After Word War Two, the engineers at Ural dreamt of tearing off the sidecars and building high performance solo motorcycles. But, Soviet police were afraid of the proletariat evading them on vehicles faster than their own sidecars and banned the production of two-wheelers. Finally, 60 years later, the Ural ST realizes that dream.
The name "ST" stands for Solo T, with the Ural T being the company's
new no-frills, one-wheel drive sidecar. Like that bike, the ST makes
use of traditional Ural values -- flat-twin engine with roller bearings,
low center-of-gravity, shaft drive and solid frame -- but reworks the
rest to better suit the specific needs of a two-wheeler.
Gone are the leading-link front forks, which are too rigid and steep,
replaced with 41mm Marzocchi telescopics with a hefty brace over the
chopped front fender. New triple clamps rake the front out to 26° with a trail of 70mm, allowing a lower stance. The front brake disc, four-pot Brembo calipers
and braided steel line are taken directly off the T, which weighs
245lbs more. Without the sidecar making things lively, there's no need
for a steering damper on the ST.
At the rear, there's new, softer Sachs shocks now mounted at an angle
as opposed to the near-vertical items on the sidecars. On this
prototype you can still see the original mounts about an inch and a
half behind the new ones. The 3.89 final drive and rear disc come
straight off the now defunct Ural Wolf cruiser. Visual upgrades come in
the form of a chopped rear fender and a deleted grab handle, which is
no longer required to get the lighter bike on its center stand.
The EPA-compliant 750cc horizontal-twin delivers 40bhp at 5,600rpm,
38lb/ft of torque at 4,600rpm and is now located centrally in the frame
(sidecars mount their engines a little to the right for better weight
distribution). Without the weight of the sidecar to haul around, the
electronic ignition-equipped ST is able to run leaner jetting resulting
in improved fuel economy. Expect around 40mpg. The engine is now
protected by crash guards on both sides. The gearbox is the same
four-speed unit with Herzog gears that's found in the T, but here drops
the now unnecessary reverse gear.
Ural estimates that the ST should be capable of around 100mph and,
thanks to a relatively short wheelbase of 1470mm (20mm shorter than the
Triumph Bonneville) and an extremely low center-of-gravity is described
as "nimble" and quick to turn.
Ural has built motorcycles without sidecars before of course, but they've either been solo versions of bikes built for sidecars or the Wolf, which was an unconvincing, Harley-style cruiser. The ST is the first bike from Ural designed specifically to work well as a two-wheeler.
At 460lbs (dry) the Ural ST is a little heavier than the competition
from Triumph (440lbs) and Moto Guzzi (401lbs). At 40bhp it's also less
powerful than the 67bhp Bonneville or the 48bhp V7 Classic. It does,
however, have one important thing going for it that those bikes do not.
Ural has been producing fundamentally the same bike, a reverse
engineered BMW R71, since 1941 and continues to produce motorcycles by
hand at its second factory (dating from a positively recent 1942) in
Irbit, Russia. The Ural ST may be a new model, but it's not a retro,
it's a realization of a 60-year-old dream built using essentially the
same components that would have been used back then. The Ural ST isn't
a modern bike trying to recapture a bygone era, it's a bike from the
past being produced right now.
The Ural ST you see in these photos is a prototype. To help facilitate completion of the new model, Ural has stated that any rider in the greater Seattle area can go ride the ST and give development feedback. Expect a different
seat and other detail changes by the time it goes on sale early next
year for around $8,000. Look for our review in the next few days and a
film shortly after that.