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Ural Plans

Discussion in 'Bike Reviews, Questions and Suggestions' started by PatB, Apr 8, 2008.

  1. For a while now, MrsB has been hankering to get back on a bike, having sold her evil Commando to partially finance our migration from the UK 12 years ago. Due to dodgy knees and a back problem, she's not confident she can cope with a big solo any more and so, as she learned to ride on a plunger framed BSA A10 with a box on the side, a combo presents itself as the logical solution.

    Consequently, I've been farting around trying to get on with chairing up my old K100. Trouble is, (a) the K isn't the easiest bike to deal with, BMW having forgotten to put in half the frame tubes :grin: and (b) I'm the king of the unfinished project, having the attention span of a kitten on ice.

    Hence, when I found out, via NR, that someone was seriously intending to import Urals (rather than the dreamers who've been putting up rather poor websites every couple of years), presenting a factory built solution, I was interested.

    When I pointed out to MrsB that a soft tune 750 twin would be reminiscent of her much missed A10 and that blatting around town on what is, in effect, a Wehrmacht replica outfit would do wonders for the eccentric reputation so important for an emerging professional artist, she too became interested. So interested that I never needed to use any of my carefully rehearsed arguments. I was ordered to order one forthwith :grin: .

    And so, after some correspondence with the importers, whose website can be found here http://www.imz-ural.com.au/, yesterday morning I paid the non-refundable deposit for a Gear-Up combo in forest camo. The expected delivery date is mid-June so MrsB and I have to control our excitement for the next 8 weeks.

    As there are no dealers appointed in WA yet, it looks as if the outfit will have to come from the Eastern States. We could get it shipped over, but where's the fun in that?

    So I'll be riding it back, coast to coast :shock: .

    Am I mad? Quite possibly.

    Should I do it? No, it should be MrsB. It's her new bike after all, but we've talked about it and agreed that, for various reasons, I'm more likely to succeed than she is.

    Do I know exactly what I'm proposing? Well, I've got a fair idea. When I first got my licence in the UK, I had no money so my staple biking diet was Eastern Bloc 2-strokes, bikes so unpopular that, if you rode one, complete strangers would stop you in the street and offer you shedfuls of free ones :grin: . I became well versed in the deficiencies of Iron Curtain machinery, but came to appreciate its merits as well. Like many at the bottom of the biking pond, I hankered after one of the majestic Russian twins as being the ultimate in Commie cool (whilst being perfectly well aware that the carbs would need a rebuild every other week, that an immediate rewire would be necessary, along with a car alternator and that I'd need to set up a fund to pay for proper bearings on every rotating part).

    But, 18 years and the collapse of the Soviet Union later, Ural seem to have addressed the main areas where the old Eastern Bloccers gave trouble. Japanese and Italian :)shock:) electrics, Mikuni carbs, Brembo brakes, some semblance of quality control.

    With my experience from the bad old days of Communist industry and the improvements forced by commercial pressures, I think (hope) we can meet on some middle ground.

    I'm also under no illusions that this is some equivalent of a W650 or a new Bonneville. No matter how many disc brakes or electronic ignitions it might have, this is a stone-age motorcycle. Even an Enfield is modern beside the basic design. The giveaway is the service interval, a paltry 2,500 km compared to 6,000 km for the Bullet Electra.

    Whatever happens I shall keep NR posted on developments as they occur. I'll be posting a full account of the trip, complete with photos, and will also be reviewing the machine itself based on the experience.

    I'll be on a fairly tight schedule for the big trip, but if any Netriders along the way would like to ogle the machinery and say Hi, I'm sure something can be arranged.

    Provisionally I'm planning to pick up the bike in Newcastle, then head inland to Dubbo, then Nyngan and onto the Barrier Highway to SA for the Nullabor crossing. Not the most exciting or scenic route, but time constraints and administrative issues (which I'll deal with in another post) leave me few options.

    So that's the rough outline of the motivation and The Plan. More will follow as it happens.
  2. Ok,Ok, I gie up, what were those two stroke russian thing called.

    My old brain remembers them well, I can even see one in my mind's eye
    but the make escapes me.....help, my brain hurts.

    Wow, would be good to see the odd Ural around again.
  3. Well, the Russki strokers came in various flavours. Minsk, Planeta, Voskhod and maybe one or two others. Capacities from 125 to 350. In the UK, they were all marketed under the generic title of Cossack.

    I've got to admit, I never owned one as they were rare as hen's teeth by the time I gained a licence.

    My particular poison were various CZs and Jawas from Czechoslovakia (as was), later moving to East German MZs when I discovered how much nicer they were. After all, once upon a time, MZ led the world in performance 2-strokes, whereas Jawa-CZ nicked most of their technology from Villiers who...errr...didn't (no matter what rabid Anglophiles might claim).

    And no, the fact that CZ and Jawa made world beating dirt and speedway bikes did not make their road bikes any better . :p .
  4. PatB, having grown up around those things I have to say I am seriously concerned for your safety now that you've unveiled your plans to ride it from Newcastle to Perth. I have to say I've never owned or even ridden a Ural, but I know a fair few people who had them and they're not exactly known for their reliability.
    Or comfort.
    Or power.
    Or pretty much anything else...

    You are literally playing russian roulette by dragging one of those bikes across the whole continent. At least get one of your mates to follow you with a trailer. I'm willing to bet some money on the fact that you'll have a major breakdown somewhere along the way.

    You are. Not possibly - definitely. But I envy you in a way. What you're going to do is silly and ridiculous to the point where it actually becomes cool... If you pass Sydney during your travels, please let us know. I'll buy you a few beers. And if you don't - hell, I'd probably drive up to Newcastle to buy you a few :grin:
  5. You are a certified mad bastard.

    Recommended top speed is listed as 105km/h, what is your cruising/running in speed going to be :shock: ?

    Give me a date and location and I'll see you at the Launch.
  6. Big applause for Pat & Mrs B for your adventure plans, nothing short of a trip to remember. your history with the product will benefit; I for one will be looking forward to your trip log and pics!
    Congrats on your purchase and enjoy the planning and prep meanwhile :grin:

    I was/am interested in the Ural/chair set up but I'm not as mechanically minded as I might need to be, those service intervals are a bit short for my liking, but I love the concept.
    You never know we might be surprised at the (anticipated) quality of the new model, I've checking out some of the current owners adventures o/s on the ADV site and they don't seem too bad really, just a little slow in comparison to current modern 'perception'.

    Good luck and happy adventuring :grin:
  7. You're definitely mad :cool:

    I've always had my eyes on one of these things but never could justify it to myself to buy something like this with a questionable reliability.

    Best of luck with the journey, I definitely would like to be kept up to date on everything, and if you're in Melbourne let me know :)
  8. People travel around Australia on posties and indeed on pushbikes, so this should be a piece of cake :)

    Getting overtaken by every bus and road train on the road won't be much fun though. I know because I traveled at similar speeds on my CB250. At least you won't have to worry too much about buffeting.

    So how much are those Urals? Their website neglected to mention that detail..
  9. Good on you.

    Make sure you plan a couple of day trips around Newcastle before you take off so as to bring to the surface any immediate problems. Then make sure you go through major cities for a few day.
  10. I'm glad someone's volunteered to be the guinea pig with these things :).

    Definitely looking forward to hearing how it all goes, if these things are cheap enough I might be tempted to buy one myself. Unreliability makes every trip an adventure :LOL:.
  11. Enjoy the trip, look forward to the report and pics :cool:
  12. That should be a great ride and adventure , I know how much fun ( and a pain in the ass at times ) the old Soviet / German bikes can be as I still use my 23 year old MZ to go to work on and to the occasional rally .
    I have had my eye on one myself but i have been waiting for the weekend tours to get underway so I can try one out .
    I would be interested in meeting you and to have a look at your new ride when you are in Newcastle .
    Just let me know when

  13. :popcorn:

    keep us posted - and make sure you let us know when you're passing through the capitals, I wanna see it :)
  14. I seem to remember an article a very long time ago that said if you must buy one of these, buy it in the crate. Under no circumstances start it before dismantling it and washing the swarf out of the cases left by the machinist.
  15. The comfortable cruising speed range for a ural outfit is in the range of 70 to 80kph.

    I suspect you'll have an 'interesting' time crossing the nullabor :shock:

    Having said that... I envy you!

    This will be a trip you won't forget for the rest of your life... no matter how it turns out :)

    Oh... and I agree MZ's are much nicer than Jawas (never had anything to do with CZ's).

    Take plenty of photos along the way :)
  16. Thanks for the encouragement everyone. I think :wink: .

    For those raising queries, I'll try and address your points in as rambling and random fashion as I can muster.

    Yes, the horror stories are all, more or less, true, or at least have been in the past. As I said, I've some (secondhand) experience with Russian iron in the UK and the standard was generally a step down from the fairly low benchmark set by the Czechs that I was intimately familiar with. That said, the various British importers did make some valiant attempts to maintain at least a minimal standard of quality and it was possible to get lucky with a bike where all the tolerances went the right way and none of the production line workers had got too far into the day's flagon of Vodka.

    However, I've seen a couple of examples of the bikes that made it to Australia in the 70s or early 80s and I'll admit they were pretty grim. I was particularly taken by the egg shaped wheel rims, joined by a spatter of bird shit at the point :shock: . Made me realise just how much work the Brit importers actually did. God knows how they ever made any money.

    I'm encouraged by the apparent steady improvement of the US market bikes over the last decade or so, from the fairly poor example described here http://www.americanborders.org/ in 1993 or 94, to the much better bike chronicled here http://www.als-adventures.blogspot.com/ last year. It's an improvement reflected on a variety of owners' web pages so I don't think it's just a fluke.

    As to price, the estimates made here a few months ago of ~$15,000 weren't far off the mark. That, plus GST and ORC is about what I'll be paying for the Gear-Up. The Tourist is about $500 cheaper and the 2wd about $300 more (but not road legal :cry: ). That all only applies to the first shipment (30 bikes) though. The next lot will be about another grand.

    So they're not cheap as such. That kind of money will buy you (if you can find one) a very nice, used, big Jap or BMW combo with all the right bits and a good history. Or a real Brit outfit. Or, for that matter, a new Korean hatchback which will go faster, carry more, use less fuel and be more reliable.

    As far as performance goes, ZRX1200R's numbers are about right for the 650s, which always seemed a bit asthmatic. If the power output claims for the 750 aren't too exaggerated, I'd hope for 90 km/h cruising which is the minimum the US market would demand. Realistically I'm expecting to be able to run at a solid 80 km/h once the initial running in's been done. First few hundred km I'll be keeping it down to 60, then 70 as things loosen up.

    So why, given the reliability question marks, the price, the limited performance and the obviously far superior alternatives?

    I dunno :? . It just feels like something that needs to be done and which transcends such sordid considerations as "why?". When all is said and done, bike choice is rarely about logic. Or, at least, it's nice when it doesn't have to be.
  17. Pat,

    This is epic stuff!
    We eagerly await updates & pics.

    If the planets align, I'd love to inspect the outfit as you pass thru SA.

  18. Very true. There's no way I'd pay 15k for one but I can understand why people would be willing to. After all it should be a lot more fun than numbers on a bank statement could ever be ;).
  19. Talking to the importers, is there any solos?

    from memory the Urals were solos and dniepers where outfits, but it appears to have changed.
  20. I haven't asked them, but it doesn't look like it.

    Previous proposals have leaned rather heavily on bringing in the, frankly rather ugly, Wolf factory custom, but this outfit seem to be more combo oriented.

    I suspect, the prices being what they are, the solos would seem unattractively expensive in comparison with better established (and, let's face it, better) marques. The combos, whilst no longer cheap, at least have the selling point of being the only factory designed and assembled outfit available.

    In the UK market, I remember both Urals and Dneprs as being available in both solo and combo form at one time or another. Both flavours had their devotees, but the Dnepr was generally regarded as being better engineered.

    The Brit importers in the 80s/early 90s were Neval, who offered quite a variety of options, including the bobber styled Phoenix (Dnepr) and fatbobish Soviet Knight (Ural) customs which tempted a few people. They offered an R80 powered combo option as well, which almost doubled the price of the outfit :shock: .

    But the main reason they sold back then was that they were cheap with a capital F. Your 650 Siberian superbike would cost you about the same as a flash Japanese 125 (TZR, RG, AR etc.). Maybe a bit more with the chair on.

    Wish I was only going to be paying CBR125 money for MrsB's beastie :( . Mind you, I wouldn't be contemplating a trans-Australia trip on one of those immediately post Soviet bikes either.