Doug Bingham is known as “Mr. Sidecar,” and for good reason. Since the 1960s he has raced, designed, manufactured and distributed motorcycle sidecars. He has also developed new uses for sidecars, organized events that are enjoyed by enthusiasts as well as the general public, and served as an ambassador for both the business and pleasure sides of motorcycling.
Originally from Buffalo, New York, Bingham grew up in Southern California during World War II, where his father worked as an engineer with the Curtis-Wright Aircraft Corporation. His father rode a motorcycle, and Bingham sometimes rode along. A cousin gave Bingham his first motorcycle, a non-running 1941 Indian Chief. Bingham got the Chief up and running with help from his grandfather.
Bingham began racing in the early 1960s. His first exploits were as the co-pilot aboard an off-road sidecar piloted by Terry Hansford. He later graduated to pilot and competed in and won such events as the Jackpine and Greenhorn Enduros. The American Motorcyclist Association began sanctioning the AMA Sidecar Road Racing Championships in 1968 and Bingham won the inaugural championship with co-pilot Ed Wade aboard a Harley-Davidson powered, Bingham-designed racer. Bingham and Wade captured the title again in 1969.
In 1969 Bingham incorporated his sidecar business, Side Strider Inc., in Van Nuys, Calif. He then began production of the Bingham Mark I, which was the first new sidecar design in decades. The Bingham Mark I was lauded in the Dec. 1969 issue of Popular Science as being innovative, handsomely designed and reasonably priced. Bingham continued to develop and market a line of sidecars, Including: the Bingham Mark II; two-seater “taxi” models; a military model equipped with a machine-gun; and special transport units. Bingham and Side Strider also became the U.S. distributor and part owner of the venerable British sidecar company, Watsonian, which later merged with the Squire sidecar company.
In 1984 ABC television contacted Bingham about constructing a mobile camera platform to be used for Olympic event coverage. Bingham modified an electric motorcycle and attached a sidecar camera platform. The successful use of the mobile camera sidecar opened new possibilities for Bingham, and for Hollywood. Television producers and the sports and film industries called on Bingham more and more to develop and pilot camera sidecars, including one used during the motorcycle chase scene in the Steven Spielberg film Indiana Jones and The Last Crusade. Bingham has been recognized with multiple Emmy Awards for Outstanding Videography and Live Event Coverage.
Bingham is also the founder of the Griffith Park Sidecar Rally in Los Angeles. The event celebrated its 37th anniversary in 2008, drawing over 400 participants and thousands of spectators. The Griffith Park Sidecar Rally has been named among America’s top 25 motorcycle rallies by Rider Magazine.
Bingham received the 1998 AMA MVP Award for advancing the cause of motorcycling. He served as Chairman of the Sidecar Industry Council, which includes all U.S. sidecar manufacturers as well as Harley-Davidson. He was a founding member and President of the U.S. Sidecar Association, and is also a member of the Trailblazers M.C. Hall of Fame.
Summing up his life’s work, Bingham said: “To me, the beautiful thing about motorcycling is that I’ve met a lot of people I never would have met, and done a lot of things I never would have done.”