Wednesday, December 20, 2006
A Little Something (Russian) on the Side
If you decide to get into hacking my guess is that the most cost-effective way of doing that is to buy Russian Iron…that is, a complete Ural outfit, bike and sidecar, sold as a unit.
It may also be the least aggravating. Why? Because mating a sidecar to most modern motorcycles requires that you build, or buy and install, some type of sub-frame. Few contemporary motorcycles have what used to be called a full cradle frame. Today the engine is part of the frame and that offers fewer mounting points for the sidecar.
I sometimes refer to the Ural as the greatest motorcycle of 1943, but I really like these outfits. The Ural is a Russian copy of the WW II German BMW military hack. When the Urals were first imported, only the sidecars themselves were brought into the country. Full outfits, bike and car, came in later. The story of the Ural factory and the history of the bikes can be read at the official web site. link
The first outfits to come to the United States were, um..well, quality control challenged. Each year has seen improvements. Fit and Finish is excellent; engine size has been boosted to 750cc; new alternator; new carbs; electronic ignition. The bikes are constantly being improved and I don’t think a new buyer has much to worry about.
The current crop of Ural owners seems to be having a great time with their hacks, in large measure because of their boon-docking capabilities. Irbit Motorworks of America took bikes to Death Valley and filmed the hacks on some pretty gnarly desert trails. (Irbit, incidentally is the town in Russia where the bikes are made.) Take a look. link (This download is slow)
The military hack, although considered by the American armed forces, never caught on. Something better came along, the Jeep. The Russians are still promoting the Ural as having useful military applications. Here’s a clip from a longer promotional film. link (Slow Download)