You may have ridden in a sidecar before, but have you ever raced in one? I’m not talking about your regular road-going vintage BMW or Ural sidecar setup, either. I’m talking about a purpose-built sidecar racing rig. If you’ve ever wondered what that’s like, this fantastic onboard video might be the closest thing many of us will get to having that particular motorbike experience.
Thank the good folks at Duke Video for looking out for us all and constantly posting stuff like this to their YouTube feed, seriously. This footage comes from the 2008 Jurby Road Races on the one and only Isle of Man, and we’re riding onboard with Brian Kelly and passenger Dicky Gale, who took fourth place in the event.
It’s truly heart-pounding stuff, as you’re well aware if you’ve watched sidecar racing previously. If you haven’t, you’re in for an incredibly unique treat. Sidecars aren’t all just built for pleasant cruising, or even for the slower practicalities of off-road military use. Sidecars might have started out first and foremost like the ones we sometimes see now on public roads, but racing sidecars evolved differently over time. For a start, a racing sidecar is most often a flat platform, not a cushy little aircraft-looking pod with a seat.
As you might expect, lowering the entire bike’s centre of gravity is extremely helpful for efficient racing. If you’ve ridden two-up on a regular bike or scooter, you know the difference between a good passenger and a bad one. A good passenger moves with you, and doesn’t fight you when you’re going through turns. They shift their weight around as you do, helping you more effectively steer and get the bike to move the way you want.
Racing sidecar passengers are often referred to as monkeys, because ‘passenger’ is much too passive a word to describe the way they fling themselves around to redistribute their weight. They may not have control of the handlebars, throttle, or brake, but a good monkey is your best friend if you’re a sidecar racer.
If you’ve never had the chance to witness sidecar racing in real life, you should definitely check it out if you can. Even if you aren’t generally into racing, it’s incredible to watch just because it’s so different than what you might expect.