A Different Breed Of Biker

Tina Greenfield is one tough monkey.

As half of the “dynamic duo” known as Motorcycle Supply Racing with her partner Tony Shidla, Tina is all-in on the sport known as motorcycle sidecar racing. Mike Boyd and I were attending the 2023 Barber Vintage Motorcycle Fest in Birmingham, Alabama for the weekend, and Mike quipped, “I’ve got to introduce you to a young gal I met who sidecar races. Tina is amazing!” We caught up with Tina and Tony late Saturday in the paddock, and between race heats with Tony out on track in a Supermotard race, Tina graciously agreed to a short chat. More on that shortly.

Tina and Tony out on track during their Saturday race at Barber Vintage Fest. Photo by Mike Boyd.

Mike has been attending Vintage Fest for many years, and I’ve joined him a few times myself. This year, we decided to focus on an element of the weekend that sadly few motorcycle publications ever give attention to, that of motorcycle sidecar racing. These passionate racers comprise a very unique subculture within motorcycling, and we looked forward to meeting and talking with as many of them as we could. Sanctioned and promoted by AHRMA, this American brand of sidecar racing is thrilling and entertaining to watch.

In reference to the aforementioned “monkey” term, motorcycle sidecar racing is a team sport. Two riders, working in tandem, hurtling their machine around a track, at speeds hitting the triple digits, inches off the track surface, makes this form of racing quite enthralling to view. The terms used for the pair range from “wrist & monkey”, “pilot & copilot”, and “driver & passenger” among others. These teams often are comprised of husband and wife, father and son/daughter, friends, siblings, etc. Both contribute to steering their three-wheeled rig around a track, the “wrist” at the handlebars and the “monkey” throwing themselves around as weight transfer.

Teams powering through the “Charlotte’s Web” hairpin at Barber. Photo by Mike Boyd.

It’s a physically demanding sport, especially for the copilot, hence our comment about Tina. Battling G-forces back and forth to keep the rig planted on all three contact points, racers must be both strong and flexible, and be in complete sync with each other. Mike and I observed it up close trackside at Barber, as teams tore around the highly technical course at breakneck speeds. I’ve ridden at high speed around tracks like this on a motorcycle, experiencing the G-forces on a bike, but can hardly imagine the exertion it takes to keep riders and machine planted while speeding around a course, battling those forces on a sidecar. These racers, particularly the passengers, are another level of tough.

AHRMA here in the States runs multiple race classes of sidecar, Formula 1 and Formula 2 being the fastest and most modern, running 1000cc powerplants, followed by TT1 and TT2 running 600cc mills. These are the sleek bodied outfits resembling a modern race car more than a motorcycle. Vintage classes range from “BEARS” or Classic Big Wheel Sidecar, SC1 and 2 Vintage and Super Vintage, SC4 Formula Classic and SC3 “Lost Era” sidecars. The AHRMA site gives a thorough description for each of these. Suffice it to say, you’ll see everything from sleek, aerodynamic Superbike powered rigs down to old, rickety looking 350cc two-stroke outfits out on track, all of which are pure pleasure to watch and hear.

This just looks both fun and strenuous. Photo by Mike Boyd.

Tina and Tony run in the TT2 600cc class, in only their second year. Tina, who also races motorcycles the CCS (our own Ryan Nolan runs in this series), CRA and AHRMA series, jumped into sidecar after discovering it on YouTube channels. She was intrigued, and had to give it a try. Now she’s hooked, loving this form of racing like no other. “As soon as I found out that there was a grid here in the U.S., I was like, ‘Where do I find a sidecar??’ I had to get involved.” Tina asserts that both riders should cross-train in each other’s role, so they can be of one mind and motion. “It helps to understand what it takes to do both. It’s hard to be a sidecar driver, and it’s hard to be a passenger. If you can experience and understand each other’s role, it makes for a much better team.”

Rob and Tina during their chat in the paddock, by the Motorcycle Supply Racing tent. Photo by Mike.

We had a chance to chat with Bernard Juchli of Big Dog Garage Racing, a Modern Sidecar US F1 team, about his years in American sidecar racing. Bernard has been racing sidecar for twelve years, and has captured four national championships. He formerly raced motorcycles and even automobiles, but says nothing is quite like sidecar- “Everything about a sidecar is different from a solo bike, two wheels, and also different from a car. It’s not like anything else. Anything you learned about bikes and about cars, you can forget about it. Totally different ballgame.”

Bernard and his “monkey” Kevin working hard in their F1 race. Photo by Mike.

We spoke with Dutch and Bruce of Stiveson Vintage Racing, who run a set of sidecar rigs in Classic Big Wheel and Vintage. They are sponsored by Marin Motorsports over in Scotland, which explains the kilt and scally cap that Bruce wears around the paddock when not on track. The Stiveson team has won five national championships in several vintage classes, and their bikes this weekend are an interesting collection of Honda, Harley, and Moto Guzzi machines, among others they bring and run.

“The ‘monkey’ is 80% of the steering with these,“ says Bruce. “My steering and throttle inputs propel us around the track, but their weight transfer keeps us on the track. It’s critical that I’m steady and even, to keep from putting my monkey in the air.” Bruce makes an important point, that every team in the paddock feels the weight of. On a motorcycle, a racer is just responsible for their own safety. In a sidecar, both racers must act in complete unison, not only for their success on track, but for each other’s safety.

Team Stiveson Vintage Racing’s Harley-Davidson out on track, hauling it through a tight corner at Barber. Photos by Mike.

We caught up with Jason Vaden of 3V’s Racing, a team that runs a Moresby BMW 1047cc machine in the SC4 Formula Classic, the highest bracket of the vintage classes. Jason quite aptly described what it’s comparable to, racing in tandem with a partner on the rig- “It’s like a dance, really. It can get pretty difficult if your timing is off, catastrophic really. But when your timing is on, its just smooth, it gets quiet, and its like a dance, three inches off the asphalt at 100 miles per hour. Who doesn’t like to do that?”

Jason’s 3V’s Racing BMW (43) making the turn at Charlotte’s Web. Photo by Mike.

We wrapped up with Dutch Stiveson back over in their team paddock, for some of his comments on the thrill of sidecar racing. Dutch reflected, “We got three of our sidecars out on the grid, but we lost one rig coming off, then two laps in we lost another, both mechanical. I was able to finish on the old Harley-Davidson though, so like an old boy I talked to once said, ‘I want to start this race and I want to finish’. It’s a joy every time to finish. No matter where you finish, it’s still a joy to start and to finish.” Dutch’s words pretty nicely sum up the sentiments of every team and racer in the paddock. The joy and thrill of the sport, the camaraderie and friendships, and even the physical stress and strain of competition, make this type of motorcycle racing unique in motorsports. It’s a team sport, and a true community that cares for one another, even as they battle each other on track.

For more on AHRMA sidecar racing, click HERE

Rob and Mike

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