Flexit & EquaLean leaner sidecars

The, rig, history, pictures, etc.

Flexit & EquaLean sidecars are no longer manufactured and there are no longer any official Websites or videos. But they are way cooler than the Armec Sidewinder - video

  1. Flexit technical information, brochure & some pictures
  2. A short history of Flexit sidecars
  3. Some pictures of Mike Huntzinger's BMW R1100GS Flexit rig
  4. Flexit sidecar on a Honda ST1100
  5. Steves's Flexit sidecar on a Moto-Guzzi
  6. Some other pictures of Flexit & EquaLean sidecars of uncertain origin
  7. Update: Flexit & EquaLean are not the same
  8. Links, videos & Yahoo Flexit Sidecar Owners Group (FSOG)
  9. The construction of the Flexit sidecar
  10. Details of the Flexit sidecar

 

Flexit technical information, brochure & some pictures

Flexit technical information, brochure, and some of the pictures on this page, were furnished of John Goff. He has positioned himself, and rightly so, as The Historian of the Flexit.
John invites those of you with additional Flexit information, knowledge of ownership, etc. to contact him. He may be reached for Flexit information via e-mail. jgteleport.com

 

Factory brochure picture.

 

Cover from factory brochure.

 

Flexit factory information.

 

The red Flexit and red Moto-Guzzi is Steve Kealy with daughter Bronwyn, from Australia near Melbourne.
The red Honda ST1100 is Frank Sumner from the UK.
The blue Honda GL1500 is also from the UK.

 

John Goff, next to his wife's (chair) white Honda GL1500SE Gold Wing.
The picture was taken in 2007 at Crater Lake.

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A short history of Flexit sidecars

by John Goff March, 2008

(Note: This article by John was edited slightly by Snowbum)

The Flexit fully articulated sidecar is considered by many to be the best engineering solution to the engineering problem of making a sidecar that leans in unison with the towing motorcycle. The Flexit is one of the very few leaning sidecar designs ever built that features a truly convenient and reliable lock-out device for parking maneuvers.

In the opinion of many I have talked with, this design is the best functioning articulated sidecar yet done, the best engineering solution yet done for a unison or parallel leaner.

The Flexit was the brain child of Hannes Myburgh, an accomplished South African engineer and designer. His creation of the Flexit was a personal "hands-on" effort of dedication and devotion to his concept.

So, how well does a Flexit sidecar work really? Well, there is an anecdote about Myburgh taking one of his Flexits to England to the Triumph high performance test track and hitching it up to one of Triumph's test mules. This motorcycle was equipped with radio telemetry to record all aspects of the test run. Hannes (pronounced "han-ness") plus his Flexit sidecar were looping around their test track reaching speeds of 260 kph (161 mph) in 6th gear in straights, which impressed the Triumph engineers. When Hannes got back to the pits, one engineer quipped that the gear ratios for 6th gear are an overdrive. If he would have left it 5th gear, the bike would have gone "faster". Most riders would say that 161 mph is "FAST" on motorcycle without a sidecar. I have never heard of street legal sidecar with this kind of performance, let alone a unison leaning sidecar, that allows the motorcycle to still be a motorcycle in the curves.

The intriguing story of the Flexit is a traveling story that migrates from South Africa to Europe, to California, and finally back to Europe. It is hard to know (accurately) the total number of Flexit units produced from 1981(?) to 2005. My sources suggest that perhaps 20 units (including original prototype) were made in South Africa 1981? to 1986?. Between 29 and 50 units were made by California Sidecar (CS) in California 1989 to 1990. 92 units were made by EZS in Holland (The Netherlands) 1991 to 1999 (I have a breakdown by destination country of where these 92 went). And perhaps 4 or 5 of the 4th generation Single Sided Swingarm (SSS) Flexits were independently produced after Hannes Myburgh left EZS in 1999 from 2000 to 2005 before all production ended. That's a total of 167+/- Flexits world wide, including both left and right side attachments, of which about 15% were left side attach models. And of all of those, perhaps 70 reside in North America.

Production of the Flexit sidecar happened in 4 phases. In South Africa, Hannes Myburgh independently produced his original rough prototype as proof of concept of his design and then finalized the finished, fully functional design, including the unique electric canopy windshield cockpit enclosure system, and integrated disc brake. And though the numbers were few (perhaps 20 units), it was the beginning of a 3 continent, 20+ year journey.

With a fully developed articulated sidecar design, Hannes' next step was to take an example to a big international motorcycle show in Europe (1987?). When Peter Smith saw his first example of a Flexit at that show, he became both a fan and an advocate. Peter was instrumental in assembling a team of 3 men: Hannes Myburgh, Albert Engbers (of EZS), and Peter Smith, and fostered the idea of bringing the Flexit from Europe to the USA for its first serial production. A key stepping stone in this was the signing of a contract with California Sidecar (CS) for first mass production run of Flexits in 1989 and 1990+. 29 to perhaps 50 units were produced in this first commercial run of Flexits at CS. Smith, Engbers and Myburgh had a falling out with California Sidecar management and terminated their relationship with CS, which ended California Sidecar / Flexit production.

Peter Smith stayed in California and started the Champion Sidecar Company (a traditional rigid sidecar maker that is still in business today). Engbers and Myburgh return to The Netherlands, and in 1991, restart Flexit manufacture at EZS, which continues through 1999. According Albert Engbers at EZS, 92 units were produced (including both left and right attach versions). According to one British source, of these 92 there are 12 left side attach Flexits that were sold in England, all sold through and distributed by the Watsonian Sidecar Company. And these were actually badged as Watsonian "Squires". The exact numbers of "other" left side attach versions of the Flexit outside of the original South African made units is not known to me.

In 1999, Albert Engbers ended Flexit production at EZS. But Hannes Myburgh continued trying to keep both unit production and design development of the Flexit going forward. After leaving EZS, Myburgh then begins independent production of Flexits in 2000. The last Flexit is thought to have been produced in 2005. I do not know the numbers that Hannes produced between 2000 and 2005, but it was apparently a very small operation, with perhaps 4 or 5 units (that I can document with pictures) being made.

The former Flexit sidecar Web site was shut down and sold in 2005. Albert and Hannes remain good friends, though due to his health, contact between them is sporadic. Hannes Myburgh still resides in Zelhem, The Netherlands (Holland), which is also the home of Albert Engbers and EZS sidecars.

Hannes Myburgh really was the driving force behind the creation and production of the Flexit, especially in the last ditch effort at the end. Once again Hannes was personally involved in the fiberglass work. With long-term recurrent exposure to Keotone (a solvent) and other fiberglass related chemicals he suffered internal organ and even (it is rumored) neurological damage. It is said that Hannes Myburgh receives a disability income from the government of The Netherlands. I am told that Hannes has good days and bad days, and that he is getting better. I hope so. We all certainly wish him the very best.

For the surviving Flexit owners, one of our biggest long-term worries is the unique polycarbonate Flexit windshield. Thankfully these are amazingly durable, and short of some sort of calamity, the need for windshield replacements is infrequent. Albert Engbers says that Hannes Myburgh still has (owns) the machine that he designed and built that made (blew) those windshields. But in as much as Flexit production has ended, so has the Flexit windshield availability (I know, because I tried to buy one at EZS when I was there in January, 2007).

I once had an e-mail from Dave Szkudlarek, the moderator for the Yahoo groups on-line Flexit Sidecar Club, with Dave expressing the view that he thought that around 200 Flexits had been produced. Some believe that as many as 400 may have been produced. So far, my research into this question shows 20? + 50? + 92 + 5? = 167 units (+/- a little bit) and suggests that an estimate of 200 might be a little high.

John further said: If there is more information out there, and/or a more complete history of the Flexit than this meager thumbnail sketch, I hope that you will share that information with me. I, for one, am interested to know the complete history of Flexit sidecars, and as accurately as possible.

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Some pictures of Mike Huntzinger's BMW R1100GS Flexit rig

They were taken at the 2009 USCA Rally at Lake Tahoe

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Flexit sidecar on a Honda ST1100

by Frank Sumner @ My-Mc Discussion Forum July 24, 2004

I bought the Flexit just over 10 years ago following the arrival of the 3rd member of our family. At the time I was working in the accounts area of my trade and thus quickly worked out that two seats divided by 3 didn't go. We did consider padding the topbox out to carry the little bundle of 'fun' but those nasty guys in blue uniforms (darker blue than the one I wear) would probably have had something to say about this option, so a sidecar it was going to have to be.

Eventually, after a bit of looking around, we decided to opt for the Flexit as it seemed to offer the best of both solo and sidecar i.e. you ride exactly like a solo and have the extra seat so that all the family can go along for the ride.

The Flexit is unique amongst sidecars in that it leans with the bike (Armec also make a sidecar that allows the bike to be ridden normally, but their sidecar remains vertical). The maximum angle of lean is 35 which is perfectly adequate for knocking off the Pan's mirror pod. You ride it almost exactly like a solo, apart from the width, and the more weight on the bike the less impact the sidecar has on the feel, so when we tour with two adults, full panniers, topbox, tankbag and, when camping, a solo motorcycle trailer and just our daughter in the sidecar, it feels very much like a normal heavily laden Pan.

The sidecar is braked, linked to the front brake (unlike most conventional outfits where any sidecar brake is usually linked to the rear brake). It has upside down fork type suspension with air shock/damping controlled by a pump to allow for the wide range of weights that could be carried. The wheel is fitted with a 10" car tyre, although it too banks with the bike/sidecar. The screen is opened and closed on runners using an electric motor, it can be opened on the move and can be positioned anywhere between fully open to fully closed, both the sidecar passenger and the rider can operate the screen.

The sidecar can be removed in about 10 minutes (3 bolts, one electrical and one hydraulic connector) and can be re-attached in about 20 minutes.

The flexing mechanism is achieved by the use of two duplex chains forming a parallelogram effect. Due to the flexing mechanism there is very little stress/weight placed on the bike, although I have had to place small spacers in the front forks to counter the weight of the chair (these were only required as I have the chair attached virtually 100% of the time).

We have now covered 85,000 miles with the outfit, my daughter (11 years) is now taller than her mother but still seems to thoroughly enjoy going out in the chair.

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Steves's Flexit sidecar on a Moto-Guzzi

A curious attachment

The Cali EV was bought as a wreck from Eurobrit (tales of tribulations available) and rebuilt to haul a Velorex sidecar and 4- year-old daughter.

It was an easy and successful rebuild and was originally painted bright orange, so it didn't get confused among all the red sports bikes in our garage.

However, the world of motorcycling has moved on since the days of wicker-basket sidecars, but sidecars themselves have not, so I started the hunt for a Flexit - it took a couple of years, but I found two left-hookers in quick succession - most are made for Europe and the US and go on the right side.

I ended up with both - one was on a South African BMW K-series and is for sale - the other came off a Guzzi in New Zealand. This effectively doubled the Flexit population of Australia - there are about 350 world-wide.

The Flexit is the world's most effective leaning sidecar, and gives 35 deg of lean; it runs a disc brake, electric sliding canopy, air shocks with on-board compressor, etc, etc. The bike remains pretty well standard - no leading link suspension, car wheels or 15" wheels are needed, and you'll probably want to keep at least the sidestand - although the Flexit can be locked into a rigid position for parking or slow-speed riding.

I used the arrival of the new sidecar as an excuse to have the whole lot repainted by a local genius in Holden's "Red Hot Red"; and it now boasts a 3-way hardwired intercom with CB, AM/FM with removable face-plate and remote control, 6-stacker CD and a 5-point Sabelt racing car harness for the passenger.

Its first outing was Melbourne's Toy Run, where it attracted a good deal of interest. I'm still learning to ride it, but so far, the daughter, just turned five, loves it.

However, the Flexit is a big sidecar - it dwarfs the EV - and without sundry mounting brackets, it has raised a new problem - how to get the PW50 to rallies?

Don't suggest a trailer - that's how the bike got written off in the first place - and the day I need both a sidecar and a trailer is the day I say.

"Bugger it" and go in the station-wagon.

 

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Some other pictures of Flexit & EquaLean sidecars of uncertain origin

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Update: Flexit & EquaLean are not the same

I got an e-mail from John Goff with some update information about Flexit & EquaLean sidecars. Here it is (I left out his contact information).

First - Thank you for your interest and effort in putting up this link page. Part of my mission is to spread the word that you can have the benefits of a sidecar without giving up your leaning motorcycle. So more points of information contact is better :-)

By way of explanation (and clarification) The Flexit and the EquaLean are dramatically different in terms of linkage design and user friendliness. A part from both being unison leaning sidecars, they have little else in common. I speak as one who has owned both.

So a concern I have is that lumping these 2 very different sidecars together in the same link page might imply (to some) that they are equivalent versions of the same thing - the same riding experience. And they are not.

The EquaLean is primitive by comparison - 1980's caveman engineering. As I said I owned 2 and the EquaLean worked and was fun in it's own way. But it also required a certain amount of upper body strength to handle comfortably. It really lacked refinement or sophistication. Most of all it lacked a lock-out device to aid in parking lot maneuvers.

The Flexit is everything the EquaLean is not. Flexits really are refined and more user friendly. And sophisticated in ways that constantly impress you with the completeness of the design. The Flexit is just so smooth, light, and precise in every way the EquaLean is not.

And finally - Your description that these look "more scary" than an Armec or Kalich type of hybrid (half-step) leaner that requires such a wide tire track is regrettable. If I were to ask you to do anything, I would ask you to delete this description. Because a properly installed and set-up Flexit is not scary. They are just amazingly fun and useful appendages to have with you. And the public response to a Flexit seen out and about, is perhaps the most fun of all *

Please consider me a information resource to anyone with an interest articulated sidecars in general, and for the Flexit in particular.
As always, Any questions? Please ask! :-)

Warm regards,
John Goff, The World's only known Flexit sidecar historian! :-)

 

* What I meant by the "scary looks" (it's now deleted as required) is not a suggestion that it is scary, but just maybe looks so by the thought of the feeling of sitting in a sidecar that leans in the corners, and not just slightly but up to an angle of 35. It makes me think of the feeling of a rollercoaster ride that some people think is scary, but for that sake no less fun ;-)

Thank you John for the update and clarification.

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Links, videos & Yahoo Flexit Sidecar Owners Group (FSOG)

Effective in November 2009, there is now a information Web site and chat list
Yahoo Flexit Sidecar Owners Group (FSOG)

The Flexit Sidecar Owners Group is dedicated to the promotion, preservation and perpetuation of all of the surviving Flexit sidecars ever produced, and perhaps only 200 were built. Primary objectives of this group include, but are not limited to Flexit owners support, historical research, parts identification and sources of supply, front & rear mounting bracket, build procedures and installation, Service & Handling Trolleys (SHT's), history and any other consideration that helps to keep as many Flexits as possible in service, on the road, and visible to the public. The primary asset will be freely shared Flexit information. This group is open to all enthusiasts who have an interest in any articulated sidecars (lean capable sidecar attachments) regardless of type, era, country of origin, whether commercially manufactured or home built.

Positive attitude, mutual support, and good fellowship are essential to any special interest group. Anything you contribute by way of uploaded files or photos, can be edited or deleted as you choose.

The Flexit Sidecar Owners Group is family oriented, any or all content may be edited at the discretion of the moderators. The purpose is not to solve nor debate the world's problems but to enjoy time together in spite of them.

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The construction of the Flexit sidecar

The Flexit is kind of unique in it's sort. It's a sidecar which moves in curves the same way as a singel motorcycle does.

The construction is quite simple though very robust.
When you attach a sidecar on a motorcycle it has much influence on the driving properties. Certainly when you attach a sidecar which has to move the same way as the motorcycle, try and think of the enormous amount of weight which you have to deal with when the bike turns over. The maker of the Flexit (Hannes Myurgh, a South African) thought something up. The sidecar is connected with two hinge points to the motorcycle.

In the back hinge point there is a construction with two duplex chains which follows the bike exactly. The wheel is not on the outer side of the sidecar but just in the middle of it, and that means that reaction powers at the motorcycle frame are kept a minimum.

The ultimate ride

Driving a Flexit is so weird that even the most experienced sidecar driver rides it's first meters so carefully like he stepped on a sidecar combo the very first time.

Driving a Flexit is so different that you don't have to have any experience whatsoever with riding a sidecar. The only thing which pays attention is its reaction on braking and giving gas, the machine reacts sturdy on that, you have to correct that with counter steering.

But after a few meters you'll get used to it and you'll do it automatically.

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Details of the Flexit sidecar

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