On The Side

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A classy yet fun way to see the Cape.
Terry Friend

Think about it how else can you combine the best things about sight-seeing biking, offroading and motoring?

There are now Russian and Chinese options on the market, in the form of the Ural and the CJ 750. These are already scudding around South Africa and neighbouring countries.

Specialist firms offer sidecar adventures, and these obviously have an advantage over quad bikes when it comes to covering wide areas which include roads. All-terrain vehicles and other buggies are fine for some applications, but when you want something versatile enough to allow a city-centre tour as well, the sidecar is THE thing.

A beautifully restored combination. Picture: Terry Friend

I admit being a bit prejudiced. As a boy I rode in the sidecar of an uncle in Durban just after the war, when the returning soldiers still had a liking for such things, and I never forgot the exhilaration of being out in the open with wind rushing through my hair and everything flashing past.

My greatest wish was to own one of those one day, but sadly we get sidetracked by the unimportant things in life such as careers, marriage and groceries, so that bright vision of boyhood became blurred by the murky necessities of civilised existence.

Bikes I’ve had aplenty, and enjoyed them all, but I have had a partner (AKA The Enforcer) for some years now who refuses to risk her life on one of those things. She says she would consider a sidecar, though. Presumably this is because it doesn’t lean over in the corners, has three wheels and your feet don’t get wet in the rain.

I didn’t tell her that when the sidecar has no load in it a fast left turn or bend can see it lift scarily in the air, and the rider can’t lean the bike into the corner to correct this. One answer is to leave a sack of sand or something heavy in the sidecar.

A leader in sidecar adventuring is the company Cape Sidecar Adventures, based in Cape Town, and MD Tim Clarke says they are very busy indeed, as the tourists just love the idea.

He has a fleet of 25 vintage ex-Chinese military CJ 750 bikes with sidecars. These date from the 50s, 60s and 70s.

Town and country touring is easy.

Besides the Cape Peninsula round trip to Cape Point and back along both coasts, and over Chapmans Peak, there are stunning meanders through the winelands of Durbanville, Paarl, Stellenbosch and Franschoek.

Then there is that captivating coastal road from Gordons Bay to Hermanus, and the inner-city tour taking in Chapman’s Peak, Kirstenbosch Gardens, Constantia Winelands and Signal Hill.

These boxer-motored rigs are based on the 1938 BMW R71 sidecar, used extensively in the Second World War, and it appears that the Chinese scored the technology from the Russians. Each rig can take two passengers, so groups of up to 50 can be chauffered on a number of routes, the longest being a full-day tour of the Western Cape.

Then there is the offroading aspect.  The sidecar may as well be called a sandcar, as it is superb in sand. Ideal for the less wildly adventurous who do not relish having to pick up a heavy adventure bike a number of times a day.

Added to this is the peace of mind a spare wheel brings you. Even some veteran adventure bikers will admit they don’t know how to repair a tyre or fit a tyre to a rim. Not as easy as you might think.

Oh, and would you believe the venerble Chinese beasties (each of which has been given a cute name, such as Quincy, Tammy or Penny) have a reverse gear? Near to essential when parking is tight.

Are you listening, Dear?