Uraling The Great Divide (now with more dogs!)
For those who just want to read through it without the comments, click here.
There is a lot to be said about the bond between humans and animals. Many of us have had to board our pets, or send them away with friends of family while we go on our motorcycle trips. I don't know about the rest of you, but I've always felt a bit guilty about this. My buddy has to go sit in a box all day, while I get to roll around smelling the world?
When I bought my first Ural in October of 2011, I had no idea if either of our dogs (Rory and Lola) would even get in the sidecar, let alone ride for any distance with me. Imagine my surprise, when the day I brought the outfit home, my dog jumped right in and sat right down in the sidecar. The thought that I could now share one of my favorite activities (motorcycling) with man’s best friend was revolutionary. I felt like the first person to put jelly on peanut butter, or boil bratwurst in beer.
Enter the “Great Divide Ride”. Every year hundreds of motorcyclists, bikers (some unicyclists) and hikers take to the roads and trails, crossing from Banff to Mexico. Fast motorcyclists can do the motorized version in 7-8 days. The best bicyclists have done it in 15 days, while hikers toil on the actual trail for months.
Doing it on my GS would be easy. Sure, there might be a few troubling sections requiring some lifting, and general fogging up of the face shield. But what about a Ural? Could a sidecar motorcycle built in the same factory that churned out hundreds of thousands of them for the “Great Patriotic War” make it the length of the United States? And, could it do it carrying an 11-year old dog?
In human years, my dog is just about the same age as some of the machines and individuals that are responsible for building my Ural. It seemed a fitting match. Given my dog’s propensity to jump into the sidecar whenever she hears me priming the engine with the kick-starter, I figured we’d at least make it halfway before she’d had enough.
The main characters in this story:
Alex: A 30 year old UNIX programmer currently residing in Colorado Springs. Favorite things are pie, coffee, dogs, motorcycles and fresh pancakes (in any order). He is renowned for his ability to sleep anywhere, anytime, for any reason.
Lola: A 11 year old Rottweiler mix, originally imported from the east coast. Favorite things are kibbles, treats, sidecar and truck rides, and butt scratches. She’s known for her ability to poop anywhere, anytime (sometimes on command).
And since one person and a dog can’t push/pull the Ural out of the woods alone, we decided to entrap some good friends from the West Coast along for the ride....
Zina: A well-known writer and motorcyclist from “The Whale’s Vagina” (aka San Diego). Some of her favorite things are coffee, KFC and mountain bikes. Is currently “Queen of the mountain” on several Strada tracks around Escondido. Her favorite saying is “Who’s making coffee?”
Wayne: veteran of ironman triathlons, desert racing, and KTM ownership, Wayne is the “Old Sage Master” in our group. Also from The Whale’s Vagina and a A machinist by trade, he is well known for his ability to talk to anyone, anywhere, for any reason. He is also trying out for the “JetBoil” US open team this year.
Simon: A 13 year old Jack Russell Terrier, also a veteran of the western portion of the TAT (in a backpack). Favorite things are treats, treats, treats, and large male dogs. Known for his ability to voice his disapproval in any situation to all humans and canines regardless of size or temperament. Also is capable of humping dogs more than three times his size. He’s a veritable force of nature.
The Plan: Meet up at the Rooseville border station with Canada. Ride the divide all the way to Mexico. Party like rockstars.
The Ural Gear-Up rolls off the factory line, ready to face most roads, and even some snow. However, there are a few modifications that I felt needed be made to make it ready for an extended off-road trip.
Handlebars: The stock Ural handlebars are of the “come back to meet you” variety. A generous bend makes them very nice for rolling around town, but put your wrists at a weird angle for turning. Being a tall white man with long gangly arms, the stock handlebars always gave me the distinct impression I was driving around a motorized wheelbarrow. I found some used KLR 650 handlebars on eBay for 20$, which gives me a little more room, and leverage on the bars for turning.
Skid Plate: From the factory, the Ural doesn’t come with any sump protection. Fine for 90% of the riding anyone might do, but throw in some gravel and large rocks, and you’ll want something to deflect the brunt of anything the front wheel slings towards the engine. I went with the “shortie” sump guard from Ural NE.
Tankbag: Not technically a modification, this Wolfman tankbag is right off my 1150GS, and isn’t meant for the Ural (so I think it counts). However, it fits real nicely on the nose of the hack, provides a little wind protection for the dog, and easy access to tools, rags, hats, snacks and other regularly used items.
Airbox: The stock air filter on Ural motorcycles works very well, but is prone to clog very easily in dusty, dirty conditions. Since I planned on eating a bunch of DRZ-dust on this ride long ride, I didn’t want to be cleaning air filters every night. I was lucky enough to get on the beta program for the “Windmill MK-III”, made by Barry (windmill)
The Windmill MK-III uses regular oiled foam filter elements instead of circular cloth/fabric K&N style air filters the factory airbox uses. Easier to clean, replace, and I can carry 5 air filters in the space one OEM filter takes up. As far as cost savings, the bulk Uni Filter foam is about 16$ for a sheet large enough to make 6 air filters. The original (OEM) filters are around 35$ each.
Exhaust: The stock Ural exhaust cans are of great quality. Big hunks of stainless steel which offer pretty decent performance without all the noise. Unfortunately, they hang pretty low. Low enough that large rocks or eroded trails have a tendency to pull them off the mid pipes and leave them along the trail.
There are a few options for high-mount exhaust systems to fix this, however most of them are north of 800$. Since I’m a cheapskate, I decided to try and build my own. I started with 165$ worth of mandrel bent tubing:
Some cutting, grinding, grinding, and more grinding, and I ended up with this mock-up:
I ended up cutting, and drilling the existing mufflers, to make one free-flowing exhaust can that I’ll use with it. I was very concerned that it would be too loud. However, while on the road, I can hear the airbox noise more than the exhaust, so I think it was a success.
Did the final welds, painted part of the headers with VHT, played with the jetting for a bit, and got everything right where I wanted it. Runs good, not too loud, and puts almost all the power right in the mid-range. Saved around 700$ compared with an off-the-shelf solution.
Gas Can / Shovel: There are several 200+ mile stretches on the GDR, without any water, or gas. My Gear-Up came complete with a spare gas can already, but I need an additional can to get through the longer sections. Together, the cans hold around 5 gallons of extra gas, putting my range at about 360 km before reserve.
You may think the shovel is for digging the Ural out of a crevasse, or for draining large puddles. You’d be wrong. The shovel is for digging cat-holes and slit-trench latrines. I’ve spent enough time with flimsy plastic trowels, digging in rocky ground over the years. A full size shovel is a luxury when you need to evacuate last nights questionable pulled pork sandwich at 5:00am, pronto. It sounds silly, but it really is the little things.
I woke way too early from a fitful night of sleep. Too many nightmares about seized con-rod bearings, or bent valves. The last three days before a big trip seem to get sucked into a crazy vortex of manic double-checking and last-minute worries. I must have checked oil levels and spare parts three times before I finally left it alone. Lola, on the other hand was still fast asleep without the knowledge of the days that lay ahead for her.
After several cups of strong chicory coffee while giving everything the once-over, it was really time to leave. I gave Kait a big hug and kiss, patted our other dog (Rory) a couple times, and heaved on the Ural’s kick-starter. With a faint ‘doff-doff-doff’ we idled out of the driveway, and down the road to the start of our great adventure.
Stopped north of Woodland Park, CO to gas up. I scarfed a quick continental breakfast of more coffee and a few donuts while Lola looked on, earnestly hoping I’d drop one. She let out of quiet whimper when I finished the last donut without any of it ending up in her mouth. “If you had a job and paid rent, I’d probably give you one” I told her. She gave me a look, as if to say “Hey man, I don’t have THUMBS!”. Touche.
West of Woodland Park, things open up a bit on Rt 9. High mountain plains, with ever-distant peaks. Reminded me a lot of Montana in many places through here. The temperature was perfect, and the Ural held a steady pace at 55mph. The valves clicking softly in the breeze.
We headed north towards Breckinridge and Silverthorne. The mountain peaks became sharper, the valleys narrower. On some grades, I was reduced to 30-35mph. Rather than wring the engine for everything it had to try and get one gear higher, or 5mph faster, I was very happy to just let it purr along.
I did find a few trucks and RV’s stacked up behind me, and I smiled deviously. For all the previous times campers, or trucks towing RV megahomes had held me up on my motorcycles on twisty mountain passes, I felt now that I could finally return the feeling to them in full.
I passed quickly through Breckinridge and Silverthorne without stopping. Flush with tourists and guests for the fourth-of-july weekend, both towns seemed to be bursting at the seams as I rode through. Throngs of people of all ages, races and creeds wandered around with fanny packs, cameras and “Colorful Colorado!” t-shirts.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m happy to see so many people enjoying our fine state. I just prefer to enjoy it somewhere with less people. While the British may be great at “queuing”, Americans seem to loose IQ points the longer they are standing in line with each other. Rude behavior, harsh words and sometimes even fisticuffs are usually the result when the line is long enough.
After gassing up in Kremmling and chatting with two riders on their way back to New York, we rode Rt 40 northwest out of town. The sharp peaks and narrow valleys opened up into rolling hills, and green plateaus of cattle festooned National Forest land. Right at 55mph, the Ural was tuned spot-on for the undulating roads,
I didn’t have to downshift until I approached Muddy Pass on Rt 40, before Steamboat Springs. The road wound up the mountain slowly, and I chugged along at 40 mph with a slow even rhythm. The Ural is oblivious to throttle input at certain grades. No matter how much you twist the throttle, it simply won’t go any faster.
With the sun low in the western sky, and Steamboat Springs on the other side of the pass, we stopped for the day. Only 7$ for the night, I paid the “honor system” campground fee, and picked a spot as far away from the generator-run tow-behind trailers as I could. Shortly after I set everything up, a big one pulled up into a spot right next to me. Oh well.
After a day of new towns and places to poop, Lola was in good spirits. I do keep her off leash most of the time (outside city limits) and she seemed pretty happy to be in the country.
Hard to believe on a rafting trip years ago, we fit two humans AND two large dogs in this tent. Sleeps a man and his dog very comfortably though. Note how Lola always sleeps with her head facing my feet. This is so she can use her aging digestive system, to fart in my face all night long.
Subscribed. This is great!:clap
:lurk, tuned in, may use your RR for a blueprint.
re ".....built in the same factory that churned out hundreds of thousands of them for the “Great Patriotic War”"
I think it was more like 10,000, but who's counting?
Front page material?
I like your set up, mind set and writing. :clap
Greatly attracted by Urals, but not up to it yet. What's holding me back are their poor mileage record and unfit for the congested roads here.
On the other hand, I enjoyed your pay back towards RV's and campers and the like. Well played. :thumb
Looking forward to the events on the trail.
Gonna actually subscribe to this one(a first), just to watch Lola grin the whole time.:D
Between You and Sallydog (another ADVer) I'm inspired to set my dog up for bike trips as well.:deal
Since I live in the Whale's Vagina also I have one question...................is Zina single haha :D:norton:freaky
In way in! Following your exhaust thread on soviet steeds too.
Watching both reports!
Twice the fun.
I can't imagine how many blurry instagramish photos of Lola and I are running rampant on the internet. Definitely not the rig to get if you are running from the law, or need to keep a low profile for your pot-farming operation.
Sent from my iPhone
Way back in 2009, My wife and I rode 2 Ural Patrols from the Owens Valley, CA. to the start of the ALCAN Hwy to the Arctic Circle via the Dalton Hwy and back with 2 dogs. The dogs loved it and I developed a great respect for the Ural dependability during that trip. They are slow, but built tough. I was told I was just lucky that nothing happened to the Urals since they are a piece of crap. But hey, I guess everyone has their opinion.:D
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