The Los Angeles famous Griffith Park is known for its sky-high observatory, its world class zoo, its miniature train playground for children, its vintage merry-go-round and acres of picnic grounds. And for the past four decades it’s been home to the annual Griffith Park Sidecar Rally, a traditional pilgrimage for fans of three-wheeling, aka “hackers.” In this case the event marked the 41st such rally for sidecar fans with several hundred riders and spectators showing up to enjoy both vintage and modern variations. Last year, the event was held in November, rain showers dampening things a bit, but this year it was moved to September and brought a deluge of sunshine.
The event was originally founded by Doug “Mr. Sidecar” Bingham, the nation’s leading force behind the promotion of the joys of sidecar riding. Back in 1969, Doug formed a company called Side Strider and began designing and building street sidecars. Besides production sidecars from Harley-Davidson, Doug’s “Bingham MK-1,” when introduced, was the first sidehack made available to the public for literally decades.
It was no surprise to see some racing “cars” at this year’s event since Doug himself was a longtime competitor, having campaigned a BMW R60 production sidecar at the famous Laguna Seca circuit in California, circa 1974. His hands-on experience with road-racing sidecars and off-road outfits contributed to the success of his growing business. His reputation also garnered him, in 1972, exclusive U.S. distributor status by Watsonian, the world’s oldest and best known sidecar manufacturer.
Doug was inducted into the U.S. National Motorcycle Museum & Hall of Fame for his achievements as a designer/inventor, as a racer and for his contributions to the advancement of motorcycling in general. Doug has also been Director of the Sidecar Industry Council, which addresses standardized engineering, promotes a focused strategy for marketing and a greater cooperation with government agencies, as well as the dissemination of information.
Doug has adapted sidecars to untold numbers of bikes of all makes, from the small to large, and is always ready to offer his technical expertise and years of experience to both veteran hackers, as well as to people interested in trying some hacking for the first time. For many years, he helped film the L.A. Marathon and other events via his specially equipped “movie” sidecars and also built special rigs for the U.S. military.
The Griffith Park annual rally is his baby, something akin to a family reunion. Many of the sidecar rigs showing up were built by him 30 or more years previously as new builds fresh out of the molding. He’s literally seen generations grow up in some of his “cars,” kids now taking control of their own machines. Many of the participants have a wall full of the cool rally plagues he makes for each event, this rider/writer included. Three-wheeling really does open up a whole new, wider world of possibilities and Doug keeps that window wide open.
For more info about all things sidecar, visit sidestrider.com.