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Riding shotgun with Shelby’s Sidecar Tours

Natarsha Brown explores Sydney riding shotgun on one of Shelby's Sidecar Tours.

I’m sitting at Bondi Pavilion, nervously sipping a coffee and waiting for my ride to show. Everytime I hear a rev down the road, I swing around and scan the traffic. I’m getting a ride with Shelby’s Sidecar Tours – a guided adventure of the Eastern Suburbs of Sydney – and I’m a little worried I won’t recognise the driver when he shows up.
My fears are completely unfounded, of course. Who could mistake the engine-red, vintage-style motorbike for anything else?

We cruise the backstreets of Dover Heights, Watsons Bay, Bondi, Bronte and Coogee, and honestly, I feel a bit like a celebrity. People stop in the streets to wave, point and laugh as we drive by – none more so than the kids tugging on their parents’ shirts and exclaiming, “Mum, Dad… can we do that for my birthday!?”

At first I feel a little strange being this out in the open. No seatbelt, no windows – it truly is Sydney at its best – the wind on your face and the smell of the salty sea.

Managing director, Marc Jaackson, leans over and tells me, “Most people feel vulnerable for the first five minutes, but then they love the feeling of being outdoors.”

Shelby’s Sidecar Tours are named after Marc’s autistic son Shelby; he used to love riding on the back of his dad’s motorcycle until he started having seizures in his mid-teens. Marc had the brilliant idea of giving his son rides in an old sidecar – which he absolutely adored – and this soon gave birth to a new business plan as well.

“Whenever we were driving the sidecar we would always attract a crowd of smiling onlookers, there was always so many people interested in what we were doing that I thought, this could work, and this is something people would love to do.” Marc has lived in Moscow, Tokyo and London – but he believes there is nowhere in the world quite like Sydney.

“I want to show people this beautiful city that I love, and not only that, I want to show them the places I would want to see if I was a tourist myself, the parts of Sydney that sometimes go undiscovered by anyone who isn’t a local.”

Shelby’s gets a range of customers and Marc excitedly tells me he rode with a 100-year-old man just the other day and they have a family of six booked in next week. With a fleet of 12 drivers, tours range from one-hour tours of the CBD to three-hour rides all the way up to Palm Beach.

The hardest part about the business is getting good drivers. They have to not only be able to drive, but interact with the customers. You are a driver and a tour guide at the same time.

And this is what Marc excels at. Within minutes of jumping in my car we are chatting and laughing effortlessly as we glide over the hills, dips and bumps of the Eastern Suburbs coast. He points out his favourite houses, warns me when an epic view is just around the corner (so I can get my camera ready, of course) and shares personal anecdotes about this city he loves so much.

It's home and what a beautiful home it is. If you're looking for a new, fun and friendly way to explore Sydney, this unconventional, unforgettable experience hits the spot.

For more information or to book, click here.

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