Wallick Lean Machine Dual Leaning Sidecar Rig

Wallick Lean Machine

Wallick Lean Machine

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.

Wallick Lean Machine unfinished exterior

Wallick Lean Machine unfinished exterior

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.

Wallick Lean Machine real 3D models

Wallick Lean Machine real 3D models

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.

Wallick Lean Machine fitting exterior skin

Wallick Lean Machine fitting exterior skin

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.

Wallick Lean Machine Ninja modifications

Wallick Lean Machine Ninja modifications

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.

Ghraydon Wallick at work in Thailand jungle workshop

Ghraydon Wallick at work in Thailand jungle workshop

Ghraydon 'Grit' Wallick and PuiMy 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.

Related stories of leaning sidecars on The Kneeslider:
Flexit Sidecars Owners Group
Flexible Tilting Sidecars

Comments

  1. B50 Jim says

    Being an old chair pilot, I’ve always been intrigued by the concept of a leaning sidecar. It eliminates most of the weirdness inherent in a sidecar rig. This one takes it a step further and makes room for another passenger, plus adds stability. I wonder if a 650 is enough to pull it properly, though. My rig used a Yamaha XS650, and it was barely adequate. Still, I applaud this effort, especially considering he’s doing it under less-than-ideal conditions. Nice work!

    BTW, Phoebe — riding ANY sidecar is an act of faith, and scary. You must trust the pilot implicitly and ensure he or she has the necessary skills. Handling sidecar rig is nothing like riding a motorcycle; the dynamics are like nothing you’ve ever experienced.

  2. kneeslider says

    “riding ANY sidecar is an act of faith, and scary. You must trust the pilot implicitly and ensure he or she has the necessary skills”

    Some years back, a group of us were out riding, all on Harleys that day. At a rest stop, a friend of mine asked if I’d like to try his Electra Glide sidecar rig. I said “Sure,” so we swapped bikes and off we went. His wife was in the chair, trusting soul that she was. This was the first time I had EVER driven a sidecar and it was fine and uneventful until the first turn, a left hander. “Wha? .. Whoa .. Yow… Holy &#!!!” Of course, my expression never wavered and she never knew how close she was to off roading. Whew! Yes, indeed, make sure they have the skills.

  3. Azzy says

    That looks like it could make for a very quick machine….. although you loose the kneesliding aspect in a tight corner ;-)

  4. Jacquie says

    I no sooner thought of Equalean then pop! I read it. I drove one sidecar hooked to honda 750 back in 1979. It was different is a understatement ! This looks interesting.

  5. Purple Victory says

    Would such a thing be legal in the United States? With 4 wheels it’d be considered a car and subject to crash-testing and such. Perhaps a kind of trike with dual sidecars is that answer to that hurdle. Thoughts?

  6. QrazyQat says

    One thing. Knowing the area in question, I’d hate to have to try to drive that through Chiang Mai. :) For in town you need narrow. Anything you can’t ride between lanes is going to leave you waiting several cycles at many traffic lights. But it’s a nifty looking machine.

  7. David says

    In 1963 I watched local motorcycle races in Germany, near Frankfort. I was a US Army personel (age 24). There was an unusual cycle-hack racing, that had a steering wheel attached to a gear rack. The rider in the hack, sat in the usual position as if he was driving a car, but on turns, he would crank the steering wheel left or right. The steering wheel did not steer the side car wheel! The steering wheel adjusted the lean angle of the hack to the cycle. Now that must have been a matter of trust to the rider on top of the cycle, steering with the handlebars!!!

    I have a question about the “Wallick Dual Leaning Sidecar Rig”: What is that leg with a scate wheel, hanging down in front, next to the cycle? Is it only down when stopped? Wouldn’t want to stick that one in an iron road grate.

  8. Wave says

    That’s some mad and crazy stuff! Very nice. With a leaning sidecar do you still need the double sidecars to make it handle in a symmetrical way?

  9. Sick Cylinder says

    Looks very wide – with no reverse gear it wouldn’t be practical where I live where some roads are single track – also might snag in the hedges!

    Could the width be reduced and the centre of gravity lowered by moving the wheels to the rear? – it looks very high.

  10. says

    Spend many years in sidecars of older mates before i had my own license…on BMW 25/3, Yamaha SR500, Sanglas, MotoGuzzi traveling all over Europe… and appreciate bikes with sidecars for the combination of comfort, practicality (can carry lots of beer…), safety on winter roads and with 15″ tires for the fun of beating normal road bikes on twisty roads…
    I guess that is just the beginning for Ghraydon…and he is already working on a improved version.
    Good skills mate, good skills

  11. GenWaylaid says

    My first thought when viewing the images was that the sidecars look very high, but considering how the chair rider would be sitting their c.g. seems about level with the motorcycle rider’s c.g.

    Does this design still show the ordinary sidecar tendency to drift to one side if the cars are not equally loaded?

    Sidecars eliminate any advantages a bike gains from narrowness, whether you have two or just one. At least this design can still move like a wider, heavier sportbike.

    If you want to lane split with lots of cargo/passenger room, might I suggest stretching the wheelbase the way some cargo bicycles do? The Bohmerland was doing that ninety years ago.

  12. ghraydon says

    Just read the article and wanted to say a BIG “Thank You Paul”! I really appreciate you opening the door for us. We feel pretty isolated here in the jungle but the internet changes all that. Very best regards, grit and pui

  13. todd says

    In California, according to V.C. 400 (b) a motorcycle (for street registration purposes) can have four wheels as long as two of the wheels are part of the sidecar(s).

    -todd

  14. Jax LeBoite says

    I think this is great but, the problem is that he has 4 wheels in contact with the ground at all times which would change its status from a motorcycle to a car, at least in my state. That would open up a hole can of problems for this to be sold. If They (Ghraydon et al) could remove the bikes rear wheel and drive the wheels under the “sidecars”, then they would have a motorcycle (but I wonder would this run afoul of patents in place by Harley and other manufacturers for the tilting 3 wheeler?). I think this is something to be admired and praised notwithstanding the rudimentary manufacturing facility used.

  15. Paulinator says

    Wow, Beautiful place!!!

    Interesting concept. Makes me think of a Bell 47 from TV’s Mash. I suspect the passengers would be better-off unconcious, too.

  16. ghraydon says

    Hello everyone: I have read your comments with interest and will try to address a few of the issues raised.

    To Purple Victory and Jax Le Boite:
    CALIFORNIA DEPARTMENT OF MOTOR VEHICLES V C Section 400 Motorcycle
      (a) A “motorcycle” is a motor vehicle having a seat or saddle for the use of the rider, designed to travel on not more than three wheels in contact with the ground.
    (b) A motor vehicle that has four wheels in contact with the ground, two of which are a functional part of a sidecar, is a motorcycle if the vehicle otherwise comes within the definition of subdivision (a).
    (c) A farm tractor is not a motorcycle.
    (d) A three-wheeled motor vehicle that otherwise meets the requirements of subdivision (a), has a partially or completely enclosed seating area for the driver and passenger, is used by local public agencies for the enforcement of parking control provisions, and is operated at slow speeds on public streets, is not a motorcycle. However, a motor vehicle described in this subdivision shall comply with the applicable sections of this code imposing equipment installation requirements on motorcycles.
    Amended Sec. 1, Ch. 672, Stats. 2008. Effective January 1, 2009.

    The law as written does not say that the two sidecar wheels have to be on the same sidecar. I believe this is a loophole big enough for me to drive the THE WALLICK GLX-44 MAGNUM OPUS LEAN MACHINE through.

    David: The small wheels on the side are on articulated linkage and normally hang straight down until the rig leans over. At maximum lean they prevent the sidecars from contacting the ground should the rider screw-up.

    Wave: Single sidecar or dual sidecars it works the same. At EQUALEAN we only made single cars. This the first dual I’ve ever made.

    Sick Cylinder: The c.g can be raised or lowered by adjusting the air shock and tuning the limiter cable on the sidecar’s swing arm. Reducing the width isn’t really possible. I wish it were. It’s just about the same as the side mirrors on a Hummer. The wheels placement is adjustable to a degree but to carry a load the wheel must be under the load not behind it.

    Gen Waylaid: The seat on my Ninja is about 30 1/2″. The passengers seat in the sidecar is about 24″-26″ depending on the swing arm’s setting. The rig has no tendency to drift due to unequal loading. Forget all about splitting lanes with a machine like this.

    Todd: RIGHT ON!

    Rob and Akumabito: Everywhere we went from Mae Taeng to Sepang Malaysia and back people thought they were boats; same with the original EQUALEAN.

    Thanks for all the good comments and interest. Hope this helps.

    Best, grit

      

      

  17. Kevin says

    Sweet. The problem with side cars are they eliminate the one aspect that makes a motorcycle a motorcycle – the leaning. With this you get to lean.
    The side cars look like boats.

  18. akumabito says

    Could you… MAKE them as boats? I just think it would rock if you could uncouple them, attach a small outboard motor and zoom around some lake or river with ‘m.. :D

  19. ghraydon says

    “Could you… MAKE them as boats? I just think it would rock if you could uncouple them, attach a small outboard motor and zoom around some lake or river with ‘m.. ”

    I guess anything is possible but I’m going to leave that project for you to build. Back in 1982 I dreamed of building collapsible wings that stored inside the dual sidecars and could be folded out to become an airplane.

    Fortunately our neighbor was an Indy race car engineer and had built an airplane engine from scratch. He said the size of the wings to get the necessary lift would be unworkable and that I’d end up killing myself anyway. I’m going to stick to sidecars that run on the road.

    Maybe my 10 years as Exhibit Specialist at the SF Maritime Museum NHP, commuting by ferry boat and living on a house boat has taken it’s toll on my design sense.

  20. NIck5628 says

    Looks like fun to build and fun to ride. Passenger ride height looks kinda high. I wonder how the steering effort is with a passenger in each sidecar.

  21. Howie says

    Thrilled to see Ghraydon back working with his family’s sidecars – his talents and adaptation to limited jungle resources are amazing ! Cheers from the Bay area.

  22. Spoke Too Soon says

    AWESOME work Ghraydon! Made MY day to read this article and watch the videos. Truly inspiring to see what you have done…..in the jungle of all places! Like others said, if you can do this level of work under the most challenging of conditions, it’s exciting to think of what you could accomplish with some financial support and real resources. Fantastic, THANK YOU for sharing. I know I don’t even need to say it…..but I will….keep the dream alive!!! STS

  23. Benito says

    Nice work Ghraydon!!! Way to bring your dreams into reality. Miss those roads near Mae Teang. See you soon my friend.

  24. ghraydon says

    Hey guy! Thanks for all the encouragement and kind words. Howie would you go eat a Carnitas Burrito Especial at Pancho Villa Taqueria for me right now? … with guacamole and cheese and load up at the salsa bar for your chips. I’d pay 1,000 baht if I could eat that. Benito, see you soon.

    All the best
    grit

  25. Klaus says

    I know it’s about side cars, but watching the video I couldn’t help thinking that it would be perfect to learn how to ride a bike or to race a bike WITHOUT the side cars, just using the wheels – or did someone do that already?
    I like the idea using one side car.
    And I know why he chose the Ninja 650 – there is no other 70hp bike available in Thailand in that price range!