Iconic motorcycles throughout the ages like the BMW R68 – and nearly every military motorcycle – were designed with attaching a sidecar in mind. The start of WWII was the high water mark of the sidecar.
Legend has it that the sidecar was first created in 1903 when George Moore drew a sidecar for Motor Cycling, a British newspaper, and one W. J. Graham found inspiration in that cartoon. Graham did the sensible, capitalist thing and took out a patent for the concept. After the cartoon appeared in the January 7, 1903, issue of the British newspaper Motor Cycling, Graham of Graham Brothers entered into a partnership with Jonathan Kahn to begin production of the first of what came to be know as a ‘sidecars.’ At the time, and to this day, they’re also known as a ‘combination,’ a ‘rig’ or a ‘sidehack.’
Their creation was an instant hit in various parts of the world. Providing as it did a cheap alternative to passenger cars.
Though they’re no longer in fashion, sidecars remain an option for anyone seeking the experience of motorcycling and demanding the convenience and practicality of a car. There’s still a viable commercial market for sidecar purpose-built motorcycles, and you need look no further than the Ural to see the appeal.
It was in military applications that the sidecar really took flight. The Russians took one look at the BMW R71 sidecar rigs, and bent on making a credible copy, came up with the Ural. Some 10,000 units of this “Russian BMW” were produced for battle in WWII, and you can buy what is essentially the same motorcycle and sidecar rig today for around $12,000.
Britain’s largest surviving sidecar manufacturer, Watsonian-Squire, still makes beautiful examples of the breed and recently unveiled a version for the Royal Enfield Bullet Electra-X. This classic-looking addition (dubbed the GP Jubilee) is made of fiberglass but features aluminum struts from the days when sheet metal was the preferred material for sidecar manufacturing.
If you’re worried about reliability, Watsonian-Squire has been at the craft since 1912…