MBSR Blog #5: Decorating the machine

We're coming up to the final stretch before I do the MBSR rally - just about 4 weeks to go.

This means I have to start the decoration work on my scooter soon - the Burgman 400 sidecar rig.

This year's theme for our team and my costume is "Star Trek Redshirt" - so we'll be doing some Trekkie type decorations on the scooter. And as is traditional for most scooter decorations for the Mad Bastard Scooter rally, it'll probably be somewhat half assed and leave bits of decoration over several hundred KM like a plastic trail of breadcrumbs.

Which at least will make our bodies easy to find when we inevitably get lost, starve to death or are eaten by rabid squirrels somewhere in the middle of nowhere Ontario.

(Disclaimer: It is entirely possible the squirrels that will eat us are not actually rabid.)

So... what to do for a trekkie type scooter?

The Burgman already has that 80's futuristic type look - so by adding a few details we might be able to make it look like a shuttlecraft. If you squint hard enough, or someone pokes you in the eye before you look at it. Which I'll be reserving as an option when judging comes around.

First... I'll need stickers. I'll be getting some ones made that look like this....

And then something to make it look a little bit like a military vehicle...

After that will be some custom decals saying things like "Star Fleet Security" and such - my ever patient wife's work does vinyl installs and has a vinyl plotter so they will be making up some custom ones to add into the mix.

No photos since they don't actually exist as yet.... I just gave them some carefully drawn sketches that in no way resemble the scratchings of a 3 year old with crayons and excessive caffeine.

They'll probably look at them carefully, call me an idiot, toss those out and make something likely better. Though depending on how they interpret my writing it might be something completely different than intended.

The decorations will include also a tribute or two to Rob Harris (MBSR founder) - something I feel is important as it's my way of bringing him along for one last rally.

There will also be some work with LED lighting - I'm currently thinking of adding "Nacelles" to the top box on the back of the Burgman which will glow with blue LED light strips. I have the strips already, and am just figuring out how to make the nacelles.

Currently I'm thinking of using some clear plastic tubing I have to make them - and then just frosting them so they are translucent and not transparent. Should diffuse the blue light from the LEDS and give it more of an overall glow - at least that's the hope.

All in all, I think it should come together to make something recognizable... hopefully with a good touch of humour, and an even bigger touch of madness.

Because in the end - it's about both.

Not long to go, much to do - and it'll be interesting seeing how it all comes together at the last minute.

Introduction Part 4 - The Cursed Rig

Ok - so we're backtracking here a little to tell the story of the sidecar rig that came around in the time of the Ural and finished in the time of the Burgman.

I'd always had a fascination for tiny scooter/sidecar rigs for some reason. So when I came into some extra cash, and since I had a shifty vespa (a PX125E kitted with a DR177 kit) I decided to look around for a sidecar to throw on. Cozy and Inder (among others) had sidecars that were reportedly a "bolt on kit"

Now I should have realized this was a bad idea - we'd had reliable P series vespas before, but we'd also had some bad experiences. Like the PX125 that broke down on the starting line of the Mad Bastard Scooter rally - and then on the next rally managed to have a throttle malfunction that caused it to be either racing or just stalling outright.

This is that culprit.


The Vespa sidecar ended up being obtained from Fada scooters, who installed the thing one evening and being the first of its type they had installed, soon found out the "bolt on kit" required quite a bit of adjustment to get to fit. (But they persevered, and did a great job and didn't charge me extra - great service from them.)

The Vespa got attached, then I spend the rest of the summer riding the thing around. It actually did fairly well, topping out about 80kph and handling Toronto traffic well enough.

But early the next year, the motor.... ended. I took it into be fixed and it would have needed a new top end, plus the rotary pad was scratched so a reed valve kit would have been necessary to get it back on the road - all together too much work when you combined it with a complete rebuild.

I found a P200 that the owner promised was in "running shape" with a primer body, and bought it cheap.

Turned out it needed several things as well.

After that, the wiring harness needed work. Then the lights. Then the tank lining starting degrading.

And to top it all off, the frame broke.

It ended up with a huge bill (probably more than the the scooter was worth) and it ended up looking like this after a lot of work.


I took it into the 2015 Mad Bastard Scooter rally - 600km over a maximum (For my CC class) of 18 hours, with puzzles and challenges.

And that was a punishing experience.

But apparently not punishing enough... because I decided to answer the question nobody had every asked.... could you make a Vespa into an offroad bike?

I decided I'd take it on some rail trails near my cottage as a proof of concept.https://photos.smugmug.com/Parktoparkpractice/n-zfxFdB/i-zmXgM4R/0/9db6dee5/L/i-zmXgM4R-L.jpg




And it turned out to.... work pretty well in fact.

Of course I have to admit... I had some prior history to go on for this.

In 1980 a French team entered in 4 Vespa P200 scooters into the Paris-Dakar rally. they crossed 10,000km from Paris all the way to Dakar Senegal - with 2 of the team finishing. (out of 90 motorcycles that started the race, only 25 finished... so they beat the odds by far.)




so I knew the P200 could in theory handle the abuse. And indeed, the playing around I did in the dirt went quite well. The Vespa had 9 inchs (just about) of ground clearance, which is better than a KLR650. It was lightweight, had a sidecar so it wouldn't fall over, and had manual gearing that would allow me to more easily adjust my speed and play with the clutch when needed.

We were going to do the park to park trail (a 150km off road trail in Ontario) - but first I decided to take it on the Overland Adventure rally.

And thats when things went wrong... yet again.

The exhaust stub - the little round piece that the exhaust bolts into, fell off. Midway through the rally.

Which was kinda bad - as I didn't have quite the right tools to put it back. I limped it back to the hotel, but to make a long story short - I decided I needed a break from 40 year old machines for a bit - and the "Lucky 13" got put up for sale.

Weirdly enough, part of me does miss the tempermental little machine - I did have quite a lot of fun blasting around the rail trails on it.

But I'm thinking one day... again if budget permits.... I might build another street scooter/sidecar rig.... and try it out on the trails.

Hmm... elite 250 takes 10 inch tires.... which you can get knobbies for.....

Ok my wife might kill me for that one.

So in this overly long, overly detailed and occasionally outright rambling introduction - where does that leave us?

Probably with more of a cautionary tale than anything else... but despite that I'll end with the observation that sidecars get into the blood after a while.

They're a strange sickness, neither car nor motorcycle and combining the best and the worst of both.

But they're one I wouldn't give up for the world.

Next on the Webmaster's Blog: What I am doing to prepare for the Mad Bastard Scooter rally, and how a Burgman 400 is being transformed into a Star Trek shuttle. (And why.)

Introduction - part 2: Getting into sidecars

As I said, we had no idea what we were in for. Having the Ural changed how my wife and I took vacations - starting with weekend camping trips (the luggage space making it FAR easier to go motorcycle camping.)


But the biggest trip would come as a result of one of a big loss - the passing of my grandfather.

My grandfather, Jack, was a lifelong motorcycle enthusiast and a despatch rider in WW2. We decided the only appropriate way to go to his memorial in Victoria, BC was to ride the Ural all the way out there. The ride report for that can be found here - "Chasing Jack: A ride report"









You really haven't seen the country until you've gone across it on a motorcycle. And if you ask me, even more so on a sidecar. With my wife driving half the distance, I got to watch the country pass by from the sidecar. We got to meet new people, experience things that we really wouldn't have experienced from inside the cage of a cage.

The sidecar changed everything.

We did other trips - renting a sidecar in Provence, France to tour around on a trip we were lucky enough to go on with my grandmother on my mothers' side and a group of WW2 fighter pilots. (My grandfather Bob was a Typhoon pilot in WW2)
The ride report for that trip can be found here - Between Earth and Sky: A sidecar trip in Provence

We made more trips, ran rallies such as the "Going Sideways" rallies, went to the east coast and did the Cabot trail.

We did it all - but unfortunately after 50,000+ KM the Ural decided that the engine no longer wanted to have a moving crankshaft - and late one night as we were on the way to ride the Park to Park trail, just passing through Irondale, Ontario, the Ural seized up and coasted to a stop at the side of the road.

Our once shiny, now rusty and battered machine was dead.

We took it in - but the news was bad. The engine cases were damaged and a new engine was going to cost $6000 plus installation. It was a bad time budgetwise, and this wasn't really an option.

I decided after looking around to buy a used Burgman 400 rig with an Armec sidecar - to use as my daily driver instead of the Ural. And sidecar,

And the story of the Burgman will be part 3 of my introduction.... coming soon.

The Webmaster's Blog - Introduction

There's probably something fundamentally wrong with most people who write a blog.

First of all, the arrogance that leads you to believe you have something other people want to read - and that your viewpoint and/or writing is interesting enough to keep them coming back to keep reading new posts.

Then there is a certain mental exhibitionism as well, the desire to share your thought process and your experiences out to the larger world.

In my case, the motivations are many and mixed - on one hand I'm sharing knowledge of Sidecaring, and contributing in however small a fashion to the knowledge floating out there on the world wide web.  (Of which there are many sites, if relatively few Canadian-specific)  

Part of that knowledge just being - stories.  

Stories of experiences found on the road.  Stories of mistakes made and solutions found.  Stories of rigs driven, roads travelled and peoeple met.

Because it isn't always about the cold equations of sidecaring - you can find guides on setup and lean-out and toe-in up the wazoo, but sometimes you just want to find out how something *feels*.  Even if it is secondhand.

So this blog will not be entirely chronological.  It won't always be strictly relevant.  It occasionally will be silly, and sometimes will be serious.

It'll be whatever flashes through my squirrel-on-cappuccino brain, filtered out for the somewhat sidecar relevant bits, then further edited by a distracted madman in his occasional moments between other projects.

So consider that fair warning, and we'll get on with the first in a probably overly long series of entries in the life of Jamie, CSOC Webmaster and sidecar rider.

Webmaster's Blog #1:  How I learned to stop worrying and love the sidecar.


About 15 years or so ago, I stumbled into pictures of the Ural sidecar motorcycle.  I can't remember exactly where, exactly how.  I saw the pictures, read a little on them, and then moved on.

But something stuck.  Something itched in the corner of my brain, leading to me scratching those wayward neurons by reading more and looking up more pictures on the internet.

Eventually after a couple of yearsI went to see one in person at the now defunct Pickering Village Motors - and sitting on it convinced me I had to have one.

It was old fashioned.  Crude even.  With all the quirks of still yet to be polished soviet manufacturing plant that had only begun to make it's way towards what the current bikes have.  

I wavered back and forth, discussed finances with my wife (who also fell for it once we went to see it.)  

We went to see a used Dnepr being sold for a far lower price at Old Vintage Cranks (then in Hillsburg Ontario, now in Acton.)

Ken, the owner of OVC took us out for a spin in the sidecar.  It shook, rattled, roared like the angry fist of some maniacal, mythical and massive sewing machine - furiously clicking the pushrods and the two opposed cylinders making lots of noise and little horsepower.

You couldn't get on the thing without the sound of an vintage action movie playing in the back of your head.

But when it came to answering questions - we had a big one.  We asked Ken "Would that be suitable for trips?"

He paused.  Thought about it, finally answering "I wouldn't take that one on a long distance trip" while gesturing towards the army-green Dnepr rig we had just ridden "but I'd take that Ural over there across the country."

We looked at it, all black and chrome and whispering a song of dust and travel and the places you find only when you aren't looking at all.

We went home to "discuss" it.  But it was a foregone conclusion.

Shortly afterwards, we were the owners of a 2007 model year Ural Tourist.  Brand new, and ancient at the same time.

We had no idea what we were in for.