Ural M70 Anniversary Limited Edition: Ceci n’est pas une Cruiser

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Ural is launching 2 new 70th anniversary limited edition M70 models that pay homage to the M72, the first Ural. Only 30 of the anniversary M70 sidecars will be built and an even tinier run of 10 M70-Solo anniversary bikes will be produced. To be clear, the M70 is not so much an all-new machine as it is a repurposing of the older and somewhat clumsy model known as the “Retro” cruiser. Much like the proverbial ugly duckling, the transformed M70 is a beautiful statement of elegant simplicity and magnificent details.

All the Anniversary M70 sidecars and M70-Solos have already been spoken for by dealers, so you’ll have to chase one of them down to get a bike. The 30 M70 will cost $14,200 and the 10 M70-Solo are $9,150 each. Waking to the back of the building just outside Seattle where all the bikes are assembled, Madina explains that the machines set aside for me to ride are both prototypes.

At first, Madina has me worried that I’ve come to Seattle only to get stuck on boring paved roads.

“Grant, this bike is not like sT or Patrol, where you go crazy on the dirt roads in the mountains. The M70 and M70-Solo is longer, lower. You know, like a cruiser, is very stable and really great for going down the highway.”

Even though the M70 models sport a rather long 61.8″ wheelbase, ground clearance of 5.9″ and a low seat height of 29.5″ I notice both the bikes are sporting 18” aluminum rims with the same beefy tread as the Ural sT and Patrol bikes, which is a little odd for a highway bike. Then she tells me that I get to have my way with both the M70 and the M70-Solo. She’s barely finished the sentence and I immediately text Thor Drake from See See Motorcycles down in Portland to see if he’s up for bombing around on the top secret Ural cruisers. Naturally, he replies “Fuck yeah, I’m into it.”

Rickety cruisers on HFL, what?! Whoa there, fellas. You can stop shaking your style-over-function skinny fists right now.

For the still-uninitiated, don’t let Ural’s industrial age rugged good looks and side-mounted optional kickstart fool you. The M70 is surprisingly jam-packed with modern features that include 40mm Marzocchi forks hidden under those rubber boots, dual adjustable Sachs rear shocks, a fully floating 4-piston Brembo on the front 295mm disc along with a fixed 2-piston Brembo on the 245mm rear disc, steel braided brake lines, twin Keihin L22 carburetors, plus a fully electronic ignition and start. Not to mention a completely non-CCCP contemporary wiring harness and tightened tolerances throughout the chassis and engine. Though not as powerful, the 453 lbs. M70-Solo is also lighter than Triumph’s Bonneville range.

Okay, you all better now? Good.

It’s no secret that I love Ural. Who knows, maybe it’s the knowledge that the machines are still produced by hand in the same factory since November 14, 1941, when the Ural project was transplanted to Siberia to protect it from the Nazi invasion and the first sidecars to leave the factory were christened during the battle of Stalingrad. Maybe it’s the way today’s Urals remain old-world hand-built steel tanks, capable of going just about anywhere. Or it could be that I’m in midst of going quietly off into that land of middle age, yearning for tokens of an era I desperately want to believe was cooler than it really was. But those are all secondary to the fact that I always have boatloads of fun sniffing out adventures on a Ural. Unlike Wes, I even manage to do it without breaking myself. At least, so far.

Heading to the hotel, the first thing that I learn is what Ilya and Madina call a “cruiser” is not what I consider a cruiser. The low-slung 745cc boxer twin is butter smooth as usual, allowing the bike to handle corners and the Brembo brakes stop the M70 like a modern bike should. The M70′s beefier swing-arm makes the bike definitely more stable than the Patrol or sT. Plus there’s those beefy tires. By the time I get from the factory to the hotel room, I’m thinking about ways to get in trouble and realize Thor and I would benefit from a local guide. Then I remember that Andy Gregory from Man’s Gotta Do lives in Seattle and immediately put out a message to see if he’s bored for the weekend.

The night passes while I pore over Google maps.

The three of us meet in the morning at the factory and Thor sneaks his trusty old Red Ryder BB rifle under the sidehack’s beautiful canvas cover that Ural commissioned to be hand-stitched by a tiny one-man shop in Irbit, just outside the factory. The canvas is also used for the sidehack’s standard shovel that’s mounted on the side. Madina seems a little worried, Ilya is smiling like he knows we’re up to no good.

Madina looks at me very sternly in a nervous, motherly kind of way. “Grant, please, whatever you do, don’t crash like Wes.”

Less than two hours later and the three of us are at Snoqualmie Falls, home of the lodge famously featured in David Lynch’s Twin Peaks. We hop on I-90 East heading for the Tinkham Road exit, close to the Snoqualmie Pass. Andy is on his XR650, Thor is riding the M70-Solo and I’m taking up the rear with the M70. While we’re fine in the beginning chugging along at 80mph, I quickly learn the sidecar is only good for about 65mph on steep inclines. Off to the slow truck lane for me, but otherwise all is well enough and I catch up at the exit ramp.

Take the exit, turn left, hit the dirt in less than a quarter of a mile and don’t slow down. Oh, wait. We’re on cruisers so we should go slower and not die. But these are Ural cruisers, so we should go faster. Yes, faster goddammit! Faster!


Faster up the mountain until our fingers are freezing, until we ride into the low hanging clouds, until the machines and our boots and our leathers are covered in dark mud spray and mist. Drifting the rear tires through the steep gravely switchbacks and up the winding stretches along the cliffs that look out into a wall of sprinkling white as the crystallizing condensation pecks at our visors.

Thor and I are both spontaneously singing in our helmets. These M70 Urals aren’t cruisers, they are the kind of primordial adventuring motorcycle we all dream about. The kind that requires a little manhandling if you don’t want to run off the cliff.

We race up random turns and narrow passages at whim and giggle when they dead end, only to blast back down even faster in search of new routes up. We double back to untaken forks in the road leading upwards next to the steep wet rocky walls. The boxer engines boom through the straights and whine on the downshift into the blind corners before jamming the rear brake and backing the long beasts in, first in a panic as the road quickly disappears, but every corner after like a game of chicken.

The ground hardens and quickly turns white with snow. We stop to eat, listening to the crack and boom of the hunters’ rifles somewhere up in the pines. Thor heats up his fingertips too fast on a cylinder, which turns into a writhing yelping song-and-dance comedy for Andy and I. Then I shoot the M70 while Andy and Thor hop on the other bikes to scout the snow-packed road leading further up the mountain. 15 minutes later and Thor comes back alone on the M70-Solo.

“Where’s Andy?”

Thor laughs. “He’s already busted his ass twice. That XR is so high and short, it’s just got nothing on this ice. I think he’s walking his bike back down the mountain. The packed ice is pretty gnarly up the road a bit, but this thing’s so low that it’s got incredible traction. I’m not even slipping.”

A couple of minutes later and Andy appears, grinning giantly and slowly walking his XR650 down the white road. He hops in the sidecar, cocks the air rifle for a little sport and the three of us continue up the mountain, all the way until the road ends in a snow-covered clearing surrounded by pines and the mist. We stop for more pictures and just because it’s so damned beautiful. Then the cold starts to bite and we head back down to Andy’s bike. Thor and I swap M70s and we all barrel down the dark mountain as fast as we can, laughing hysterically the whole way.

The Ural M70 and the M70-Solo are obviously not bikes for everyone. For many they are still too crude for “proper” adventuring, or too under-powered, or simply not modern enough for their tastes. Thank god I’m not one of those people.

  • Lawrences

    The ” one purpose bike”: Fun.

    • http://vtbmwmov.org Eben

      Nah. Based on the Ural owners I know, their “one purpose” is “to explode, of course.”

      • Michael

        How do you mean?

  • http://rider49er.blogspot.com Mark D

    With apologies to The Giant, “The Urals are not what they seem.”

  • Thom

    The fact is that its the simplicity , lack of modernity and ‘ crudeness’ of the URAL that makes it such an appropriate Overlander Adventure bike

    Simple to use . Simple to fix . Simple to diagnose .

    • Ilya

      I would say, lack of “modernity”

  • Brad W.

    Looks like fun. I need to have a M70-solo.

    • Kirill

      That makes two of us

  • Gene

    Vas ist das “carburetors”? Ist gut Roosian thing, ya? Needs proper Bosch mechanical fuel injection from FW-190!

    Seriously though, where Harleys wish they were still made by hand from the 1939 jigs in Milwaukee, Urals ARE still made by hand from the 1942 jigs in Russia. That’s the diff between poseur and honest.

    That pic of the solo in the snow is awesome.

    • Sean Smith

      That, and the fact that you can beat on a Ural off-road. I jumped a Patrol 10 feet in the air, over and over again. Thor rode one on a road that was impassable with an XR650. Urals are bad-ass.

      • http://mansgottado.tumblr.com/ Andy Gregory

        In fairness, I did have street wheels and tires on the XR. Then again, in fairness, I still would’ve busted my ass on the dirt setup, just from a couple inches higher. Props to Thor for rallying up that snow and ice. Turns out that stuff is slick when the two wheels you’re on aren’t attached to a low, long, stable Ural.

    • Samuel

      Gene, your Russian is remarkably German… Kind of like a Ural. :)

  • http://twitter.com/metabomber Jesse

    Looks way less serious then all of the farkled out adventure bikes I’ve seen. And I mean that in a very good way.

    • Campisi

      Most adventure bikes look like they just left the outfitters, excited to go on their first adventure. Urals look like they’ve already done the hell-and-back highway, because they have.

  • Beale

    I want a Jack Pine Ural sidecar rig.

    • contender


  • Will

    Fuck. Yes.

  • DoctorNine

    That thing sure does look like it’s at home in the snow.
    Kind of like a wolverine, hungry and hunting.

  • Campisi

    Damnit, and I’d finally managed to get a Ural Solo out of my mind and financial planning…

  • http://www.lgdm.fr stempere

    Haven’t read the article yet but the title should be “Ceci n’est pas un Cruiser”, don’t ask me why, but a pipe is feminine (une pipe) a motorycle is feminine (une moto) but a cruiser is not (un cruiser).
    It’s a fun debate when a new model comes out: “Is it un or une Diavel?” (it’s un, again no reason as to why or why not).

    • http://hellforleathermagazine.com Grant Ray

      Sounds like the sex of a cruiser is open for debate. I think most cruisers are like a midwestern butch in drag, so I’m sticking with the feminine usage.

  • Danielsohn

    Speaking of Ural hacks, did you all see the blurb in the Dec Motorcyclist where they come across Wes’s disabled Ural in the wild? Won’t spoil it, but they call him out on a couple of things.

    No mention though of the fact that it takes them 4 months to publish this timely and important info.

    • http://hellforleathermagazine.com Grant Ray

      Hm? Do you mean the article where Frank accuses Wes of gross exaggeration just before grossly misquoting the HFL article he sourced material from, followed by purposefully mislabeling HFL’s web address? Yeah, that was top notch journalism right there.

      • Aaron

        Grossly misquoting? Cross-reference what we wrote with the 3rd sentence of the story you link to above. “18 miles into the desert and hours from a hospital” is exactly what Wes wrote. Or, about 45 minutes from downtown Big Bear/Big Bear Valley Community Hospital, via our route…

        • Ilya

          Aaron, how about taking a Ural for a test ride yourself?

        • http://hellforleathermagazine.com Grant Ray

          Oh, did I purposefully miswrite something just like how you purposefully misstated the URL your article quote sites? Nah, must’ve just been a lapse in professionalism. I’m guessing that’s your excuse too, right? My bad. What’s that? You didn’t actually cite the source material for your quote? Well, tit for tat then, I suppose.

        • Sean Smith

          We were 18 miles from our campsite and our stuff, then quite a ways from my dad’s X-ray machine in Pasadena. With Wes’s amazing health insurance, we decided that was our best bet. No waiting when we arrived and no ridiculous bill when we got done.

          Seriously though, hellforleather.com?

          • aristurtle

            You guys really need to get ahold of that URL. It’s not just Motorcyclist; your buddies at Jalopnik fucked that one up too once and they’re supposedly on your side.

            • ike6116

              Yeah, I’ve been guilty of typing it in myself

        • ike6116


          HFL busted for presenting hyperbole as the truth and big moto publishers busted for having subscriptions to HFL.

          If HFL were “nobodies” like you guys make them out to be why would you go out of your way to take these swipes at them?

          Who looks good here? You’re not convincing me to drop my HFL subscription or buy your magazine.

          • Ilya

            C’mon people! It’s about Ural birthday, for Christ’s sake!

            • Eric

              The Ural did look pretty good though out the whole affair.

              • ike6116


                I now know of 3 Ilyas…


                and Ural Ilya on HFL. Is Ilya like the Russian “Mike” ?

  • jason

    You guys have too much fun.

  • Jens

    Had one a couple of years ago. One of these UN models in white. That all inclusive one with driven sidecar and reverse gear. Hard to stop off road and in the snow, a real deal if you understand technic. If you are not your own mechanic stay away from it. If you know what you do it offer you a outstanding riding experince and maximum fun. One day I will have one again. Happy Birthday Ural!

  • Brad

    I guess it’s alright. But, where can I get a stomp grip and D&D pipe for it?

    • BMW11GS

      I think that’s why the guys at my work turn up there noes at Urals…its not sickkkkk enough.

  • http://krtong.com KR Tong

    Commemorative Brown

  • http://www.kenta.ro Kentaro rides a NRS and a GSA

    Are Urals reliable enough now to buy and go on a cross country dirt trip?

    • Barry Conti

      If you do it on its terms, and maintain it properly, then yes.

      If you try to treat it like a contemporary high performance bike, you may have to break out the vice-grips and bailing wire.

      You have to remember it is, with a few concessions, a new vintage bike, not a vintage styled new bike.

  • Glenngineer

    I went to an Ural dealer today. Awesome steeds, especially the M70 sidecar model.

    Impressively uncomfortable, though. The M70 has an awkward rider triangle that feels like it was forcing me into a squat, my right leg was super cramped on the normal Gear Ups, Patrols, etc, and the bars all have a weird bend.

    Do I want one? Fuck yes, just not as my only bike. An ST would be a great little brother to my Strom.

  • fazer6

    I have to have a solo one–But if they sell out before I get one, please, please offer the solo in retro style again, even as a standard model!