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Cowboy’s Choice: the 2014 Ural Gaucho Rambler

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We all have a romantic image of driving on a dusty road in the American West in a beat-up old pickup truck, the kind with an AM radio and an old woven Navajo blanket over the seat. Weirdly, the modern vehicle most analogous to a 1960 Dodge Powerwagon with rusty bumpers or a 1980 Chevy Silverado with a gun rack and an old yellow dog named “Butch” may be a Russian-built Ural sidecar rig.

That’s because the Ural is based on an ancient design—the BMW R71 from before World War II, and IMZ-Ural, along with a few other companies, has been building it for 72 years. And you thought the Suzuki DR650 was old. But there’s a reason it’s been built and sold for so long besides the fact it came from a centrally planned economy—it’s not only reliable, simple and easy to repair, the extra traction offered by the selectable driven sidecar wheel offers cheap, dependable transportation no matter where you live, from Mojave to Mongolia.

To celebrate 20 years of selling Urals in the USA, IMZ-Ural unveiled this “Gaucho Rambler” limited edition version of its Patrol. It’s painted with matte “Pacific Blue” paint, complete with a decorative sunburst on the sidecar. The rig comes with pre-weathered “sunburned” canvas tonneou and saddle covers, as well as a “Journey West” blanket and carrier specially designed by Pendleton and a GSI Outdoors campfire cooking kit including red-enameled metal coffee cups so you can toss the dregs of your coffee into the fire as you gaze wistfully across the plains and say something like, “Seems like whenever I get to liking someone, they ain’t around for long.”

Mechanically, the Gaucho is the same as the Patrol. That model uses a 749cc air-cooled Boxer Twin that’s rated at 40 horsepower. The frame and chassis numbers are purpose-built for the sidecar, and there’s a lever to switch from one to two-wheel drive. Although it’s built in Russia, it uses a host of high-quality components from Germany, Japan and Italy like Brembo brake calipers, Keihin carburetors and Sachs suspension to enhance performance and reliability. All in, the rig weighs a claimed 705 pounds with the 5-gallon tank empty.

I asked Ural USA Marketing Director Jon Bekefy if the Gaucho was Ural’s way of going after the Hipsters, a group that seems to crave authenticity, eschewing technology and performance in exchange for a more “real” experience. Jon told me the Gaucho was more inspired by Ural’s cross-marketing at events catering to outdoor enthusiasts. “We’re looking for a younger market, people comfortable with the outdoors.” Ural participated with Pendleton Woolen Mills, which puts on the Pendleton Round-Up, a 100-year-old Rodeo and cowboy event held in Pendleton, Oregon. “The hipsters totally weren’t there,” Jon told me. “It was cowboys and rodeo people.”

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Ural doesn’t want to pander to hipsters anway—”marketing to trends is dangerous.” Ural wants permanent customers, so it markets to “movements or shared markets” like ranchers and outdoor enthusiasts. In some ways, it seems like an odd fit, a WWII Soviet sidecar outfit living out its days as a sheepdog on a cattle ranch, but if I had to choose between driving an old Dodge or a sidecar hack, you know how I’d answer.
More Info on the Gaucho Rambler here.

55 Comments

  1. Mark says:

    Well if Champion ever goes lame, Gene Autry has a new mount…

  2. stinkywheels says:

    Wonder if a /7 Beemer engine would fit? There goes the FI and warranty though.

  3. stinkywheels says:

    I’ve always wanted to do what this bike is kinda intended. I haven’t ridden my old R100 for a few years. I’ve always threatened to put a sidecar on it. I know Americans always want faster, tougher, appliance laden and that’s what my monstrosity would be, a Ural that could be cruised at modern speeds all day. Unfortunately no driven hack wheel and reverse.

  4. todd says:

    to be fair, this has the same performance as a Harley. Harley owners don’t complain much. Put a chair on the side of a Soft Tail and it will be neck to neck.

    • Jeremy in TX says:

      A Harley from the 1940s perhaps. Even an 883 Sportster will smoke the Ural.

      • Artem says:

        Nope. Ural is a “hipster” motorcycle in itself.
        I used to buy one from a “grandpa” in my workplace in
        early 90s for “hipster” uses. It cost just one salary.
        It was M-72. But granpa finally refused to sold it.

      • todd says:

        You really think an 883 will smoke this? I’m not sure an 883 would smoke anything. It has the worst power to weight ratio out of all motorcycles. 40hp and close to 600 lbs makes acceleration terribly lethargic. The Ural solo is 40hp and around 460 lb meaning it will smoke the 883! I can’t imagine how bad a Sportster would be with a sidecar!

        • Jeremy in TX says:

          Having ridden a rented 883 side by side with an unhitched Ural, I can assure you it will smoke the Ural. It’s not even close.

        • Danny Boy says:

          Can you say torque. The Ural has 38 ft/lbs, the 883 has 55 ft/lbs. I’d put my money on the Harley every time. It’s not all about horsepower you know.

    • Auphliam says:

      Some of you people should actually ride motorcycles, instead of just trolling news releases for an excuse to make “whitty” comments.

      It really is an exhilarating sport…you should give it a shot.

  5. and yes, they have cat converters…they are in the pipe between the header and the muffler. Get rather warm they do…

  6. I have 35K on my 2 year old Ural. Ride with folks pushing 100K (km that is). Matter of fact, riding 250 miles to the North Carolina mountains in the AM on my Ural to a rally where the vast majority will be ridden to and from the rally and rode my 81 mile one way commute to work on her this AM and will ride her home in just a few minutes. I plan to climb Mount Mitchell with mine this weekend… I love how folks without a flipping clue about modern Urals love to eschew what junk they are. Yeah, they used to be, when they were a Soviet employment project. That was a long time ago, get over it. Go to You Tube and watch what folks do with modern and not so modern Urals and then you might understand why these same folks break them, fix them and do it again. Generally not the bikes fault. The naysaying folks might be in for the shock of their lives next year when Urals will have Brembos on all 3 wheels, EFI (each side of the motor has a computer and they back each other up if one fails) and a host of other improvements (+200 new parts). Truthfully, they are not for everybody, do have a very short maintenance interval (1500 miles – oil change, valve adjustment) and are a bit on the slow side, but they are dependable, solid as a rock, tougher than the Russian winter and a helluva a lot of fun to ride. BTW, I’ve been riding HDs and Beemers for over 20 years and have nothing to do with Ural business wise, just a happy owner. Now, ask me about BMW… (my HD (there have been 4 others) has 228K miles on it, I don’t complain about her. The 7 BMWs on the other hand…)

    • Tim says:

      I have to ask. Why by 7 BMW’s if they were something to complain about? Most would have stopped buying after the first. I’m not being pro or anti BMW, I really am just curious.

    • todd says:

      I’ve had 6 BMWs. I don’t understand what sort of problems you could be having. Yes, my valves have receded on my R75/5 but that is a fault of modern gas and me riding with the throttle wide open most of the time. Otherwise, they have been the most reliable bikes I have ever known – especially my K75S.

    • goose says:

      Sorry james but the Ural I reported to be on its second engine and third transmission is less than two years old. Its great your bike has been reliable but even modern Urals are a crap shoot, some are not as good as yours.

      Goose

    • Hair says:

      Let me get this straight.

      BMW builds junk, But a third world BMW knock-off, Now that is a bike that I can bring home to momma.

  7. zedoc says:

    Does it have a catalytic converter? Why can’t it be built with modern reliability and power?

  8. paul says:

    I would love to have a Ural, would buy a 2007 or newer. You have to realize what its limitations are and not try and make it into something that it isn’t, similar to an Enfield.

  9. Austin ZZR 1200 says:

    Russian piece of junk like most of that corrupt, stinking country. Next time, I’ll tell you how I really feel…

  10. Brinskee says:

    Saw some Urals a few years back at the International Motorcycle show in San Mateo and in person they look really cool. Really, really cool. I don’t think I’d like the crap power output or the centrifugal rotation when revving the engine, but I could probably overlook those for a much different motorcycle experience. Thumbs up.

    • bikerrandy says:

      When the Ural hacks first came to this USA to be sold they were $4,995. This is before any improvements had been put on them. My understanding about them then is that the motors were never made to be used on paved roads and therefore were not designed internally for a constant speed like used on our paved roads. The motors were designed for stop/going movements @ maybe 45 mph. Unless the internals have been beefed up, the oiling problem is at a constant speed the oil doesn’t get thrown all over to where it’s needed, so the motor self destructs. If this weakness hasn’t been changed, buyer beware. I suppose on dirt roads and all terrain riding, the motor is in it’s happy place.

      I saw pics of a Ural Rally and most everyone there trailered their Ural to the campground and then rode them as a group to different sights for seeing unusual buildings, etc.

      • Jeremy in TX says:

        The problems are all quality control issues compounded by the fact that it is an ancient design. The motor is designed to stop and go just like any other. It just doesn’t do a very good job with the “go” part of that equation. Riding at highway speeds here means keeping the engine close to its redline. Mix high stress and garbage parts for any length of time, and stuff just starts breaking.

  11. jake says:

    Keep the looks, but improve the mechanics and performance. Then Ural wouldn’t have to go pandering into the outback and woods to look for permanent customers or a limited niche market.

    Why is this so hard for a modern company to do, one located even in Russia? If you can build nuclear subs and missiles, modern, state of the art fighter jets and tanks, then why can’t you build a bike with just little added effort that goes faster than 60 mph, in this modern age?

    • Gabe says:

      What kind of tank could you build for $14,000? Just saying!

      • jake says:

        For 14K, a tank? Not much of one. But a bike that can go faster than 60 mph? That’s different story.

        If the Russians can’t do it, then surely there must be some disaffected and disenchanted, alcoholic engineers in Japan, with some free time on their hands, who could be enticed by the promise of free vodka and a couple of over friendly Olgas here and there to spend of few months in mother Russia to help them accomplish this relatively simple task.

    • Artem says:

      Interesting question. I don’t know the answer.
      But even in 60’s there where Vostoks racing bikes.
      Sorry for posting link. But that are finish owners:
      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OxffRKDmEBA

  12. Artem says:

    Funny. It was 40 years ago when I watched this thing the first time and it remains the same (Ops, Led Zeppelin(c)). Now this bikes are only for export and previous times there where thousands of them.

  13. Hair says:

    We’ve had local riders using Urals for a long time now. It is truly amazing what some people can do on these machines. As for me. I really don’t think that I would want to get a side car rig running much past 50 mph.

    Honestly I see this a a retirement bike. One that I could use on the back roads that it was designed for. One that could take me and my pup to the coffee house and home again just in time for my nap.

  14. xootrx says:

    I’ve always liked the way Urals look. I still wish BMW would make a retro bike. Urals are funky, clunky and bit junky. I’ve been following their progress over the past 10 years or so, mainly through their owners’ forum.

    It appears the factory has been working pretty hard, especially over the last 5 or so years, to improve the reliability. From what I read on the forum, it’s been working. So, I wouldn’t buy one older than 5 years, unless I knew what I was getting into.

    Another factor Ural owners live with is the travel delays they run into whenever they stop for gas, or sometimes even at a stop light. Someone always wants to talk to them about the bikes, and almost always they’re assuming the bikes are vintage BMWs. Apparently it can become a real issue for them at times. Then again, if you’re in a hurry, I suppose you’re on the wrong machine.

    With a top speed of 60-70 mph, the cruising speed is usually in the 40-50 range. If you read some of the journals of people who tour the country, even the world on these things, that can translate into some pretty exciting times, even on back roads.

  15. Craig Jackman says:

    In principle I like these … except they won’t go much over 50mph without sounding like they are about to explode, and the only guy I know who owns one is a millwright and has to make improved parts for the bits that keep breaking. That said, he does ride it year round in Canada, and uses it to take his blind dog for rides. I however would never own one.

    … but the special edition with baby blue paint and a blanket does not scream “motorcycle”.

  16. Wendy says:

    Finally, a way for me to get a Pendelton blanket.

  17. JR says:

    Pendleton Woolen Mills does not “put on” the Pendleton Roundup. In fact, they don’t appear to have been a major sponsor of this year’s event. The Roundup is incorporated as a non-profit and the event dates to 1910.

  18. wayne says:

    There is a motorcycle tour company in Mongolia that used to use these bikes. They reckon their tours run much better and on time now that they have switched to Japanese bikes. The locals will flock to you when they see a Suzuki , they all want one rather than their Chinese or Russian stuff. Still the Suzuki’s don’t look half as cool as the Ural

    • denny says:

      Are you hinting that Suzuki still has some space for improvement in styling?

    • Montana says:

      Those locals need to be re-educated by the “centrally planned economy.”

      • Colors says:

        +1 Urals are all the motorcycle anyone will ever need, need is relative anyway, you should consider it a luxery and be grateful that you are not walking.

  19. goose says:

    I always though Urals were cool in a “I’m so cool I don’t need to try” way. Unfortunately, I have friends who bought one a few years ago, my image of the brand is not so good these days.

    They absolutely love their rig. That is really important because they are on (if I have this right) their third transmission and second engine. This is in addition to many minor problems. Reliable? Not even close. Fix it by the side of the road with a rock and sharp stick? How do you fix castings so porous oil goes right through them (and on to the clutch)?

    Buyer beware,

    Goose

  20. halfbaked says:

    As long as you are not using your motorcycle to pull stupid crap like this it doesn’t matter why or what you ride. You people need to get over you fetish regarding posers and poser bikes. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HhYPD73o8kg

  21. Karlsbad says:

    Retro Smetro they are just plain cool, I recently had the opportunity to spend the day with one I traded my bike for a friends Patrol 2WD for the day. What a blast!! Slower than crap, ill handling at best, but what a fun day. I have always thought it would be a fun ride now I am convinced. Me and the sweetie stopped by 1/2 a dozen wineries had a few sips loaded the side car trunk full of goodies and truly relaxed. 1/2 the price of a HD and it goes off road, enough said

  22. Motogrin says:

    Yuck! The ultimate poser motorcycle. 1 percenters will keep one of these in the garage at their second (or third) home in Santa Fe or Tahoe. They won’t actually ride it (and, being a fossil, it wouldn’t start anyway, with such intermittent usage). It might get towed to a Sundance catalog photo shoot every now and then. Eventually it will be destroyed when a wildfire sweeps up that canyon and torches the custom 6000 sq ft “log cabin” the owners forgot they owned. Adios hideous bike.

    • Jeremy in TX says:

      I am curious. Just what does one have to ride to NOT be a poser? So far on this site, I’ve gathered that it can’t be a cruiser, a sportbike, an adventure bike, a scooter, a Can-Am anything retor-styled, anything that makes more than 50hp, anything that costs more than $10,000, or anything with electrical technology that eclipses the magneto.

      So guys and gals, you only have two options if you want to be a true motorcyclist: a ratty old bike designed between 1960 and 1980 or a dual-sport bike (most of which seem like they were designed sometime between 1960 and 1980 anyway.)

      Now ya know. Do something about it!

    • Ayk says:

      Feel better now?

  23. Gpokluda says:

    I love it. Kinda funky. Kinda weird. All good qualities to be found in a bike or rig.

  24. Colors says:

    It should be OD Green.

  25. Jeremy in TX says:

    If I had one of these as a second bike, I wouldn’t need a car.

  26. Tom Shields says:

    According to the Ural web site, they’re only building 50 units for the U.S.

  27. denny says:

    This is anti-thesis to motorcycle; literally. One has to wonder how at this age anyone will be interested in such creature. But, practical it is, that’s quite possible. Purely on technical side of it, I have some appreciation of that front suspension. It was tried and proven long time back and it worked well.

  28. Bones says:

    Just the right rig to take a nice big dog for a ride. (“Here, boy…”)

    • Dennis says:

      Best comment so far!
      And I’ve always had a soft spot for these bikes(Urals).
      Harley thinks they have the market on retro?
      I think not.