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Old 03-17-2014, 01:10 PM   #1
Sauerkrautman OP
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Sidecar-trip through south-France

Hey inmates,

at the beginning of September last year, I had 2 weeks of free time and wanted to go riding the beautiful French roads at the Cevennes, the Ardeche and the Vosges/Alsace.
So, no alps in this ride report, but you surely have seen a lot of fantastic pictures of them (if not, do it now, then come back here!).

If you want to read a ride report with pictures of a clean, shiny new motorcycle, you're maybe wrong here. The following pictures can be quite disturbing for the mind of a chrome-lover, since I did this trip with the most ugly bike I own: my rusty winter-hack.

So first something about this thing:
It's a MZ 500R with an east German sidecar ("Super Elastik" and the name is quite correct) and it was made 1992 near the city Zschopau in Saxonia, Germany. Well, at least the majority of the bike does come from there.
The engine is an Austrian ROTAX-Engine and the electrics and the plastics were made in Italy.
Since I bought the bike in 2008, I modified it a tiny little bit. First, the Italian electric parts were thrown away and replaced with new cables and connectors. Then, I needed to correct all the horrible mistakes of the 5 pre-owners.
At last, some parts of an old MZ TS 250 took place at the bike, as well as some BMW- Kawasaki- and Ducati-parts.
This bike is constantly under construction since I bought it.

The MZ 500 is well known for being very unreliable. But with all the changes I made, I got a nearly normal bike out of it. With this trip I wanted to verify if all the hours in the garage were good for the reliability.
OK, and I have to admit: except my GS, which I already rode that year to Iceland, all my other 3 bikes were broken.

Enough of the bike, here starts the ride report:

I put the tent and all the other useful things into the sidecar and had only one goal: driving twisty roads!

Day 1, Saturday 31.10.2013:
Augsburg, Germany - Ribeauville, France:


My motivation was rather low, but I started anyway. The weather was nice and I rode through the well known areas to the west. The hack was working great and my motivation started to raise.


(click the image for a bigger version) steam engines at Tuttlingen


somewhere at nowhere


As you can see, the engine and the motobike are nice and clean

I didn't find any good maps of France before I started the trip (the good old michelin-maps of France aren't sold anymore), but a friend of mine said, I could get a newer version of the michelin-maps without any problems in France. I had an old car-navigation-system and an overview-map of France, but I was sure, I would find the needed maps the next day.
I found a campsite with the nice name "Camping du Tempelhof" and put my tent next to some German GS-riders. After a little bit of talking ("You want to go to the Cevennes with this bike?!?") and a packet soup I was tired enough for sleeping.

the route of the day:
click

Day 2: Ribeauville - Charolles:
I wanted to go south this day, through the not so exciting plain land to Lyon.
I tried to get a map this day, but I didn't have any luck. In France, there are not so many gas stations with a little shop inside. And all other shops were closed.


Real little mountains!


The "Col de la Schlucht"! This is a great place to ride.

I used my old navigation system, which I equipped with the maps of the open-street-map-project. Alone, I didn't stitch the right map-tiles together. Exactly the area where I drove through this day, was not at the maps. So the roads were left behind and the little icon on the screen drove through a white, empty map. Yeah, I'm a real adventurer!
But I just needed to go south, leaving Lyon at the east of my route. So I enjoyed some nice little roads.
I didn't made many photos this day, the scenery was not that spectacular.

I found a Campsite at Charolles. Again, packet soup, some reading and then some sleep.

route:
click


Next part tomorrow. Bye!
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Old 03-18-2014, 05:25 AM   #2
cvcaelen
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I'm reading



eager to read more
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Old 03-18-2014, 05:59 AM   #3
Keithert
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You say you were looking for twisties. How does a sidecar rig handle twisties? I would think that would be a lot of work with a sidecar rig. But then I've never ridden a sidecar.
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Old 03-18-2014, 01:32 PM   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Keithert View Post
You say you were looking for twisties. How does a sidecar rig handle twisties? I would think that would be a lot of work with a sidecar rig. But then I've never ridden a sidecar.
Well, with a front swingarm like the one I have on my bike, every curve can be ridden with one hand, or, if you really want it, 2 fingers.
With a normal front fork, the caster (spelling?) is much higher and you need much more force to drive a curve.

Anyway, here is the next part:

Day 3: Charolles - Aubenas:
Still, I found no map, although I searched many supermarkets. At least, the map at the navigation system was back. But I had bad luck, the USB-port at the device started to give up against the hammering vibrations of the solid-mounted one-cylinder-engine. And so the device switched off when I needed it most at busy junctions.
At the west of Lyon I drove into the Ardeche-mountains. The weather was fine (up to 30°C, no clouds, no wind) and I hacked through the corners like a mad man. This did have an effect to the tires of the hack, which melted very fast. The front tire was nearly worn out, but I took a spare one to the trip, because I didn't want to throw away the half worn tire at home. The front tire does not last more than 3000km at this hack. The rear tire is from a "Smart"-car and does last a little bit longer, up to 10.000km. But this one didn't look good either and I didn't have a spare one...


Curves and best weather


a bit of gravel road.




A nice place for a little rest


And a nice curve.


This poor little motorcycle stood there for advertising.


some of the parts were stolen.

Next to Aubenas I found a campsite. Sadly, this was much more expensive (14€), the ground was too hard for the herrings of my tent and the Pizzeria was closed.
So I tied the tent to my bike and I ate packed soup. Again. The last 3 packets called them self "broccoli soup". I got them somewhere at Iceland. That stuff tasted gruesome!


Mmmmhm! Tasty!


route:
click

Day 4: Aubenas - Florac
Another day of fine curvy roads!
The weather was (of course) fine, I had the roads nearly for myself and the tires were worn out. So full throttle for the rest of the day...
I got some maps of the Ardeche mountains and the Vosges. But still some maps were missing.




sun and blue sky.

I made some videos with my camera. But I have some problems with the quality of the HD-videos at youtube and vimeo. Sorry for that.

Col de la Croix de Millet - uphill
Col de la Croix de Millet - downhill
Col de la Croix de Bouzon




The front tire didn't look so good. But I did have a spare one.






(click the image for a bigger version) I moved between the single images for this panorama, so now there are two half panoramas...

I changed the front tire at the campsite, it was only... semi-legal.
The brake pads at the front were also not new anymore. I also had some spare brake pads, but the bolts at the brake were rusted-in. Damn winter-riding!
I decided to calm-down a bit while riding so that the brake would last until home.


Not legal anymore...


well, this one is also ready for changing, but I thought it would last until i reach home...


changing the tire...


the old one vs. the new one

One of the bearing seats at the rear wheel was worn out, I could move the wheel from left to right a few millimeters. I couldn't do anything about that, but this was another reason to move a little bit slower.

the route (after the last day I couldn't track every road anymore, but you get the idea where I drove):
click

Next part tomorrow.

Bye!
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Old 03-19-2014, 01:59 PM   #5
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Next parts, I hope, someone is still reading...

Day 5: Florac - Milleau
My plan, to calm down a little bit, was forgotten after some minutes. I just didn't use the front brake anymore. The rear brakes did the job fine, but now the rear tire got some trouble. At the end of the day, it even began to slide a bit in the curves.



near the Tarn gorge


Tarn gorge, nobody is here...


The river Tarn and the beautiful weather


The Tarn again








(click the image for a bigger version)


resting

A Video again, this time from the sidecar frame. You can see, why the sidecar is called "Super Elastik".
click


Saw many of thoses crosses, but this one was missing a piece


(click the image for a bigger version) I couldn't cut this photo without cutting out important pieces, so I didn't cut out anything...




When you left the gorges to the wrong direction, you see nothing but a plain area...


This little gravel road was the "Col de l'Homme Mort" ("saddle of the dead man")


I didn't find any dead people, but a great view over the mountains


(click the image for a bigger version)




It was a nice road with this view.


Nice rock.


(click the image for a bigger version) And behind the rock, again a nice view.


The top of the saddle is in the trees and was not very spectacular.


back at the road...


(click the image for a bigger version)


Must by nice to live there


the rear tire looks worse and worse..

Driving through right curves was a bit slower, the sidecar was full and I could not sit in it.
The left curves were easier, I could drive them in "hang-off" position to avoid the hack tipping over the right front edge.
These empty roads are a lot of fun to ride, but even there sometimes a truck is driving towards you, so better do not cut the curves...
In the evening I found a well known campsite at Milleau. I was here in 2010 with a friend (another ride report I have to write). I checked in, but the campsite was nearly full of caravans from the Netherlands. They made little colony there to take over France, I think.
I found a little space and made a little meal for me. The campsite-cat wanted something too, but I declined.


No food for the poor campsite-pussy

Later an old English couple visited me, they were curious about my hack. It turned out that the guy did sidecar-races when he was younger. He was happy that still some people were driving these old anachronistic hacks. I told them, that nearly all my friends are driving at least one sidecar-bike.

I was still worried about the the bearing seat of the rear wheel. Maybe I should have done this at home, the good Loctide bearing-glue never worked for long at this point.

the route, again not very exactly:
click

Day 6: Milleau - Florac


Nice breakfast: Baguette, cheese and hot chocolate


looking at Milleau with its famous bridge




(click the image for a bigger version) View at the whole Cevennes, you can see the bridge from this point, too.


The bridge a bit more zoomed in.


side-arm of the Tarn






At this day I was a little bit exhausted. Driving a hack like a mad man the whole day can be pretty exhausting after a few days.
So I decided to make the tour for this day (over 450km) a bit shorter. So I drove back north. The Cevennes end at this area and in the south is a lot of flat land and far away the Pyrenees. Nothing for this trip.
But being a bit exhausted doesn't mean I should drive the boring roads. So I tried to get as many twisty roads on my way back as I could.
The front tire started to look like a sidecar-tire should: flat. And the profile of the rear tire was finally worn out. I decided to look for a new tire. 135-80 R15. Every smart has this tire. How hard can it be to get one?

I chose a different campsite this day. It was bigger, cheaper and better.

the route:
click

Next part tomorrow again, Bye!
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Old 03-19-2014, 02:38 PM   #6
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I'm following this fun RR. Thanks!

The Rotax sure sounds solid.
Years ago I was surprised when I found out they made aero power plants.
UnHacked but my first dirtbike was a 125cc DKW with that type of front end.


Looking forward to more.
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Old 03-20-2014, 04:05 PM   #7
Sauerkrautman OP
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Quote:
Originally Posted by OldPete View Post
The Rotax sure sounds solid.
Years ago I was surprised when I found out they made aero power plants.
There you go:
http://www.flyrotax.com
There are not many european and american motorcycle manufacturers, which didn't use a Rotax-engine at least in one motorcycle.
A friend of me said after he saw my hack the first time: "This Rotax-engine is the small-block of the motorcycle-world. You can find it everywhere."

Anyway, back to the RR:

Day 7: Florac - De la ... (I forgot the name of the village)
This morning I wanted to get the new tire.
After getting the rear tire out, I changed the bearings. Although the bearings were not that bad, they had a little bit of clearance. I glued the right one in the worn-out seat with the Loctide bearing-glue.
Then I took the heavy and dirty wheel (remember: winter hack! = lot of wax/grease) and walked 1.3 kilometers along the main road to the tire shop. Of course they didn't have the tire. They could order one, but it would last at least 5 days. Not for me, thanks.


changing the bearings

It put the wheel back and span the chain. The glue hold the bearing at the seat, but I knew, it wouldn't be for long.
I packed everything in the sidecar and spoke with some German bicycle riders. They showed me the weather forecast for the next days: rain. Damn!
So I drove north.
After a few kilometers I realized, that the chain was a bit to tight. After changing that, I checked the rear wheel. Again, it moved from left to right. Not very surprising for me...




nice house for sale, needs some work...

At this day I stopped at every tire shop I could find, but nobody could sell me the wanted tire. Maybe I should steal one from a Smart-car?
But in the evening I found one shop where I could get it. They put it on the wheel (and wanted a lot of money for it, nearly double the price I would pay here in Germany and it was even an 5 year old one!) and I was back on the road.
There were still a lot of twisty roads to drive, and with the new tire I had all the grip I needed...

The new tire




The first time in this trip I could see thick clouds...

At the campsite a thunderstorm went by, but it was a few kilometers away, so no rain this day.

From now on I don't have a route from the last days, I wanted to drive north in the west of Lyon and in the east of Saint-Etienne. As much small roads as I could find...

Day 8: De la ... - Dole


This little beetle (as long as my small finger) waked me up in the night with a loud patter of his feet, so I threw him out of my tent


The weather was cloudy, but still dry and warm this day.

Shortly after Lyon I left the twisty small roads and used the national roads. Driving there is boring, but fast and so I could do some kilometers in a short time. Later it started to get rainy, but this could not damage my motivation.


Citroen for sale, slightly used


And another one...

At the campsite I realized that my gas cooker was nearly empty (after 3 long trips), but there was enough gas left to get some water hot for some soup and tea.

Tomorrow the last part. Bye!
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Old 03-21-2014, 01:22 PM   #8
Blader54
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Hello! Thank you for posting this report! It is excellent! The Alps are fine, but I always enjoy a report about some non-Alp parts of France, and having spent some time in the Tarn gorge myself, you are bringing back good memories for me! Looking forward to reading more of your adventure!
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Old 03-21-2014, 02:58 PM   #9
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Day 9: Dole - St. Marie aux Mines
The weather seemed to be stable, but in the night it was very rainy.
Maybe because of the water the engine didn't start as easily as it it used to. But after a while it started to work. In the first few minutes, I stalled it a few times, because the engine didn't have any torque. Very strange.
After a few hundred meters it was back to normal.




Mountains again!

The first kilometers were still boring, but after Belfort I was back at the mountains.
The weather was still ugly and it also started to get cold.


I don't know, how many kilometers the machine has been driven to this point, but the speedometer (from another motorcycle) had this nice mileage.




flat land between France and Germany

In the evening at the campsite I enjoyed a nice "Alsace tarte flambée". If you're there, try it. Very tasty. Sorry that I didn't made any pictures of it, but I was very hungry.
Before I went to bed, I put a towel at the area between the tank and the seat, as I guessed that the reason for the bad starting was water in the air filter.

Day 10: St. Marie aux Mines - Augsburg

The engine started normally and also the weather was much better than the day before.


Nice weather for the last day






And the roads were empty again

As I went through the Alsace, I watched the rallye "Solo Brescia en Alsace". In this rallye, old bugattis were driven trough the twisty roads.
It was a pleasure to watch the old cars being ridden and not being a dust catcher in a museum.









A short film of the cars:
klick


A cemetery of the soldiers of the second world war.






Leaving the mountains.

So I only had to drive the few kilometers back home.
But 10km before I reached the German border, suddenly I lost all the power of the engine, although it was still running. After stopping, I noticed the missing chain.
I lost the chain lock and so the whole chain. Maybe I should have stopped 200km before, after I noticed a little vibration at the timing of the chain movement.


There it is, the lazy thing!

I did have an spare chain lock and after some swearing I managed to put the chain back to where it belongs.


Not far away: the German border.


Last stop before reaching home.

After reparing the chain I went the last few hundred kilometers back home.

In the end, I drove 3630km in 10 days. In these 10 days, I drove with the sidecar surely more curves than in the 10 years before.
Some of the problems I had were simply maintenance problems (OK, all of them. ), easily avoidable the next time.
The broken chain was a result of the side-to-side-movement of the real wheel, as the wheel pressed the sprocket against the chain protector and this destroid the chain lock.
This was the first longer trip with a sidecar and it was not the last. Too much fun! And no problems with the baggage!

Thats it. The End.

Bye!
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Old 03-21-2014, 03:09 PM   #10
Blader54
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Excellent report! I have never seen someone with a sidecar get as excited about twisties as you -- I must take a better look at the photos of the bike and rig so i can fully grasp what you said about only needing two fingers to steer in a curve. I'm guessing the front suspension perhaps resembles a tele-lever style. Seemed to work well to make you a fun trip...and as you say...no problems with baggage!! Looking forward to reading more of your reports. Thank you, sir!
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Old 03-21-2014, 05:56 PM   #11
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Great RR
I have a much better appreciation for your trip now that I have a couple years of sidecar ownership under my belt. I don't have much of a grasp of the topography of France; it seems there are areas that look similar to my part of the world. Any idea of the percentage of your trip was on un-surfaced roads (my favorite kind)?
Jim
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Old 03-22-2014, 12:26 AM   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Blader54 View Post
I'm guessing the front suspension perhaps resembles a tele-lever style.
It's the other way round: the Telelever is a modern interpretation of the pushed swingarm. The swingarm makes the front-end much more stable than a normal front-fork.
With this stable front-end it's possible to make the caster very small without making the bike uncontrollable.
This, the narrow front tire and the light weight of the hack (about 250kg) reduces the force needed for the steering.
And that's all the mystery behind it.


Quote:
Originally Posted by on2wheels52 View Post
I don't have much of a grasp of the topography of France; it seems there are areas that look similar to my part of the world. Any idea of the percentage of your trip was on un-surfaced roads (my favorite kind)?
Jim
I watched a few photos from northern Arkansas and yes, the topography seems quite similar.
I didn't drive many un-surfaced roads, as the the hack is more an on-road hack. I think it was about 30-40kms in the whole trip.
A few years ago I did at trip with my GS through the south-alpes searching for gravel roads. And yes, I found many of them. Yet another RR I have to write...

Bye,
Richard
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Old 03-24-2014, 09:54 AM   #13
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Great trip and fantastic pictures ! France is surely a nice country to ride in, just fill your petrol tank to the brim before weekend arrives.
" In rust we trust " seems to be a herald blazon for Tauerntreffen and Hennerburg riders and they surely ride very interesting motorcycles/sidecar combinations , my respect...
-zie egret.
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Old 03-24-2014, 01:38 PM   #14
Blader54
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Thanks for the explanation on the front suspension. I was unfamiliar with any other kind, having grown up around telescopic forks only.
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Old 03-24-2014, 02:06 PM   #15
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Thanks , really enjoyed that , brings back memories of last year


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