“When you get to be my age you have to go to a trike or something.”
That statement from Glyn McDowell, 72, is something a lot of aging motorcyclists can identify with. But not very many go the route Glyn has gone. His mount these days is a sidecar rig with all the controls shifted to the sidecar. Going down the road with no one on the bike you’d better believe he gets a lot of double takes.
“It’s kind of an unusual looking rig,” he agrees.
Glyn’s rig is powered by a 1978 Honda CB750 Hondamatic, or CB750A, where the “A” stands for automatic. It’s a model Honda made for only three years in the late ’70s. Glyn doesn’t know a lot about the sidecar, other than that it was made by “some fellow in Kansas.” This particular one was designed to accommodate a wheel chair, so in the rear is a ramp that drops down to allow the wheelchair to roll in and out.
In order to use the rig without a wheelchair, Glyn bolted in some boat seats. It’s a four-passenger machine now, with room for two on the bike and two in the sidecar. Glyn also bolted on some bathtub rails so the riders on the bike will have something to hold onto. The boat seats even have seatbelts. The bike and sidecar both have headlights.
The instrument cluster, handlebars, and windshield have been transplanted to the sidecar. A tie-rod from a Ford tractor connects to the fork so turning works just the same from the sidecar as it would from any bike with a sidecar attached. That is to say, you steer right to go right and steer left to go left.
With an automatic transmission, both hand levers operate the brakes. On the right it’s the typical front brake, while the left controls the rear. The standard rear foot-brake lever has been rotated upward so it can also be used by hand if desired. The rig is set up with a parking brake as well, but that broke recently so Glyn has to be careful where he parks because there’s no such thing as leaving it in gear.
The Hondamatic does have two drive modes, upper and lower, as well as neutral, all of which are controlled by a lever that comes up between the bike and the sidecar. Ease it forward to step up, ease it back to step down.
Go-kart on steroids
It’s the natural assumption that Glyn had ridden motorcycles for years before making the switch to the sidecar rig. That assumption is wrong.
“I never rode bikes,” he says, but for the rig, “It just looked like so much fun. It reminds me of a go-kart on steroids. I run it up to 65, 70, and the faster you run the better it feels. But mostly I just poke around like an old man.”
He has had the rig for 10 years and mostly, he says, “I go garage-saleing on it. I just ride around. Everybody stops and looks at that piece of junk. They think I’ve gone mad. It looks like something a mad welder would throw together on a weekend.”
While Glyn only puts about 2,000 miles on the rig in a year, it has had its share of wear and is not in the best condition. What he would like to do, if he ever gets around to it, is replace the bike with a new one. He has a new one. An old new one, or “new old stock” as the vintage bike lovers say. Parked in his garage is another 1978 Hondamatic 750, with barely 2,000 miles on it, and in perfect condition.
Whether that ever happens or not, Glyn is having fun. And he’s thinking about having a little more fun, getting a stuffed dog and mounting it on the bike. Then watch the double takes.