The history of the Ural Motorcycle
I wish it was that easy! The original dream
Ready to repel those German's Who said that these things go anywhere!
THE URAL STORY
THE WHY? THE WHERE? THE NOW! THE WHY?
The Ural story begins in 1939, with the pre-WWII planning of the USSR. The Soviet Union knew
it would soon be going to war (despite the Molotov-von Ribentoff Pact), against the German Third
Reich, and Adolph Hitler, the ruthless dictator of Nazi Germany. Joseph Stalin ordered the military
to prepare in all areas, including the ground forces that would be defending the Russian "motherland"
against the invading German Panzers, ground troops, and German special forces. Having seen the
effects of the "Blitzkrieg" against the Polish Army, mobility was of paramount importance! A meeting
was held at the Defense Ministry of the USSR and the topic of discussion was what a model of
motorcycles was going to be the most suitable for the Red Army. The Red Army wanted to modernise
their equipment after termination of the military conflict with Finland. The motorcycles used so far had
not worked satisfactorily, their technology was outdated and the manufacturing quality left much to desire.
The official version reads that after long discussion the BMW R71 motorcycle was found to most closely
match the requirements and 5 units were covertly purchased through some Swedish intermediaries in
neutral Sweden and copied.
Soviet engineers in Moscow busily dismantled the 5 BMWs. They copied the BMW design in every detail
and made moulds and dies to produce their own engines and gearboxes in Moscow. Everything about
the bike was reversed engineered and early in 1941 the first trial samples of M-72 motorcycles were
shown to Stalin and the decision was taken to produce them. (Incidentally, one of these original BMW's
still survives and is on display in the factory museum. Harley-Davidson also copied the BMW design
and delivered about 1,000 Harley-Davidson XA (Experimental Army) flat-twin shaft drive motorcycles
to the US Army during World War II. Meanwhile in Japan, Riyushko was busy copying Harley-Davidson V-twins!)
A more likely story is that the BMW factory supplied the construction drawings and casting moulds. As
a result of the Molotov-von Ribentoff Pact transfers of technology had taken place to support their Soviet
"friends" in different areas. Soviet engineers toured German aircraft factories and brought back complete
cannons as samples. The OPEL Kadett was given to the Soviets just prior to the war, however it only commenced
series production towards the end of the war as the Moskvitch 400
In 1941 BMW began series production of R 75, and did not resume production of R71. Supplying the Soviets
with this superceded model would have seemed a good idea at the time. This would also explain why the Soviets
ended up making a copy of the Wehrmacht sidecar.
Soon a factory was set up in Moscow producing hundreds of Russian M-72 sidecar motorcycles. The Nazi Blitzkrieg
was so fast and effective that Soviet strategists worried that the Moscow factory was within easy range of German
bombers. The decision was made to move the motorcycle plant further east, out of bombing range and into the
middle of the resource rich Ural mountain region. The site chosen was the small trading town of Irbit, located on
the fringe of the vast Siberian steppes in the Ural mountains. Irbit had once been an important Trade and Fair
centre in Russia before the Revolution of 1917.
The only substantial building in town was a brewery and it was soon converted into a R & D building to prepare
for the construction of a massive new production complex to build the M-72 motorcycle. On October 25, 1942 the
first batch of motorcycles went to the front and during WWII a total of 9799 M-72 motorcycles were delivered to
the front for reconnaissance detachments and mobile troops.
After the WWII the Factory was further developed and in 1950 the 30,000th motorcycle was produced. Since then
over 3.2 million motorcycles, mainly sidecar outfits, have been produced.
The history of the "URAL" had begun with the glory of helping to defeat the terror of Hitler's armies on the Russian
and European battlefields. The "URAL" was built for the military only, up until the late 1950's when another plant in
the Ukraine took over that job and the Irbit Motorcycle Works (IMZ) began to concentrate on making bikes for
domestic consumption. The popularity of the outfits grew steadily with the Russian people and in the 1960's the
full production of the plant was turned over to non-military production.
The export history of URAL's started in 1953, at first mainly to developing countries. But starting late in the 1960s
deliveries started to developed countries (including Australia) and more and more URAL's are there on the roads
of all continents. URALs are a unique combination of price, classic styling and side-car, just like my "dad's or grandad's
The main products of the plant today are the heavy duty URAL sidecar motorcycles designed for rough Russian roads,
and the custom Wolf. There are a lot of places in Russia where only horses and URAL motorcycles can be used to
transport gear to where you need it. URAL motorcycles are equipped with four-stroke air-cooled flat-twin engines, a
four speed gear box with reverse gear, shaft drive, two disc dry clutch, spring shock absorbers and drum brakes.
Although new solo models have been developed for western markets and watercooled engines have been available.
The motorcycles are mainly sold to the internal Russian market. They have also been exported to Australia, Great Britain,
France, Netherlands, Belgium, Spain, Greece, Norway, Finland, Sweden, Germany, Egypt, Iran, South African Republic,
Brazil, Uruguay, Paraguay and numerous other countries. The total number of sales since the factory was founded has
been over 3.2 million.
Taxi!! Don't run out of fuel.
The town of Irbit has over 50,000 residents, most of whom depend on the motorcycle plant for their livelihood. The town
has only one other factory, producing specialty mirrors and glass. Irbit is situated 200 kilometers from Ekaterinburg (formerly
Sverdlovsk) and is served by rail and road.
The total area of the plant is 68.1 hectares (168 acres), the total floor space area is 254,000 square meters (2,733,000
square feet), including more than 60,000 square meters for services. There is 3.9 kilometers of railway and 7.1 kilometers
of road in the plant.
The plant has engineering and designing sections to develop new products, machines, tools and tooling. It employs qualified
engineers and a skilled work force who are partially being trained in motorcycle technical college and technical schools in Irbit.
The plant has an iron foundry, a steel foundry and a light metals foundry. Pressure, chill, investment and shell mould castings
are produced. It also has tube and rod cutting facilities as well as forming workshops. The forge shop is equipped with crank
presses and induction heaters. The quenching is done using non-controlled furnaces of the following types: blast, chamber,
rotary and high frequency.
The metalworking workshops are large scale production type and are equipped generally with rotary and special purpose
machines. For painting and anodizing, complete lines of automatic machines are in use, including some made in Germany
and Hungary. The assembly lines for engines, gear boxes and motorcycles are aerial type conveyors with mechanical air tools
The number of machines for direct production purposes is more than 4,300 units including about 3,000 metalworking ones.
About 40% of the equipment is out-dated to varying degrees. Much of the equipment was supplied by the United States in
W.W.II for war materiel production under the Lendlease programme and ended up staying at the URAL plant after the war.
The engines, gear boxes, main drives, front forks, wheels, fuel tanks, frames, sidecars and handle bars are all manufactured
in-house, with many parts still made by hand.
All the rubber items, electrical equipment, shock absorbers, PVC covers and some other items are bought from Russian
subcontractors, (though the factory is moving towards soucing better quality components from Western Europe.)
The plant also manufactures some items for other automobile plants in Russia.
The supplies are stable from well proven subcontractors, mainly located within the Russian Federation. The plant has repair
and tool making facilities and produces special purpose and non-standard equipment.
THE NOW! UralMoto Today
IMZ-Ural is the only Russian manufacturer of large capacity motorcycles and one of few manufacturers of side-car
motorcycles in the world. IMZ-Ural is a conglomerate of companies producing and selling classic motorcycles in both solo
and side-car combinations.
The plant was founded in 1941. In November 1992 it transformed into an open-end joint stock company "Uralmoto Joint
Stock Company" a privatized entity owned 40% by management and employees through grant, 38% by auction with
privatization vouchers (mostly management and employees also) and 22% retained by the government. In July 2000, the
company was re-organised with the governments shares being redistributed to investors.
At the beginning of 1998 the business was bought by private Russian interests and it is no longer a State Company, bringing
new ideas, new investments, new management, new production techniques, new design, technology and above all quality
control of incoming, in-process and finished products.
IMZ have been given a new lease of life, with new models and an engine that benefits the standards required by the sporting
and leisure rider of modern times. Whilst the outward appearance of the engine is the same as before, quality control techniques
have use of better alloying and casting, better engineering tolerances, better paint and chrome whilst retaining the advantage of
continuity with the inherently balanced design of a horizontally opposed flat twin engine with roller bearings in a solid frame.
The future looks bright for IMZ, constantly improving it's role as an economic form of transport that is fun to ride and easy to
maintain. The story is far from over.
MY RUSSIAN MOTORCYCLING ADVENTURES START.
The long awaited Russian warrior. A Ural Dalesman 750cc and sidecar c/w towbar and reverse gear.
Something different for the weekend Sir !
The next generation of Bikers out for a test ride.
The Russian motorcycle adventure starts with 2 broken teeth on the final drive sun gear. bummer!!
Start preparing the bike for it's first trip to Ireland, a reasonable test run the bike.
The original tractor seats re-fitted Home made jerrycan holder fitted.
Luggage rack fitted over the spare wheel.
Solar charging panel fitted Additional toolbox fitted to free up space in
the sidecar boot.
Jan 07 Screen fitted to bike and sidecar Grandsons optional Monsters
screen removed for touring
Irish Trip January 2007.
Well it was time to take the first adventure on the Ural and asses the reliability of the
Russian beast. The Ural Dalesman is a throwback the 2nd World War, a 1935 BMW R71 German
War motorcycle. That will mean that it will take a lot of TLC to keep it going, at least until I manage
to build up the confidence to take a significant tour on it.
I set of around 08:00hrs for the 14:00hrs Ferry from Holyhead to Dublin. It was unfortunately
one of the stormy days, strong winds and torrential rain. I was doing quite well until the M6 west of
Manchester when the charging light came on and stayed on. The traffic was very busy and it was
lashing down with rain, so I decided to get as near to Holyhead as I could with nackered
Russian Alternator. I switched off the sidelights and hoped for the best, it is at times like this that
the solar panel that I fitted paid for itself. The Speedo has started to read a speed similar what
I'm actually driving at, must be the extended use and all the rain. The bike seems to be handling
well but I get a few scary moment with the cross wind and the rain. I managed to get to Holyhead
in one piece ready for the ferry, rest the bike and give the solar panel a chance to recover the
battery before I had to restart the bike to board the ferry. By this stage the lefthand exhaust was
blowing out of the push fit joint on the cylinder head, gently warming my plastic jerry can full
of fuel, lovely another job to do!!
Safe and sound on the ferry to Dublin. I finally arrive at the guesthouse in Nass.
The ferry gets into Dublin around 20:30hrs and the bike thankfully fires into action but its
dark now and the Irish law states constant dipped headlights for motorcycles on the road.
The guesthouse is only an hour away so I may make it, or so I thought until I joined the queuing
traffic along the river Liffy. There were road works on the orbital motorway and the traffic was
backed up all the way to the city center, just what I did not need. It took me over an hour just
to reach the motorway, then is south to the Madcow roundabout but by this stage the bike was
cutting out with just the sidelights on. After queuing for another 25 minutes I eventually reach the
Madcow roundabout to take the right turn towards Nass and a hopefully a quick run to Nass.
Unfortunately the bike cut out just before the lights so I had to bump start it by rolling down the
ramp taking be back in towards the center of Dublin. This was depressing as I could see the
queuing traffic approaching the roundabout. The bike bumped and I refueled it had a coffee
as there was no point joining the queuing traffic again. Thankfully a local driver gave me a push
to start it again, it is actually quite light to push and easy to bump when she is warm.
I'll have to get the knack of using the kick start. Unfortunately the kick start is better suited to
the solo bikes and is a little restricted with the sidecar and towbar fitted. Not impossible as I
will find out later when the starter motor relay fails. I pulled the bike onto the ramp into an industrial
unit and wait for the traffic to clear. 20 minutes and some cold coffee later I bump it down the
ramp and managed to get passed the Madcow roundabout and I'm onto the dual carriage way to
Nass tucked in between cars and only using sidelights as the last straw and the engine labors
the moment that I switch them on. I make it to the guesthouse about 1 1/2 later than expected
but safe and sound. Tomorrows going to be a day of runaround after the bike.
I nip into town and get a battery charger, an extension cable and the details of a local
Auto Electrician. The rain is abating so its time to pop the alternator off and jump in a taxi to see
if it can be fixed. To remove the alternator the airbox and ducting needs to come off first, the
mounting bracket uses on the main gearbox to engine mounting bolts which I don't want to
touch so I decide to dismantle the airbox from the top as the mounting bolts to the engine/gearbox
bracket are not held captive bumper!!. Possibly one of the most over engineered airbox ever. It is
full of draw bolts, spacer shelve and everything drops inside as you remove the nuts. When I
get home I'll weld the mounting bolts in place then the airfilter will come out in one piece and can
be easy adjusted when lining up the carb air ducting. On removal of the alternator is looks like
a cooling fin? has come of the rotator and flown out damaging the windings and taken out some
of the cooling slots on the ally casing.
The exploded alternator. The noisy drive gear for the alternator
Some of the components from the airfilter unit. The inside of the starter relay.
After two taxi trips to the Auto Electrician he can not help, I reassemble the bike in the dark as
the weather is due to worsen tomorrow with more severe gales expected.
The next day I take a 3 mile walk to Halfords and get a small car battery which I install in
the boot of the sidecar and wire into the electrician system So now when I charge the bike, I
also charge the sidecar battery which is enough to power the bike all day without a working
alternator All Sorted! I go to start the bike after a night of torrential rain and the starter motor fail
to turn I suspect that I have water in the starter motor relay as when I short the starter motor
solenoid it turns over. At this point I start to practice with the kick start which after a few attempts
starts the bike. I also have the option to bump the bike down the driveway of the guesthouse.
So the bike is sorted the best I can do for now so it is time to relax and drink in the Irish
culture while I can, as I need to be back home for my two grandson christening services.
On arrival back home I removed the Alternator and Airfilter for replacement and
modification. After a week of trying to get the Alternator repaired I gave in and drove down
MPC for replacement. It was a nice comfortable drive out and I had a chance for chat with Mick
while he was servicing a Ural which was fortunate as they are certainly a hands on bike.The
Airfilter unit I welded the mounting bolts captive and secured with nyloc bolts, a lot easier to fit
and adjust to fit the air ducting to the carbs. I'll leave the spare battery fitted to the sidecar until
I need the extra space.
Airfilter box mounting bolts welded captive A new Russian Alternator, the adventure continues
which will save a good 30mins everytime.
The Adventures continue The Ural, Utility Vehicle
The Play tent Waste management vehicle
The Taxi, heating optional ! Green lanes
Another quirck of the Ural is that the exhaust header pipes are just a push fit, so they tend to come
loose when you either go off-road or don't slow down for railway crossings. So these exhaust clamps
where manufactured from standard 36mm and 57mm exhaust clamps along with an 8mm draw bolts.
These are clamped around the cyclinder head exhaust ports and also the exhaust header pipes.
Then nipping up on the draw bolts to hopefully hold these in place, time will tell if they work with out
any undue wear on the cyclinder head exhaust ports..
The sidecar cockpit has been modified with an alloy checker plate insert for touring/camping gear
August 2017 I reluctantly sold my Ural onto a good home
Spares Suppliers Copy and paste the link into your browser
Other Urals, new and used and also excellent training, available from:-
Click the MPC link below for Mick's site:-
MPC MOTORBIKES URAL-UK