Reading Between the Lines

Just before I left for vacation, I reported that an informed source had told me that the board members and top executives at Harley-Davidson were considering whether or not to keep Buell Motorcycles as part of the Harley-Davidson corporation.  Naturally, I became the most hated man in Buell World for a day or two.  Court Canfield even dropped in to tell me what an ass I am.

Now, I haven’t had a chance to catch up with my source since I got back from Alaska, but I did notice this story in Friday’s Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel.  And when I did, I also noticed this line near the bottom of the story:

Erik Buell said he didn’t renew his employment contract with Harley-Davidson, although he isn’t planning on retiring.

Probably means nothing.  No doubt there are any number of sound reasons why Erik Buell didn’t renew his employment contract with the MoCo.  I am curious, though, as to what they might be.

Ural Loses the Sidecar

Ural Motorcycles are known around the world for their 750cc, boxer-engined, sidecar-equipped adventure bikes.  Now, they are going to give us an old-style, go anywhere, do anything motorcycle without a sidecar.  Named the Ural ST, for Solo Tour, the new bike is supposed to be a lightweight (460lbs) capable all-rounder, much like the Nortons and BSAs I remember as a kid.

2010 Ural ST
2010 Ural ST

Despite dropping the sidecar, it’s still pretty much the same Soviet copy of the 1930s BMW R71 that Commie spys ripped off from the Nazis just prior to WWII.  That means its 70 year-old technology is drop-dead simple to maintain–not that you’ll need to worry much about that, since it’s a design that’s as reliable as hell.

It puts out 40HP and 38 lb-ft of torque, so it’s obviously no speed demon in modern terms.  But, Wes Siler and Grant Ray, of the Hell for Leather motorcycle blog, got to take a ride on it, and they made a key observation, saying it has “a breadth of ability utterly absent from modern motorcycles….capable on gravel or dirt despite road-based tires.”

I suppose that younger readers may find this a bit hard to imagine, but right up into the 1970s, practically all motorcycles were like this.  Apart from the big Harleys, which were more or less purpose-built for highway cruising, here simply wasn’t the level of niche specialization that you see in motorcycles today.  There were no sportbikes, cruisers, power-cruisers, sport-tourers, etc.  There were just…motorcycles.

If you wanted a dirt bike, you put knobby tires on your motorcycle.  If you wanted a touring bike, you picked up a pair of leather saddlebags and threw them over the rear fender.  If you wanted an adventure bike, you got knobby tires, and welded mounts to some surplus .50 caliber or .30 caliber ammo cans and bolted them to the frame for tough, waterproof saddlebags.  Then you hit the road.  Or the dirt.  Whatever.

The Ural ST harks back to those simpler days, with some adjustments for modernity, like a Marzocchi fork, Brembo brakes…and EPA and CARB compliance (Yea, I said “CARB compliance, which means you can get it in California, too). And if you’re going to be in Seattle in the near future, why not give Ural’s office there a call.  They may let you ride one and get your feedback for the production model.

Best of all, the list price is expected to be about $8,000.