4 Sale / 1984 BMW R100RS / Dnepr Sidecar Rig: From Germany and Ukraine, with love

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The other day, as I was returning from a trip to Newfoundland and missing my kids, I started thinking: how can I start taking them on my bike?

The sensible answer is to buy a sidecar. At least, that’s how I see it. My wife, a non-rider, feels differently.

But still, it seems reasonable to me, and it triggered a mental mechanic. What type of sidecar to buy? Like most people, I think the Ural is cool, but it doesn’t have a great reputation for mechanical reliability. At least not any Urals I could afford, as the newer ones are quite expensive. What could I buy along the lines of a Ural, but more likely to get home without an impromptu roadside snatch session?

There is always the Jimbo sidecars option (chinese remanufactured Chang Jiang sidecar platforms, about the same as an Ural, but with BMW air motors installed). But that’s a lot of denaro, and besides, I have nothing against Chinese motorcycles, but the Chang Jiang rig doesn’t have the WWII romance of the Urals… what to do?

Here’s what to do: head over to ADVrider’s flea market sub-forum and check out this awesome setup: a 1984 BMW R100RS mated to a Dnepr sidecar, and all for a reasonable price!

A Ukrainian sidecar with a Russian wheel, mated to a German bicycle. It sounds crazy, but it works. Photo: @pfestus1

Wait, what is a Dnieper?

Most inmates have at least some idea what a BMW R100RS is (the 1984 edition was at the end of production of this model, with an air-cooled boxer twin producing just under 70 horsepower). But a Dnepr? It’s a rare bird, and most of us have never seen one on the street.

Basically, a Dnepr is a Ukrainian version of the Urals. Reports vary; some people say that Dnepr began to build military motorcycles during the Second World War, almost identical to the Ural copy of the BMW R71 design. Other reports indicate that production began in 1946. Anyway, Dnepr built machines very similar to the Urals until the fall of the Iron Curtain. After that they became much less popular, and inmate @rtwdoug once told me that years after the Soviets abandoned Ukraine there were still Dneprs for sale at the factory at price defying all competition.

Dneprs had a similar reputation for reliability as the old-school Ural range, but if you want a rugged sidecar design, this is another option. So that’s what inmate @pfestus1 did: he took a Dnepr sidecar and mated it to a crash-damaged R100RS.

A correct construction

Here’s what the ad says:

I bought the R100RS circa 2005 after suffering a low side crash that destroyed most of the fairing. I bought it for a sidecar project. I took the bike to the Sidecar Magic Shoppe in Buckhannon WV where Gary Haynes built the custom subframe, installed the EML master link forks and mounted the sidecar. I modified the platform again adding a /5 headlight, larger front fender, lower gear final drive from an R60, Euro sidecar handlebars, /5 mufflers, Moto Lights, new Moto Meter/5 speedometer, heated grips, 400+ watt Alternator from Euro Moto Electrics. The 12v car battery is in the trunk of the sidecar. Krauser style saddle bags in good condition are included.

It looks like a well-made build! He notes some differences between the design of the Urals and that of the Dnepr, and he also incorporated parts of the Urals:

Although similar to an Ural, the Dnepr sidecar does not have a trunk door, access to the trunk is through the sidecar seat. The sidecar wheel is an Ural wheel with brake. The sidecar brake is activated by a second brake pedal next to the original rear brake pedal so you can use both the rear brake and the sidecar brake, just the bike brake or only the sidecar brake. I have a Ural windshield for the sidecar. I can ride it, or you can.

The seller says the machine handles and steers well, and will maintain 70mph, cruising happily at 55mph – 65mph. Looks like the engine and gearbox are well maintained; they are stock on the bike, and the seller says the final drive splines were lubricated and the push rod rubbers were replaced about 3,000 miles ago, and the carburetors were rebuilt by Bing. Looks like this setup is good to go!

However, since this is an airhead, you can still expect to pay some mechanical attention to the machine. It’s not a new bike anymore. According to the announcement:

The wiring in the headlight shell needs some attention. Due to an RS’s wiring harness being stuffed into a /5 headlight shell, there are a few things I haven’t figured out yet. The bike will only start in neutral, with the green neutral light on. Oil and generator lights do not work. Someone more electrical than me should be able to fix these issues with the included wiring diagram.

He drops a drop of oil on the ground after going for a walk.

There is a crack in the rear fender where the fender mounts to the subframe from when another motorcycle crashed into it.

That’s not enough to scare me away, not by a long shot, and the fact that this is a 247 series airhead, one of the best supported vintage motors in the world, makes me think any buyer will be able to keep this on the road for a long time.

If it were closer to home, I’d be seriously tempted, at the asking price of US$5,200 (the Roanoke, VA location isn’t for me, alas). While I would have to sell a bike or three to pay for it, the chance to create memories while riding with my kids would be invaluable. As for you: if you’re interested, check out the ad, where @pfestus has his contact details listed!

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