Triumph Rocket III Wheelchair Transporter

Triumph Rocket 3 sidecar wheelchair transporter

Picture the scenario…

Your time is up after doing 6-10 months hard labour in hospital/rehab. Your body is shot, your self-confidence and likewise your self-esteem, self-worth, self- nothing. You have spent 6-10months thinking about what your new life will be like and trying hard not to regret what is lost. Three in the morning can be very dark.

For now you don’t have the ability to drive, maybe not the confidence or maybe you do not, and never will have the upper body strength. So you leave rehab in the back of a meat wagon van or worse, in a taxi van, low self-esteem sinks further under the humiliation of dependence not helped by the transport.

Imagine instead if your brother, girlfriend, best mate arrived in a sidecar, hop in mate, let’s ride. People are no longer looking and thinking, “there but by the grace of…” but are yelling, waving, saying stuff like “cool man, I’ve never seen that, it’s great!”. Maybe it is the first inkling that there can be life after.

Ok, get the picture? Here is a sidecar wheelchair transporter built from scratch to  not only carry the weight of a power chair (130kg + occupant) but also, via elevation, bars and instruments, to give the closest sensation possible to the riders experience. There is a lot to admire in this build including the attention to detail and quality of the fabrication, but realise that if your situation is different a similar outfit could be put together on a much tighter budget, for half, even a quarter of the price of a meat wagon. You could be on the road in an outfit that built you up, rather than pulled you down. What is the price of that?

This one off Triumph Rocket 3 sidecar wheelchair transporter is built in the UK by Motopodd and is reproduced here on 3wheels.org with permission. More photo’s and more details are available on ADVRIDER at http://advrider.com/forums/showthread.php?p=17722224

Built from scratch, the owner of this outfit wrangles a power wheelchair and is not in a position to control the hack himself. Luckily for him his Dad is a lifelong rider and is the primary driver of the owners sidecar. Approaching MotoPodd the owners brief was for a sidecar able to transport the weight of a power wheelchair and occupant, would be fast, fun and look cool, would last a long time and specifically be as far as possible from a  meat wagon as can be.

For a tug the Rocket 3 was an easy choice, the largest production motorcycle engine would not, and does not have issues with the added weight. The fact the Triumph it is of the owner’s nationality and looks horn dovetailed nicely with the build brief.

Having a steel frame and minimal bodywork gives the Rocket an additional tick for this build, the steel frame extending like a backbone from steering head to swingarm pivot utilises the engine as a stressed member. To attach the sidecar would require a subframe for the lower linkages and this frame bolts directly to the engine on both sides of the bike redistributing the sidecar stresses to strong points. Two of the mounting points would attach to this subframe and of the two upper mountings, one attaches directly to the backbone near the steering head and the other to the bikes rear subframe near the shock mount.

Wheelchair sidecars and transporters, either with the controls in the sidecar or without, differ from standard sidecars in that lateral strength and stiffness is greatly reduced by the rear access ramp. To counter this lack of stiffness the base frames carries most of the dynamic forces generated from the sidecars suspension. These forces are redirected from the shock back down into the base frame and thereby transferred to the bike. Latter pictures highlight the superb external sidecar frame but this frame is only supporting the bodywork, it is not a structural component as such.

The picture below shows the sidecar base frame with suspension mounted. The immense strength of the frame is apparent. Utilising the base frame to support and store the slideaway rear access ramp is an example of the good engineering design.

Wheel all around use a car tyre with benefits for straight line stability, reduced understeer, increased traction (2.3 liters remember) and (much) longer tyre life. On the rear the 245 section tyre is fitted to the original rim while the front (205) and sidecar (205) tyre fit a car rim on a custom machined hub carrying a ford rotor. Trail reduction is via fabricated leading links in stainless fitted in machined yolks carrying the original headlights and bars. Without adjustability in the LL’s the builder must be pretty confident in his calculations and latter ride testing suggests he got it right. I don’t know what the new figure for the trail is but 50% of original is ball-park for other outfits.

Body is of one-piece welded aluminium with a fancy external frame. This frame will support the non-operational handlebars and complete working duplicate instrumentation; we did say the attention to detail is impressive!

Wheelchair tie-downs are the electrically activated ratchet type at the front and std ratchet type at the rear. Obviously this is an area where assistance is required but understandable given the passenger is never solo. Access into the car is neat, first the rear door including roll bar opens sideways behind the bike and then the ramp itself is pulled from under the floor into place. Passenger attaches front tie-downs, enters, rear tie-downs attached, ramp stowed, door closed. In reverse the passenger has a timed release of the front tie-downs with button bar mounted.

As for the rest, it includes custom guards, exhaust, seat, paint scheme etc etc One day I’d hope we can update this page with the owners impressions and opinions on the build and performance but for now we have the builders ride impressions.

“Wow, those pipes are LOUD! Blipping the throttle was fun, watching both those rev counter needles spinning around the guages on the bike and the sidecar and seeing all the people in my neighbouring businesses come running out to see what the noise was all about!

Off we go. First down a straight road, nice and easy, try the brakes. The good news was that she tracked straight and true on the road on a neutral throttle, with a slight pull to the left on acceleration. No steering wobble at all! 
The brakes pulled up in a straight line, not quite as powerful as they could be, but these are new disks and pads which need bedding in. After a few miles, they improved dramatically. 

I tried a few parking speed turns, not too bad at all, considering the width. The steering was great, not too light, not too heavy. 

After stopping for a checkover, all ok, I set off again, this time on a faster road and opened her up a bit. 
Despite all that extra weight, the Rocket with it’s race ECU and open pipes had more than enough power, accelerating hard and feeling very solid. 

That was fun, lot’s of attention from everyone who saw it, as you’d expect from something this imposing.”

Super cool!

MotoPodd’s website is www.motopodd.com

3 thoughts on “Triumph Rocket III Wheelchair Transporter

  1. I used a wheelchair for over two years and traveled toAustraila,New Zealand,another trip I went to 18 nations in Europe.All in a wheelchair with my wife.There were funny times when they hoised me in the chair to get me in the plane as there were steps from the ground to get in plane.
    I had adjusted my life style to fit my necessity of using a wheelchair.Near the end of the firs year I thought I would be in the wheelchair the rest of my life .I needed the chair because Of my multiple sclerosis got worse .but in time I eventually was healed naturally by good water exercise in a pool.

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