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Topic: Ural thoughts after 8 years, ~28000 kms  (Read 5792 times)

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sagerat
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« on: April 05, 2012, 12:41:46 AM »

A decent-sized subset of STNers often post about wanting a Ural when I or other Foilheads (as Ural owners lovingly refer to themselves) post up about our Russian sidecars.  The inevitable questions and razzings follow.  So as an STN public service, I hereby offer my critique based on 8 years and almost 28,000 klicks of my 2004 Ural Tourist, which has 19" wheels and is one-wheel drive.  The Gear Up and Patrols are the 2WD models.

The Good
Mine has bee surprisingly reliable; it's never made me walk in all the time I have had it.  The reliability was one of the areas that did give me pause as my 2004 was about the second year of IMZ (the current manufacturer) big push toward improvement.  The 2002 and earlier Urals when CMSI ran  the show were spotty.  Amongst my buddies in Central Orygun we've got a 2002(?) Bavarian Classic (similar to what's now called a Retro) with 12,000 kms; a 2005 Tourist with 45,000 kms, and an '06 Gear Up with 24,000.  

A hack expands your riding season; snow and ice and/or gravel-strewn roads become playgrounds instead of traps.  Also a very practical rig in terms of grocery shopping, errands, camping, etc.  Mileage varies; I'm normally in the 28 mpg in town and 30 mpg on the highway, although I have done as well as 37 mpg.  Hey, it has four forward gears and weighs more then a Goldwing.

Having an actual reverse ruins you for parking your regular bike.  In the Ural I don't pay any attention to slopes, crowns, or inclines.  This has come back to bite me when parking my two-wheeler, ahem.

I admire the bike's classic lines.  I've had it eight years and I still smile every time I step into the garage and see it.  

The Bad
The hack is what it is:  I've ridden it as long as 400 miles in one day on backroads to the coast and back.  I still have a dead spot on my right foot from the vibration.  Riding more than 300 miles of curvy mountian roads is a day's work.  There's lots of body English and muscling around to piloting a hack.  The Ural is not a slab rig, although I've done a brief stint on I-5 out of necessity.  The bike is happiest at 50-55 mph, so plan accordingly.

The maintenance interval is incredibly short by modern standards.  Valve checks every 2,500-3,000 kms.  They don't need adjusting that often once the engine settles in.  Plus it's an easy process to set the valves as they are adjustable nuts, not shims.  Oil changes are easy, the tranny does take foooorrrrreeeevvvveeerrr to refill due to steep angle of the filler hole on the side of tranny case.  Pre-06 air cleaners are a gigantic PITA with a weird design; 2006 and later air cleaners are simple bolt on replacements.  Replacing my '04's filter with a 2006 is on my list of "Gifts to Me."  

Parts fall off.  My Ural has vibrated loose the following:  left-turn signal stalk; both left and right mufflers after the holding clamps broke, the frame for the tractor seat rusted and cracked, and the occasional bolt.  The handle for my trunk snapped in two.  Ural has addressed the turn signal stalks with a new design and as I ride it year-round and am not a featherweight, the tractor seat post cracking due to rust didn't bother me.  I've since replaced it with a bench seat.  The muffler clamps were $39 each; the trunk lever I just had a local welding shop put on a new,  stouter one.  IMZ, I think, has gone with a new design for that part, too.

Edited to add: oh, yeah the trip meter/odometer died at 27,852 kms.  Put a new speedo in last wknd, which cost $40.  Buddy took old speed apart and issue was ... wait for it ... two bolts had vibrated loose and the spiral gears that drive the trip meter and the odometer were thus not engaging.

With a Ural, mechanical woes are almost always simple.

The Ural has a car alternator, so having loads of electrical gear is not a problem.  I run heated jacket, gloves, grips, and PIAAs without a problem.

The Ugly
Well, there really isn't.  The Ural hand's down is the bike I enjoy riding the most.  There's just something about the damn thing that speaks to me.  My Russian sidecar has outlasted the following stablemates:  1982 Honda CB750F; 2002 Honda VFR; BMW R90/6; BMW R1150GS; 2005 KLR 650; 2006 Moto Guzzi Breva 1100.  Learning to fly the chair was a hoot.  I've taken  the gf to the coast on it; I've bebopped around several USFS roads (before we all got KLR's, we used our Urals as dual sports); and it's been a daily commuter.

The one semi-ugly is the short range; think Harley Sportster with a 3-gallon peanut tank.  I know the math says I can do about 120 miles, but I usually fill up at 100 miles or about 180 clicks, although I have gone as far as 210 klicks before hitting reserve.  The tires are about $80 each; a pusher is gone in about 4,000-5,000 kms, but the front wheel goes for 12,000 to 14,000 kms and the hack wheel went for 25,000 kms.  

Summary
I started out with a hack just because I've wanted once since I was 16 and wanted to ride from Phoenix, AZ, to Philly for the Bicentennial, taking my beagle, Mr. Murphy, with me.  Some 28 years later, I got a hack, although Baxter was not thrilled in the few short hops he's taken.  My now-89-year-old Dad loves to go for rides in the sidecar as does the gf.  You'll never have a short stop at a gas station or a grocer again due to Ural Delay Factor (UDF) as people always want to come up and talk about the bike.  

In short, the combination of practicality, longer riding season, inexpensive replacement parts, and an amzing dealer network (small, but mighty), and IMZ having an excellent warranty program, it's been the best $8,200 I've ever spent.  

As I tell folks, "once you go hack; you'll never go back."  Smile
« Last Edit: April 05, 2012, 10:08:15 AM by sagerat » Logged

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« Reply #1 on: April 05, 2012, 01:03:50 AM »

What an honest, excellent, and useful review. I've thought of getting one and you gave me the data I need to make a decision. If you have a plan for convincing the wife please post that as well.  Bigsmile
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« Reply #2 on: April 05, 2012, 08:05:49 AM »

Thanks for the comments. I'll have to show them to the wife. When I was home on R&R we went to a Ural dealer in Eaton, OH and looked at them. I think I got her convinced for us to get one when I finally get home.
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« Reply #3 on: April 05, 2012, 09:10:12 AM »

28 mpg....heck might as well spend the couple extra dollars and drive the deisel 3/4 4x4 truck,  Hell that gets 22 mpg.  

Just joking......  I know it is all about the ride.  A Ural looks like it would be a blast..  Slow blast, but still a blast.
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« Reply #4 on: April 05, 2012, 09:55:34 AM »

Thanks for sharing your perspective on the Ural. I too have had the urge for a hack, thinking about adding a chair to my Triumph Scrambler. Sometimes it's good to slow down and smell the roses, honeysuckle, lilac, roadkill, farm oders and manure...  Headscratch

Regards, Paul
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« Reply #5 on: April 05, 2012, 12:10:46 PM »

There is one other negative factor you didn't mention; a hack would take up a lot of space in the garage, almost like another car.  For some people, that's a real problem.  

Yeah, I know, leave the car out.  
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sagerat
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« Reply #6 on: April 05, 2012, 12:45:46 PM »

The hack is surprisingly comfy to ride in.  My Dad, the ex before she was the ex, and the gf have all dozed off at one time or another.  I was told waking them up by putting the hack wheel on the rumble strip on the shoulder was poor form...

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« Reply #7 on: April 05, 2012, 01:32:30 PM »


There is one negative factor you didn't mention; she doesn't wheelie - and you can't split lanes.



 
« Last Edit: April 06, 2012, 02:59:28 PM by Kraz » Logged
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« Reply #8 on: April 05, 2012, 01:51:44 PM »

I'd like to take one for a spin - but the nearest dealer is 250 miles away  
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« Reply #9 on: April 05, 2012, 03:46:18 PM »

No, a Ural will wheelie.  Just check out youtube for Ural wheelies gone horribly awry.  
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« Reply #10 on: April 05, 2012, 04:20:38 PM »

The "funny trike" has been on my shortlist ( OK, looong list) for years.
You're not making this any easier.  Bigsmile
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« Reply #11 on: April 05, 2012, 05:28:32 PM »

You forgot this-

The Very Good

   Flying the chair!

 Bigok
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« Reply #12 on: April 05, 2012, 06:42:54 PM »

Yeah, about 70% of the time I fly the chair as I come down the block after work.  Bonus points for keeping the chair aloft when turning into the driveway which I've done a couple of times just to see if I could.  Popping the chair up in tight right-handers at speed is still a bit unnerving.

I haven't tried a figure 8, yet, and I'll never try flying the chair while in reverse.  Things tend to go very bad, very quickly when you do that.  EEK!

I have passed a vehicle while climbing over Santiam Pass. Granted, it was flatbed truck hauling double loads of hay bales, but an uphill pass is still an uphill pass.   Cool  Basically, when I go over the Cascades I put the Ural in third and go 45-50 mph.  Fourth gear in the Ural is more for the flats, although my buddy's '05 Tourist will pull uphill at speed in fourth.  Ivan must have made his Ural on a Wednesday.  Lol

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« Reply #13 on: April 05, 2012, 07:16:25 PM »

Wish they had a model with no chair.  It might be something to think about then.
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« Reply #14 on: April 05, 2012, 09:39:06 PM »


Wish they had a model with no chair.  It might be something to think about then.


Start thinking!

http://www.imz-ural.com/solo.aspl
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« Reply #15 on: April 06, 2012, 02:08:19 AM »



I wonder if that comes with the usual 4sp+reverse, or a standard 5 speed...

EDIT - 4 speed.  Also - Marzocchi forks, brembo brakes, 5 gal tank...
http://hellforleathermagazine.com/positions/initialreport/uralST-lyt.html
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« Reply #16 on: April 06, 2012, 02:45:48 AM »

Thanks for reminding me how much I want one of these but cannot afford one  Sad

If I win the lotto, I think a Ural would be one of my first 2 or 3 purchases  Lol. Although I'd prolly rip out the Rusky engine, and drop in a beemer r75 crate engine.
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« Reply #17 on: April 06, 2012, 01:48:07 PM »

I came into this thread not knowing what a Ural was. This post and a couple youtube videos
later... I've decided I'm getting one.

Question is... Sidecar model, or the new solo model. Decisions.
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« Reply #18 on: April 06, 2012, 02:14:14 PM »


Question is... Sidecar model, or the new solo model. Decisions.


My vote is for with the sidecar, and 2wd Smile
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« Reply #19 on: April 06, 2012, 03:35:42 PM »


I came into this thread not knowing what a Ural was. This post and a couple youtube videos
later... I've decided I'm getting one.

Question is... Sidecar model, or the new solo model. Decisions.


Look, I love my Ural, but a solo Ural - known as the ST for Solo Tourer not Sport Touring - is overpriced for what you get.  I'd go with a sidecar, although dealers are willing to sell ST's fairly cheaply as that model just doesn't move off of the floor very quickly.  

Guys on Soviet Steeds and Russian Iron who've bought the ST love 'em, but admit the price is kinda steep.

There are lots of options out there for two-wheeled bikes, there are few for sidecars.  The 2WD get slightly poorer mpg and the chair will come up more easily in the right-handers as the hack sits higher than on the 1WD models.  If you are going to be 100% on the pavement, the Retros are the best as they have 18" wheels and a slightly more hwy friendly final drive gear ratio.  The Retros have telescoping forks.  If you want a rig that does roads fine but also is more rugged for gravel roads and USFS roads, go with the models with leading link front suspension and 19" wheels (Tourist is 1WD, Patrol and Gear Up are 2WD).

The consensus seems to be leading link handles better both on and off road.

I still crave a Gear-Up, even though I've taken my Tourist every place my buddy's GU has gone.  I'm just a sucker for that military heritage aspect and the option of 2WD for the few times you need it.
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