Sidecar Installation & Alignment
First a disclaimer!!! Since sidecars and motorcycles come in such wide variety I can only offer a general guide to mounting. This information is based on my own experience and others surely have differing ideas just as good or better. I am only trying to help! Remember side car riding is potentially dangerous. Sloppy work at installation time and not knowing how to drive a rig are the BIG hazards!
Let us begin. . . Oh, and please read the whole darn thing before starting!
STEP ONE: HAVE THE RIGHT TOOLS & RESOURCES
You will need the ability to follow the directions well, don't call asking me why you keep failing after you have made a bunch of changes on your own - such as not using the recommended dolly and using a bike lift instead. I am getting soooo tired of that!!! You will need the following as well:
1. The self training manual, "Driving a Sidecar Outfit". Get the book here! https://www.amazon.com/Driving-Sidecar-Outfit-David-Hough/dp/B001PQFI9G
2. Some way to securely hold the bike almost straight up, leaning out (away from the sidecar) about 1/3 of a bubble off on a small level held against the rear brake rotor. I put varing thickness wood blocks under the side stand while having the bike secured with a tie down and a soft strap to a big lag bolt in the wall on the 'off' side of the bike. The bike needs to be sitting on it's wheels, bearing it's own weight, i also use a short length of bike 21inch inner tube as a emergency brake holding the front brake lever pulled, adds stability. No, you can't use your bike lift!
3. A sidecar dolly. Furniture dollies that have 4 castor wheels work real fine for this. Get the long narrow one. Lowe's and Harbor Freight sell them. Get the longest one! The idea is that you put scraps of plywood and 2x4's on top of this to block up to the bottom of the sidecar frame. It is important that the sidecar frame be level when viewed from the front or rear, when viewed from the side it can either nose up or down, no biggie. Be sure the sidecar tire is still touching the floor and bearing weight! Once the dolly is shimmed so the hack chassis level clamp the chassis to the dolly using plumbers strap and drywall screws, or some such. This will allow you to repeatedly roll it up to and away from the bike, for you shall do this often!
4. Two 8 ft. straightedges. Light ones work much better than heavy ones, I use two 8 foot aluminum 'C' channels.
STEP TWO: GENERAL SIDECAR INSTALLATION
First things first! Your battle plan, easiest sequence of doing this job. Uncrate the hack, remove the body and set it aside, trust me you'll thank for that advice! Go ahead mock up the bike and hack chassis as described above.
1. Breath, you can do this!
2. Be sure your bike and sidecar tires are fully inflated to max acceptable pressure. Set the bike's rear shocks at full stiff on their adjusters. If you have air front forks, air up to max. Heavier duty shocks and fork springs will give you easier handling and a more confidence inspiring drive.
3. Be sure and set up on a nice, flat concrete floor, ideally where you can stand back and eyeball the outfit from the rear.
4. This job works best if you have 2 patient people with some skill with wrenches. Don't be in a hurry! Take breaks! Play nice together!
5. Use the supplied info to mock up the sidecar and bike with the sidecar's axle form 8-10 inches forward of the bike's rear axle. This is called wheel lead in sidecar speak. Eyeballing this mess should give you an idea where the sidecar mounts need to be located on the bike. You now know where your mounts need to be attached on the bike, do this now with the sidecar moved out of the way. Leave the frame clamp mounts a bit loose because you will need to swivel them some so that they line up with their matching mount points on the sidecar frame. Any "hard point", solid fabbed mounts can be tightened up.
6. Bring the sidecar and bike together, pivot, push, pull, and generally wrestle with the mounts until you can bolt them up and maintain an acceptable wheel lead. Now is the time to tighten those frame clamps now that you know how they need to be oriented, keeping the bike and sidecar sitting the way we need them, not all catty-wompus! Leave the upper connections on the bike unhooked at this point, you must set the toe-in first.
7. Check toe in (see below). If this is off, as it will likely be, play with the adjustment in the arms and recheck until it is right. If it's good, attach struts to the upper mount points on the bike, tighten everything with great vigor and attach about 75lb or 100lb of ballast to the sidecar chassis and go for a test ride. I bolt three or four 25 lb. barbell weights to a body mount point, ideally in the rear. Steering should be neutral, no ever-present pull to either direction. I then re-check my alignment specs and bolt tightness and go for another longer, faster ride........then do it all over yet again (longerer and fasterer,haha). You need to be absolutely sure of your alignment and hardware tightness. If you are a 'newbie' avoid the 'faster' test ride just yet!
8. If it's easy to drive then life is good! Finish up by putting the body on. Please take the time to learn to drive this thing before taking your loved ones out for a spin!
STEP THREE: TOE IN MEASUREMENT
This is a rather involved operation, so it merits its own section!
You are actually using the rear tire of the bike as the centerline of the bike. This is because the rear is 'fixed' in alignment with the frame and is usually wider than the front tire. You use 4x4 blocks to get your straightedges up off the floor a bit. This helps when you gently press the straightedges up against the outside rear tire bead. The front end of the bike needs to be straight, you should have equal distances from the straightedge to the tire bead--eyeball is good enough, don't go nuts measuring this. You put your other straightedge up on its blocks out on the sidecar side and press it snug up against the sidecar tire's outer bead.
Now! You measure the distance from the outside to outside of your straightedges just in front of the bike's front tire, and just to the rear of the bike's rear tire. This is measuring your toe-in within the length of the bike. This spec varies but as a general guide for lighter sidecars approximately 1/2 to 7/8 inch is good--big double wide rigs can need as much as 1.5 to 2 inches or more. This number arrived at is from the front end measurement being 'X' inch less than the rear measurement, making the sidecar wheel toed into the bike. A little too much toe-in isn't the end of the world, not enough is a very bad thing. Wobble, wobble, wobble, fear and loathing!
Note!: After you make adjustments to the mounting arms to change your toe-in you need to lift the sidecar wheel a tad a let it bounce back to the ground. The idea is loosen the tires grip from the shop floor so your next measurement will reflect accurately the change you made.
Measuring for toe in at the rear, this must be the large measurement, the sidecar
wheel must be 'toed in' towards the front wheel of the bike.
Straight edge placement for the rear tire, snug against the tire bead with the
straight edge up off the floor . For our purpose the rear tire centerline is the
centerline of the bike.
Straight edge placement for front toe in measurement.
See above text to explain the gap.
Measuring the front end for toe in, this number must be smaller than the one
for the rear, hence toeing in the sidecar tire towards the front of the bike.