It looks like a bike. Feels like a bike. Smells like a bike BUT it most definitely doesn’t handle like a bike! Welcome to the land of adventure sidecar motorcycles…I visited the Ural Experience Centre in Portugal to get some training on how to ride an adventure sidecar motorcycle… but what many of us don’t consider is that…
Sidecars have hugely different reactions, unique controls, a whole extra wheel to think about and nearly half a tonne in weight. It completely transforms the riding experience. Often described as “death traps” for these exact reasons but with the right tuition they can be an epic adv experience so I’ve decided to learn from the best with the Ural Experience Centre Portugal. But will I have the aptitude? 🤯🤞🏼
One of the key reasons to learn sidecars with an experienced team is due to safety. They really are like wrestling a bear at times. Rob made a fantastic demonstration of what can go wrong if you give the wrong inputs…
So what happens when you pull the front brake on an adventure sidecar motorcycle…. Certain death! This was an awesome but slightly terrifying demonstration by Rob on why the front brake needs serious respect when on three wheels. The front brake slows the bike but the momentum of the sidecar simply keeps going, forcing its weight to overtake the bike. Which basically means a very sudden change in direction – and if that happened on the road with on-coming cars…. Yikes.
Sidecars are not dangerous but when not controlled correctly they sure can be! This experience is amazing and will ensure you’re fully understanding of how to have fun safely!
The Portugal centre is run by a wonderful couple, Rob and Zayne. As a pair they bring some serious years of sidecar experience to the table, so if they don’t know it, it’s probably not worth knowing. They are full of energy, buzzing to share the sidecar love and very knowledgeable in both the local area for top riding, but also in life with sidecars. We had an absolute giggle out riding, learning, and also over lovely wine with dinner.
Rob is fantastic at the tuition side, easily translating what I needed to do into processable riding inputs. He did sometimes take a somewhat serious approach, however that’s his safety conscious side working hard to ensure it’s a controlled experience. Thankfully with Emma and my sidecar capabilities progressing his training stepped up to align. They’re basically super flexible and will take the training at the pace you’re able to go. So pink flamingos in the sidecar…no problem.
Rob and Zayne are in for some fun! You can read more on them here – About us – Gusto Motorbikes.
It’s double trouble fun! Sidecars totally blew my expectations. I honestly didn’t think it would be quite such a hoot. The bit that really makes it for me is the experience with Emma Wolstenholme. Riding up next to each other, able to chat and giggle, absorbing and sharing the adventure but also co depending on each other. I have to ensure the bike and sidecar are powered and controlled but Emma has to manoeuvre her weight to support. I need her like she needs me. It’s a wonderful experience for two, especially when one is not a rider or less into bikes. We’ve had so many giggles today!
This is not a modern high tech refined machine… but it’s not trying to be one and it somehow doesn’t need to be one. The fun comes for the experience, the ability to ride at a slightly slower pace but with more thrill from the journey. Powered by an air-cooled 745cc pushrod boxer with 42 hp and a minimal sprinkling of modern niceties the Gear Up feels vintage in all the right ways. The engine is working, you can almost hear the pushrods and rocker arms. It’s clunk but with character, so gear shifts have to be done deliberately and sternly. You have to ride it, bond with it and take control. And that’s something I really enjoyed. You almost have to ride it like you sole it and I mean that in a good way. You’re not hurting it, but with a lower performance, older style machine, you have to push it. Work it. Use the gears. And there is a lot of fun in that. Especially as you’re sliding sideways around a dust dirt track with your sidecar pillion hanging off to the side.
Ural Gear up
It’s exciting and involving. You’re not going to get anywhere in a huge hurry and that brings a lovely simplicity to you. You have to take your time and enjoy the journey. It’s not fast, but it’s quick enough.
As a 1WD with 2WD capability machine there is some fun to have in where you can take it too. Engage the two-wheel-drive lever to lock the rear wheel to the sidecar wheel via a shaft and you have plenty of drive It’s amazing how much it pulls! Yes 2WD kills your cornering ability but as a tool to deploy when you NEED it, it’s an ace capability for the adventurer. You also have a reverse gear too if you get into trouble you can always go back the way you came. It’s also helpful in parking and manoeuvring as the unit is not exactly light – you’re looking at around half a tonne with riders and gear.
Not only is the fun for some adventures, it’s amazingly useful in everyday life. You can even get a trailer. Legally approved to take three riders… driver, sidecar monkey AND pillion… you have a three person vehicle when needed. You can also put an amazing amount in the sidecar trunk or use the sidecar space as luggage instead of passenger. Lot’s of space for grocery shops.
The specs might be old skool but the fun factor is high, and for me that’s where it matters.
I have absolutely no idea what’s going on other than insane giggles with my crazy best friend Emma, Fred the flamingo and a Ural sidecar….
You’ll be sating with Rob and Zayne in their lovely home. They have two double rooms with bathroom facilities just for you. The house is clean, homely and comforting. The best bit is the yummy home cooked food prepared by Zayne, oh and the yummy local wines.
With the experience aimed at new riders or experienced sidecar enthusiasts there is a huge mix of terrain on the doorstep. Our training was initially on local dirt tracks and quiet roads. Once my confidence and capability grew we went more adventurous on some pretty trick tracks and adventure runs doing some mileage
You can fly to Lisbon airport, Portugal. You then need to get a 10 minute taxi to the train station and a 1.5 hour train ride. Rob and Zayne can collect you from there.
Rua Marques de Pombal 25
A Ural Experience Day is structured as a full day of one-on-one learning and riding, both for basic and more advanced sidecar riding.
Each day is divided into two, with a break for lunch.
For beginners, the morning consists of an introduction to Ural Motorcycles and learning the basic skills that you will need to handle the machine confidently. In the afternoon, you will head out on a carefully selected route including local roads and tracks to demonstrate relevant riding skills and techniques. You will start with the basics, and progress from there in-line with the experience you would like to develop.
For more advanced riders, you will head out in the morning to refresh the basics before focussing on the specific techniques and experience you would like to develop. In the afternoon you will go further riding on more varied roads, tracks and terrain, all specifically chosen to build your experience and confidence for your adventures.
The Ural Gear Up (2WD) is the model used for Experience Days. It is also possible to undertake an Experience Day on your own Ural Motorcycle if you wish to gain more specific experience, learn more about its capabilities and explore new routes.
Each of our Ural Experience Centres operators will adapt the Experience Days offer according to the rider, location and weather.
If you’re new to my page – it’s more than just dirt bike riding, Harleys and racing, I’m on a mission to prove that nothing is impossible if you want it bad enough. See more about my story plus read about my life changing accident, which started it all.