2014 Ural: Motorcycle with side car – right out of the box

Story by Ray Seidel

Okay, let’s get to this right from the outset; the Russian made URAL has the dubious distinction of having arguably the WORST quality of any motorcycle made today. Well, what do you want in your bike, boring reliability, or personality? For seven decades the URAL has remained essentially unchanged. Now, that is not necessarily a BAD thing. Some of us remember the print ads for Volkswagen stating Porche’s design of the original VW beetle remained the same, but various tweaks and fit & finish improved each year to such a degree the car would even float in water. Add to that Teutonic quality control that would ferret out any VW with the slightest imperfection. Compare: Russia’s quality at gunpoint. You’d think they’d have figured out the bugs by now. Would you buy a Russian car, airliner, watch, television, parachute, computer, camera, pacemaker? No, you wouldn’t, because you know they are all likely low quality. You know what, Russians wouldn’t either. Given a choice, they avoid their own national brands like the plague. Ural sells almost no bikes in their home country. Want to make a Russian laugh? Tell him Americans pay $14,000 (that’s 400,000 rubles) for a Ural motorcycle! (US sales are 500 a year).

BMW Motorcycle – URAL of San Diego recently had a gathering of URAL owners to unveil the new fuel-injected 2014 model. (And worth a mention that the URAL is a copy of the BMW R71). In a random audit, I asked one owner what were a couple of problems he has had with his. For one, he said, the alternator would spin so fast the fan flew right off. Another was the ignition. He added a toggle switch to the dash to retard the timing four degrees when climbing a hill so the engine wouldn’t ping, even though they use expensive PREMIUM gas. Another owner had a shopping list of generalities:

  • Incredibly short maintenance intervals. Oil change and more required every 1500 miles
  • The paint they use in the gas tank throat starts peeling immediately and falling in to the gas tank. You should remove all the paint somehow then take out the fuel petcock for cleaning.
  • Riding in the rain or wet leads to drenched air filter and water in the carbs.
  • They use soft metal for many of the bolts. Recommended to replace them before the head strips.
  • It’s very common to have an inaccurate or swinging speedometer, and inaccurate odometer.
  • The inner tubes they use are known to be extra leaky. Expect to check your tires often and add air every few days or week.
  • The vacuum operated fuel petcock is recommended to be changed by many. It has a reputation for failing and flooding the cylinder with gas and also for not working well at altitude.
  • The air pump a Ural comes with is generally accepted as worthless and known to burst on first use. Not a big deal but representative of Ural quality.
  • Because it doesn’t meet standards they’re not able to sell a gas can accessory, just a ‘fluid canister’
  • The first thing many new Ural owners do when they get one is set about replacing and upgrading the things that are known to be poor quality.
  • They are known to leak and seep oil from the engine, transmission, and final drive. So you should check your levels often to prevent future failures.
  • The dual carb setup leads to many problems.
  • Your Ural will rust, and quickly.

Now, seasoned URAL owners take these fallaparts in stride, and swear by their bikes. I’ve had my own experience with quirky vehicles and over time learned to get Auto Club with 200 mile towing. The bike has a 2 year warranty, but where is your nearest URAL repair shop when it breaks down (and it will break down)?

In The Saddle

GearUp-Main1At this writing the 2014 model for California has not met CARB requirements, but probably will by the time this issue hits the stands. That being said, my test ride could not be done on public roads, but rather on the private property of the San Diego dealer. The bike has that really cool retro look, the dash looked user friendly, front break and clutch levers felt really good. The 2014 model now has fuel injection, so no choke to fiddle with. Weeks before I tried out the bike with my size 13 motorcycle boots, which were just too large for the left foot peg with heel & toe shifter. Now with sneakers it worked out okay. So let’s begin. With decades of motorcycle riding experience, the brain is now hard-wired to balance a bike and operate it with nary a thought – it’s all automatic. ALL of that has to be unlearned to ride this bike with a sidecar. For one thing, breaking is not done with the front break like we’re used to, but rather the two REAR brakes (one on the bike, one on the sidecar) where most of the stopping power is. This bike came with reverse, which is operated toe/heel with a lever by the right foot, either in first or second gear. Forget about fast right-hand hairpin turns, the sidecar will become airborne (think that through a moment). Probably the best way to approach riding one of these is to think of it as a carousel horse where you put both feet on the pegs, then forget about it and enjoy the ride. In this case, mounting the bike I notice right off it lists to the left rather than being perfectly upright. My natural tendency is to prop it up with my left foot (regardless it can no way fall over with a side can on the right), and to steer to the left when I give it throttle to righten the bike. All this does is increase its arc to the left in an out of control fashion. Stop, regroup, aim in a new direction and try again. Moving forward I still instinctively feather the front break to keep the bike under control until I get my sea legs. What this does is make the bike arc to the RIGHT, and again have to stop before I impale something. As I stop my right foot is frantically trying to reach the ground, as is habit, to steady the bike – impossible with sidecar hardware in the way. Even if I used the rear break, the travel is so far on the pedal it aims at the South Pole. Bottom line: between the motorcycle leaning to the left, breaking to the right, I was never able to navigate the thing to go in a straight line and it was the scariest ride I’ve ever done trying to avoid collisions everywhere. Still, I have no doubt that with more time all this would come naturally, and seeing the big grins on riders zipping around San Diego, these things are certainly a ton of chuckles. Oh, and the #1 reason people buy these bikes with sidecar? So they can take along their dog! It should be added these are available WITHOUT a sidecar if you wish, selling for about $10k and some change. Any option is available on any model. You can have it with a John Deere tractor style saddle, or dual seat that’s much like that on the Royal Enfield.

IF YOU REALLY WANT ONE

UralT-MainConsidering the URAL reputation, a short note on that. In quality circles, there is something known as the “bathtub curve.” \_____/

If a product is going to fail, most likely it will be at the beginning of its life (the first line). If it survives that it will probably go through its useful life (second line). At the end of its life cycle, the likelihood of failure again goes up (third line). With a TWO year warranty, a new URAL might have most issues corrected in that time. Most parts are right on hand (at least in San Diego), and if not just two weeks to order a part. Since 2008, these are not quite the same as the older models – there are now Americans in the mix (in Seattle, Washington) guiding direction of continuous improvement.

Regardless, you may be spending more time fixing than riding. Here, from just one URAL owner’s forum, an owner had to have his new 2010 towed back to the dealer in just 2 hours; http://www.sovietsteeds.com/forums/viewtopic.php?f=5&t=22015

Failed brakes, final drives, pistons, frames, and transmissions are among many other issues on relatively new machines. Minor things that are loose, leaking, or electrically disconnected are a more frequent but still a petty annoyance. It may be fun to ride, but your trip to the QUIK-E-MART will get old when it becomes 2 hours of roadside maintenance. If you want to wrench more than you want to ride, here’s your bike.

Note that in California, no motorcycle driver’s license is required for a bike with sidecar. Check the laws for you state.

SPECIFICATIONS

ENGINE
Displacement: 749cc
Fuel delivery: EFI
Maximum HP 41 HP @ 5500 RPM
Maximum torque 42 ft-lbs @ 4300 RPM

BRAKES
Front
Four-piston fixed Bremcaliper with 295mm NG floating disc
Rear
Single piston big bore HB integrated floating caliper with 256mm NG fixed disc
Sidecar
Two-piston fixed Brembo caliper with 245mm NG floating disc

Dry weight, lbs: 730
Fuel consumption, mpg: 31-37
Recommended maximum: 70 cruising speed, mph

Priced from MSRP $12,399 (URAL T) to $15,999 (2WD Gear-Up), four models to choose from.
http://www.ural.com/

2014 - Ural

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14 comments

  1. Looking at purchasing a 2006 ural patrol with sidecar.Two rust holes on fenders and two quarter size ones on bottom of sidecar.Bike kept under roof with no sides all year.Not driven in 2 years.When I looked at it last week it wouldn’t start.No power to starter.Got owner down to $2000.00.What do you think?

  2. I owned a 2006 Ural Tourist, only put 2000 mostly trouble free miles on it. The Denso Alternator sprung a small leak, fixed under warranty even though it had expired. I regretted selling it the day it was sold!

    The article is way off base, at least in my opinion. Ural’s are a ton of fun, but do require a little more maintenance.

  3. I have owned them all, BMW, Harley, you name it. I have been riding since the 70’s.
    I recently sold my last two wheeled bike, my BMW, because I can’t stop riding my Ural.
    a little over 1 year in, and I have had ZERO issues. About 20K, two sets of tires and only periodic maintenance.
    You talk about how it has been unchanged for 7 decades. You are wrong. The bike you are reviewing has Brembo Brakes, Ducati ignition system. Transmission, final drive and timing gears are all made by Herzog in Germany. Sun rims, Denso alternator, Sachs suspension, just to name a few changes they made in the last 10 years. All the bolts were changed to graded hardware in 2007. Every single year since 2004 has brought great leaps in reliability.

  4. We are in search of Ural Sidecar Motorcycle Drivers (familiar with the Washington, DC area) who are interested in conducting sightseeing tours (using our motorcycles) in the DC and Alexandria, VA areas (we will train the right people!).

    We have an immediate need for licensed Ural Sidecar drivers with the following “must-haves”:
    • a minimum of 2 years experience,
    • general knowledge of the DC area,
    • a clean driving record, and
    • a professional friendly personality for conducting tours (with willingness to learn about the City and surrounding areas – specifically Georgetown, Alexandria, and Mt. Vernon).

    Send me an email (brenda@usaguidedtours.com) with your contact information, and we’ll set up a time to talk with you to discuss your experience and share more information about the position. Please feel free to share this information.

    Many thanks!

  5. I am a 2007 gear up owner, average 15,000k per year, daily driver, snow rain….. I go from 4600′ to 7000′ elevation. I have had to put in line fuel filter, K&N air filter, oil, oil filters , tires, light bulbs, battery. 7 years almost 100,000k and that’s it. Name one bike under $20.000 that can match that. I would not expect anyone from California to understand a Ural. Funnest transportation in the world, I get more attention at the Sturgis rally than the boys from Sons of Anarchy. Is it hard to ride? No just different. Not for everyone, just people who like to have fun, don’t want to waste every weekend polishing their bike, and would want to ride year round. Please go back to your Vespa or whatever bike you ride and leave the Urals for real people.

  6. Had to chuckle regarding the author’s “decades of riding experience” but unable to ride the Ural, “avoiding collisions everywhere”. What a twat. Add to the fact this author plagiarized from a Bokad’s review from one of the leading sidecar forums makes him the poster boy for all the poor journalistic ethics and standards that plague the internet. I wasted only a few minutes of my life reading his review but I fear for my life at the thought of being anywhere near this guy on the road.

  7. Ural owner here…
    ok, you got me. my tire pump never worked, and the tires do need air once every 2 weeks or so.
    thats about it.

    and I would like to expand on van’s comment by pointing out our astronauts are currently being flown to the space station atop one of the most reliable launch vehicles ever made …I think its called the Soyuz or something, I dunno it sounds pretty Russian though.

    • Okay I really really would love to buy a URAL I just keep getting these negative reviews and I would love to ride it year-round in New England. I have questions concerns don’t mind working on my bike I just don’t want to buy a money pit if anyone could give me peace of mind that would be great. I really like to ride in all weather conditions the wet weather comment and if filter concern me and electrical problems mechanical I can handle please um email me if you have any positive advice in buying a URAL thank you in advance.web661@verizon.net

  8. This article was quite good fun, although not entirely accurate. Quite a lot of the content felt poorly researched and out of date- not good when reviewing a new model. For example the reference to basing the original Ural on a wartime BMW is well known but, whilst the current models may look similar visually from 100 yards they have evolved in many ways. To those within the Ural owning community I suspect the review would feel very superficial and a little insulting. Some of the spelling confusion over “brakes” and “breaking” does not inspire confidence about attention to detail.
    On the other hand I do not personally think some of the previous comments using bad language provide any assistance to either the author, publisher or readers.
    A good review should help a person decide whether or not to buy a particular product. I feel, as a Ural owner and enthusiast that the article falls short here because the author does not feel entirely thoughtful or trustworthy. If the author’s aim was simply to provoke debate maybe he or she has succeeded.

  9. I find reading your article a bit misleading though I wouldn’t say it was untruthful and certainly not dishonest. It would have been much more informative to point out the litany of issues cited have largely been addressed, certainly the ones that cause the trailer ride home in shame are mainly taken care of. My black retro is shown and while I have spent maybe 30 hours learning and performing its maintenance needs over the last 6 months and 10,000k. Its far less than my ’73 Commando and far more than my ’76 Yamaha triple back in the day, but certainly not that noteworthy. Perhaps your paper could do a follow up article with someone who is interested in sidecars, its not a niche a normal motorcyclist would live in. I would not trade it for the world and it’s not because I like the quirks, those I just accept as I did when I kept my old air cooled VW camper going while raising the kids. The Ural sets the pace of the trip and you will not have a good time if you don’t accept that. Day to day its startlingly practical for real world use and if you have access to highway and unimproved roads not much can put you back into the feel of it.

  10. This article is a bit overstated on problems. My 2010 Ural has crossed the country and accumulated over 15,000 absolutely trouble free miles. I wish I could say that for my BMWs, and even FJR1300. On the other hand, if this article keeps them out of the hands of fools the dealers will have an easier life.

  11. Hello Xra. Still spewing I see.

  12. Good job, too bad you never got near a 2014 or for one, you would have noticed there are no carbs. The water getting onto the “carb” was fixed about a decade ago and most of the issues you listed are ancient history. Maintenance interval is now 3K, not 1.5k. Also, given how these are used, problem will happen. take your beloved whatever on a Ural ride. Your bike will come home on a trailer, assuming you didn’t haul there in the first place. In other words, normal bikes don’t hold up to what Ural owners do to theirs, except maybe a BMW GS. Bur if one of those breaks, you’ll never be able to fix it, like you can a Ural. I’ve also read most of these words in others articles. Is plagiarism on this scale legal in your state? Here is an idea, get off your lazy ass and go ride a new one and actually report on that. How can you call yourself a journalist when you so obviously did not do any of the leg work yourself? Were they bad in the day, yeah. Are they that bad now, no. Are they even a modern bike, nope and are not sold as such. BTW, I work for a large media company. No not that one, the one that does real news. We would fire you for this type of reporting. Just saying.

  13. Not everything made in Russia are junk, you are fucking narrow mind dump writer.
    Look at AK 47! One of the world best riffle.
    Ural is not that bad! Do you even ever rode one.?

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