Saturday, November 19, 2011

Surrender to the URAL

Craig Kissell sent me an email this week:  "I have a new URAL ready for you to try."  His messages are always short and to the point. When I arrived at Kissell Motorsports this morning the URAL was glowing in the sunshine as Craig checked me out on the machine making sure I knew where the reverse lever was, the lever to engage 2WD (it has the option to have power to the sidecar wheel), chokes -- basically all the things a modern Vespa rider doesn't have to worry about.

I've been thinking about the URAL all week wondering how a brand new one would compare to the short ride I made on one last spring in Colorado courtesy of Redleg's Ride author Dom Chang.  And it certainly had to be superior to the MP3 sidecar rig I rode last year.

The weather got cold this week and snow was in the air, all of which fueled plenty of adventurous fantasy of grinding through the elements in the URAL as the central Pennsylvania landscape transformed in my mind to central Siberia with me and the machine against the world.  As I put the license plate on the rig I try not to drool on the fender.

The URAL engenders a strange form of riding excitement.

Task and chore and all things adult  would force riding to a meandering trip home, just enough miles to adapt to the big difference between a scooter or motorcycle and a tug with a sidecar.  Even with a brand new Brembo disc brake up front and two drum brakes on the back I didn't expect much in the way of stopping power.

I'm here to report that this URAL pleasantly surprised me in the braking department.  While demonstrating nothing like the stopping power of a modern motorcycle it does stop when you ask it to.  Just give yourself more distance to make it happen.

Under blue skies and warming air I wandered about testing the brakes and other important control characteristics of the rig before venturing off on a longer ride tomorrow morning.  The URAL had me by this point, I'm lying in the road to make this picture, dreaming of conquering wind and rain, snow and ice, adversity and misfortune astride a URAL.

I can't figure it out yet but this odd rig triggers some instinctual drive to persevere and stubbornly resist failure.  Weird.  Must be me.

The URAL is kind of dazzling with its orange paint job.  I received more looks and waves today than any machine I have ever ridden.  One little girl in the back of a minivan seemed to lose her mind as she frantically tried to get everyone else to crane their necks to see the sight, seemingly something to her as miraculous as seeing Santa Claus.

On my way into Boalsburg I extended my hand to acknowledge an approaching, fully loaded, BMW R1200 GS only to see the return signal not the casual wave many riders engage but a full gusto laden thumbs up.

The URAL attracts attention.

Parked along Main Street in Boalsburg the URAL looks oddly at home in front of Duffy's Tavern.  More commonly one would see a string of Harley's here but at this time of year it's more likely my Vespa.  Or a URAL.

The URAL is sitting in the driveway while I type this note.  Junior is nosing around, angling to some tennis ball action but I'm thinking I need to go for another little ride as the sun goes down.

I need to surrender to the URAL.


len said...

hI, Steve lovelly crisp pictures,

very interesting machine....i've never riden with aside car set up,

i kinda like the bright orange paint work....i bet the little girl in the mini van thought it was a bit like the hagrid set up from harry potter!

wonderful stuff....keep writing and clicking and i'll keep readin-and-a-lookin!

SonjaM said...

What a beauty. I just love the paint job, my favourite colour.

Circle Blue said...

Yes, there is something magic about the Ural. I can think of lots of good reasons not to own one. Still, it calls to me. Every time I convince myself of just how illogical it is to even think of owning one I find myself over at Soviet Steed reading and dreaming again. Oh well, just for today I will not own a Ural. I may resist one day at a time . . . or then again . . .

RichardM said...

Is there going to be a part II? I used to have a truck that color back in the 70's. I think that it was popular back then...

I still want to get a sidecar but I'm more inclined to add one to my current airhead now that it is pretty well sorted out rather than start over with a new tug. This is the rig you should've had instead of the Tiger for riding in the snow.


Poppawheelie said...

I ran a URAL for 15 happy years. Wife and I called it our winter bike. Couldn't wait for the first snow. I miss it.
As they say, when a solo rider tries a sidecar rig, he or she will either love it or hate it. Doesn't handle anything like a motorcycle, car or even a trike. Turns left in a completely different way than it turns right. I loved it.
When you return it to Craig, I'm going to run out there and look at it.

Charlie6 said...

That's a really pretty rig there Steve, though I prefer them in black as you know.

So, did you experienced UDF yet? Ural Delay Factor. I miss my Ural and its reverse gear, the wrenching work it required, not so much.

Did you ride with ballast or with no weight in the sidecar?

Does the "loud gears save lives" motto apply to a new Ural as it did to my '96? : )

Looking forward to further postings on the Ural....


Redleg's Rides

Colorado Motorcycle Travel Examiner

Chris Luhman said...

Love the color of that Ural. Maybe I'll repaint my '09 from green to orange. I know my wife would love that.

-Chris - Uraling in MN

Anonymous said...

I have a Ural. It has to be the best machine on the road today. I have put almost 100,000 on mine and have loved every minute of it. It has taken me to Alaska four times, around the world once and back and forth to work everday. Never a dull moment.

Poppawheelie said...

Fascinating travel story:

Troubadour said...

One of the bikes on my list of seven, and in orange, I am so jealous.
Looking forward to Part II and your review.

bobskoot said...


I can't get my eyes off that orange colour, just need matching orange crocs. At least you will be noticed in the snow.

Riding the Wet Coast

Paul said...

Hi Steve. You really go my attention with your article. I saw the dirty Ural at Kissell's today. Craig told me you wrote about it here. It's really flash with that nice paint job. Stainless steel hardware. It's much nicer than Ural's of 10 years ago. The hardware is far better. The castings are much better. There is a pretty fair chance I'll own one of those bad boys before my days are done.
Paul on the other side of State College.

Steve Williams said...

len: I liked the orange paint job too. Really stands out on the road. I used to have a 1970 VW Beetle in the same color.

Thanks for the kind words about the pictures and story. I'll keep working at them as ideas come up on the road.

Steve Williams said...

SonjaM: Hopefully the pictures will show off the color in the landscape.

Circle Blue: The Soviet Steed has a lot to recommend it, particularly if you are planning to ride through the winter, haul a lot of stuff around, or plow your garden in the spring.

I thing grew on me.

Steve Williams said...

RichardM: I'm working on part II, a more lengthy review and reflection on my experiences.

I remember orange trucks in the 70s. The Dodge Power Wagon was especially elegant in orange.

Steve Williams said...

poppawheelie: Thanks for stopping by and explaining some things around the rig. Always helps to cross paths with an expert.

It may not be for everyone but if given the chance it will have some allure for a lot of riders.

Steve Williams said...

Charlie6: I experienced UDF pretty fast. Found myself sitting in the livingroom trying to dream up reasons to run an errand or formulate a scheme to get back on the road.

It was really weird how it crept into my head.

There was 120 pounds of ballast so I wasn't riding with a free sidecar. Not flying during my rides.

It was much smoother than yours in the shifting department and the brakes were more positive as well.

You need to get another URAL.

Steve Williams said...

Chris Luhman: As exotic as the orange URAL Patrol rig is I think I would be attracted to one in olive drab or desert camo.

Out of all your bikes how often do you choose to take the URAL?

Steve Williams said...

anonymous: 100K miles on a URAL. That's pretty amazing. What year machine?

Steve Williams said...

Troubadour: Maybe my review will help move the URAL up the list and into your garage sooner.

Look for the review maybe late tonight or tomorrow.

Steve Williams said...

bobskoot: There was a warning decal on the URAL. It was in Russian but the best translation I could make was "No Crocs Please."

Steve Williams said...

Paul: I could definitely see you on the URAL. It's a much better fit than your Ducati 1198. Functional, brilliant, and far more engaging to the world than the Ducati.

Jack Riepe said...

Dear Steve:

I leave you along for a few minutes...

Fondest regards,
Twisted Roads

Chris Luhman said...

interesting question. I use it nearly 100% dec-mar. The rest of the year a few times a month. the SV is my favorite.

because I'm a geek, I have detailed records for all my bikes, so I can answer quantitatively too 28% of my miles in 2010 and 20% so far in 2011.

I am going to turn the answer into a post. thanks for the idea