The Ural line of motorcycles has a fascinating history. And, as far as modern bikes go, it’s about as close as you can get to a real old-school motorcycle, without actually rummaging around in a junkyard.
I admit, I have a fascination for them. In my mind’s eye, I picture myself setting off across the trackless wastes of the Mojave, or riding down mountain deer trails. In real life, of course, I would actually do none of those things, ever, but if I had a Ural I could. No doubt when the aliens attack, or the astroid hits, I’ll really wish I had one.
In any event, Motorcycle.Com has a 2011 Ural Gear-Up Review showcasing the highlights of the Gear Up, Ural’s two-wheel drive, go anywhere, do anything model.
It’s also pretty affordable for what you get: a sidecar with loads of space and a 400lb cargo allotment, 2-wheel drive for the sticky bits of wilderness, and, apparently, a fair amount of chick-magnetism. I suspect a lot more ladies feel more comfy at the prospect of riding in a sidecar, than on the back of a two-wheeler. And I syspect the actual ride would be more comfy, too.
Also, a note to prospective owners in California: California law does not require a motorcycle license to operate a sidecar motorcycle, or any other vehicle with more than two wheels.
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.
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.