We all have a decision to make everyday - how am I going to spend any free time that I have? For me, running this blog definitely takes some time and it's fun. One thing posting to the blog does not allow me to do however is get my hands physically dirty. There is something about finishing a bike related project and having dirt or grease under your fingernails or perhaps drawing blood. For me I guess hacking, modifying, repairing, etc. a bike is a bit more visceral and provides a rush I might not get typing on a keyboard.
Eric wrote to us wanting to let us know how he spends a lot of his free time. My guess is that he gets his fingers pretty dirty and has likely sacrificed a bit of bit blood on his sidecar projects - makes me jealous! Anyone with an interest in bike sidecars definitely has an experienced brain to pick. All text and photos below are credited to Eric.
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About four years ago I met this old man that had imported rickshaws from India. He offered to let me rent them if I could refurbish them and get them running. I agreed, and thus I became the one and only pedicab driver in Athens, Ohio. My intrepid endeavor proved to be lucrative, but a formidable challenge due to the sheer mass of the rickshaw and the town's steep grades.
That would explain why I was the only one doing it! I loved my new gig, but felt like I might die prematurely if I pushed that thing up one too many hills, or worse yet, encountered an obstacle when rolling down one like a cannonball. Then I realized that my solution was to build my own rickshaw and make it as light as possible. I discovered in the book Chasing Rickshaws that the sidecar hack is the featherweight champion when it comes to passenger cycles. In fact, there are thousands of sidehacks in use across southeast asia, in places like Burma, the Philippines, and Singapore.
So, once I got building, I found it hard to stop. In three years I have produced five sidecar pedicabs and am working on another sidecar for cargo by commission. The reason I keep building more is partly to improve the designs but mostly because these bikes are awesomely fun and there ought to be more of them.
Sidecars are unusual at first, but a blast to ride once you get the hang of it. I love making tight turns by leaning real hard and riding in the passenger seat on downhills. They are so compact and nimble compared to delta rickshaws; They're even able to turn a zero-degree radius, which makes it far easier to bring onto sidewalks. And for the show-boating pedicab driver, they have a number of tricks up their fenders. You can pull wheelies on any of the three wheels. Hot dog! They don't flinch at mud or snow, either. You can lean back over the drive wheel and get more traction in slippery situations, more so than would be possible on a two-wheeler.
People simply love the experience of riding on a sidecar. I always get customers that say I've just made their night, or even their whole year. For me, there's no doubt that sidehacks are pure win!
However, I noticed a fair bit of antagonism towards sidehacks on the internet because many people seem to think they are unsafe, for various reasons. No doubt, these vehicles can be dangerous if conducted improperly, but a bit of experience handling loads on trikes goes a long way. A well-designed sidecar will be very forgiving, but a carelessly improvised one might take special care to avoid tip-over.
Uneven inertia while braking can be a factor, but all that is needed is a steady set of hands on the bars to counter-steer. Brakes on the outrigger wheel are nice, though. I have set them up to be operated either by foot pedal or with an extra brake lever on the handlebar. I have to try doing one that's actually linked to slow down both rear wheels evenly.
Some have said they incur more risk because they are wider than a singletrack bike, but in my mind that is only an issue if you misjudge or even forget about the outrigger wheel being there and run it into something. If you're worried about taking up too much of the lane, then you're just being a pansy. You have every right to ride in the center of the lane when you need it, traffic behind you be damned. Being half as wide as a car, you most certainly will be seen and probably given more room than if you were on a two-wheeler.
The biggest issue I have had with my sidehacks is maintaining wheel truth - lots of unusual side-loads arise from sidecar geometry. Even though I have taco'd many wheels it has never happened while moving. The easiest solution, since I can't afford super beefy rims, was to move to 20" wheels, like the Filipino sidecars. I have had very few problems staying true since.
I've had one instance where emergency maneuvers saved the day; I was barreling down Mill street once on the Skruvskar with two male passengers on board when a string of sorority floozies started jaywalking across the street without heeding the world outside of their mundane affairs. I managed to escape by turning into a driveway and bumping across a few front yards without incident. Fortunately, these vehicles are more stable when loaded.
So anyhow, there you have it- a little insight on the exploits of an illustrious pedicab side-hacker.
To see the Skruvskar in action, you can watch the documentary here. And for the full scoop, here's my blogspace: bikesbringit.blogspot.com
And I'd be glad to answer any questions y'all might have.
Peace, Love, and Bicycles.