Please Note – I am not an expert. For from it, in fact. Prior to building my rig and riding across the continent I had never driven a motorcycle, had little experience camping and no mechanical know-how. What I provide here is information about what I did. I hope it may inspire, inform, entertain or help you get one step closer to living your dream, but remember what I did may not work for you. As they say, please consult your physician, friend, psychic, dog or teller-of-truth before following any advice.
What model of motorcycle and sidecar is it?
A 1st Generation 1998 Kawasaki KLR 650
A California Companion Sidecar (of unknown age and origin)
How did you decide upon this particular bike and sidecar?
Rufio came to life at the intersection of decision fatigue and a very limited budget. Seriously.
Having just returned from Ecuador with a newfound passion for motorcycles, I spent months researching, reading and consulting forums. There were countless opinions, all of them strong, most of them in opposition to one another. I was becoming overwhelmed. Not wanting to get stuck in the indecisive swirl of information overload, I chose to make a final decision. To rip the band aid of swiftly and never look back.
Lacking any engine knowledge, I decided a single cylinder would be easier to learn. Desiring to get off the beaten path, I wanted a dual sport. Working with a small budget, I went with a KLR 650.
Sidecars are very hard to find (in my limited experience) and I leapt at the first reasonably priced one within driving distance. The man selling it had no idea what kind it was and neither did I, but Baylor sat in and seemed to approve. And that was good enough for me.
How much did it cost?
Less than $5,500 total. I don’t have exact receipts and am working on memory, but I believe I bought the KLR used for about $4,000 and the sidecar for $500. And then another $500 in metal materials to build the subframe and odds and ends to finish it off.
How exactly did you build the subframe?
I don’t have precise graphics or repeatable information. Between the file of ideas I’d collected and the metalworking knowledge at the DIY Cave, we came up with something that worked. To be honest, I have no idea if it’s repeatable. All I know is it worked for me.
And here are images of the build:
Were you an experienced fabricator prior to this?
No, but I was determined. For 2 weeks prior to departing I spent every waking hour at the shop learning to cut metal, shape metal and weld metal. I knew nothing about tools and had to ask about even simple things. I vividly remember being told several times “other way, you’re tightening instead of loosening.” I write this to explain what an unskilled wrencher I was.
The most helpful thing to me was creating life sized mockups. As much as possible I made everything in cardboard, talked it out with the knowledgeable guys in the shop and then created it out of steel.
What would you recommend to someone who wants to make their own rig, but doesn’t have any experience?
Don’t take no for an answer. Stay obsessively committed to your idea and be willing to make sacrifices. And most importantly, find a Can-Do Community. Look for people who have skills and are willing to teach you. And then show, work hard, be an excellent student and make them proud.
How did you train Baylor to ride in the Sidecar?
He sat in the noisy shop while I worked and got comfortable in the sidecar. We developed a routine where he would load up, put on his harness, and get a treat. Once these steps were completed he was not allowed to exit the sidecar until I gave him the okay signal. As for the rest, I take no credit. He was calm and happy from the very first test ride. Even going so far as to wear his goggles and fall asleep. A natural moto dog through and through.
How’s it all holding up?
Much to even my amazement it all held up perfectly. Not a single piece of the subframe or attachments ever broke or needed repair. After some 30,000+ miles and more than 4oo days it’s still going strong.
Have a question I didn’t answer here? Let me know in the comments and I’ll keep adding on. Thanks!