Go Back   ADVrider > Riding > Epic Ride Reports
User Name
Register Inmates Photos Site Rules Search Today's Posts Mark Forums Read

Thread Tools Search this Thread Display Modes
Old 08-14-2012, 02:13 PM   #76
Dachary OP
Gnarly Adventurer
Dachary's Avatar
Joined: May 2010
Location: Boston
Oddometer: 313
Originally Posted by Prmurat View Post
I was reading with interest parts about your dogs...I have two Beagles and take them in the sidecar, with my wife and apart of the "cool" factor (as you pointed when no one showed interest...) I do not think it is a good idea! Even if my dogs, as any dog, love to sleep (and do it in the nose of the tub on their cushion), this is not the most comfy place for them! Adding that dogs are "routine" animals I am not sure that the extra stress of new smells, places, foods and continual movement is right for them!
I agree - to a degree. Dogs in general are creatures that thrive on routine, and my BC mix specifically - he gets really nervous when his routine is disturbed. The other day, I was chatting with a dog owner in my local park and my dog went ahead and walked himself around the entire loop we normally walk while I was chatting - without me! - because he *is* a creature of routine.

But what is routine if not an established set of actions we perform every day?

This test trip was, in part, an effort to see if the dogs would take to a "routine" of being on the road every day. And I'm happy to report that they loved it! They know that the tent is "home" and the sidecar is "home" when we're moving... when we were packing up every morning, they hopped inside the sidecar before we were even ready for them. They were eager and raring to get going! (They also did a lot of jumping around and excited barking when we put their harnesses on every morning - they knew it meant we were going for another ride!)

Kay's dog, in particular, LOVES the "new smells, places, foods and continual movement." He's a former street dog, and every single day he was sticking his head out, looking around, sniffing things and utterly thriving on the trip. His intestines were happier than they have been for at least 6 months at home (as a street dog, he does better on scraps of food and a little bit of kibble than on a diet of straight kibble - especially when it's the high-quality kibble that my dog does well on. I think there's too much protein in the good kibble for the street mutt, who spent the early part of his life literally eating trash on the streets of Puerto Rico.) Every evening, he'd pass out because he was so busy being alert and looking around during the day. One of the nights when we camped, we tried to get the dogs out for their "night walk" before bed and he didn't even want to get up. We had to coax him because he was just too tuckered out since he'd been active and looking around too much during the day.

But if you really get to know a dog, you can tell when they're happy and when they're stressed. My dog gets stressed in group camping situations, and when people want to come pet him, but he *loves* being with us, going for walks and frolics with us (he was SO HAPPY in Colorado and South Dakota when we camped on lakes and he could take a dip and frolic a bit) and grazing on grass across the U.S. He's a bit of a connoisseur. Kay's dog wasn't thrilled any time someone wanted to pet him (and he's so cute that people often wanted to pet him) but otherwise he was literally having the time of his life. He was happy all day, every day. He had a big old smile, there was a spring in his step that we haven't seen too often since we left him with the dog-sitters on the last trip, and he was utterly in paradise.

So yeah. I agree that not all dogs would do well traveling constantly. I'm sure there are dogs who never take to riding in a sidecar (some of the people on Soviet Steeds have mentioned it) or dogs that wouldn't do well being away from home, etc. But I'm very happy to discover that our dogs are good with the travel element. I'd like to work with a trainer to get them better at greeting strangers, because they both kinda suck at that, just for their own safety and comfort when we travel... but aside from that, I think the dogs utterly loved the experience and I have no worries on their count the next time we go traveling!
Check out our adventures: Corporate Runaways
Motorcycle Blog: Ain't No Pillion
Boston to Ushuaia on 2 BMW F650GSs - 2010-2011
BOS -> CO - 2 dogs in a Ural - 2012
Find us on SPOT
Dachary is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 08-14-2012, 07:44 PM   #77
Gnarly Adventurer
masukomi's Avatar
Joined: Jun 2009
Location: Cambridge, MA
Oddometer: 215
I agree with Dachary's comment, but would add a note about the comfort. I would submit that, with the exclusion of our time spent in Kansas, riding in the sidecar may actually be *more* comfortable than home.

At home they lay on the floor. It is carpeted, but it's not "cushiony" by any stretch of the imagination. In the sidecar they sit on a full length flat cushion that's half standard couch-type foam and half memory-foam. They are in the shade thanks to the cover, with a breeze blowing past them.

I put it to you that every dog I know would choose to sit on a memory-foam mattress in the shade with a cool breeze over a carpeted floor.

They're not sitting on the standard Ural sidecar seat. That would be very uncomfortable to them for any length of time. As for exercise... They get walked about six times a day when on the road, vs 3 times a day at home. Given, a bunch of those are short, but again, every dog I know will take 6 walks over 3 even if some of them are short.

If the smells aren't particularly interesting to them they curl up (we have many boring pictures of them curled up together in the tub while we ride) and sleep. Ben sleeps most of the time we're riding, and gets up alertly whenever we stop. Dido's too damn excited about the smells and only sleeps about half of the time.

As for routine, I totally agree, but see no reason a dog's routine can't be changed. It happens every time a dog's owner changes homes. I've never met a dog who was particularly concerned with eating the same food every day. I'm sure there are some neurotic beasts out there who do, but ours do not. As long as they look and act healthy, and what comes out the back end looks healthy, I think they'll be ok with whatever food gets offered. If anything it just makes them happier to eat "real" food.
a Corporate Runaway
masukomi is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 08-14-2012, 08:10 PM   #78
Gnarly Adventurer
masukomi's Avatar
Joined: Jun 2009
Location: Cambridge, MA
Oddometer: 215
Post-trip Ural Thoughts

Post-trip Ural Thoughts

We’ve finally hit 10,000 km on the Ural, and most of that was done on this trip. So, how I we feel about it after 18 straight days of riding over 5,000 miles from sea level to 12,000+ feet in elevation (and back), in temperatures from 60° to 110°, averaging nearly 10 hours on the road each day? And more importantly, do I think we should take this around the world with us?

To the latter I would answer a qualified yes, but the qualifications are non-trivial. I’ll get into the details below, but the quick summary is that the performance issues we’ve had on the trip must be resolved. The crap gas mileage we had on the trip must be addressed (possibly related to the performance issue), and I believe that the service intervals, as dictated by the owner’s manual and the service coupons for the warranty, is just too damn onerous, and impractical for a RTW journey.

The Heat

The Ural performed spectacularly well in the heat. It never complained, despite our initial heat-related setback when we brought it home. We rode it all day long in >100° heat at highway speeds. Something which pretty much everyone agrees it’s not designed to do. It didn’t complain once.

The Mileage

The mileage is crap. Even our dealer agrees we were getting poor mileage for a Ural. This is a pretty serious issue for us. Getting good mileage on a Ural is only about 30mpg, so getting crap mileage raises serious concerns. It’s about three times as expensive as the BMW, just to run. Never-mind the serious expense of all the oil that will be required for all those extra service intervals. We could literally buy another BMW with the additional money we’ll spend on gas going around the world (even if we do get it up to 30Mpg)… Hell, we could probably buy one and pay for it’s fuel on the trip.

Assuming we only go 35,000 miles when traveling around the world (unlikely it’ll be that low) and assuming gas prices average only $4 per gallon around the world (very unlikely) and assuming we can get the average Mpg up to 30 we’ll spend $4,666 on gas for just the Ural. The BMW would cost us $2,800 in gas. At our current average of about 20Mpg on the Ural it would cost us $7,000 for gas. So, yes, we could buy a used BMW ( mine was $3,800 ) and fuel it around the world for the same price it would cost us to just fuel the Ural.

The poor mileage meant that, even in the US where it feels like gas stations are almost constant, there were times when we altered our route over normal paved roads simply because we’d run out of gas if we didn’t. This is not only unacceptable, it is simply unworkable in foreign countries where going more than a hundred miles between gas stations isn’t that uncommon on the main roads, never-mind the fact that we prefer the back roads. We’ll have to add a significant fuel cell if we want to take this around the world.

The Torque

The lack of torque was frustrating. It really sucks to slow down to 50Mph on the highway, and annoy all the drivers behind you just because you’ve encountered a minor hill. It really really sucks to be cruising along and suddenly loose 15mph because you’ve encountered a headwind… that lasts for the rest of the day.

The Performance Issues

As we’ve noted in the thread, we’ve had some disconcerting performance issues which we still haven’t figured out the cause of. Many suggestions have been made, and many things have been checked, but so-far no-one knows what’s going on.

The short version is that a happy Ural can pull at 65–70 mph on the flat, with no problem. Or, ours can when its’ happy. But when it’s not happy it tops out at 50 for hours: full throttle, no wind, no hills. Then, for no apparent reason, it’ll start going 65 again, maybe for ten minutes, and then back to 50.

This is not because of incline, throttle change, wind change, or any other short term transient riding factor. It’s not altitude. It’s not heat. It’s not the vented gas cap failing to breathe. It’s not the vacuum petcock (looked great when we pulled it apart). It’s not clogged straws on the petcock, and riding with it in prime made no difference. It’s not the spark plugs. It’s not the brakes. It’s not the valves. It’s not the air filter. It’s not related to the amount of time the engine has been running, or how full the gas tank is. It idles fine when it’s running crappy. It idles fine when it’s running well. The carbs are clean. The jets are clean, and no-one has any freaking clue what’s going on. It just rides like crap for a while, and then rides ok. Theres no predicting which state it’ll be in at any given time, or for how many hours it’ll stay that way.

The Speed

The Ural’s favorite speed seems to be around 55mph, maybe a little less. It can go faster (when we’re not having performance issues), but it likes a pace that’s more sedate than most bikes. Whenever we talked about taking one around the world the guy at the shop kept repeating that it’s maximum speed was only about 65. What he didn’t understand is that it is a very small portion of the world’s roads where you can approach such a speed. On most of them, even the well paved ones, you’ll spend most of your time happily within the Ural’s comfort zone.

But, that’s ok with us. We like a more sedate pace, and hate taking interstates in the US. They make for a very boring, and sleepy ride. The small back roads are so much more interesting to ride and offer way more to look at. We only took the interstates on this last trip because of the limited amount of time we had to cover the miles. Ignoring the performance issues, the speed wasn’t much of a problem in the US. It just kept us in the slow lane.

With regards to the performance issue’s effect on speed. It’s not that we want to go 65 all the time. It’s that we want the bike to have enough power to go 65 when we need it to, and be able to pull up a hill. You really don’t want to be behind us when we hit a hill and its top speed on the flat is only 50. Tractor-trailer trucks pass us. Hell, goats pass us.

The Ergonomics

Overall they’re not bad. Add some bar risers and you can sit in a very upright position, that’ll keep your back happy all day.

The area around the right foot leaves a lot to be desired. It’s like inserting your foot into a shoebox. There’s nowhere to stretch your leg out, and you can barely lift your foot up off the brake lever without hitting the right carburetor.

Standing is also a notable problem. The kick-start lever digs into the back of your calf whenever you stand up. The pegs are round, which sucks for standing on, and it’s really difficult to stand on the right peg without depressing the brake lever somewhat.

Why all this standing? Two reasons:1. you need to stretch your legs when you’ve been on the road for hours.2. That’s how you handle bumpy terrain. If you can’t do it comfortably on pavement you’re going to have a hell of a time doing it off-road.

The stock bench seat was surprisingly comfortable. It could do with a Bead Rider, but I doubt there’s any seat out there that wouldn’t be improved by one.

The Givi windshield we added worked pretty well, but I think Dachary’s still considering the medium sized Ural one. I fear that we’d stop dead in a headwind if we added any more wind resistance. Going without a windshield isn’t an option for me. Way too fatiguing fighting that wind all day.

The Maintenance Schedule

To me, it seems onerous. To Dachary it’s just one of the limitation of owning a Ural. If we only do 200 miles a day it’s still roughly once a week that we have to service the bike. That’s frustrating, and expensive. Good motorcycle oil is not cheap in third world countries, and finding it is not easy. Finding, and buying, three quarts every week, and then disposing of it? Ugh. I’m honestly not convinced it’s reasonably possible.

I’m finding it hard to believe that any of the few people who take these on notable adventures actually adhere to the schedule. Plus, the service windows are really small (only 200Km, or 124 miles). It’s very easy to start a day a hundred kilometers before the maintenance window and finish it a hundred kilometers after it. Are Ural owners expected to simply stop on the side of the road between cities, with a full compliment of service fluids and means for capturing and transporting old oil to the next town without getting it everywhere? Sadly, this is almost exactly what we had to do.

I just don’t understand how this works practically. If you’ve got to go somewhere more than 124 miles away, but you’re approaching the service interval, what are you realistically expected to do? Call them up and say you can’t come because you’d violate your warranty? Bring engine oil, transmission fluid, and gear oil and change it on the side of the road? Or give up and say “Sorry, the Ural isn’t capable of being used as a primary transport vehicle. I’ll have to use [insert other vehicle here] instead.”

A two year unlimited mileage warranty is a wonderful thing, but I don’t see how it’s realistic for anyone to cross a place like Mongolia and adhere to the maintenance schedule without a support vehicle filled with new fluids and a couple drums for catching the old ones.

Now, we hear tale that IMZ-Ural is currently recommending a 5000 km (3,106 mi) service interval for “new” bikes, but until we hear that from an official source I’m not risking our warranty, or the bike’s health. The engine oil is still coming out very dark after 2,500 km, and the final drive fluid is absolutely disgusting. The transmission fluid, I’m happy to report was barely broken down at the 10,000km change. (We changed it last at 5,000km, even though it wasn’t called for - we did all the fluids then.)

3,000 mi is the standard service interval for most bikes, but neither of our BMWs is under warranty, and the things are so damn reliable in that department that we can easily push the service out to 5,000 mi without worry if we need to. Seeing how hard the Ural is on the fluids this far into the break-in I’d be really concerned about pushing it past 3,000 miles. But… 3,000 within the realm of practicality.


If you set aside my frustrations at the mileage, the service intervals, and the atypical performance issue we’ve been having… the Ural is quite enjoyable. When everything’s going well I really do enjoy riding it. Yeah, my left shoulder will become rather painful from pulling in the left handlebar all day when the winds are against us… but somehow that’s ok (as long as I can switch out with Dachary the next day).

As much as I bitch about the service intervals I actually like working on the Ural. It gives us both a real sense of satisfaction and it makes us feel that we actually understand how it works, and could fix it if it broke down in the middle of nowhere.


We’ve found rust in the splines on one of the rear wheels (I forget which), the threads under the bearing’s lock nut on every wheel (including the spare), the steering damper rod, the hole where the seat-peg-thing goes into the bottom of the tub, and the rim of the spare tire. There’s also rust developing on top of the headlight, and the sidecar bumper bar thing.

We also found some really scary looking corrosion on two of the bolts that had come out of the final drive and hold it on to the swing arm.

Some people have been “ahh, that’s just a trivial bit.” If it was a ten year old bike I’d agree. But this is so new that when we bought it it still hadn’t reached the US, and to me that isn’t just wrong it is fucking unacceptable. “It’s a Ural” is not a valid excuse. That’s a valid excuse for quirkiness, or bad gas mileage, not rust. There is no excuse for rust in this many places on a brand new vehicle. Hell, there’s no excuse for rust anywhere on a brand new vehicle.

At the end of the day…

At the end of the day I like the Ural, but I don’t have faith in the Ural. It’s not that I think it’s going to break down and leave us stranded. It’s that I don’t trust it to keep running well. I fear we’ll be stuck traveling across India at 32mph and no-one at IMZ-Ural or on Soviet Steeds will have a clue what’s wrong with it. Also, the fact that we keep finding non-trivial amounts of rust on a brand new vehicle is very disconcerting to me.

I hate to say it, but I think I’d feel a lot better about the Ural if we replaced the engine with one from a BMW Airhead. BMWs have their own problems, but I have faith in their engineering. I don’t think I would be saying that if our first 10,000 km had gone like most owners have, but they didn’t, and we’re not just taking this thing to the store and back. We’re going around the world with no support crew.
a Corporate Runaway
masukomi is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 08-14-2012, 08:14 PM   #79
Dachary OP
Gnarly Adventurer
Dachary's Avatar
Joined: May 2010
Location: Boston
Oddometer: 313
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.

Performance Issues
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!
Check out our adventures: Corporate Runaways
Motorcycle Blog: Ain't No Pillion
Boston to Ushuaia on 2 BMW F650GSs - 2010-2011
BOS -> CO - 2 dogs in a Ural - 2012
Find us on SPOT
Dachary is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 08-15-2012, 04:04 AM   #80
Gnarly Adventurer
masukomi's Avatar
Joined: Jun 2009
Location: Cambridge, MA
Oddometer: 215
Dogs in Sidecars

Dogs in Sidecars

Part of this journey was to test how they felt about spending day after day in the sidecar, and how they handled hot weather in it. Because of the miles we had to cover, this ended up being an even bigger test of that. When left to our own devices we’ll spend about eight hours a day “on the road”. That includes all the breaks for breakfast lunch, fuel, bathrooms, and simply stretching the legs. Those breaks just get a bit longer with the dogs.

On this trip we had a number of 10–12 hour days, which isn’t something we enjoy, and wouldn’t normally ask them to deal with. Despite that, they still bounced and barked with excitement every morning when we pulled out their harnesses, climbed in before we were done packing up and ready for them, and climbed back in every time we asked them to, except for two times on crazy hot days, which I can’t blame them for.

But, they got more about six walks a day, instead of the normal three, although some of them were short), and lots of tasty food, and extra exercise in the mornings and after the day’s ride.

Riding with them

I don’t know what I was expecting. Surely, it complicates matters in ways I’d expected to be somewhat annoying, but in practice I just don’t care. Yes, we have to carry more stuff and spend more time and stops, but we’re ok with that. I worry about them on hot days, but that’s ok too. I don’t mind worrying about my family being safe. On those “hair-dryer days” we take a little time at the frequent gas stops to see if they’re keeping cool. I water them so that they can pant, I rub them down to simulate sweat. I take care of them, and when I’m done I feel good.

Taking care of them was pretty easy:
  • Give them water every two tanks ( or every tank on crazy hot days ).
  • Put the Frogg Toggs Chilly Pad under them when it’s hot out. That thing worked surprisingly well. On a couple of the 100°+ days we got them out for a walk and whatever piece of them had been sitting on the pad was nice and cool, and not just the outer fur.
  • Walk them whenever we stop for a snack, or a meal.
  • If you’re dealing with 100°+ days, do your best to get as much of your riding in in the wee morning hours as possible. It’s better for them and you. Then get into some AC in the afternoon if at all possible.


The standard seat would simply not be comfortable for even one decently sized dog for even a couple hours. We had a custom seat cushion made for them that runs the length of the sidecar. I would have made something similar if there wasn’t already someone with experience making them, who would make us one. Major thanks to Riddle’s Custom Upholstery. The cushion held up great and its guts stayed dry even when we it got rained on by the seams and was sitting in a quarter inch of water for fifteen minutes. That was the day we tested what happens with one side-open in a downpour. ;)

As you can see in the picture above, there’s plenty of space. Dido spent about half of his time in the nose, and half of it with his head out the side. Ben would perk up when we went slow, or when we were stopped, but rested the majority of the time.

The sidecar cover (more details below) provided them with a good amount of shade, and on the hot days when we had to reach in and unclip them we’d frequently lean our heads in to see what the climate was like in there. It was always notably cooler in their shade.

All-in-all, they had a far more comfortable ride than we did. I am definitely envious.

Care and Feeding

At the start of the trip the dogs were almost totally uninterested in their kibble, so we compensated by giving them human food, which they never hesitate to eat. By about ten days in they were starting to eat more and more of the kibble. We watched what came out of them carefully to make sure their systems were happy. I suspect that on a longer trip they’d be eating much more kibble at the end of each day, but that’s a double-edged sword. It’s not always easy to find, and it takes up a lot of space.

With regards to the human food vs. dog food debate. Dachary’s done a lot of research on it and it turns out that there are a number of human food diets that you can feed dogs that will keep them healthy. But the big problems with human food are: human food contains a lot more calories, so you need to watch the dogs closely to ensure they’re not getting fat. And human food may not contain all of the nutrients that dogs should be getting. So, as long as you’re feeding them a balanced diet and watching them to make sure they’re not getting too many calories, a fully human food diet is perfectly safe for dogs. The catch, of course is knowing what a “balanced diet” is for a dog. Dachary’s got a pretty good idea at this point, and for the RTW we’ll probably bring some doggie supplements, and continue giving them a mix of human food and kibble.

Keeping them hydrated would have been tricky if not for Bandido. His street-smarts made him drink whenever he needed it, in plentiful quantities. Ben, on the other hand, would only drink if Dachary was present (sometimes both of us) and he wasn’t being overly distracted. We used Bandido as a barometer. If he wasn’t drinking then we didn’t need to worry about getting more into Ben.

Shade was a constant concern. It’s amazing just how many gas stations and restaurants in the USA, and Canada have gone to great lengths to remove every possible source of shade from their lots. They’d probably save a lot on their air conditioning bills if they’d just plant some trees. The sidecar cover worked great at providing shade while we rode and keeping them far more comfortable during the ride than we were, but parking at the right angle to block the sun completely isn’t always possible, and the sun can move quite a bit during a half-hour stop.


Routine is important to a dog, and being on the road every day is not in most dog’s routines, but that’s not to say that it can’t be. We took care to gradually acclimatize them to riding in the sidecar before the trip, and both of them came to regard the sidecar and the tent as “home”. Ben’s a bit of an introvert, and when stressed out by too many people, or simply looking for somewhere comfortable and shaded to hang out he’d climb back into the sidecar.

Most days on the road we’d do essentially the same thing. Go for a walk, pack up the tent / room. Get in the sidecar. Go find breakfast. If it was a take-out kind of place (or gas station food) we’d bring it out, leash them to the sidecar and sit on the ground eating with them. They always got a portion too. Back on the road we’d stop to water them and let them pee every two tanks of gas (which wasn’t particularly long with the Ural). On hot days we’d water them every time and rub them down if needed. Around lunch time we’d stop and eat. Again, if it was take out kind of food we’d usually eat with them, and again, we’d get them a portion, and they’d always get a walk at lunch. Back on the road we’d repeat the same two tank routine until we reached our destination.

Being a more intelligent, and thus a bit more neurotic, dog it took about ten days for him to really start settling in to the routine. Bandido, being a street dog, started settling in to the changes almost immediately. But, we found that the best way to gauge how well they were acclimatizing was by watching how much kibble they ate at night. They’d ignore it in the mornings, but each night, they’d eat a little bit more than the previous night. By the end of the trip they were starting to eat pretty standard evening amounts.

Sleeping Arrangements

We got a child-sized sleeping bag, plus a pretty heavy-duty inflatable mat for it. Yes, they could sleep on the ground, but they can’t dig the soil through the tent to soften it up for themselves (’Dido does this constantly when he wants to rest outside). So, they need something soft to lay on, especially considering they’ll be doing this most nights… or they will on the RTW trip… assuming Kansas doesn’t follow us. Also, there will be nights around freezing so we need something to cover them with and keep them warm. The inflatable mattress plays a part here too because the ground will suck a lot of heat out of you on cold nights. Insulation is a big part of the motivation to use a sleeping mat - not just comfort - so we want to make sure the dogs are insulated from the ground on cold nights when they need it.

We figured both dogs could fit on it, and keep each other warm on cold nights. In practice they could both fit, but they’d have to sleep against each other and they don’t do that unless they have to. When Ben stretches out on warmer nights he easily covers the length of it. Curled up, they can both fit with a little room to spare.

In reality, one dog almost always ended up sleeping on our feet on the sleeping bag and the other would sleep on the dog bed. This, of course, made it difficult for us to have sufficient room, but it happens at home, too, so we’re used to it. Bandido would sometimes lay on the ground just because it was cooler. In Colorado, when it was cold, we tried covering a dog with the dog sleeping bag and covering the other dog with our motorcycle jackets to keep them warm. In the morning, both dogs were still covered - they hadn’t kicked off the blanket/jacket so clearly they wanted the warmth. Kay would check them periodically through the night to make sure they weren’t shivering and didn’t need more covering and never noticed a problem. This winter we’ll figure out how they handle sleeping in the cold.

Lessons learned

Dogs need bigger towels than people. We figured they were less than a quarter of our size, so small towels would be fine. Ben had a towel the same size as Kay’s and Bandido’s was even smaller. This was absolutely a mistake. We use chamois-style pack towels because they fold up very small, but for the next trip we will be buying the largest size on offer for each of the dogs… and a spare. Their fur just holds too much water.

Having a large vestibule on your tent is really useful for drying off the dogs before they come inside. Every dog owner knows you’ll never get them completely dry, but getting off the moisture there was definitely good.

We use sleeping bags with inflatable mats under them (highly recommended). Do not attempt to inflate your mat and set up your sleeping bag with dogs in the tent. They would constantly lay on it in the middle of setting it up. You’d make them move, and they’d go lay on something you were about to need to muck with. Then they’d go back on your sleeping bag, or mat… ugh. Pain in the butt. We took to just clipping them to the Ural while we set up the tent’s contents.

Neurotic dogs may thoroughly enjoy riding in a sidecar, but you’ll probably have a harder time getting them to eat and drink enough. Trying to find somewhere to park with minimal foot-traffic is probably your best bet, but it’s not always possible.

The water bowl proved more problematic than anticipated in the tent. Fortunately we learned this on the pre trip camping weekends. `Dido noses the food bowl around in an attempt to bury it, and frequently hits the water bowl. Tents don’t offer a lot of moving room so it’s not uncommon to accidentally knock something into it. Also, dogs aren’t great about keeping water in their mouths. Combine all these and you’ve got a wet floor. We upgraded our water bowl to the Ruff Wear Bivy Pet Bowl and this made a big difference. The sides angle in towards the top which helps keep the water in even when it gets bumped. We also got better about how we organized the tent’s contents, and where we placed the water bowl relative to them.

There’s not much you can do about the drips from their mouths after they drink, so we just kept the bowl as far from the sleeping bags as possible, because you really don’t want wet down.

The Sidecar Cover

I believe that having a good sidecar cover is essential to long trips with the dogs. Overall I think ours was just about perfect. I’ve got another post coming up detailing what worked and what didn’t about it, but for the purposes of this dog-centric post the most important things are that your cover provides shade during the day, keeps them dry even in the worst unexpected rains, and provides a lot of ventilation. The opaque cover across the top with roll-up sides proved to be an excellent design idea.

We’d sometimes roll one side down to halve the amount of air blowing in on them, and if we rolled down the outside side it would dramatically decrease the possibility of someone reaching in from the tub side and attempting to pet them. In lighter rains we could ride with just the outside side down and they’d only get a few drips on them.

Given the opportunity, though `Dido will stick his head out no-matter the weather. One half of his face is soaked. The other is dry. Ben, kept his head in during this particular rain, and stayed nice and dry as a result.

When we stop and go in to a restaurant, it’s not uncommon for us to leave the outside side down to discourage all but the crazy people from attempting to pet them, because with the inside side open you’d have to lean in over the bike to get to them.


Our Favorites
  • Frogg Toggs Chilly Pad
  • Ruff Wear Bivy Pet Bowl This made a great water bowl because in addition to collapsing well, the sides hold themselves up and angle inwards, which made it more difficult for the dogs to tip it over in the tent. I think it’s a bit too small to use as a food bowl for a dog with a medium sized muzzle like Ben’s. The dogs were constantly tipping over our old water bowl, which is a giant PITA in a tent, so we found this to be a far superior option.
  • Outward Hound Deluxe Bottle ’N Bowl Bag This thing is spectacular, but we actually made one enhancement along the way. On a day where we’d misplaced the bowl I cut the bottom off of a 32oz. plastic cup to use as a water bowl. It fit perfectly under the water bottle we use in it, and from then on we just kept using it instead of the collapsable cloth bowl. We kept it in the nose of the sidecar, and we’d use this bottle and bowl to give the dogs water when we stopped at the gas station. When the water bottle was emptied, we’d refill it from the Camelbak Unbottle that the dogs inherited (which also lived in the nose of the sidecar). The Ruff Wear Bivy Pet Bowl lived with the dog food bowl and only got brought out in the evenings when we’d set up camp or had sprawled out in a hotel.
  • Carabiner, a real one. The kind you would trust your life to when rock climbing. Attach it to the end of the leash and leave it there. Makes it trivial to clip your dogs to any small bar (above the front or rear fender on the Ural), fence, or similar thing. If the object you want to clip them to is larger in diameter than the carabiner will open, you just put the leash around the object and clip the carabiner to the leash. A fast and easy way to keep your dogs in one place. It’s also a great way to quickly connect multiple leashes.

Everything else
  • Dean and Tyler DT Harnesses (see note below)
  • Dean and Tyler DT Muzzle (see note below)
  • 2 REI MultiTowel Lite towels We got a medium and a large. We’ll replace those with two XLs. Maybe bring a third for rainy days when we have to walk in it multiple times. These are the chamois style towels (the non-“lite” towels are not). They pack very small, and work exceptionally well. They’re a bit weird to use on your skin at first but you get used to it quickly. Unfortunately, while they’re great for the amount of water you’ll find on human skin, the dog fur just retained too much water - the towels we brought couldn’t cope with it effectively enough.
  • Mud River, The Hoss Deluxe Food Bag We didn’t really test the limits of this bag, but it held up well, and I have high hopes for it on the RTW. Holds just over 20 pounds of kibble. We stuck it in the side of the Ural’s trunk, and kept a small plastic cup inside to scoop out food into the dog bowl.
  • Big Agnes Little Red +15 Sleeping Bag (kids). It should be noted that this is a synthetic bag, not down, as a result this child-sized bag is significantly larger than an adult’s down bag, however, we intentionally chose to go with synthetic because it handles wet much better, and dogs aren’t always dry.
  • Therm-a-Rest ProLite Plus Sleeping Pad (small). This is nearly twice the size of the ultra-light Exped SynMat UL 7 mats we use for ourselves, but I feel confident that we could use it outside of the sleeping bag without worry.
  • For the food we used an REI Dog Water Bowl which we kept filled with an excessive amount of kibble and wrapped in a plastic shopping bag simply so that we didn’t have to keep going into the trunk for more kibble. However, we have just discovered that they actual REI Dog Food Bowl has a draw-string top which would get rid of the need for the lame shopping bag to keep the kibble in. And the strap on the bottom can be used to keep the water and food bowls snugged together. Excellent! We’ll definitely be getting one of those.
  • For water we used the Ruff Wear bowl noted above.
  • Camelbak UnBottle insulated 3L Resevoir. You’ve got to carry the dogs water in something. This works quite well, is flexible enough to shove into the nose of the Ural, and proved a very comfortable pillow for the dogs while riding, and for Kay at night.
  • Dog nail clippers. We didn’t bring them on this trip because it was so short, but we definitely will on the RTW trip.
  • 10 foot cotton dog leash We brought two of these in anticipation of times when we’d be at a campsite for a while and wanted to let the dogs have more room to move around. In practice we used them probably once. This was primarily due to the fact that we were on the road so long that by the time we did get to a campground we didn’t have time to hang out and relax. We definitely used these on weekend test trips to local campgrounds.
  • Twisted Throttle DrySpec™ D28 Dual-End waterproof motorcycle dry bag The food and water lived in the nose of the sidecar for easy access. Everything else lived in this dry-sack. The sleeping bag and mat both fit pretty snugly, but that helped minimize space.
  • Eight rolls of doggy poop bags, and a spare dispenser. We didn’t need eight rolls, they just came in bags of eight. And we only carried the spare dispenser because it’s barely bigger than the bags.

I’m undecided about our Dean and Tyler harnesses. They’re very well made, but Bandido kept putting an arm through his (aided by pulling against the end of the leash), and Ben seems to fall right between two sizes. On the other hand the clips on the side of the harnesses are something we only found on that brand, and was helpful in clipping the dogs into the tub in a way that allowed for minimal interference by the leash.

The Dean and Tyler wire muzzle we got for Bandido (after being advised on a size by one of their staff) seems to come right up to his eyes, and the straps never seemed to fall correctly across his head. We got the muzzle primarily to keep stupid people from trying to pet strangers dogs without asking. You’d think this would be obvious, especially with Ben barking people off, but it isn’t. They still try and pet him, and he really doesn’t want them to. The wire muzzle makes an excellent “Stay Away” sign. It should be noted that ’Dido really doesn’t seem to mind it much even though he hates cloth muzzles. They have a couple basket-style leather ones that I’m pondering, but even if those solve the fit problem, they’re not as effective of a “Stay Away” sign. The reason we went with this one is that it’s big enough for ’Dido to be able to open his mouth and pant on hot days. Some of the other muzzles wouldn’t enable panting, which we felt was a deal-breaker because it just wouldn’t be safe for him to wear it on hot days.


Taking an adventure with dogs, is probably a lot like taking an adventure with your kids; more work, but more fulfilling too. There’s something truly wonderful about traveling with them that I couldn’t have anticipated, and can’t put into words.

This trip was a hard one, and they came through it with flying colors. I truly believe that they’re going to love going around the world with us, as we’ll be able to take much more time to stop and pee on the roses.
a Corporate Runaway
masukomi is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 08-15-2012, 07:15 AM   #81
Merlin III
Mean SOB
Merlin III's Avatar
Joined: Aug 2010
Location: Maine
Oddometer: 1,769
Nice analytical summary.
"I have approximate answers and possible beliefs and different degrees of certainty about different things, but I am not absolutely sure about anything." Richard Feynman, Cal Tech Scientist
Merlin III is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 08-15-2012, 08:12 AM   #82
wannabe Adventurer
charliemike's Avatar
Joined: May 2007
Location: atlanta, GA
Oddometer: 102
great write up...very thorough!

Thanks for taking the time.
charliemike is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 08-22-2012, 07:51 PM   #83
Beastly Adventurer
SilkMoneyLove's Avatar
Joined: Nov 2007
Location: Minneapolis
Oddometer: 2,396
Nice trip. Great report.

I think taking the dogs RTW is nuts, but I am pretty sure that is why they call it an adventure. Good luck to you all!

Even a Honda can break down in the middle of nowhere. Voltage regulators and batteries don't last forever. The new Urals are so much more refined than the old 650s.

I can't remember the cost of the power arc but I think it is around $500. Some money, but if it is bullet proof, that eliminates ignition as a problem, so I would do it.
SilkMoneyLove is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 08-23-2012, 05:03 AM   #84
Beastly Adventurer
kitesurfer's Avatar
Joined: Mar 2009
Location: north florida
Oddometer: 1,688
that report was complete! i've read only a couple RR's concerning Urals. I had no idea they were as bad as you've described. i would not feel secure and safe riding one 50 miles from home much less around the world. but that's just me. good luck and have fun.
2012 VSTROM ADV 650
kitesurfer is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 08-23-2012, 01:29 PM   #85
Gnarly Adventurer
McRuss's Avatar
Joined: Sep 2008
Location: Texas Hill Country
Oddometer: 246
UDF and other stuff

I thoroughly enjoyed your report. I bought my Ural Deco in 2000, a '98 650 that just didn't sell. It had points ignition and I had two problems with that: once in a downpour water got into the front where the points live and shorted everything out. And once the timing was off and I drove it for a while that way with very poor performance. So I'm with the school of thought that it is an ignition issue. Funny story: I was at a dual sport ride last April and wore my Ural shirt (it was from a time in 2001 when some folks took a Ural to Bonneville and set some records for side cars). A fellow approached me and asked if I owned a Ural. I told him that I had in the past but no longer. He then said "No one but a Ural owner would wear a Ural shirt!" More than one person refered to mine as a Urinal......
McRuss is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 08-23-2012, 05:27 PM   #86
Studly Adventurer
VikB's Avatar
Joined: Jun 2011
Location: Victoria, BC, Canada
Oddometer: 791
Originally Posted by masukomi View Post
I’m SO GLAD we sucked it up and got hotels those nights. We just got no rest at all, and woke up feeling exhausted and gross. If we’d been doing that all the way across the midwest, I’m skeptical if we would have made it to Colorado at all, and certainly not on our timeframe. So while it felt a bit frivolous at the time, I now feel totally justified in having spent that cash even if it meant we weren’t “hardcore” and didn’t camp as often as planned. The trip would have been drastically different if we’d done things as planned - harder and more miserable, and not as safe, I think, because we would have been so exhausted.
I've enjoyed this RR and the RR for the trip down south. I notice you've struggled with the plans to camp more and the reality of ending up in hotels a lot instead. Not everyone enjoys camping. It sounds like a great idea at home, but when you get down to the actual thing hotels are easier in just about every respect. Assuming a hotel is available there are always a bunch of reasons you can use to justify staying in one and not camping. There is nothing wrong with that and no need to feel like you should have camped.

My only suggestion on the topic is that since you end up in hotels most of the time why not plan for that so you don't feel the pressure to camp or have to justify the choice to yourself each time? You can reduce your bike's load of gear by leaving the camping gear at home or just taking a very limited set of camping gear for the odd time you don't find a hotel. That way instead of not going through with your plans for a lot of camping you'll be doing what you intended.

Camping is one of those things that some people love and other people don't. If you love it you find ways to camp more and if you don't you look for ways to avoid it whenever possible. Nothing wrong with either way of looking at it. Except if you force yourself to do it when you don't want to and end up with conflicted feelings.
safe riding,

I didn't done the doo!
VikB is online now   Reply With Quote
Old 11-23-2012, 10:55 AM   #87
Dachary OP
Gnarly Adventurer
Dachary's Avatar
Joined: May 2010
Location: Boston
Oddometer: 313
Poor Performance Issues Solved

Totally forgot to update you guys, because we took our sweet time dealing with it...

The main problem we had with performance with the Ural was it loosing oomph out of nowhere. Some days our top speed would be 65-70MPH, and others it would be as slow as 52MPH with the throttle full out, no change in altitude, etc.

Before contacting the mothership for a warranty repair, we completed the 10,000km service (upon returning home from the trip). One of the things called for in this service is to check the timing. We bought a fancy timing light, and it turns out - our timing was off! We adjusted the timing, which was very easy to do, and it's been running great since then. No more power issues - our top speed is consistently 65-70MPH and it doesn't feel "off" like it lacks torque anymore.

We're still getting very crappy gas mileage - averaging around 21MPG - but at least the performance issue is solved. And even with this performance issue on our cross-country trip, it's been more reliable than our BMWs. It never stopped running. Both of our BMW F650GSs have since had some issues - Kay's battery died, and my front tire has an unexplainable flat problem that we can't seem to diagnose. But the Ural is still running strong!

(Also, we had the Ural out in the snow for the first time a few weeks ago and it was a total blast! We'd never dream of riding our two-wheelers in the snow, but the Ural does just great... this is really a year-round vehicle. We're expecting to have a lot of fun this winter!)
Check out our adventures: Corporate Runaways
Motorcycle Blog: Ain't No Pillion
Boston to Ushuaia on 2 BMW F650GSs - 2010-2011
BOS -> CO - 2 dogs in a Ural - 2012
Find us on SPOT
Dachary is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 11-23-2012, 11:42 AM   #88
Mr. G
Normal Dude
Mr. G's Avatar
Joined: Apr 2005
Location: Ventura Co, So Cal
Oddometer: 1,783
Try changing the needles to Gossie carb needles from Holland

My mileage went from 25ish to consistently over 30. Sometimes I see 33mpg.
I also drilled the slides and messed with the jetting a bit. All very easy to do. I am currently running 125 main jets and 42 low speed jets with a stock engine other than Dunstall mufflers and a K & N air filter in the stock airbox.

I make a point to not run my Ural wide open. I can cruise the freeways at 60ish with a lot less than full throttle.

No engine is designed to run full throttle for long periods of time. Even commercial diesels with a 100% duty cycle achieve that rating at somewhat less than full throttle (often 85% of max rpm's with throttle to spare). If you need to run 70mph with it maybe you should consider swapping in an Airhead R100 engine (but watch out for final drive problems with the extra power).

"If we can manage to convince the Chinese that Jihadists' testicles are aphrodisiacs, within ten years they'll have disappeared..."

Mr. G screwed with this post 11-23-2012 at 11:50 AM
Mr. G is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 11-23-2012, 11:48 AM   #89
Mr. G
Normal Dude
Mr. G's Avatar
Joined: Apr 2005
Location: Ventura Co, So Cal
Oddometer: 1,783
Originally Posted by kitesurfer View Post
that report was complete! i've read only a couple RR's concerning Urals. I had no idea they were as bad as you've described. i would not feel secure and safe riding one 50 miles from home much less around the world. but that's just me. good luck and have fun.
700 Miles in two days through the CA desert back roads last week. No problems, never missed a beat. 31 mpg on shitty CA high test gas.

The only problem I've had in 6000 km that stopped me was a flat rear tire which I quickly swapped with the spare. Based on my experience with a Ural (limited to 6000 km but going up daily) they are more reliable than my BMW's and Harley. BTW it's a 2007 Patrol with 10,000 km on the clock now. Not a new one with all the upgrades.

"If we can manage to convince the Chinese that Jihadists' testicles are aphrodisiacs, within ten years they'll have disappeared..."
Mr. G is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 11-23-2012, 12:42 PM   #90
Beastly Adventurer
Joined: Jul 2012
Oddometer: 1,189
Not sure where Poland, NY is, but there's a nice State-run campground at the south end of Lake George, which would be a little out of your way if you were hammering along on I-90 heading for Boston, but i't's nice and within walking distance of Lake George village...and the lake itself is a real jewel. There's another one west of Schenectady a few miles called Frosty Acres and another one just a little north in Glenville. I think you could have stayed in either of these and though that wouldn't address the heat problem.
Blader54 is offline   Reply With Quote


Thread Tools Search this Thread
Search this Thread:

Display Modes

Posting Rules
You may not post new threads
You may not post replies
You may not post attachments
You may not edit your posts

BB code is On
Smilies are On
[IMG] code is On
HTML code is On

Forum Jump

Times are GMT -7.   It's 09:14 AM.

Powered by vBulletin® Version 3.8.5
Copyright ©2000 - 2015, Jelsoft Enterprises Ltd.
Copyright ADVrider 2011-2015