A common Letter to the Editor at a motorcycle publication or website might read something like this: “Let the manufacturers know that we don’t want a 180-mph superbike, or some giant, $20,000, chrome-laden land barge. We just want a simple, easy to ride, easy-to-maintain bike that’s priced well under $10,000, something like the Triumph or BMW I had when I first started riding.”
Are you sure that’s what you want? ‘Cuz there’s a big ol’ factory in Irbit, Russia-it’s not far from Yekaterinburg, if that helps you out-that’s been itching to build such a bike for you for many years. Ural IMZ is best-known for making what is basically a replica of the WWII-era BMW R71, and solo versions of that bike. Not the most advanced design, true-it makes the Triumph Bonneville look like a DesmosediciRR-but I’m guessing that after two-thirds of a century, they’ve got the bugs worked out. Since we have access to what we call “automobiles” here in the West, there isn’t a huge demand for sidecars (no offense to my colorful and talkative sidecar-driving friends), and the Ural Tour and other models are ground-up sidecar designs, not suited for solo operation even if you take the chair off.
The Ural ST (for solo tour) is different. It uses a similar solid-steel frame as the sidecar unit, but with the engine centrally mounted (rather than offset to better distribute weight for the sidecar) and a different suspension setup. A modern four-piston Brembo brake caliper is bolted to a 41mm Marzocchi fork, and Sachs twin shocks hold up the driveshaft-equipped rear end. Eighteen-inch wheels use Heidenau K36 tires, whatever those are. The rest of the bike is pure Soviet Realism, utilitarian and industrial, although it is EPA and CARB compliant. Ural claims 40 bhp and 38 lb.-ft. of torque: not as torquey as an H-D Sportster, but 100 pounds lighter at a claimed 460 pounds wet. It should be comparatively spry and fun to ride.
And that’s what Wes Siler and Grant Ray, stars of the Hell for Leather moto-blog (where we got these photos) found. They got to ride the bike in Washington’s Cascade mountains, and reported it to be a work in progress, but good to ride, with “a breadth of ability utterly absent from modern motorcycles….capable on gravel or dirt despite road-based tires.”
Urals are famous for their ruggedness and simplicity: sounds like a real adventure bike to me. Think of it as buying a classic BMW, but with all new parts and a factory warranty. The Ural ST in the U.S. will be available next year for about $8000, and if you’re in the Seattle area, contact Ural and they might let you ride the prototype to get your feedback.
Oh, and a final note: yes, I know about the Wolf, Ural’s chopper model.
MD Readers Respond:
Here’s a couple of links to my friend Mike and his experiences with an 05 Ural. Note that he’s a millwright and quite handy at fixing things. Unless you too have your own machine shop and the associated skills, Ural remains, for the other 99% of us, not ready for prime time. Craig
- That’s an interesting bike but it would need a good dealer network, plus I’m not yet convinced the Russians can build a good vehicle. They’ll have to show me. The bike needs cast wheels for touring and optional hard bags and screen. But a simple easy to maintain motorcycle is appealing. Warren
- $8000 is too much. I bought a new (leftover) DL650 for $6200 out the door. Local Craigslist is brimming with 80’s era standards with lots of life left for under $2500. Maybe I’d pay a $500 premium for something from the mother country but that bike should be under $5k. Michael