If you’ve always fancied getting a tricycle sidecar but don’t have the budget to buy one, this guide is for you.
I’ll share the step-by-step process I used to make my tricycle sidecar after crashing on my bike and severing my knee that I couldn’t ride anymore.
But first here’s a summary of designing a bike sidecar:
1) Choose a design
2) Create a frame
3) Mount the wheels
4) Assemble the bike sidecar
5) Attach the tricycle sidecar to your bike
6) Align the sidecar
7) Add accessories
However, keep in mind that building a bike car, especially from scratch, is challenging.
The good news is it pays off and is useful, especially if you’ve pets and kids and love the long-distance touring trips.
I use mine for my shopping supplies and errands.
Step-by-Step of Making Tricycle Sidecar
1) Build a Design
The first step to making a bike sidecar is to develop a design.
You start by first imagining what you would like your bike sidecar to look like.
At this step, only your imagination can limit you.
However, it’s also good to bear some sense of practicality when developing a design.
In my case, I usually consider the purpose of the sidecar. For example, a bike sidecar for pets will be different from that of my two kiddos.
A bike car for my dog will only have a limited room and opening, while one for my kids is more spacious, comfortable, and with plenty of safety elements.
In contrast, if you simply need a sidecar for storage or carrying luggage or other things, you can go with your design’s pretty simple and bland box-like structure.
While at it, also consider aerodynamics. Having a tapered front end, for example, will help with the wind resistance.
2) Design the frame
The next step is to build the frame.
The frame will be the foundation of your bike sidecar, taking much of the weight of your luggage.
It, therefore, should have a decent width and be sturdy.
The structure of your sidecar will also depend on the building design of your sidecar.
Ideally, I’d recommend using steel angle bars or the L-shaped bars for a standard bike car.
Measure your trike design, lay the frame on the ground, and, using your frame design, weld them together to ensure they hold over time.
However, if you’re finding it challenging to build the frame or even find the materials to use, I’d suggest the easier route of a DIY sidecar kit frame.
The sidecar kit frame is a pre-built frame, with all the solid metal bars welded into place.
The frame also comes with add-ons such as bearings and seals for an easy attachment.
Even better, most local bike shops can even customize the sidecar frame kit to suit your needs.
3) Mounting the wheels
The positioning of the wheels will greatly influence the stability of your car.
I’d recommend mounting the wheels along the edge of the frame, but of course, it’ll also depend on the design of your sidecar.
Nonetheless, it’s also crucial that you secure the sidecar wheel mounts so that the wheels don’t get off during transit.
I usually use split pins, pivot bearings, bolts, nuts, screws, lock washers, and other tools for securing my wheel mounts.
4) Assembling your sidecar
The assembling process is usually an exciting step for me.
Now, depending on the design of your sidecar, you could choose plywood or aluminum/steel for the body.
Plywood is easier to manage. Most users find wood’s light weight easier to cut and tweak than aluminum.
Conversely, aluminum/steel is sturdy and quite more durable than plywood. Steel is particularly a great material if you’ll be using your bike on the beaten paths and rugged conditions.
Once you assemble the external framework, proceed to make the final touches to the bodywork.
5) Attach the sidecar to your bike
The easiest and simplest way of attaching a sidecar to a bike is using a universal mounting kit.
A good thing with these mounting kits is they’re available in most LBS.
What’s more? They come with all the accessories you need to complete the installation. Some of the handy attachments include nuts and shims.
6) Aligning the sidecar
Aligning your sidecar is necessary for stability and a comfortable ride.
It also helps with the rolling performance, ensuring the trike sidecar tracks in a straight line.
Now, aligning a sidecar is a trial and error method, and it would help if you had some helping hand and some jack stand and stand on hand.
There’re a couple of pointers to help you with the sidecar alignment, and they include:
- Ensure the sidecar is adjusted to the level line
- Ensure the sidecar has 2 degrees of lean out from the trike
- Wheels should be parallel to each other
- The sidecar should be correctly lined up with the brackets
But as I’ve mentioned above, there’s no right or wrong way of aligning your sidecar.
The trick is to get proper alignment through trials and error. And the truth is the alignment can equally be as frustrating as building the trike sidecar, especially if it’s the first time.
But with time, it’ll become much easier.
By now, you already have a usable trike sidecar, but for safety and comfort purposes, I’d suggest some final touches.
Depending on the design of your sidecar, you could have a couple of priorities over others.
For example, if your sidecar is primarily designed for kids, installing harnesses to keep them locked in the sidecar is crucial.
You could also choose to install LED strips for additional lighting and better navigation if you like riding at night.
A mesh and sunburn cover could also come in handy for protecting your kids against the elements.
Conversely, tricycle sidecars for luggage don’t need many additions or comfort. A simple box, free of frills, is sufficient.
You could also paint the trike car for aesthetics.
When not to DIY a Tricycle Sidecar
Sometimes, it makes sense if you choose not to DIY your sidecar and have a professional do it. You could also choose to buy a built sidecar from your local dealer.
Some of the instances when a having a professional do it for you is when you’re not a DIY enthusiast or don’t have the know-how of welding.
Having a professional is also a great alternative if you’re unsure whether it’s possible to make one from scratch.
It’s especially true if you need to create a complex and complicated design.
Having a professional build your trike sidecar will save you a lot of effort.
And depending on the design you choose, it may also turn out to be an affordable option.
The best part is you could also require your builder to customize the sidecar to meet your demands.
Benefits of a Trike Sidecar
There’re numerous reasons why many riders prefer a sidecar add-on to their bikes.
It’s a practical investment with lots of benefits.
And in the section below, we’ll look at some of the reasons why you probably need one;
The first benefit of a tricycle is that it can accommodate your family.
It’s a good way for you to bond with your family while on the cycling expeditions.
What’s more is that sidecars are safe and comfortable for use, even for the kids.
It’s also legal, provided you follow the road safety rules.
More outdoor experience
Having a tricycle sidecar allows you to experience more of the outdoors than you would in a car.
It’s also an enjoyable experience for the kids, where they get more personal with nature.
Provided you’ve the right setup for your tricycle and aligned it properly; you won’t find the experience intimidating.
It’s secure and stable, with hardly any slippage on the gravel or wet road.
There’s also no problem at stoplights, even when your sidecar is loaded with luggage.
Trike sidecars have plenty of storage options, especially on the trunk, back o the seat, and foot area.
It can accommodate much more luggage than a plain bike would.
Ideal for Passenger
Sidecars offer unobstructed front and side views.
There’re also no more back drivers to contend with.
The big comfortable rides are ideal for a scenic view.
Trike sidecars provide more utility for daily errands such as shopping, work supplies, store runs, and more.
It adds more practicality and usefulness to your bikes.
Cons of a Sidecar
Of course, there’re also cons to using a tricycle sidecar.
Some of the disadvantages include reducing the driver’s fun factor.
It’s still fun to ride with a tricycle car, but if you enjoy the twisties, that is gone with a sidecar.
A sidecar also has quite a heavy side steering and may need the effort to move around. And depending on the luggage and size of the sidecar, it can even drain you.
Overall, bike sidecars are a nice addition to your daily drive.
It’s even better if you can build one of your own and customize it depending on your needs.
And the good thing is I’ve outlined a step-by-step guide on building one.