I have particular interest in URAL motorcycles. In the future I will ride one completely across Russia and document the entire journey on this website.
This bike is little known in the west and frequently derided by native Russians. (They always tell me, “Ural is shit.”) So why am I so damned intrigued by them?
01 They are descendants of German WWII motorcycles
German engineering never goes out of style. The Russians developed the Ural by reverse engineering German military motorcycles captured in WWII. The Ural retains the iconic “boxer” (opposing cylinder) air-cooled engine originally developed by BMW.
02 They are 2WD
The Ural has a transfer case that can couple the rear wheel to the sidecar axle – making the motorcycle two-wheel drive.
On pavement, you keep it disengaged and it is powered like a conventional motorcycle with just the rear wheel. If you go off-road, you engage the sidecar wheel so that you do not get stuck if one wheel looses traction. This is a major capability that normal motorcycles lack.
03 The Sidecar!
One of the most difficult parts of motorcycle touring is finding a way to carry enough supplies for your journey. This problem evaporates when you have access to a cavernous storage area. Just dump your gear in and go – no fancy packing required.
Of course, you can also bring along a girlfriend, dog, or………
04 They have good aesthetics
Life is too short to not surround yourself with beauty. This gets overlooked BIG TIME in the modern era of soulless, disposable consumer goods. A go to comparison would be your average Japanese motorcycle. It will be more reliable, more fuel-efficient, cheaper, etc. I own one and love it. HOWEVER, plastic fairings and gaudy decals are no substitute for style.
The Ural has a retro-functional style that has held up well over time.
05 They are mechanically…in need of love
Reliability is this bikes primary weakness. The reputation is improving overtime, but they will never be Jap-tier reliable (they are based on WWII tech for heaven’s sake!) However, here is a positive way to look at it.
For the mechanically inclined amongst us, it is kind of nice to actually be needed for a change. Most modern motorcycles are so reliable they are almost boring. With the Ural, you need to keep an eye on her and get to know her idiosyncrasies. She’ll need an adjustment here and correction there.
As they say in the south, you’ll need to….”service her.”
Like most Russian products, it is EASY to work on when you need to. All of the mechanical bits are easy to see and access. A minimal amount of tools are needed.
As they say in Russia, “If you can’t fix it with a hammer, it is probably an electrical problem.”
06 Putin Approves
You can buy your own URAL here: http://www.ural.com/
Check out The Timeless Ride Blog made by a man named Hubert (recently deceased, RIP). He spent the last 13 years of his life riding a URAL around the world. His blog was one of my early inspirations to one day travel on a URAL myself.