If you happen to see one, you might not believe your eyes. Let’s say you’re driving along the open road when you start to make out something improbable. You get closer and sure enough: That motorcycle has a sidecar. Closer still, and — holy smoke! — that sidecar has a dog in it! Sporting protective eyewear, no less.
Yeah, they’re called Doggles. And this sort of sighting may not be as unicorn-like as you think. Scattered across the United States is a colorful subculture of motorcyclists with sidecars, and dogs who ride in those sidecars — canine easy riders, occasionally sharing space with a human passenger or another pooch.
Here, six dog-is-my-copilot motorcyclists from across the country tell their stories, which have been edited for length and clarity.
Rhonda Reynolds, 66, and Mooloo
Spooner, Wisconsin ♦ Riding together since 2012
I’d been riding motorcycles for maybe 10 or 15 years, and I wanted to get a dog. I had two previous dogs that were homebodies, so they stayed home whenever I went motorcycle riding. When they passed on, I wanted to get another dog, so I decided to have a sidecar added, and at about that time, Mooloo got to be about six months old — the sidecar was done, she jumped right in, and it hasn’t been the same since. It was short rides at first, but what was amazing was how much she obviously enjoyed it. She’s got her face pointed forward and her nose in the wind — I think Mooloo just likes the smells. There’ll be horses or cows, or especially deer or bear. She’ll sit up real tall and she’ll look at them. All winter, Mooloo and I are out winter camping. I’ve had dogs my whole life, and, obviously, they’re here for a relatively short period of time. I got to thinking, “Well, the more I do with Mooloo now, and the longer I do those things, if I outlive Mooloo, I will be able to look back at those things, and be able to tie those experiences to Mooloo.” So in addition to her enjoying it, I can enjoy it now, but also enjoy it again later on in life.
Randy Lazar, 58, and Doc Holliday
San Diego, California ♦ Riding together since 2015
I've been into dogs all my life and been into motorcycles for 30-plus years. When I realized I was going to be going around the world, I’d just adopted Doc. I said “I’ve got to figure out if I can do it with the dog.” So that’s when I decided to have a sidecar built. I had my specs for the size of the body so Doc could stand and lay down and turn around in it and be comfortable. A lot people have their dogs in the sidecar out in the open, and I know I’m going to be going a long distance with lots of weather, so I need to keep him out of the rain and out of the sun. It’s a convertible, so I can take the cover off. At the end of 2016, we did four months on the West Coast. In 2017, we went for another four months, and the whole goal of the last part of that trip in the U.S. was to see my friends and family before I head out for a few years. [Next], we’ll start out in Arizona, saying goodbye to some friends, and then we’ll cross into Mexico.
Ron Ridenour, 68, and Isabel and Woden
Lake Five, Montana ♦ Riding together since 2014
When you have your buddies with you, you can look over there and say, “How are you doing?” You know? I mean, they’re always ready to go. Unless you get a kid, I don’t think too many people want to go in a sidecar. They would rather ride on the back, the way I always figured it. And so that sidecar is a great vehicle, if you will, or a great situation for a dog. They’re kind of cramped in there, so I worry about them a little bit getting a paw outside of that sidecar and into the spokes, or something. I have a mirror situated so that I can always glance over there, look in that mirror, and make sure they aren’t sticking a paw out. But they’re sure ready to go. If I tell them to go get in, they jump in. They’re just getting their little excitement the same as I am. We’re a team — we’re always a team.
Philippe, 64, and Regitze Murat, 52, and Albert
Scottsdale, Arizona ♦ Riding together since 2011
Philippe: I lost an important nerve on my right arm in 2011 — while motorcycle riding, of course — and [from] the same accident, I have almost a leg full of metal in the bone. So I didn’t feel confident on a big bike anymore. I always wanted a sidecar. The minute we start to ride, Albert gets his nose in the air, and he’s very happy with it. But we try not to go for days after days in the sidecar, because I really don’t think it’s good for the dog.
Regitze: Well, also because I’m in there, right? So there’s a lot less space. For us, it was always a question of me sitting with the dog, so it kind of gives you a limitation in distances possible, because it’s tiring both for me and for the dog.
Philippe: We have no kids, so we just stay together, basically. It’s nice to stop, and have the dog with us and going for a walk a little bit. It’s a way of being complete together. Dogs are not meant to be alone. I think they are pack animals, so we go as a pack, and we stay as a pack.
Regitze: There’s some kind of romantic feel and look to the sidecars, whereas on two wheels some people will not approach you. When you are on three wheels with a sidecar, no matter their age, no matter who they are, they will look at it like “Wow, look at that!” Right? You add a dog to the mix, and people are falling over themselves to come have a look.
Richard Nordstrom, 65, and Harley
Tampa, Florida ♦ Riding together since 2005
I saw a sidecar for sale just shortly after I got Harley. I said, “Hey, this would be perfect with Harley to ride this rig,” so we bought it off eBay for about $13,000. We got him in January of that year. I was carrying him in my front pocket — he was raised in my front pocket. I don’t know why I decided to call him Harley, but every time we’re in a car or the bike, it doesn’t matter, you can tell Harley’s just excited when he sees another bike. He’s proved to be every bit of a Harley. He loves to meet people. People love to meet him, obviously, and it’s just so exciting for me and Harley to be out there meeting people. It gives me a sense of community fulfillment doing fundraisers for different organizations, whether it’s veterans or some animal function. Everybody in the Tampa area knows Harley’s name. Nobody knows mine, but everybody knows Harley.
Duncan Strauss is a longtime journalist and host of WMNF Tampa’s weekly radio program “Talking Animals.”