The Great Sidecar Experiment (Part Three)
Posted on August 3, 2011
The Great Sidecar Experiment
Part Three: trench warfare
If “Deja Vue” was a movie, then what I was seeing was a surreal re-run. I already knew from personal, painful experience, that motorcycles do indeed crash occasionally. I also knew what it was like to find yourself unexpectedly suspended in mid air, wondering how, when, and exactly where you were going to meet planet Earth again. But this was the first time I was watching such a calamity unfold in front of my disbelieving eyes, in a full Technicolor repeat performance. I’m sure my eyes were bulging, and I remember looking at everybody else in amazement. The same hands were exercising some inbuilt small child reflex, and were covering mouths. The same arms were either waving around, or clasping shocked heads, lest they roll off the owner’s flabbergasted shoulders. The same strangulated human sounds could be heard from the onlookers. Then, as a mass, we ran down the road.
This time we were not merely picking up discarded pieces of M21 motorcycle, and expressing sympathy with the survivors of trench warfare. This time it was more of a rescue mission, given the fact that two of the four Matadors were lying face down under water, struggling and splashing violently. Another was trying to get out from under the sidecar cum coffin, and the last hapless member had straddled some barbed wire, and was uttering wailing noises. Deklan especially was in serious trouble, and it was afterwards established that he had been trying to claw his way back to breathable air by digging through the bottom of the ditch. All were breathless, soaked, covered in mud, mad as hell, and once again frantically massaging and rubbing all manner of painful body parts.
The sad cortege repeated itself back up the hill, in the rain, which was back to the cats and dogs stage. Hurt, limping, sore and bleeding survivors were once again supported by rescuers, and once again gave vent to feelings of frustration and bewilderment. The talk now was of a “speed wobble” and a “tank slapper”, and heated discussion already was taking place as to how such a “speed wobble” was due to alignment problems. In other words, somebody had screwed up calculating the Square Root of the Pythagoras Algorhythm.
But there was now also a new element present. Once it was established that nobody had actually died, and that, sore heads and limbs notwithstanding, basically everybody had survived yet again, the muffled hysterics were becoming increasingly un-muffled. After all the fine engineering talk, and the knowledgeable discourses on the finer points of side car alignment, it was obvious that some members of the crowd were planning to dine out on this story for weeks. The stage whispers and side comments were now becoming ribald, and just looking around you could see people valiantly trying to prevent themselves from bursting out laughing.
It was, admittedly, not our best performance. Two attempts, two failures. The first attempt had now resulted in a STAGE RIGHT crashing into a wall, and the second had resulted in a STAGE LEFT near drowning. And once again, the Beast was smashed. We watched the crowd of onlookers slowly disperse, in a seemingly raucous good mood. You could see by their bright eyes, and the looks, that most couldn’t wait to get back to their haunts and spend the next few nights laughing their socks off at our expense.
It was a small, disconsolate group that was left behind with the mangled remains. The sidecar had really suffered this time, and was likely a total loss. Indeed, Deklan, nursing multiple injuries, including a broken tooth, was all for abandoning the project there and then. Tim also had serious reservations about ever trying to align a sidecar again, and complained bitterly that he could never show his face at college again. For my part, I found myself puzzling about the root cause and sudden violence of the observed “speed wobble”. I had heard mention of the concepts of “toe-in” and “toe-out” as it relates to wheels, and although I did not understand the subtleties, I figured we needed to approach the problem in a more methodical fashion.
A few weeks went by, and it emerged that we were the talk of Counties Dublin AND Wicklow. There was so much hilarity at our expense, that it was generally thought it was just a matter of time before we were asked to appear on “The late, late Show”, which in those days was a Television show which guaranteed you eternal notoriety. We even watched it faithfully at boarding school.
Deklan and Tim were now finding themselves greeted in public with ribald wisecracks along the lines of:
“How’s the sidecar coming on then!!!!?” (Har-har-har…)
“When will you be going into production then…? (Har-har-har…)
I had even been hailed with: “Hey, Francis, is that right you chickened out of riding in the sidecar?”
It was clear that if we gave up, we were fated to be forever associated with the Grand Sidecar Debacle.
Our reputations were now on the line, and we all knew it. After a week or two brooding about it, I kind of got an idea. The more I thought about it, the better an idea it seemed to me. It wasn’t too long, before I started filling in the tiny details in my feverish mind. Now it was becoming a brilliant idea. Eventually, overcome with excitement, I called a private meeting in the pub, and I explained the plot in detail to my fellow members of the sidecar engineering team.
I remember their faces lighting up. Excellent idea, they all said. Excellent. We all drank to that, and resolved to start engineering work the next weekend without delay…
(to be continued) PART FOUR – CLICK HERE
Last edited by Francis Meyrick on June 6, 2015, 4:10 am