Don’t cruise solo — Ural’s sidecar motorcycles are built to ride with friends

From a quick left-side glance, Ural Motorcycles don’t look terribly special. From any other view, however, you’ll immediately get why the Russian bike maker has such enthusiastic fans: sidecars.

Aftermarket companies sell sidecar add-on kits for many standard motorcycles. By contrast, every Ural design decision has been made with sidecars in the configuration, unlike normal bikes where the focus is ride, balance, and power characteristics for two-wheelers.

Ownership has changed over the years, but Ural has been building sidecar motorcycles for more than 70 years. Since beginning production, Ural has sold more than 3.2 million sidecar motorcycles.

Ural began making sidecar motorcycles in 1942. The Russians developed their first models from BMW R71 design and production techniques to cope with harsh Russian climate and terrain. Initially built for military use in the late 1950s, the focus shifted to domestic customers.

Ural motorcycles are powered by fuel-injected, air-cooled, boxer-twin 749cc engines. The bikes have shaft drive, four-speed transmissions plus reverse, and disc brakes on all three wheels.

The bikes are set up for the low-end torque needed for off-road use. Max recommended cruising speed is about 70 mph and top speed 75, ruling them out for use as high-speed highway cruisers.

Urals have 5-gallon gas tanks with fuel estimates ranging from 31 to 37 miles per gallon. The estimated range is 155 to 185 miles. The bikes’ weight capacity is an impressive 1,325 pounds including passengers and anything you carry in or on the motorcycle.

Storage in the trunk.

Most of the components on Urals are sourced from standard suppliers. For example, the disc brakes are from Brembo, alternators from Nippon Denso, handlebar controls from Domino, forks from Paioli, and ignitions from Ducati Energia. The company makes the engine, frame, and body parts.

Most models have on-demand two-wheel drive. You switch between rear wheel drive only and rear wheel and sidecar wheel by flipping a lever. With two-wheel drive engaged, Urals can be driven off-road, in snow, and even in shallow water. What other motorcycle company tests bikes by fording Russian rivers?

Ural currently sells four models, the CT, Gear UP, Patrol, and M70. Occasionally Ural offers limited number special edition models such as the Dark Force.

2017 Ural CT — $14,500 starting price

Ural’s least expensive CT model is a recent addition to the line. The CT is intended for around town casual use and does not have 2-wheel drive. Standard sidecar accessories on the CT include a power outlet, tonneau cover, and windshield.

2017 Ural Gear Up — $16,500 starting price

The two-wheel drive, off-road adventurer of Ural’s lineup, the Gear Up comes standard with accessories appropriate for that use. The Gear Up includes a sidecar spotlight, power outlet, tonneau cover, luggage rack and a universal spare wheel and tire. You’ll also get a utility shovel and a jerry can for extra fuel. The only change to the bike itself is a built-in storage compartment on the gas tank top.

Specially configured Gear Up versions currently available include the Sahara and the Sportsman Adventurer.

2017 Ural Patrol — $16,500 starting price

The Patrol is configured for long-haul touring, although that shouldn’t be construed as superhighway touring in the usual sense because of the bike’s limited top speed. Standard accessories on the Patrol include a sidecar windshield, color matched rider fairing, sidecar tonneau cover and power outlet, and a luggage rack with a universal spare tire and wheel.

2017 Ural M70 — $16,500 starting price

The M70 is retro-styled to look like earlier Ural military spec bikes, but has all the modern components. The M70 does not have 2-wheel drive. Standard accessories include a sidecar power outlet and a tonneau cover.

If you are intrigued by Ural’s bikes but wondering about riding a sidecar motorcycle, the following occasionally serious video gives some pointers.