World Exclusive: 2014 Ural Gear-Up Sidecar Review

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World Exclusive: 2014 Ural Gear-Up Sidecar Review

The Ride

I’m not ashamed to admit that previous Ural sidecars have scared me silly. Particularly after crashing two summer ago and breaking my wrist. That injury has led to a permanent crooked “arch” in my front forearm. If these new bikes really can be safer and more rider friendly, then I’m the best possible test of those merits. Heck, I get nervous just sitting on a sidecar at a standstill.

So, suiting up with every last item of warm clothing I own, before heading out of Redmond, Washington for the Snoqualmie Pass in search of snow, I was sweating bullets not just because Ural keeps its garage ridiculously warm, but because I was afraid there was a real chance I might get hurt.

And that’s the way I would have stayed, had this been a ride on any previous Ural. I was so nervous, in fact, when I rode one in Siberia that I rode it straight into a snow drift not 100 yards after we set out. But this bike is different. A few circles in the parking lot, beginning with left-handers (obviously), then moving on to the much more challenging right and I was nearing something resembling confidence.

Out on the main roads, headed for Snoqualmie, that continued. I was able to keep up with one of Ural’s mechanics-cum-test rider (on an old bike) without issue and never once worried that the sidecar was about to flip over and kill me.

2014 Ural Gear-Up Sidecar Review
2014 Ural Gear-Up Sidecar (pass through ice)

Cruising on the highway at an indicated 65 mph was positively relaxing, with the bike cruising effortlessly in a straight line and even remaining planted as we passed (yes, passed!) 18-wheelers and encountered their wind blast. And, on hairpin mountain turns, even right hand ones, the bike remained sure-footed and confident.

Most of that is simply down to the hydraulic steering damper. Its effect is marvelous. Roll off the throttle on a straight road and, if you’re really paying attention, you can detect a slight yaw, but the damper totally prevents the initialization of anything approaching a sway or a wobble. Accelerate hard away from a stoplight and the Ural tracks nearly true. The difference from this one change alone is night and day.

The other huge difference occurs when you start the bike. Push a button and that’s it. Ah, fuel-injection. Where the temperamental old engine liked to be showered with love and attention before rewarding you with controlled explosions, this new one just starts on the button. No matter the altitude, no matter the temperature. As an added bonus, there’s no more petcock; if you’re running low on fuel, a yellow light illuminates in the dash.

The other advantage of the engine upgrades is obviously in performance. Following a last-generation Ural up a steep slope in deep snow, I was consistently able to pull a higher gear on the new bike or hold a single gear through sections that required multiple shifts on the old model. That ultra-flat torque curve illustrates the engine’s performance perfectly; it’s flexible and easy going to the old model’s asthmatic peakiness.

2014 Ural Gear-Up Sidecar Review
2014 Ural Gear-Up

Don’t get me wrong, this is still a 41 bhp, 750cc, air-cooled boxer twin that weighs over 700 lbs, but riding it is now a straightforward, user-friendly affair, if still a slow one. You’ll work less to get where you’re going, the engine will stall only if you make it stall and it performs on the highway in a much more comfortable manner.

Sadly, I can’t testify as to the efficacy of the new brake setup. The bike I was riding was badly in need of a lever adjustment, something I didn’t discover until we were well on our way for this day-long test ride. To engage the rear brakes, I had to stand on the pegs and rotate my right foot as far-forward as possible, something the company assures me is as far from normal as possible. They still have quirks, these classic Russian bikes.

That’s the changes out of the way, the rest of the riding experience is pure Ural. The bike is now much more user friendly without compromising any of its capability or character. It’ll still pull itself uphill, through deep snow with 2WD engaged. It’s still engaging and satisfying to ride, even cruising down an empty highway at 55 mph. It still requires unique skills, a lot of patience and a unique attitude to transportation that prioritizes experience over speed.

2014 Ural Gear-Up Sidecar Review
2014 Ural Gear-Up Sidecar

What’s Good

Stability is dramatically improved over old models, almost to the point where it inspires confidence.

Engine performance increases by an equal measure, becoming much more useable in the process.

Starts at the push of a button, but still comes fitted with a kick-starter.

Goes further than pretty much any other vehicle off-road or through challenging conditions.

Nothing, absolutely nothing, stops traffic like a Ural.

More engaging at 65 mph than modern sportbikes are at 165.

Room for your dog and all the supplies you could ever need.

No more adjustments needed for riding at high altitude.

2014 Ural Gear-Up Sidecar
2014 Ural Gear-Up Sidecar

What’s Bad

Performance is still incredibly limited compared to modern motorcycles.

While the handling is vastly improved, it’s still not “safe” by modern car standards. You need to know what you’re doing and pay attention in order to operate one.

Solo seat on this Gear-Up is the least comfortable option.

Fuel economy remains poor considering the limited performance.

The Price

One-wheel drive Urals will start at $12,400 in 2014, going up to $16,00 for the two-wheel drive Gear-Up seen here. That’s an awful lot of money for something with such limited performance, but the Ural is also an absolutely unique vehicle, existing outside the normal motorcycle or car continuum. If you want one, you want one, there is nothing like it.

The Verdict

Vastly improved, but still a quirky, classic vehicle which dates back to a war our granddads fought. Think of it as Russia’s version of the Willy’s Jeep. One that’s still on-sale today, benefiting from the reliability, quality and safety that modern engineering can add. Is experience more important to you than performance? Do you want to have epic adventures in the middle of nowhere and take your dog along for the ride? Do you believe you can have as meaningful a relationship with your bike as you can with a human being? Then a Ural is for you. From 2014 forward, that circle is just going to include a lot more people.

RideApart Rating: 9/10

 

Continue Reading: 2014 Ural Gear-Up Sidecar Images >>

Gear:

Helmet: Schuberth S2 ($700, Highly Recommended)
Suit: Aerostich Roadcrafter Tactical ($937, Best Riding Suit In The World)
Gloves: Aerostich Luxury Cowhide Winter Gloves ($200, Highly Recommended)
Boots: Aerostich Combat Touring ($370, Highly Recommended)

  • http://metabomber.com/ Jesse

    And no crashing, rolling, wrist-breaks, nor rescues by fellow writers. Good job, Wes.

    That’s still a damned good looking bike. I can see this being the ultimate motocampin’ bike.

    • http://RideApart.com/ Wes Siler

      Thanks, I’m proud of myself for the same reasons too.

  • zion

    Urals have always intrigued me… Now you’ve gone and made me add another bike to my never ending list of “someday”. Good write up, thanks.

  • grindz145

    Any idea what the fuel econ was roughly?

    • http://RideApart.com/ Wes Siler

      I didn’t double check it.

      • Ilya Khait

        31-37 mpg, but these are not exactly highway/city figures. The range we provide is what Ural owner can expect in the real life, depending on the configuration of the bike, number of passengers, added load, and driving conditions.

        • frankfan42

          Very cool that fuel mileage as well as rideability are increased, of course this is what prompted the migration to FI to begin with right? Now if we can just get them to adopt OHC or even OHV we will be in business.

          • Justin McClintock

            Urals ARE OHV. And making them OHC may or may not actually help with their intended mission. Plus OHC heads sticking out the sides would be very large. The BMWs with OHC have significantly larger cylinder heads than the older models.

            • frankfan42

              Thanks Justin for correcting me. I was thinking of the Dnepr and Chiang Jang bikes when I made this error.

    • Dan Kearney

      My carbureted 2010 model gets from 25 to 35 mpg. It’s highly variable. Depends on how much you jump on the throttle and whether there’s a good headwind. Lot’s of frontal area to push air out of the way with these rigs.

      • http://metabomber.com/ Jesse

        Oh. Oh now I want to see a double full-fairing version. URAL-RR

  • Braden

    Sounds like an absolute blast. I want one now more than ever. What is this business with Can-Am and the Brembo brakes? Are they really so unaware of how little is shared in the Venn Diagram of Spyders and Urals?

    • http://RideApart.com/ Wes Siler

      I made such a diagram:

      • Piglet2010

        BRP not sending you guys a Can-Am to test?

      • http://metabomber.com/ Jesse

        I think I know some Texts.

  • AlexKnolly

    Oh my I want one of these so badly. It’s really too bad that the nearest Ural dealer is complete rubbish and apparently really doesn’t want to sell me one. They’re a long ways away so I both called and left messages as well as emailed asking about test rides and never heard back from them (similar thing happened when I wanted to buy a Brammo from somewhere else). I really want to give people my money though. Honestly.

    • Braden

      They must be in cahoots with my local KTM dealer. They get downright angry at the idea of taking my money.

  • Generic42

    When they first announced the change over to EFI I was disappointed and thought that I might have to get a used Ural when the time came. But after seeing all the changes and this review I can honestly say I’m very excited to get a 2014+ Ural when it’s my time to buy.

  • http://www.bikething.co.uk/ Jonathan Ward

    Good to see that Ural have made some much needed changes to their range, those bikes do look pretty awesome. Unfortunately it turns out the 2wd version isn’t legal to ride in the UK, damn European Union. It would have made an ideal snow, ice and shopping bike.

    • Dan Kearney

      It’s not the 2wd that is illegal, it’s the fact that in the UK the hack is on the left-hand side of the bike, which precludes the ability to run a drive shaft off the final drive. The Aussies and Kiwi’s have the same issue. Cheers.

      • Hooligan

        Legal Schmigal. Seen quite a few right hooker Urals on Englands roads.

  • http://thecrumb.com/ thecrumb

    Please. Stop. Posting. Ural. Articles. The wife is going to get upset if you continue. Curious – what does the tank hold? Curious about the range – though I guess you could carry almost as much gas as you need….

    • http://RideApart.com/ Wes Siler

      Well, a five gallon jerry can is mounted to the sidecar, as standard, so fuel range isn’t really something you’ll ever have to worry about.

      • Brian

        how big is the main tank though?

        • Ilya Khait

          five gallons

  • Mykola

    Wow, reading about these updates make me really look forward to what they’ve done to the Solo ST.

  • Brian

    How hard is the sidecar to remove with all the new changes if you should decide to ride the machine solo? I know on the old one, while it wasn’t an impossible affair, it was far from a quick process. I know one guy who has another branded motorcycle with sidecar and he has a floorjack with platform that he slides underneath and unbolts and rolls the assembly to the side out of the way for maintenance or whatever reason.

    • Stuki

      Are they even reasonably rideable sans side car? The steering geometry on sidecar rigs ought to be setup completely different from a singletracker

      • Brian

        well, the Safeco insurance commercial I have seen ariing recently with the crazy mom that doesn’t like her son revving that motorcycle and yadda yadda looks like it is a Ural that appears with and without the sidecar, hence why I asked.

        • Ilya Khait

          Guys, don’t be so lazy! Search this site for Ural sT review.

        • eric ellquist

          You may be right, I’ve seen that ad. Looking closely, I thought that the solo bike in the shot riding away from the camera had only one muffler and looked an awful lot like a Royal Enfield…

    • dave neale

      the ural leading link front suspension is all but unrideable sans chair. Models with telescopic forks can be ridden as a solo.

      • George Long

        Not so. Without the sidecar in place it is different riding the bike but unrideable…Hardly.

    • Dan Kearney

      Regardless of the leading link vs telecopic issue, you really wouldn’t want to pull the hack off and ride solo. Sidecar combos do not lean, so the tires get squared off as the miles pile on. It would be pretty scary when you hit that sharp edge on your first turn out of the parking lot. Cheers.

  • Joel Leggett

    Great review Wes. I have a buddy who has a red Ural with Sidecar and his dog rides in it. There can be somebody at the big biker bar here in Dallas (Strokers) with the most tricked out custom in the world and everyones attention goes to the Ural. He loves that bike and I can see why. Its great that there are such improvements to the bikes. I ride a Royal Enfield Bullet EFI (G5) and I love it. It has tons of character, gets lots of attention and is really fun. Thanks for the great work on this site. Its one of my favorite Motorcycle sites out there.

    • Dan Kearney

      Great minds think alike. 2010 Ural (My second) and 2012 C5 Classic out in the garage. Cheers.

  • K.McClellan

    As soon as I sell my 2007, I’m buying a red T. Hey Ilya, can you post a picture of that? It’s the only combo you haven’t shown to the world, and I’m dying to see it. Red October reborn? :)

  • socalutilityrider

    You know how people in coastal communities in California sometimes have the secondary cool beach or surf car, like a classic bronco? I always wanted an International Scout with the top removed for that role, but THIS is the ultimate summer beach vehicle for me now.

  • Piglet2010

    “Suit: Aerostich Roadcrafter Tactical ($937, Best Riding Suit In The World)”

    Unless you have a need to *not* be seen while off the bike at night, the regular ‘Stich is a better option, with Hi-Viz yellow being the best choice. The Hi-Viz is also cooler (literally, not fashion-wise).

    • Stuki

      Lighter color ‘Stitches show road grime almost immediately, and it is virtually impossible to get off. Even the reflective strips on black standard ‘Stitches suffer from that. So, unless yiou have a need to not bee seen off the bike at night, OR have a need not to look plain dirty wherever you go on your bike, the Tactical is the best riding suit in the world ( at elast amongs ‘Stichs.)

      • Piglet2010

        What’s wrong with a little road grime?

        Next you will be suggesting that I actually wash my Honda Deauville.

  • Yellowjacket

    Man do I want to get one of these some day. It looks like it makes everyday life an adventure.

  • Mark Palmer

    I have been riding motorcycles for going on 50 years. Other than as a collectible, I don’t know why anybody would spend money on this junk.

    • Ilya Khait

      You waisted 50 years …

    • CruisingTroll

      1) Because they want to be able to take their Grandmother with them on trips, but Gramma has lousy balance, so she needs a sidecar.

      2) Because they want to take small children with them…. (see above)

      3) Because, unless you have a sleigh pulled by reindeer, or an AAV-7, playing Santa Claus with a load of toys in the sidecar can’t be beat.

      4) Because if you have a dog larger than fits in a purse, a sidecar is the way to take a dog with you when riding.

      5) Because the look on the faces of the kids in the schoobus is priceless when they see the Nerfgun mounted on the sidecar.

      6) Because…., just because.

    • frankfan42

      Must be a Harley guy.

    • david ludwig

      Simple. I’ve been riding for about 40 years, I ride a Harley Electra Glide and would never take it out in snow. I’d never take it off road. I’ve had several dual purpose bikes that were snow worthy(relatively) and off-road worthy, but had no payload. The Urals with 2 wheel drive fill that niche. What a great camping machine for off road, out-of-the-way places and you can still get there on the highways. Plus you can carry a spare wheel and a jerry can for extra fuel. I want one.

  • frankfan42

    Well, my dogs want me to get a Ural.

  • IRS4

    I’ve been contemplating a hack to ride with my wife and two five year olds. Too much for even the Ural? I really lament that there isn’t a nice modern turn key rig available.

    • Andrew Karmy

      The DMC Sidecar guys have a pretty sweet set-up going on. I mean, Honda/BMW is never going to OEM a sidecar but these guys are pretty close.

      • IRS4

        Cool, thanks. I’ll check them out. Give me an excuse to visit the one corner of the CONUS I am missing!

  • Adv Solorider

    That spare wheel looks like it still has drum! Now that bike has discs all around, can we assume the spare will go on any wheel except the rears only like in previous models?

  • Bob Wampler

    Great review! These rigs are so unique and awesome. I took a sidecar class up in Washington (from Oregon) and was lucky to train in a 2005 Ural Tourist. Yeah, it would be nice to have even more power and better gas mileage, but for what it is, it’s great. Besides, check out most of the big bikes above 700 pounds, and you’ll find that they’re not much better in gas mileage than the 2014 Urals.

  • David King

    Wes, I just read your review of the 2014 Ural Gear Up. It was very informative, thank you. The Ural is getting better but…….. I have an ’07 R1200GS (100 HP) and I’m thinking of attaching an older Velorex sidecar to it (in lieu of buying a Gear Up) to increase usable load for long range trips. Do you have an opinion of this idea?

  • Osmo Wilson

    Ural has done a great job of improving these machines , however their long term goal should be the development of a new, larger displacement engine. Just copy a modern BMW boxer engine, make it about 1200cc. Unfortunately this would probably also necessitate a very expensive redesign of the bike and this would probably be prohibitive for a niche manufacturer like Ural. However if they could ever do it, the bikes would be awesome.