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Sidecar and Trike Training

Is it for you?

There are many reasons why people gravitate toward owning a sidecar or trike, but even if you donít plan to own one in your life, you might enjoy devoting a weekend to taking the Sidecar and Trike Education Program (S/TEP) provided by the Evergreen Safety Council.

Driving a three wheel outfit is apples to oranges when it comes to riding a motorcycle. Washington State has been very progressive in the last few years with instituting a sidecar and trike training program and changing laws concerning 3 wheel endorsements. The efforts of David Hough, who wrote the original training curriculum Ė and Dave Wendell, who pushed recent legislation through Olympia, have put Washington at the front of the 50 states for being the most advanced in laws and available training (some of which will be subsidized by the state beginning 2003).

First though, letís look at 10 reasons why people take sidecar and trike training:

  • Curiosity. Many motorcyclists are curious about these three wheel beasts. Most donít know if theyíd enjoy a sidecar or trike. The training program allows participants to experience both.
  • Handicap Issues. Either you or someone in your family has a handicap, making it impossible to operate or ride a two wheel motorcycle.
  • "Itís 3 wheels or nothiní" the wife says. For my money, itís more fun being a passenger in a sidecar, than on the back of a motorcycle.
  • Improved visibility. Sidecars and trikes, being larger overall Ė especially in width, are more likely to be seen by oncoming drivers.
  • "My 80 year old mother who used to ride motorcycles, wants to take my 98 year old grandmother out for a ride." This indeed is a documented case.
  • Your pet wants a ride. Is it time to take your dog, cat, anaconda, or otherwise out for rides?
  • Storage Boom. Do you need more storage than what youíre able to get with bags on your motorcycle? Three wheelers often provide far more storage capacity. Some people even add trailers to them.
  • Stability. Three wheelers have superior handling ability in rain, sleet and snow. Donít even think about taking a two wheel street bike into snowy conditions.
  • More passenger load. With a sidecar rig, you can put three, sometimes even four people on the bike and rig making it a great family cruiser. Imagine heading out to Leavenworth over Stevens Pass in a sidecar rig, instead of that four wheel fishbowl in your driveway.
  • Ready for a refresher. Many of the basic principals of safe motorcycling are covered in the S/TEP class. Safe braking, cornering, weaving, and swerving are all here along with a lot of standards taught classroom side.
  • A look at the program

    Currently the Evergreen Safety Council provides the Sidecar/Trike Education Program about every 60 days. You will be giving up an entire Saturday and Sunday to take the program and if you pass youíll receive a certificate of completion.

    Classes begin in the Classroom at ESC in Seattle on Saturday morning. Here youíll go through many of the basics of motorcycling. If you already ride, some of this will seem a bit tedious to you, but keep your eyes and ears open because something may come up that you have otherwise allowed to slip in your riding style. Are you looking through your corners? Keeping three seconds between you and the vehicle in front of you? Getting your braking done before you reach turns these days?

    In the afternoon itís off to the range for an afternoon of riding. Again there are a lot of similarities to the exercises taught in the 2 wheel novice course. The difference is that youíre doing them on 3 wheels, and if youíre working with a sidecar you have another student as a passenger for ballast. Starting, braking, cornering, weaving, and more are covered in this afternoon that features 11 exercises in all. Youíll soon realize the level of upper body strength required to operate the 3 wheelers.

    Sunday morning youíre back in class. Here both general technique and technique specific to sidecars and trikes, are covered. Youíll learn to understand what tip-over lines are and how to keep the unit on three wheels. Hypothermia, heat stroke, and the effects of alcohol are also packed into this long morning. At the end of the classroom session youíre given the written portion of the testing.

    Sunday afternoon, you grab a bite to eat and youíre back to the range. Today will be different. Anyone operating a sidecar will not have a passenger for ballast and thus the handling of the rig becomes different. A skidding stop (something everyone should practice at least yearly) emergency swerving, braking, stopping in turns, and other exercises follow today. At the end of the training you are offered two additional exercises that involve "flying the hack" which otherwise means to lift the sidecar off itís wheel and drive in a circle and straight on two wheels. These two exercises are optional and are not required to pass the class. When making a right hand turn with a hack, itís possible it can come up if you lean to the left and enter the turn with a bit of inertia, so itís a good idea to feel what this is like in a closed class situation.

    This is not an easy class and about half the participants in my session failed the written test (which they can come back and re-take at no additional charge). Everyone passed the moving exam. As with most vehicle testing, you must score higher than 80 on both the written and moving tests.

    David Houghís curriculum is first-rate, teaching participants the basics with well-written text, illustrations, photographs, and exercises. The Evergreen instructors administered the class well, were sidecar lovers themselves, and the passion for riding and teaching others showed.

    I may never own a sidecar or trike, but Iím glad I gave up a weekend to learn how to drive one in case I decide to tinker with one later on. Iím also glad I got a basic refresher on motorcycling, which is something we all can benefit from about every other year.

    To learn more about ESCís Sidecar and Trike Education Program visit http://www.esc.org


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