The Outfitter Hack

Sidecars are one of those things blessed with many terms of endearment. A ‘Combination, a ‘Rig’, a ‘Chair’, a ‘Unit’, a ‘Hack’ and an ‘Outfit’ to name a few.

But my favourite terms are “Hack” and “Outfit”. That’s because I like outfits, and I like words too. And sometimes they connect in more than the ways intended.

A hack, in the modern lingo of my teen kids is an unintended solution achieved through the modification of an existing design. In motorcycling terminology, the origin goes way back to the 1600’s and Hackney, a suburb of London that produced a ‘Hackney carriage’ for the purposes of conveying passengers. Later in 1903 when dear old Graham Enfield of Middlesex England hooked a sidecar up to his motorcycle to carry a passenger it was thus affectionately labelled a “hack”.

You can see how the two definitions complement each other. But it doesn’t end there.

Way over on the other side of the pond, in the US of A, an ‘outfitter’ was an individual or merchant that kitted out (“outfitted”) good folk for excursions into the wild west, or the hunt for gold, hide or horn. ‘Guide Outfitters” still exist today and are common to provide gear and advice to folk heading into the wilderness for trekking and more. You can see where I’m going here, just think of an outfitter as someone who kits out a cycle for extended adventures, quite possibly, as we see here, with the creation of a durable and capable ‘Outfit’. Again, the two definitions complement each other.

And that’s pretty much how we arrive at this here motorcycle, it started life as BMW r100rt that’s been skilfully “hacked” by an experienced outfitter who has created the owner’s perfect solution for venturing way out into the wild west.

Ok ok, apologies if I got a little …err… sidetracked and lost you on the sidecar thing. But not really, I just wanted to make another pun on the side. Stop me, please. Hmmm, probably I should lay off that other kind of “sidecar” – the cocktail made from brandy, orange liqueur and lemon juice.

On a more sober, but entirely practical note, what kind of hacks would a skilled outfitter employ to outfit a hack? How about making sure the wheelbase is the same as the more common 4wd’s touring the sand and bull dust of the outback. In this way the outfits wheels ride in the tracks or ruts rather than on an angle with the chair riding in the centre ridge or trying to straddle an outside rut.

Or what about making sure all the wheels are of the same size and interchangeable? That way the rider needn’t carry three different types of repair options and can swap a chair tyre for a worn drive tyre as required.

Of course, an outfit is no lightweight and one destined for sand and mud and even recovery duties is going to need a good lot of dirty torque. Accordingly, this outfit has been fitted with a heavy flywheel and twin plugged R80 heads while a 296-degree cam motivates the valves as they’re tickled underside by appropriately tuned 36mm mikuni round slide carburettors. Kinky huh? The 43l fuel tank is the result of a plastic surgery and admittedly unnaturally oversized but is both durable and able to sustain a prolonged performance. Ok, definitely my last Sidecar cocktail.

Soooo….what a chair huh? I have to admit when I first saw it I thought it looked like a coffin. “you could fit a body in there” I said to Paul. And that, it turns out is the idea. Well, not a coffin but a sleeping pod. It also turns out that the pod is one of two chairs that bolt up quickly to the sidecar frame. The other is a passenger module with seat and screen etc. The ‘sleeping pod’ doubles as the “carry all” for a well-equipped solo expedition to, well, to anywhere – I think you could probably bolt on an outboard, launch from the local boat ramp, invade North America, run for the presidency, and even win based solely on your survivor mug shot appearing on the cover of a yachting magazine in a golfing country club.

The frame of course has been reinforced at the top spine, head stem and swingarm mounts while the swingarm itself has also been reinforced and the whole shebang lifted a good couple of inches to allow for an unprecedented load and unforgiving road.

The long and sturdy rear rack is a reinforced r100gs item. The sidecar frame, in addition to having the wide track is running what is mostly BMW  ‘r series’ suspension and running gear. I say running gear because the wheel is mounted to a “gutted” but tenacious BMW final drive that won’t be letting go of that wheel any time soon. The use of BMW components here is no parts bin compromise but a deliberate way of ensuring a reduced need to carry unique spares for uncommon componentry. Keep it simple, keep it durable, keep it in the family.

All in all, this outfit has been skilfully hacked to do what no hack was ever outfitted for. Or maybe the outfitter has fitted out this hack with just the hacks needed for an adventure outfit.

I think I’ve drunk too many Sidecars.

Post Scriptum:

I’ve known Paul for a good many year now and I know the level of pride he takes in the practicality of his solutions. In talking to him about this build it’s clear he enjoyed the challenge and appreciates the outcome. I had to ask was he tempted to build one for himself (for when he is finished playing with my baja bug I let him drive for me)?

No. Says he. But why ever not?

You might know that Paul doesn’t do much riding these days, and if you happen to ask he has probably mentioned something about getting on in years or other such nonsense. But as a Rooney Cycle exclusive I’m going to let you in on the truth.  Paul is actually a designated menace to society. Declared on numerous databases round the world. Sure, he comes across all mild mannered and gentile, but he, and now you, know the truth. Once mounted on a motorcycle Pauls racing pedigree emerges in a fierce explosion of unbridled adrenalin.  No law abiding road user is spared.  If you are in front, you must be behind, even if that means he must mount the nature strip on one wheel with one hand on the throttle and the other swapping out a mikuni main jet for that little extra top end required to leave you in his dust. So, you see the issue. And that’s why I let him drive my Baja bug. It’s just safer this way for all of us, and indeed Paul.

Who wants another Sidecar?

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