XS650 and the Sidecar of Death


XS650 Masher
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Salt Lake City, UT
Hi guys, been a lurker for some time, now that I have a couple XS650s I figure I'll be here a bit more and should participate..

Two summers ago I picked up a Dnepr (Soviet Military Bike) with a sidecar. Ended up selling the bike and keeping the sidecar, decided to mount it up to the XS650 ('81 Special) I had kickin' around.

Here's a couple of pictures of the bike and the progress with the rig. Just finished some 2-1 high pipes last night, other than header coating. Waiting for a piece of bent thick wall tubing for a subframe for the rear sidecar lower mount and then I will put the tub on the frame and hit the road to see what I can break.

Anyone with sidecar experience please pitch in and if you see something I should be concerned about or have questions on the work I'm doing. I am a complete novice when it comes to sidecars :doh:




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Oooo! Nice. Keep the pics coming.

Alos, I love the design of your tool rolls. Where were you a month ago when I ordered the POS I have off eBay?
Oooo! Nice. Keep the pics coming.

Alos, I love the design of your tool rolls. Where were you a month ago when I ordered the POS I have off eBay?

Thank you Sir. I do a crap job at advertising the stuff I make, I don't even think my site can be found from Google, I've never seen any trafic come from a search engine. I see you found me on Instagram, that's where I've been showing product and doing most sales/trade. Kinda just a hobby for me.
Thanks, the exhaust was a bit of a rush job as I wanted to keep the exhaust on the left side (away from the passenger) and couldn't find anything available like that. Gordon Scott makes some great ones, but isn't taking orders right now..

You could buy one of the few xs650 bend kits available and save a few bucks. I already have a lot going on and want to get on the road ASAP so I used the Pandemonium Choppers "Ya Mamma" pipes combined with a 1.5" inlet to 2" outlet 2into1 collector and a 2" inlet stainless steel baffled muffler from Cone Engineering. In between the collector and muffler I added some length with 2" OD tubing.

The spring and retainer also came from Cone. Because I welded the headers to the collector, I had to made a butt joint on one of the headers with flanges and a gasket so the pipes could come off the bike. I'd suggest finding a slip on collector and using springs to hold it on so you don't have to do what I did.

I'll list prices and parts when I'm at a computer. I do have an extra set of 1.5" ID flanges if anyone needs them.

Just started the bike today and it sounds fantastic!

Also wired up all the sidecar lights.
Nice looking work. Love the pipes, but maybe a bit of potential for some nasty scars without a heat shield?

Have you been on ADVRider, in particular the Hack section? Lots of good advice, with some great primers on setting up the rig. Lots of individual builds on the site as well, including part of my XR build.

I've built 4 now. A Triumph Thunderbird with a Velorex, a KLR650 with an Enduro, an 84 GoldWing with a Motorvation, and an XR1200 HD with a Ural, set up for off road fun; the Ural is like a cousin to the DNEPR.

Don't know how much you have been thru, but here are some things to watch for...

Watch those ball joint mounts. Most folks replace them sooner rather than later with something a bit more solid. The DNEPR is a heavy rig for the XR. Your attachment points bear watching close as well, until you get a few thousand miles on it. I had to move mine around a bit, and after a couple hundred miles had some cracks develop in the hack sub-frame that required larger gussets. Definitely heavier fork springs, shock springs, and maybe longer shocks. I think you'll prolly want to gear down (bigger sprocket on the rear), as you 1st gear will be hard on the clutch.

May need to reduce trail (modified trees) if steering is too heavy. Most go this route, once you decide that these crazy three wheelers are here to stay. Alternatively, a set of Leading Link forks is mo-betta, but hard to touch at less than about $2k. I ended up with a steering damper on all my rigs.

Once you get around to pretty finishes, LINEX is superb for the inside of the DNEPR,as well as the bottom.

Nice choice of tires, and fitting the XS wheel to the hack was a great idea. May want to fit the brake over there eventually as well...

Jay at DMC Sidecars in Washington State and Claude at Freedom Sidecars are both very helpful with set-up questions, and have lots of hack related mounting hardware.

If you take any trips... take gas. Your new mileage will suck. The XR1200 got 40; it now gets 25. The GL1200 got 40; it now gets 25...:doh:

You'll may go through clutches fast. The GL1200 clutch has 25000 hack miles on it, with the stock clutch. I have about 5,000 miles on the XR/Ural rig and have been through 4. Go figure. When we travel on the HD I always take a new Barnetts clutch pack with me... and lots of tools.

Last, watch your handling at speed. Doing 70 going down the freeway on a smooth surface is fine; but a patch of unexpected rough road will have you clamping on the binders real quick; hack handling can get squirrely fast. The toe-in makes a big difference at speed, and for tire wear.

If you have a dog, most love it; ours would rather ride than eat...:thumbsup:

Most hackers are pretty friendly, if a bit odd... :D. Let me know if you have any questions. If you are around, there is an awesome Hack Rally in Griffith Park (So Cal) late September; lots and lots of rigs, usually some music, superb roach coach food:confused:, and usually some LA Hotties wandering around...:thumbsup: We've made it 4 out of the last 5 years.

Here's our crew on a trip last monsoon season; the desert around Tucson is not usually this green...


Good luck with the rig. Oh, and watch your engine temps. May need to fit an oil cooler for summer travel.
Wow, this is some great and definitely appreciated advice! That XR is a dream machine!! What front end is on it? I have an XS1100 front end with dual discs that I plan to fit after the rig is on, but sure would like a leading link setup.

I have been on ADVRider, but not the hack section, I'll have to check it out.

I do have a few choices for exhaust heat shields and will mount a 12" or so wide one when I can make up my mind.

So far I've replaced all wheel bearings and tires, converted the back wheel to a 19" front to match the other two. Using tapered roller bearings on the sidecar wheel, in my experience they hold up a lot better to side forces. Geared down a bit when I did the wheel conversion and upgraded to a o-ring chain. I have two spare wheels I can mount to the back of the rig.

I hope to mount a brake disc to the backside of the sidecar wheel and fab a caliper mount over the winter, tackle the front end and motor rebuild.

At the moment the sidecar tub is sitting on the floor of my garage while I set things up, I have a 7 month old bulldog who heads right for it when I'm working I the garage and sits while I work, so I think I will always have a monkey for the rig!! Just got her a set of Doggles last week. :)

I appreciate you taking the time to offer the advise and suggestions + share your beautiful XR rig. Please let me know if you see me doing something unadvisable, I am a super rookie when it comes to sidecars.
No sweat. You have some great welding skills. I end up fabbing, tacking, and then taking to folks (whose life I place my hands in...) for quality welding. Make no mistake that the forces hacks impose on bike frames are substantial; steel failure at speed can be fatal...

Found a thread on our forum, here:

A little dated, but still relevant and with some cool pics.

The front end is a custom Leading Link by WASP cycles in England. My fab skills are better than most for someone not doing it for a living, but like paint, auto body work and basketball, there are some things I just don't have the time to acquire the skillset to create the quality that I want. Leading Links fab are another of those items...

I built the rig to upgrade from our KLR. While both DMC and Claude (mentioned earlier) build rigs and Leading Link forks, these things originated in England, and WASP was one of the major players. I needed this in about a 2 month time frame to do a couple legs of the CDR (Continental Divide Ride) 2 years ago. Rob (at WASP) is about 80 now, and while still coming to the shop, is slowing down; I was lucky to have him accept the project. And they have worked out great.:thumbsup:

WASP makes really cool stuff. Like these:




Sometimes I think we shoulda lost the war :wink2:. England gets really cool fab shops like WASP and Rickman, and we get... OCC and Phoenix chopper wars...:shrug:

Here's another pic of the XR at the Tuscon AMA Half Mile in 2012; we were the display bike at the entry - pretty cool! You can see the Leading Link components and the end of the oil cooler on the side of the hack.

Just need to get home and bolt a few items on, then should have this bitch on the road tonight.

Still have a ton of things I want to do to this bike, but I'm stoked to be at the point where I can take this out for a drive and get a feel for the sidecar! Will post pics/video.
Always great to be making progress... With any rig new to me, first thing I do is find a big old empty parking lot, and start doing tighter and tighter and faster and faster figure 8's. Get a feel for at what point you start involuntarily flying the chair (turning right), and at what point you can force the chair to fly (with body English) going left.

Nice to have a feel for when this happens, so's you can avoid it unexpectedly; like when a deer runs out in front of you on a fast and curvy mountain road - where you have 1/2 second to decide jerk left, jerk right, or just duct your head down and hit the bastard...

More here:

Good luck, and post pics!
Great advise, I will definitely need to learn my limits on this thing.

Have an hour or so of work left to be on the road..

Mounted the tub after these, post a pic.


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The first moment of truth was releasing the tie-downs that were spanning the garage and holding up the bike. Letting the sidecar frame keep the bike up..
Really interesting project John I shall be following your progress with interest
Love your tool rolls and aprons. beautiful craftmanship .:thumbsup:

Which is why I am a little surprised at the appallingly poor quality welding of that sidecar bracket ?:confused: I would have got that critical welding done by a professional with Tig equipment, the prospect of bike and sidecar parting company at speed doesn't bear thinking about.


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