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7th June 2005

Riding Old Urals in Europe, Part One

After travelling 11,000 miles by Enfield, Dan Barratt was ready for another challenge. Two 40 year old Russian bikes seemed to fit the bill...

It was 4am in the morning and I couldn't take any more. Mosquitoes dive-bombed from all sides, their high pitched scream sounding like Japanese Zeros in the South Pacific. Inside the bivvy bag it was so hot that sweat was running down the inside; I'd already made the fatal mistake of opening the top for some cool air and had the bites to prove it. That was enough. After lying like this for two hours in the middle of a Polish forest it was time to move.

We decided to rush to the bikes, fire them up and escape before we sustained any more hits. Amazingly enough both Urals had been more or less working when we stopped for the night; now mine was leaking petrol badly from both petrol pipes, and the lights had packed in.

I ignored the smell of petrol and fiddled with some wires inside the headlamp shell until a pale yellow pool of light appeared. Eventually we got both bikes running at the same time and made a dash for the road. It was more than an hour before we discovered that we'd made a dash in the wrong direction and had to turn round. 6am saw us back at the memorable campsite, in exactly the same place that we had been when we stopped four hours earlier. We were bitten badly, smelt of petrol and oil, and had had no sleep at all.

We fixed the leaking petrol pipes, did our hourly oil refill on the M67 that I refused to ride behind for fear of lung cancer, and decanted what was left of the Jerry can into the petrol tanks. Oddly enough the Jerry can had been full the evening before - it was only that morning that we spotted the hole in the bottom.

Two bargain 40 year old Russian bikes were getting near the German border and both had already broken down more times than we could remember. All they had to do was get firstly to the South of France, and then one of us onwards to Santiago in the North West of Spain, and the other back to the UK.

A Beach, somewhere in Poland.

It had not been a promising start.

Our $3 Polish insurance got us across the German border, where we found a field and went to sleep in the sun. The field was actually beside a track to a quarry, but the trucks didn't stop us from getting a good few hours' sleep before it was time to start again. Start again fixing the bikes that is.

We spent about three hours fixing things and trying to get the K750 to run. Eventually it did, so we packed quickly and left before it changed its mind. This set the pattern for the next week. We'd cajole the bikes - usually the M67 was the dodgy one - as far as they would go, and then find somewhere to sleep.

We'd get up the next day, spend the magic three hours fixing various leaks, misfires, electrical problems, brakes, whines, squeaks, knocks and wobbles, and then set out with great hopes and ambitions. These would then soon be dashed as something fell off, seized or broke, usually before lunch.

Ural Stuff on

I should mention the night after the mosquito forest night, as it is the most grateful either of us have ever been to find a hotel. We suspected it was going to rain from the black clouds and thunder, and then it started. Of course the ever-cursed M67 didn't have a proper gasket on the ignition cover so it started to cough and fight as the rain got in. Bulbs blew. We had open-face helmets with no visors. I think we had decided that it was befitting of riding an old bike with a sidecar. The helmets were fine until it rained, then even at our dizzy speeds of 35mph the rain stung our faces.

Very wet, very tired after our previous night, unable to really see where we were going, and with an ever more truculent, smoking, coughing Ural we backfired our way up to a hotel in the middle of rural Eastern Germany. It had rooms, it had food, it had a bar, it even had a barn to dry the bikes out we didn't even ask how much it was, and that's quite an achievement for me.

A garden, somewhere.....else.


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