The Great Sidecar Experiment (Part Four)

Posted on August 4, 2011

The Great Sidecar Experiment

Part Four: The Master Plan

       Now the essence of The Master Plan was a two pronged attack on the problem.
A mechanical attack, and a psychological attack.

      Firstly, I felt that we needed to do much more testing, before we launched recklessly off that steep hill. Duh. To this end, I suggested we use my old 60’s era Ford Cortina, which I had stolen for the ridiculously low price of one hundred Irish pounds.  I had been helped by a very nice owner of a garage, who had found it for me. That same nice man had then only charged me another three hundred -and-fifty pounds to get the beast back to where it was remotely drivable.  It was this vehicle I proposed should carefully tow the resurrected Beast and sidecar combo down the hill, to a nice level back road somewhere, on a week night, with no witnesses about. There we would carefully conduct a series of experiments, towing the Beast Combo at progressively higher and higher speeds, until we solved all the alignment and tracking problems.      
      But there was more.

Secondly…  Seeing, I said, as everybody thought we were stone bonkers, out of our tiny little minds,why not just play along with them?  Why not act the part? All of County Wicklow was dining out on stories about these crazy guys test driving a home built side car straight down a steep hill, and crashing spectacularly each time, well,so, how about just encouraging them? We’d put the word out in due course we were going to try again, for the third time, launching straight down the hill, without letting on we had been doing hundreds of dummy runs. Then, on the appointed day, we could totally dazzle the frickin’ bastards with a perfect ninety mile and hour blatter down the hill!
The team was exultant! Great idea! They bought me drinks all night.  

      From then on in, our small group of conspirators worked dementedly on the Master Plan.
      First, we hacked and we sawed, we tweaked and we modded, we rebuilt and tested. We beefed everything up for strength. I had a big hand in the sidecar, which I strengthened with angle iron and screws. We changed the sidecar wheel (I think the one we used came off the front of an old tractor), and we massively strengthened the suspension.  One quiet evening, we carefully dragged the Beast Combo down the hill behind my old Cortina, and, on a quiet back road, we set about testing, testing, re-engineering, and testing once more.

     Secondly, publicly, we hammed the part of complete morons. Everybody we met wanted to know if we were going to try again. Oh, yes, we said. WHEN? That was always the immediate question. You could see the faces light up, and you knew full well that here was another two-faced lying skunk who was going to wish you the best to your face, and then run off to his mates, laughing his ass off.  
It was easy to imagine the hilarity at our expense:

“Jayzus, Mary and Joseph! You know that bunch of crazies with the M21 and the sidecar? The ones that rammed the wall the first time, and then went into the river the second time? That lot? Well, they’re going to try it AGAIN! Can you believe it?”
We knew it was going on, but as we were already plotting our comeback, we could live with it. It did however have the effect of making us re-double our efforts.
In truth, our secret evening sessions on the back roads were teaching us a lot. There was no doubt that we were making rapid progress.   We took it in turns driving, and slowly but surely, we all started to master the Art of handling a sidecar combo. We learned to get used to cornering, something which was entirely different from a normal motorcycle.  We learned the effect of different tire pressures, and the results of different ways of mounting the side car wheel. Our speeds we were driving at also picked up.
We also learned how the side car passenger could make or break fast cornering, when the whole side car threatened to tip up.  And finally, we made sure we ran up and down the steep hill back home, as often as it took to become perfectly comfortable with every rut and dip.
But whilst all this was going on, we still hammed the parts of gibbering idiots. To the oft repeated queries, as to how we were getting on, we would shrug our shoulders in apparent puzzlement, and say that we were “still trying to figure it out”.  And, of course, no, we hadn’t driven it yet, but we were thinking about a third test ride sometime soon…

     It was overwhelmingly obvious that every motorcyclist for miles around, was begging for an invite to the purported third test run, and privately we were now in hysterics. Our plot was proceeding beautifully, and we joked a lot about how many motorcycles would be turning up this time. The first time we had seen about twenty. The second trial had brought in fifty. We wondered if we could make it a hundred for the third test flight.
Soon enough, we had reached the confidence level at which we felt it was the right time to -casually- mention around town that we were “thinking” about another trial run (down the steep hill, of course) on the following Saturday afternoon.  Soon the phone was ringing red hot. It seemed everybody was planning to come.  
On the appointed day, hours before the scheduled time, motorcycles and riders started turning up. Luckily it was a pleasant, sunny day. We also got cars, minivans, several tipsy winos, and a dangerous looking Alpaca. It turned out the Alpaca was for sale, and the wino owner presumably was banking on a crowd to hopefully hawk his Alpaca.

     Soon we counted over a hundred motorcycles, and still they flooded in. They were parked up and down the hill now, and spilling over into a farmer’s field.  And still they came rolling in. The next thing we saw was a Hamburger van pull up, serving hot sausage dogs, cheeseburgers and a dubious looking concoction sold as ‘meatballs in gravy’.  But we really knew we had arrived, and struck it big, when the Legion of Mary Jesus freaks turned up, with their signs and banners. We thought a crowd of rough old bikers was a strange venue to be looking for recruits, but as Deklan phrased it, so eloquently, “Ah, sure, all we need now is a topless stripper, and we could charge feckin’ admission…”

      Of course, we were still hamming our alleged third test ride deception, and to the many queries, we assured everybody that we had not ridden her since the last crash. But NOW, we would say, NOW, we honestly believed we had solved the problem.  Many onlookers had difficulty keeping their faces straight, and although we acted all gormless and stupid, we knew full well the unofficial betting for a crash was running heavily against us.  

      Finally, the appointed hour had come, and we had one more psychological refinement. Given the lack of enthusiasm and volunteers, on the previous occasion, for riding in the side car, Deklan had decided he would once again call for volunteers. Suspecting there would be none, the plan was then for an ally to call for me. I was then to act the part of the all sheepish, all nervous, all reluctant volunteer. In this manner we hoped to raise the doubts of a successful outcome even higher, given the fact that one of the builders didn’t even trust himself in it. Then the plan was to dazzle everybody with our prowess and engineering, and prove the whole damn lot of them dead wrong.  We had even discussed flipping them all the bird on our triumphant return pass…

     In the event, the first part didn’t quite go according to plan. Deklan stood up, and asked the hushed crowd for some volunteers to ride in the sidecar. One of the tipsy winos, sitting on the grass, on hearing that, appeared to assume he was going to get something for nothing, and maybe a drink out of it, and put his hand up. Luckily for us, he proceeded to then try standing up. In this attempt he failed miserably, falling flat on his face. Amidst the laughter from the crowd, our co-conspirator then called for me, and I got to ham the part of the reluctant side car passenger.  At length, after a chorus of cat calls, jeers, and much clapping and laughter, I allowed myself to be “persuaded”, and climbed “nervously” into the side car cum coffin.  Once again a whole mob of enthusiastic volunteers pushed us down the road to get us going, and when The Beast fired up, my ears were ringing from the loud cheering.
At this stage, our carefully rehearsed plan went beautifully into fruition. Straight as a die we tore down the hill, the healthy bellow from our steed reverberating across the countryside.  Soon we were turning around at the bottom, and thundering back up the hill for a triumphant pass along the stunned crowd lines. We could see the looks of utter amazement on their faces, and it gave me great pleasure in “flipping them all the bird”, as we roared back past them all. Yet another trick was up our sleeve. Next we came roaring along once more, but now we were showing off a trick we had been practicing on our secret back road:  
Deklan was now standing one-legged on the seat, head back, still holding onto the handle bars, the other leg stretched out above and behind him like a demented ballet dancer.  I was flying the exact same pose. Both of us wore ridiculous expressions, as a purposefully planned mockery of all our erstwhile detractors.
The cheers still ringing in our ears, we were now flying down the hill for the second time, picking up speed once more. To say that we were exultant would be a total understatement. We were now laughing so much, the whole sidecar was shaking. Or perhaps it was the speed. Deklan was really gunning it, and we were going like the proverbial bullet. The wind was really whistling now, and amongst  the many pleasant emotions I was savoring, I remember there was a mild surprise how quick we were going.  Soon Deklan, beside himself with satisfaction, and highly triumphant, was shouting something. I didn’t quite understand it. It sounded like:
               “Blay-Blong! BLAY-BLONG! BLAAAY-BLONGGGG!”

Cool!, I thought. Blay-Blong to you too!  Wonderful. Life is good. That fixed the sons-of-bitches. Yes, Blay-Blong!

                “Blay-Blong! BLAY-BLONG! BLAAAY-BLONGGGG!”

Absolutely, I thought. I know, you’re very happy. SO AM I.
We rounded a slight bend, faster than we had ever before, and I made sure I hung out carefully, to balance the sidecar. Deklan was really getting good at things, and we sure were flying… I bet the crowd up the hill was really impressed now…
                “Blay-Blong! BLAY-BLONG! BLAAAY-BLONGGGG!”

With the wind really howling,  and approaching record speed,  I looked up from my position in the sidecar, low to the road, at the grim face of the rider above and beside me. Deklan, snatching a quick glance at me, for some reason looked different. What…??
               “Blay-Blong! BLAY-BLONG! BLAAAY-BLONGGGG!”
What…??
              BRAKES GONE! BRAKES GONE!!!!!!!!

(Oh, sh…ttt!!!!)

(to be continued)    PART FIVE – CLICK HERE

Francis Meyrick
     (c)

Last edited by Francis Meyrick on June 6, 2015, 4:12 am


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