Ronald Fehrs' Kawasaki ER-5 with Sidecar

A 1995 ER-5 with a Velorex 562 sidecar

Ronald Fehrs Kawasaki ER-5 Velorex 562 sidecar combination
Ronald and his Kawasaki ER-5, equipped with a Velorex 562 sidecarPhoto by Ronald Fehrs

NAME: Ronald Fehrs
AGE: 59
HOME: Northern Germany
OCCUPATION: Teacher at vocational college

I had meant it as a challenge.

At close to 60 I had done a number of things, save racing: circumnavigating the Baltic Sea on a VFR 1200 X , becoming an "End-to-Ender" as they call motorcyclists who traverse the British mainland from Land's End to John o'Groats within 24 hours (in my case on an R1100 and the best part of it in grueling rain), criss-crossing the countryside on GSs and small DRs, enjoying Hamburg city life on a big Italian scooter, qualifying for the Saddle Sore in order to join the Iron Butts on an old Vulcan bagger. This summer it was to the Ace Cafe in London, the Triumph works in Hinckley and the Classic TT on the Isle of Man. It's been a good motorcycling life.

And yet ... lately there had been that niggling thought at the back of my mind that I had missed out on one of my forebears' important riding experiences: the sidecar. My father had certainly had one. Ominous warnings abounded, but riding on three wheels instead of two - honestly, how hard could that be?

The Kawasaki ER-5 and the Velorex chair are diminutive compared with what you have in the USA. But then Germany is a small country with correspondingly short distances to travel (in order to cover the 1000 miles for the Saddle Sore I only had to travel around Germany once.)

I live in the north of Germany, close to the Danish border. I had found the ER-5 with its Velorex sidecar in Bremen, a mere three hours' ride away, and went to collect it just before Christmas. Not only was it raining, the temperature was close to 32°F. And although I had read all I could find about sidecars, I was not prepared for that ride. The bike/sidecar combination had no leading link on the front end, only an additional damper and strengthened shocks. When I steered right, the rig went to the left. When I tried to go straight, it went all over the road. It handled like a beast. I crept home on the autobahn at a humiliatingly low speed. By now I know that it needs constant pulling at the handlebars to just keep it in a straight line and some delicate work on the throttle, but at the time I was totally overtaxed and a definite hazard to all other traffic. Half way home I started to feel more confident and when cornering at a traffic light I had already totally forgotten that I had a sidecar attached which promptly hit the curb, took off and made us sail straight across the crossroads.

You don't ride it, you don't drive it - it's a unique feeling. Maybe piloting would be a proper term. As there is no documentation as to who clobbered the combination together, I had an expert look it over. His verdict came with a knowing smile: absolutely fine as small combinations go, and if I could master it, I would be able to ride any sidecar.

I am glad to say that after half a year I have finally managed to build up some muscle memory for steering and weight shifting - which actually seems to have done the trick quite nicely as I now absolutely adore "piloting the beast."