For Alun Davies, coming into 2010, that meant taking his existing Kawasaki KX500-engined 2005 VMC outfit and shoehorning in a 2006 TE610 Husqvarna motor.
‘All up it’s cost in the region of £7000. We started the engine swap before Christmas and got the bike out in about April, building it up in our spare time. The engine is bog standard, we want an engine to last we so don’t modify them much at all.’
But anytime you’re transplanting engines - in this case going from two-stroke to four-stroke - there’s a lot to consider.
‘We had to make our own engine plates to get the new motor in the chassis. You have to squeeze the carb in, you’re looking to allow clearances to get everything in its place, drain plugs and all. Everything is so tight, really you’re starting from scratch.’
And some things that us solo riders take for granted simply have to be made from scratch. The most obvious example being airboxes, almost every last one we saw was custom fabricated from sheet alloy.
Buying and preparing a sidecar is one thing, maintaining them is another. Everyone commented that given that you’ve twice the weight in riders plus the weight of the sidecar to consider then everything - and we mean everything - wears out at twice the normal speed. Wheel bearings, brakes, suspension, tyres are just some of the items that the sidecar racers chew through as if there’s no tomorrow.
Tom Powell: ‘We paid £4000 for our outfit, it’s a KTM 540 with a VMC chassis. Maybe that’s not so expensive, but keeping it running is! Here at the Welsh we’ll go through two rear tyres and one front, that’s about £150. They’ll be wrecked at the end, good for nothing. Then there’s mousses, and they don’t last like they do on a solo. Oil and filters every meeting, then brakes and bearings. Everything on the bike wears out in no time. You replace it and think ‘ahh, that’s done now’, then you go to an event and its worn out again.’
James Ferguson: ‘Because there is so much to do to get the bike ready it’s a team effort. It’s so much extra work to get it ready on your own, with the sidecar there’s twice as many parts. You’re always checking, ‘Have we got this? Have we got that?’ You have to think for each other.’
Ferguson and driver Davies took us for a tour around their outfit to explain some of the specialist kit that’s involved.