You see them in old television shows like Combat! and is a staple in WWII flicks. Steven Spielberg seems to make movies that always involve them. Big Hollywood celebrities like Brad Pitt, Ewan McGregor, Ryan Reynolds are constantly seen on it driving in Beverly Hills and on Sunset Boulevard. Sometimes even the nearby grocery with their kids. It is one of the most beloved motorcycles ever made. And it’s not made in America, Japan or China.
The Soviet-made Ural sidecars are built for the seasoned rider looking for something new (and old). Old in a sense that it was created in 1939 and hasn’t changed since. And this writer likes it that way. With all the beautiful high performance machines available in your neighborhood, you tend to look for the next big thing. But this time, it’s a step backward. But the Siberian factory recently added a little international flavor such as Marzocchi telescopic forks and Brembo brakes while the rest is still all steel and aluminum — a far cry from the motos you see these past two decades.
It will take a lot of adjustment for a regular two wheel rider to manage a three wheeler. At first I was tensed but after a few kilometers in the streets of Manila, I was ready to take on the highway. But instead I immediately went home and picked up my wife and 2 kids and we rode through Magsaysay Boulevard with grins on our faces that made us look like escapees from the Asylum of the Criminally Insane.
Running on single drive makes riding smooth but activate the two-wheel drive on a steep uphill makes you the king of the world. The uneven layout of the sidecar means they turn right when you roll on the throttle and left when you either roll off it or brake. The older Urals were actually more difficult to ride unlike the 2014 models where it’s more flexible. There’s the Patrol, Gear-Up, Tourist, Retro models and even a Solo sans the sidecar. All have a huge tool box meant to make sure you survive the extreme elements. The spare tire fits all three sides. These bikes were designed for the long haul.
Based on a BMW R71, the Russians used the German motorcycle as a platform to build theirs. The Germans moved on to build better things but the Soviets had it for keeps. The design was useful in the winter storms and climbing the Ural mountains aside from bringing troops and carrying artillery. Though power is a mere 45 bhp, the 750cc oppose-twin, shaft driven two-wheel drive makes this sidecar almost impregnable against all terrain as every motorcyclist fear — yet do it without reservation. The best part is, it can go reverse! I constantly amaze onlookers with this tree-wheeled wonder. After having tested and ridden so many bikes, this sidecar for me is one of the funnest bikes on the planet.
But this company almost didn’t land on foreign soil. The world market was focused on speed and performance and not durability and fun factor. But like how fashion is, people grow weary to something everyone already has. There is a growing demand for café racers and for me it’s a sign that the market is maturing. Speed was considered the ‘it’ factor but as time went by, the riders wanted to smell the flowers this time. Touring our beautiful country is the New Order and Dual-Sport motorcycles are considered a bit redundant nowadays. Our country has progressed and the neighboring provinces are beckoning with their newly paved roads and natural attractions. Riding solo had riders longing to share the fun with their loved ones and the Ural is the newest adventure bike that offers just that.
Check out Ural Motorcycles at www.ural.com.ph.