Joined: May 2010
Dachary's Post-Trip Ural Thoughts
Kay and I seem to have a slightly different take on the Ural post-trip, so I wanted to write up the most noteworthy differences and post them myself. (One of the great things about being a strong couple is that we don't always have to agree!) So here are my thoughts regarding the Ural after the trip:
I'll agree with Kay that the mileage issues we've experienced with the Ural need to be addressed. On the Americas trip, it wasn't uncommon for us to run 150+ miles between fill ups because there just aren't that many gas stations. And in Patagonia, where we ran into fuel shortages, we might be expected to go 200+ miles between tanks. I think it'll be worse in parts of the RTW, and I don't see how we can feasibly carry enough spare gas to make the Ural's range work as long as we're getting the mileage we're currently getting.
If we can get it up to 30MPG we stand a chance, although I might be willing to sink time and money into some pretty serious mods if there's any way we can get up to something approaching 40MPG. It's not that we're necessarily that desperate for fuel economy for cost reasons (although Kay is more concerned about that than I am) but that we *need* a better range just because of gas availability.
FWIW, when the Ural was running properly, she had enough torque to pull up a hill. I distinctly remember in Minnesota when we were passing through the Twin Cities, I was pulling uphill with power to spare at 65MPH and *passing* people, all the while laughing maniacally because the Ural had power. It was fan-friggin-tastic. So I think the worse of the torque issues are related to the performance inconsistencies we encountered, and I think the Ural is gonna be fine in that department once we get that sorted out.
There's no doubt in my mind that the Ural isn't running at its full potential. My initial thoughts were that it was some sort of fuel/air mixture problem, but now the ignition/timing sounds like it might be a good candidate, too. Either way, I have faith that it's something we can sort out, or that if we involve IMWA, it'll get taken care of. No matter what you think about the Ural and its reliability (or lack thereof, according to some folks) everyone agrees that IMWA is fantastic about resolving issues. I have zero doubt that they'll make this good for us if we talk to them. But I was hoping to go through the normal troubleshooting process before going to the Big Dogs because it just seems wrong to go running after them for every little problem. That's what dealers are for. But we've stumped several dealers, so at this point it seems like the best course of action is probably going to be to contact IMWA.
There's still one more thing we need to do as part of the 10,000km service - check the timing. I've just this evening discovered that we need a timing light in order to do that, so we're gonna order one (Amazon, I love you) and we'll have it for Thursday, which is the next day we'll have a chance to work on the bike *anyway* and we'll hopefully check timing then. Maybe that'll give us some more clues that we can pass along to IMWA to troubleshoot the issue. But even if it turns up nothing, it's part of the 10,000km service which we're required to complete, and it'll be a good learning experience for us, so I'm looking forward to doing it.
But I digress. Yes, our Ural has some weirdness going on that we need to work out. But I've been really pleased with its performance otherwise, and I feel confident that we'll resolve whatever the issue is. It's given me no reason not to trust it - it's stood up to some tough conditions and admittedly us asking it to do stuff it's not built to do (although the weirdness started before that) and frankly, I wouldn't hesitate to take it around the world.
So yeah. I guess that's the point, isn't it? The Ural has passed my initial test, at least - I'm ready to take it around the world whenever we get the finances worked out. If the money magically fell in our laps a month from now, I'd take the Ural as it is (with the performance issue worked out, of course). But we do have a list of mods we'd like to do just to get things better suited to our travel style and to make maintenance on the road easier/help it run at its peak, which I'm looking forward to doing. (Stuff like Power Arc ignition, Modtop air box, Gossie needles, etc.) Plus probably some Denali lights. Maybe the Banshee Horn we bought for it. Oh - and of course the high-mount mufflers. And hand guards. Really? Whole bunch of stuff. But honestly, half the fun of a new bike is kitting it out how you want it ;)
I think Kay is overly sensitive about the maintenance schedule. I maintain that it is what it is, and we knew all about it before we bought the bike. Ural of New England made it clear to us that the maintenance intervals were every 1,500 miles (which is one of the main reasons we took several months to think about it before deciding to go with a Ural) and I was prepared for that. If it's caught Kay by surprise, I think it's because he's been in denial. I think we're not gonna travel as fast with the dogs as we would otherwise, so it's not going to be "every 5 days" as it might have been on the last trip. And I don't mind working on the Ural - I kinda enjoy getting my hands dirty and doing stuff that directly translates to our beast performing well. It's fun to me. Yes, it's a limitation, but we'll find a way to work with it and we'll deal. But it would be nice if the rumors are true and IMZ *does* have an updated 5,000km maintenance interval instead of the 2,500km maintenance coupons that are in our owner's manual.
All the rumors about Urals being unreliable and people feeling they're not suited to long-distance travel? Pah. I don't see it. Our beast requires more maintenance than our BMWs, but the mechanics are easy to understand and field-repairable. With every maintenance interval we complete ourselves instead of taking it to the dealer, I feel more confident that we'll be able to fix problems on the road. And the Ural hasn't given me any reason to worry about it breaking down and stranding us. Even with its "performance issues" it still ran and still got us to the next town - hell, it got us over 5,000 miles from Boston to Colorado and back through Canada. I know some people have issues with them, but we went into the Ural with open eyes and I haven't felt let down by it. It's been a lot of fun to ride, and fun to work on, and I love that it enables us to bring the dogs with us.
Now that we've had it for a few months and put our 10,000km on, I know a lot more about how it fits with our travel style. I've had an opportunity to look at and think about other hacks. Having seen what I've seen of other sidecar rigs, and now knowing what I do about the Ural - I'd buy it again. And I'm ready to bring it on our next adventure!