Welcome back to the Find of the Month, where we share some of the cool bikes we find for sale on autoTRADER.ca. This month, we’re checking out a 2014 Ural Gear-Up for sale in Penticton, BC.
Winter got you down? Yeah, us too. Not all of us spend our winters jetting around to spiffy European press launches, you know. But we see a solution in sight, something that will get the eager buyer outdoors, and riding. Sort of. (We’re not sure if you’re riding when you’re on a sidecar rig, or driving?)
Semantics aside, this 2014 Ural Gear-Up (asking price, $14k) could be just the thing to get you out in winter, because it has A) three wheels, for more stability, B) two-wheel drive, to stop you from getting stuck, and C) a giant honkin’ windshield to cut down on windblast. Oh, and D), it was designed in Russia, where they actually ride these things in the winter (although that maybe mostly due to poor, vodka-fueled decisions).
In case you’re not familiar with the history of the Ural, these machines have been made in Russia since the 1940s, and are basically a rip-off of the classic BMW R71 design that the Afrika Korps hooned about the Sahara desert, until Field Marshal Montgomery chased them all back to Europe. These days, the bikes have EFI and are generally more refined. This bike, being a 2014, should have an EFI system instead of carburetor, but overall, it’s likely to be very similar to the Soviet machines that Uncle Joe loaded down with Mosin-toting partisans and sent blazing towards Berlin. After all, these motorcycles were marketed toward military users in the not-too-distant past, as you can see below.
(Sadly, it seems this particular example for sale in Penticton has no rocket launcher or light machine gun included with the deal).
Since the 1940s, this basic design has also been manufactured in Ukraine under the Dnepr brand name, and in China as the Chang Jiang. Here in Canada, Ural is the version best-known, though, and they do have a small but enthusiastic fan base, thanks to web forums and Facebook pages.
Like all Urals, this machine has an air-cooled flat twin engine; this particular bike sports the 750 cc version, which should feature some slight revisions (new cam, new airbox, new spin-on oil filter, new wiring harness, new dash). These bikes were never intended to be speed demons, and this one is surely no different; max cruising speed on these machines is best suited to secondary highways, not the four-lane, as they’re working pretty hard at 100 km/h, and handling can get sketchy if you don’t know what you’re doing. A sidecar is certainly a different beast from your standard motorcycle.
However, if you’re looking for a bike to survive the impending zombie apocalypse, this could be a good choice. Most problems are easily fixable, and the added complexity of EFI should also come with increased reliability, although there’s certainly no guarantee when you’re talking about Russian vehicles. The USSR’s fanatical pursuit of reliability in the armaments industry (AK-47, SKS, etc.) did not, alas, translate to the transportation sector, and Urals do have a reputation for breaking down.
That’s also partly because Ural owners do have a long history of using their motorcycles to do dangerous things, starting with the whole Great Patriotic War 75 years ago, and continuing today to the Ice Run, a rally that runs across the frozen wastes of Lake Baikal in the winter.
So, the big question is, how much potential breakdown silliness can you put up with, for the $14,000 price tag? If this sounds like your sort of thing, check out the full ad on autoTRADER (there are more photos there), and take it from there.
The original Russian M-72 built in Irbit in the Ural mountains, from about 1940, was built from plans purchased by the Russian govt., from BMW, of the late 1930’s R71 which the German army did not adopt, the Germans having earlier bought large numbers of BMW R12 sidecar outfits. Neither the M-72, the R-71 nor the R12 had sidecar wheel drive.
Sidecar wheel drive on motorcycles was developed by the Baughan firm in England who used it to compete in the sidecar class of English Trials in the 1930s. Norton also experimented with such an outfit (as did Brough Superior, by the way) and the British military contracted the Norton company to make substantial numbers of these (about 5,000) sidecar drive outfits based on a 600cc single engined motorcycle called the “Big 4”. These were made in the late 1930s and early 1940s. The Belgian FN company saw the Nortons and just before WW2 broke out built a sidecar drive motorcycle/sidecar combination, the model M12, with a flat twin engine, shaft drive and a 4 speed and reverse gearbox along with the sidecar wheel drive.
After the Germans overran France, Belgium and Holland in May and June of 1940, they captured a number of the FN M12s and the Norton “Big 4″s and since their BMW M12s without sidecar drive did not perform very well in muddy conditions, asked BMW and Zundapp to look at developing a sidecar drive motorcycle and sidecar outfit based on the Belgian FN model 12.
The result was the 1941-45 BMW R75 and the Zundapp KS750. both sidecar drive types.
Eventually, (after WW2) the Russian Ural factory adapted the sidecar drive idea to the M-72 for military and civilian use and in the 1950s the Dneper factory at Kiev began to make a 650 cc ohv version. Solo (non-sidecar drive) versions were also produced and eventually the later BMW features were adopted and the engines became 750 cc.