When mentioning the other day how many amazing projects come across our desk here at The Kneeslider, it wasn’t idle chatter, here’s another example, this one, by builder Ghraydon Wallick, comes from Thailand, it’s a dual leaning sidecar rig called the Wallick Lean Machine, or as he likes to call it, the Wallick GLX-44 Magnum Opus Lean Machine.
Ghraydon’s family has a long tradition with sidecars, in fact, his grandparents took a cross country sidecar trip way back in 1917 and his father, Wally, was the founder of the EQUALEAN sidecar business, a leaning sidecar built from 1975 until 1984. In 2006, Ghraydon tried to come to an agreement with Mike Corbin who had shown interest in producing, under license, a new upgraded version of the EQUALEAN, but the project never got off the ground.
In 2006, Ghraydon retired from the National Park Service in San Francisco and moved to Thailand, building a house in the Thai jungle north of Chiang Mai. Always looking for a new project, he decided it was time to focus on his 30 year dream of building the world’s first dual leaning sidecar rig. As you might imagine, and as the photos show, this project didn’t take place in some grand 10,000 square foot high tech garage, the tools, materials and workspace were a bit more basic, however, as we’ve shown many times before, you can build an impressive project almost anywhere if you have the desire and persistence. Ghraydon seems to have both of those traits in abundance.
Be sure to see the videos at the end of the post.
I’ll let Ghraydon pick up the story here:
I retired early and took a cut on my benefits as a result. I live here with my lovely Thai lady Pui. We have a happy but very modest income/lifestyle. This forces me to deal with my project on a budget most Farrang (westerners) would find laughable. The entire project including the brand new 2010 Ninja 650r cost about $10,000 USD. I know many American bikers pay more than that for a paint job but I’ve always taken pride in my ability to make something nice out of “nothing.”
At EQUALEAN most of our customers were tour bikers and they rode Gold Wings, Harleys and big heavy cruisers etc. My favorite ride though was a Kawasaki GPZ 1100 that Cycle Guide magazine loaned us for a test article. We went blasting through the canyons and mountains around LA and for most of the ride I stayed in very close proximity to the magazine guys who were riding solo sport bikes.
I know that the EQUALEAN system can corner fast and I want to prove it to a whole new generation of sport riders. That’s why I chose a Ninja for my “proof of concept rig.” The Ninja fit my budget, was easy to ride and green has always been my favorite color. The 650 is about as big a bike that’s practical for Thailand. So I scaled everything around it and I can still ride it down the tiniest roads you can imagine; for Pui it’s a perfect fit.
Once I decided to do the project I began by taking photos of the Kawasaki 650 naked version at the dealer’s lot in Chiang Mai. I also researched on the internet to explore the feasibility of making the necessary mounting brackets and fairing mods. Sport bikes are extremely difficult to build mounts for due to the limited space between the radiator and the front fender. That’s where the parallel arms must move in the EQUALEAN system. Also, the absence of a traditional steel frame (due to using the motor as a stressed member) creates the need for additional head scratching.
I came to believe it was possible. I then drew scale plans and from them built a scale model of the chassis out of bamboo bar-b-q sticks and super glue. I use EPS foam for mock-ups and studies before I ever do anything in expensive material. This saves me lots of time and money. I can use a computer and I appreciate (as well as hate) them. But for me, the best way to build a three dimensional object is with a three dimensional model/mock-up. This guarantees I will see EVERYTHING and not miss some hidden view the computer didn’t provide.
The hardest thing about doing a project like this in the jungle is the unavailability of so many things one needs. I have to drive one hour each way just to get a roll of duct tape. Many materials and supplies are limited or impossible to find and the quality is much lower than desired. It’s very frustrating but it forces one to become extremely resourceful and creative.
My personal values dictate that form must follow function. I first try to understand what a things needs to function well and then try to make it as attractive as I can. From my bamboo chassis model I built a full scale mock-up out of PVC plastic pipe, this in turn led to an actual steel chassis. I tied taunt strings to the steel chassis to help visualize the body lines and planes. These defined the shape and were replaced by thin sheet foam panels that later served as patterns for the polycarbonate skin panels.
I chose to use 2mm polycarbonate sheet instead of fiberglass because I can’t tolerate the chemicals and odor anymore. I figured Pui would leave me if she had to live around the stink and itchy dust of a fiberglass project. The solvent glue for polycarbonate has a skull and crossbones on the label too but the small amount used doesn’t offend like resin/acetone.
Fabricating out of flat sheet stock limits the design’s shape to a degree; but for me that’s a good thing. My original foam model was “over-designed,” too whippy and superfluous, looking like a running shoe. The flat stock gave me a cleaner, simpler and I believe more elegant shape. I tried to make it look consistent with the Ninja’s look.
I lined the polycarbonate skin with 1″ thick EPS foam. Structurally the whole sidecar body resembles a motorcycle helmet except for the steel frame inside. I wanted Pui to have as much protection as possible. I glued naugahyde over the foam to finish the interior.
Two weeks ago, we packed it all up, in a great big hurry, unfinished but well along and went to Sepang Malaysia for the Moto GP. We were laboring under the delusional notion we could somehow show it to the world. It was the trip from Hell, start to finish. The only redeeming moment was watching the actual races and hearing the amazing sound of a field full of 800cc rockets fire off. Seeing Rossi come from 11th to win and then stand up on his pegs to produce a perfect formal bow saved me from despair and re-convinced me that I want to be involved with racing.
My dream is connecting with a well heeled sponsor to produce an experimental full-race version around a 2,000 cc monster similar to Honda’s new prototype sport bike. I believe a field full of 44 magnum opus’s dueling it out would be an amazing spectacle to behold and would inspire many people to see the safety and practicality of this new breed of machine.
All photos credit: Tanawan (Pui) Suphorn
Thanks, Ghraydon. Great project! It makes a person wonder what kind of rig could be built in a well equipped shop, although this one certainly seems to work very well.