Once a common sight on Britain’s roads, the motorcycle sidecar was a popular choice of day-to-day transport for many families. First seen in the early 1900’s, many motorcycle manufacturers offered a sidecar option which enabled the carrying of a passenger comfortably and throughout both wars, motorcycle sidecars were employed by all sides as simple, relatively lightweight and maneuverable vehicles for carrying troops and small armaments.
Following the second world war, a shortage of cars (and the expense of owning one), meant that the sidecar combination became a practical and economical alternative to four wheels and numerous motorcycles (many ex-Army surplus) were converted with addition of sidecar units which were available from a variety of manufacturers. Right through until the early 1960’s motorcycle combos remained popular but by the end of the decade small cars had become more easily available and affordable and sidecar ownership soon became the domain of the enthusiast.
In the UK, famous manufacturers included Watsonian (established in 1912 and still going strong today), and the Swallow Sidecar Company (later to become Jaguar Cars). In Europe, Steib sidecars were renowned for their quality and many were fitted to BMW, NSU and Zundapp machines. Today they are considered a classic sidecar with original and carefully restored examples attracting premium prices.
Seemingly seeing a resurgence, sidecars can be fitted to all manner of machines and modern outfits are far more luxurious than traditional and classic examples. Requiring a totally different riding technique to a solo machine, learning to handle a motorcycle sidecar outfit can take some time, but once mastered can be great fun.