Sometimes a Third Wheel can be a Good Thing

Story by Greg Williams// Photos by Greg Williams, Glen Barreth & Kh Blume
October 31 2023

Changing it up in order to stay in the wind.

Riding a motorcycle is a thrill. It’s all about balance and power and requires a special skillset. With the proper training, enthusiasts new to motorcycling can look forward to years of enjoyment. But what if you’ve spent a lifetime riding a powered two-wheeler, and no longer feel as confident as you once did?

Options exist, including fitting a sidecar to a motorcycle, investigating a three-wheeler such as a Can-Am Spyder, or moving to a trike. Before we take a look at the choices, let’s take a journey though history.

In the late 1800s and early 1900s, inventors were coming up with ways to increase the passenger carrying capacity of a powered two-wheeler. A forecar attachment had a wicker chair with two wheels either side of it, with the single wheel out back. Forecars saw a measure of success at the turn of the last century, but it wasn’t long before the forecar gave way to the sidecar.

According to author Jo Axon, writing in her book Sidecars, “The earliest known sidecar-type passenger carrier for fitting to a two-wheeled vehicle was produced by an unknown maker for a pedal cycle in 1893. It consisted of a sparse frame supported on one wheel, a saddle and a footrest. A great many motorcycles were produced during the 1890s, and sidecars and sidecarriers designed to accommodate passengers and merchandise appeared in increasing numbers soon after 1900. Trailers, detachable forecars and tricars also appeared, but by 1910 the motorcycle and sidecar combination was clearly the most popular passenger conveyance apart from the car.”

The Sidecar

Back then, a motorcycle and sidecar, often referred to as an “outfit,” offered affordable transportation, and sidecars were produced in numerous countries with the greatest number likely built in England. As automobiles became increasingly less expensive to purchase, however, sidecars became more a lifestyle choice and remain so. That’s what Calgary’s Glen Barreth decided. Barreth started riding in his early twenties and is now 76. He was in his mid-fifties when he opted to fit a sidecar to his 2002 Harley-Davidson Dyna Glide Police Special, and says he wasn’t factoring aging into his decision.

“I always had this feeling in the back of my mind that sidecars were cool, and something I’d like to try,” the lifelong motorcyclist explains. “We had six young grandchildren at the time, and I thought it would be a neat way for them to get exposed to motorcycles without the risk of them sitting on the back (of a two-wheeler). Plus, a neigbhour had a disabled son, and I thought he might enjoy the experience.”

Barreth researched his options and connected with an ex-sidecar racer in Regina, Sask., who was advertising two or three used units for sale on Kijiji. Barreth went with his Harley-Davidson from Calgary to Regina in anticipation of purchasing and fitting a sidecar. “He had a couple of older Dnepr-style sidecars, and a U.S.-made Motorvation. The Motorvation was fairly large, but it had the ability to…


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