Car accident, paraplegia. Today, Alexander Lang drives a motocycle – sidecar. It was a hard way to get his driver’s license again and to build up the bike. With iron will and perseverance he reached his goal. Here is his report on how he made his dream come true.
There is hardly an alpine pass that I had not crossed in recent years. Unfortunately, never on the motorcycle, but always as a companion vehicle of our annual motorcycle trip with the old friends. With every bike it warmed my heart and the question arose, is it not possible to ride a motorcycle again? After a car accident in 1989 and the associated paraplegia, that was the end. So the desire grew with each year. It should not be a trike, and it could not be a solo motorcycle. It should be a sidecar. But I had no experience with that. Especially since a Class A driver’s license is required to ride a sidecar. However, I had not applied for this license after my accident. At that time other thoughts were more important than riding a motorcycle. Help came from my friend Thomas Schucker. You really have to describe him as a crazy guy. The prospect of setting up something for me in his garage spurred him on to top performance: “Definitely BMW! Because that’s where I know my stuff. In any case, a coachbuilder builds the whole thing, in any case a swing fork or even better a stub axle steering, space for the wheelchair and for the wife and dog. The whole thing should also have a reverse gear!” My task was to find out how to get a Class A driver’s license in Baden-Württemberg with my disability, and above all, how to pay for the project.
So the first weeks went by with calculations, vehicle searches and driver’s license research. One thing led to another. The BMW became a BMW R1100S. There is no hot exhaust to interfere with climbing on; it is routed under the seat. The swinging fork became an “like a car” steering system from Ruko. It is adjustable so that the steering forces can be matched to the handicap. For the gearshift, we opted for a Tiptronic from Roland Herbig. Only the brake did not please us. Two brake levers cannot be dosed well. Here we chose a thumb brake from racing. The original seat fell victim to a self-made. The new seat was perfectly adapted to my size. Two armrests from car accessories provide lateral support. And the sidecar became a Ruko Racer. It’s so nice and wide and not quite so beefy. Only the reverse gear made us problems. The offered solutions were either too expensive or ineffective. On a warm summer evening we disassembled a beautiful R 1100 S with a special paint job and mounted the shift solenoid and the superbike handlebar. Then we hauled the bike by trailer to the Ruko company in Metzingen. Working with the Ruko team was really fun. We all learned a lot from each other. At the end of September, we picked up a pre-assembled and primed frame. Now it was our turn again. The character of the original motorcycle was to be preserved at all costs, so the necessary steps were neatly coordinated. The removable tail section of the racer was too clumsy and too heavy. It fell victim to the flex. After several adjustments, filling and sanding, a completely different tail emerged. The rear end had been in the works for a long time at this point; well, at least in Dieter Hertl’s mind. I don’t remember how many hundreds of times he screwed the wheel on and off. But with each time, the reversing aid took a little more shape. It was a very simple solution: toothed belt, electric motor and release gear. Sounds simple, but it took a long time to develop. The brackets for the feet and wheelchair were made by a friend who works with stainless steel. The painting was done by my friend Andreas Meier. The final touches were added by Andreas Zeller, our master saddler.
I don’t know what I would have done without the help of all my friends! Everyone I told about it was eager to do their part. Last hurdle: The driver’s license In the meantime, it turned out that no one in Baden-Württemberg had ever taken a driver’s license with paraplegia. Many driving schools waved me off in advance. I then found what I was looking for in my neighborhood at the Jim Engel driving school and at the Enzkreis District Office. Here we got full support for our project. The district office worked out all the requirements for us, such as medical examinations and the associated aptitude tests at the TÜV. At first, the TÜV gave us the answer: Class A with a cross-section – impossible. Only when the boss of the TÜV Süd Pforzheim took care of the matter and made the statement “Impossible appeals to me!”, the matter got rolling perfectly. Now I had to wait, since I could not do driving lessons without a vehicle and the TÜV could not check the suitability. The vehicle went back to Metzingen for frame coating and TÜV approval. Full of pride I took it back at the end of September. From now on there were daily tours through my garage. On a closed yard I made the first rounds with the carriage. About 200 kilometers followed with circle driving. Because in addition to learning to drive a team, exercise is a factor that should not be underestimated for a driver who lacks abdominal muscles and has to do everything with his upper body. And anyway, there were suddenly so many buttons and levers: in addition to the horn, lights, turn signals, throttle, brake, and clutch, there was also the thumb brake and gearshift paddle. It was then but quite tight on the handlebars. But I quickly found the throttle. And it was also really great to drive with a clutch again after 16 years of automatic transmission. In October followed the big day of the inspection by the TÜV. The head of the TÜV-Pforzheim Christof Karl came personally to get an idea of whether I could sit on the bike and, above all, ride it. So brake tests, slalom and cornering followed. Somehow he didn’t buy that I was a beginner. After consultation, the technical part of the training was changed so that a test with the team and the handicap was possible. For example, starting, stopping and putting legs on the ground was replaced by parking with the reverse gear. Or the distance in slalom driving was extended a bit. These things would then also be applied in the test. I would also like to take this opportunity to thank the authorities and the people at TÜV. In my case they have proven to be real service providers and partners!
Without a positive attitude, this project would not have been possible. for 8 years I drive this Bike – a super feeling! I have already covered many kilometers, and I’m sure there will be more. I would be happy if many more people with a handicap would follow this way. If you have any questions or suggestions, please do not hesitate to contact me. This way was the best decision for me.
Autor: Alexander Lang
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