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Ural Phenomenon : the Incredible Sidecar Sub-culture Among Motorcyclists

a two part feature article

by Ujjwal Dey
1/3/2017


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Soviet Russian espionage during World War II, Nazi motorcycles, hacking, ancient resource rich Ural mountains, a defunct brewery factory, privatization – what have these things got in common? A legendary sidecar wielding motorcycle is what they all mixed together to create in the heat of world economy.

 
 

 

Ural motorcycles or the more correct term – IMZ-Ural motorcycles – is fast approaching world conquering proportions in motorcycling lifestyle. Irbit MotorWorks of America, Inc, or Ural IMWA for short is the official affiliate of the Irbit MotorWorks Factory in Irbit, Russia. They are the direct importer and distributor for the Ural sidecar motorcycle in the United States.

 

 
 

The rich history of this extremely popular Touring Motorcycle with a Sidecar began back in 1940 when the Soviet Union acquired the design and production techniques of German BMW R71 motorcycles. This became the M-72 model motorcycle finished first in 1941. Mobility and ground troops were ordered by Stalin and prepared to defend Soviet Union from Nazi Germany, especially after the blitzkrieg on Poland.

 

 
 

The Soviet Defence Ministry wanted a motorcycle suitable for the Red Army and for the terrains they were to patrol. Modeled after a late-1930s BMW sidecar bike called the R71, five units of BMW R71 were covertly purchased from Swedish smugglers. The Soviet Engineers then dismantled the BMW and Reverse Engineered the entire motorcycle to finest details. They could now make the engine or gearbox themselves from their molds. In 1941, BMW launched R75 and discontinued R71. So this rebranded hacked German bike was only with the Soviet who labelled it as Russian M-72 Sidecar Motorcycles.

 

To boost production to meet war efforts, a large factory was planned far away from Nazi bombing campaigns. The only available location was a defunct brewery plant outside the town of Irbit, located on the fringe of Siberia in the Ural mountains. Irbit had once been an important Trade and Fair centre in Russia before the Revolution of 1917. During WWII a total of 9,799 M-72 motorcycles were delivered for reconnaissance detachments and mobile troops, with the first batch going to the frontline of war in 1942.

 

 
 

After the end of WWII this factory was expanded and in 1950 the 30,000th motorcycle was produced. "URAL" was built only for the military. When the KMZ plant in Ukraine assumed the task of supplying the military in 1950s, the Irbit Motorcycle Works (IMZ) focused on making bikes for domestic consumers. Full production of the plant became non-military in the late 1950s. So the export history of URALs started in 1953, at first to developing countries. In 1957, the M-72 production lines were sold to the People's Republic of China. Between 1973 and 1979, Ural was one of the makes marketed by SATRA in the UK as Cossack motorcycles.

 

 
 

Today, Ural motorcycles are mainly exported to Australia, the UK, France, Netherlands, Belgium, Spain, Greece, Norway, Finland, Iceland, Sweden, Germany, Egypt, Iran, South Africa, Brazil, Uruguay, Paraguay, and the US. The number sold since the factory was founded exceeds 3.2 million. IMZ-Ural is the only Russian manufacturer of large capacity motorcycles and one of few manufacturers of sidecar motorcycles in the world.

 

The 2003 USA model featured a newly designed crankshaft and a disc brake in front. The crankshaft had a longer stroke which increased engine capacity by 15% from 650 to 750 cc (40 to 46 cu in). This addressed weaknesses in the older five-piece, press-fit crankshaft, in order to pass United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) standards, and the higher speeds on US highways. Modern Urals have a Nippon Denso alternator, Ducati electronic ignition, new engine and transmission gears designed by Herzog in Germany, disc brakes on all three wheels, hydraulic steering damper, while powder coated for wild adventure durability.

 

 
 
 
 
 

IMZ-Ural is a conglomerate of companies producing and selling classic sidecar motorcycles.

 

The 2017 models of Ural have been announced as:

§ Ural Gear-up

§ Ural Patrol

§ Ural cT

§ Ural M70

 

The Gear-up and Patrol models have on-demand 2WD. All of the 2017 models will have electronic speedometers, handlebar mounted parking brake lever, increased side-car storage, foot activated reverse, sidecar spotlight controls on handlebar, and many other goodies plus custom make options.

 

 
 

In our second installment of Ural Phenomenon, we will fully explore what makes bikers lust after these all-terrain sidecar military-type vehicles. The “Ural Culture” as I call it. We will reveal the “The Ural Informer” which is a lively blog telling stories of far and near adventures on the Ural. The Company holds many events and featured trips too so look for those in our next episode of SIDECAR-Mania.

 

This is a lifestyle within the Biker Lifestyle. A generation of bikers who truly completely believe on living on the road. A few of these Ural owners have gone on World Tours on 3 wheels. Others enjoy the company of their loved ones on long tours in style and comfort. And your dog comes along to the wildlife and outdoors excitement. In the next episode of Ural Culture, I will highlight some key achievements, not of Ural Company, but of the very Ural Bike Riders, the paying customers who have redefined touring on motorcycles.

 

TO BE CONTINUED....

 

 

Copyright Ujjwal Dey 2017 www.iqmind.org

 
 

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