When Ural printed its own money

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ural-money

In the early ‘90s, if you presented this stamped sheet of paper at a bakery in Irbit, you’d have received six 1kg loaves of bread in return. Operating in a collapsed economy, the company supported its workforce and the town it was located in by dispatching crafty employees to trade sidecars, tools and parts for supplies. In effect, it created its own economy.

Why bread? Well, similar coupons books were printed for other everyday items too. If you wanted something a little less common, an exchange rate could be worked out between it and whatever item you had coupons for. But bread was popular not just because families needed it to survive, but because the factory actually received a bakery’s worth of equipment in trade for a batch of sidecars, putting it into operation within their facility. The quality of the bread it produced was so good, it actually threatened the survival of Irbit’s established bakery, causing tension with the community.

The horse-trading didn’t just take place inside Russias borders either. The Egyptian military paid for an order of sidecars with bullion cubes. The residents of Irbit ate soup for months.

These coupons are for bread, denoted by the pictured loaf. The rubber stamp guaruntees authenticity.

The problem was that the raw materials and human effort that went into building a sidecar or its component parts didn’t translate terribly well into liquid currency and the full value of the machines wasn’t realized in the grey market. Even with bizarre bread-for-motorcycle exchange rates, Ural was still selling its products at a loss.

This did nothing for the company’s domestic reputation and essentially destroyed the potential market for its goods as the Russian economy stabilized in the late ‘90s. The horse-trading actually continued until 2000, when Ilya took control. Stamping it out was one of his immediate priorities. It fed Ural’s workers and their families for years, but helped virtually destroy the company too.

  • oldblue

    In Soviet Russia, sidecar factory employee no longer loafs on job…

    • Rick

      har har, good one comrade

  • resonance

    the ural was the best thing since sliced bread, which will always be better.

    they should continue the trade though, cutting it out was a real doughy move…

    • Rick

      real crumby of them, yeah

  • Kevin

    Russians are tough. I hope they get the future they deserve.

    • Michael

      Just as long its not at my expense.

      • Steven

        So don’t buy a Ural sidecar.

        Or natural gas.

        wtf?

  • Johndo

    Just makes me want to buy one of these bikes…

    • Ilya

      If you purchase it before December 31st, you’ll get factory rebate – 6 coupons for 1 loaf of bread each ;-)

      Wes, the name of the guy was Laletin. He was responsible for the horse-trading at that time, and the factory workers called coupons “laletinki” after him.

      • http://hellforleathermagazine.com Wes Siler

        Thanks Ilya!

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

        So cool to have the actual Manager/CEO/Whathaveyou of the Ural commenting! I can’t think of a “cooler” bike than a Ural; no Bonnie, Sportster, old CB, Enfield, or even an air-head matches the sheer badass-ery that is a Ural.

        • Ilya

          “actual Manager/CEO/Whathaveyou of the Ura”.
          Let’s keep it simple – just “Ilya” :-)

    • Mr.Paynter

      +1
      Bread out here in Africa’s expensive though, so I’ll pay in Rubles (sp?)

  • Michael

    You guys need to write a book about this. Just a 50-100 pages would be enough, with production history and lots of pictures. I would buy it.

    • Mr.Paynter

      +1
      So little history exists** and is easily accesible! It’s so great to have such a rich history!

      **Especially with the Japanese 4!

    • Bronson

      I’d buy it too. I like the history.

    • Tad

      +1

    • Matthew

      +1

  • Thom

    URAL

    Genuine and crafty survivors . Damn what a story . And I’ll add my two cents for a book as well . 300 pages + photos if you please , my being of the generation that still enjoys reading

    Getting more convinced by the minute to forego the Vincent Outfit dream and grab for the star in front of my face instead . e.g. A URAL .

    @ Ilya – Can the motorcycle on the 1 wheel drive outfit be ridden apart from the Sidecar ?

    • aristurtle

      If I recall correctly it can be but the front fork is designed for sidecar use so it isn’t particularly good at it. (Also you will need to add left turn signals, kickstand, etc.)

      • Thom

        Oh well . If thats true .. you can’t have everything . But …. with the $$$$$$$$ I’ll be saving over a Vincent outfit , I could definitely spring for ………… jeeze ……….. just about anything I could reasonable want as a matter of fact

        I’m still contemplating , but getting more ‘Sold ‘ by the minute .

        • Ilya

          Thom, aristurtle is correct. The leading link forks are not suitable for use on the solo bikes. The only bike you can safely ride apart from the sidecar is Retro (M70) which utilize telescopic forks. But you’ll have to adjust suspension a little bit and also replace final drive gears (gear ratio is 3.89 for solo vs. 4.62 for sidecars).

          • Thom

            Thats reasonable especially in light of all the mods BMW GS owners make to get their bikes sidecar worthy .

            The Sell is getting stronger by the minute .

            A nice Ural in the garage . Both fun to ride and an homage to the grandfather’s homeland .

            Yup . Checkbooks getting jumpy there .

  • Richard

    Ilya’s participation in the discussion pretty much makes this series one of the best yet. Please keep it coming.

  • Core

    What an interesting, yet equally sad story on a grand scale.

  • caferacer

    How many coupons for an M70??! Do want. With the Degtyaryov option package, of course. Oh the trips we would take….

  • Rick

    Apart from the lowly cockroach’s quicker acceleration, he and the Ural have much in common: primitive design, adaptable to harsh conditions, an instinct for survival.

    And like the roach, Urals must be incredibly uncool in Russia- one of Vlad Putin’s recent PR stunts was riding a Harley trike, not a Ural…which is in itself incredibly uncool.

    • Thom

      Putin is an idiot . Case closed .

    • Gene

      Yeah, I saw that, and I was pretty boggled. On the other hand, it’s EXCELLENT for taunting the local pirates.

  • doublet

    Maybe this doesn’t ‘make sense’ in a relative sense to the world we all generally live in (or ‘make cents’.. because “It doesn’t make dollars if it doesn’t make cents!”)… but did it really almost destroy the company, when from a certain aspect, it sustained the company to the point that it did become more ‘globally stable’ and is still here today?

    You do what you gotta do!

    This country may end up there. That’s half the reason I keep buying tools.

    • Ilya

      It really almost destroyed the company because
      it lead factory managers to believe that domestic market for Urals is still exists. This in turn was used as an excuse to delay necessary and very painful restructuring.

      • Gene

        Ah! Now I understand. Thanks.

        • doublet

          I was thinking about something like that being the case… not realizing/wanting to acknowledge that there was now more opportunity out there, on a different level, and the gears needed to be shifted up a notch back into the more traditional realm. Gotta change with the game! It’s just neat to learn of the time with this was a way the company could survive and help the community in dire straits. I’d never imagined it.

          It takes hard work to make a product, but then it takes money to make money at it… and customers to keep the cycle going and growing.

    • Ryan

      Agreed, I think the bartering was clever and necessary.

      The United States’ Federal Government is on course to destroy the value of our currency, so we’ll likely find ourselves in the same situation at some point. Never seems likely until after the fact.

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

        With a sidecar, carrying $35,000 dollars in cash to the store for a loaf of bread will be much easier!

      • Kevin

        Treasury yields are actually negative, after inflation. The market wants to lend the U.S. money.

    • dux

      I invest in steel as well.

      • Ryan

        Lead has more momentum

        • Archer

          Yes indeed… I believe Jeff Cooper’s treatise on the subject of “ballistic wampum”… .22 LR and .223 cartridges as currency- may someday be vindicated.

  • Justin

    i’d love to have a ural. it might be my next motorcycle.

  • http://www.postpixel.com.au mugget

    All this stuff about Ural is fascinating to me. I never had a clue about any of this before HFL started working the good work!