thanks Mick, GSM) were fitted and wiring made by Brendon. Then it was to get it engineered checked and weighed. This is a cumbersome and expensive part of it too. But amongst other things it needs to be licensed as a modified sidecar outfit for insurance purposes apart from everything else.

Then the ride: Brendon had taken it for a test ride and said it was handling well. This was something I was concerned about as the BMW has leading link forks which makes it easy to steer, but we didn't have this on the Harley. Would we have to do this or not. So I was pleasantly surprised at how well it handled with standard Harley forks which has a perfect rake for our needs.

Bob's first ride verdict.
Itís easy to steer, go around corners and at 100km/h I can ride it one-handed. This shows how perfectly it had been set up. I'm absolutely thrilled with it, rides great, looks brilliant and is very functional especially for my special needs.

Itís easier to get on and off and the big bonus is I don't have to take the wheelchair apart. I can ride up the ramp, get it close to the bike seat, tie the wheelchair down at the tie down points that line the inside of the plate so as it doesnít move, and once I've positioned my feet, I can hop from wheelchair to bike, fabulous.

I got a rack fitted for a backpack and a pannier was already attached so I've got plenty of packing space. Another bonus is as the Harley seat is shaped like a saddle, it supports me so I can use both hands to do my jacket and helmet up. On the BMW with a flatter seat, I always have to hang on to something with one hand otherwise I'd fall. Having said that, the BMW has a conventional sidecar so I can take somebody for a ride in that, so it still has its uses.

Brendon at Maranup Ford last year.
I can't thank Brendon enough for what he's done for me, having bikes that I can ride and a car that I can drive makes me independent. As a paraplegic, life is a challenge and what he's done for me over the past couple of years enhances my life massively. It helps to make it fun and enjoyable too, words can't describe how grateful I am. Can't stop grinning. Thanks mate, you're a fuckiní champion.

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