Two weeks ago, we were neck deep in all things related to overlanding when we attended the Overland Expo in Flagstaff, Ariz. While this is decidedly a 4x4 and extreme monster get-away vehicle affair, there are a growing segment of adventure riders who attend and with them have come the companies that cater to their own version of wanderlust. One such company is Ural, the Russian-based maker of sidecar rigs whose engine has always been seen as a clone of BMW's boxer format.
Ural was one of the few bikes presented at the Expo and since demo rides on them were in limited supply, we grabbed the opportunity to throw a leg over one and see what all of the fuss was about. The experience was a head scratcher. We understood what made it unique, but weren't quite convinced that it would be something we'd own.
While we only had about 20 minutes to ride them, Josh, the demo leader took us down a fire road and a bit of concrete to at least give us a sense as to how they rode and handled. Prior to setting out, Josh warned us that counter steering would be counter productive.
"Steer it like you would an ATV," Josh repeated several times.
We tried that, but it quickly became apparent that this rig required a lot more effort to keep running in a straight line while running on even the least amount of chewed up trail, bumps, divots and related. Making hard left turns will bring the sidecar up off of its wheel, but Josh demonstrated an uncanny ability to purposefully do that while bringing it back down without breaking or cracking anything.
Cons against the Ural have mostly included it's inability to go much faster than about 70 mph. A four-speed transmission mated to a 749 cc engine will get you there, but it's geared to be torquey at the low end. That's what gives it the ability to go over just about any kind of terrain, especially with the 2-wheel drive that spins the outside wheel for additional traction.
Every Ural also comes with a reverse and we needed it to move the 730 lb rig away from where previous riders had parked other Urals. Josh advised that reverse came in handier than one could imagine.
As with many a bike, Urals owners are a passionate bunch willing to forgive, but not forget, the bike's idiosyncracies. The love it's go anywhere toughness, the ability to pack the sidecar and it's accompanying trunk and luggage rack in a way that you can't with a regular motorcycle, and it's tendency to draw a crowd or at least some curious looks.
What's it cost to get you that? Figure on about $15,000 to start with for the single wheel drive versions and up to $19,000 for the top of the line 2-wheel drive versions. Extras will take it up some notches from there.
Take a look at the pictures below from Ural and you'll get an idea as to the rig's versatility.