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10th June 2005

Riding Old Urals in Europe, Part Two

Riding a 40 year old Russian combination around Europe, Dan Barratt discovers the one vital phrase you need to gain assistance in Germany...

And so the miles rolled on, sometimes leisurely, at other times slowly, occasionally sedately. It became a quest to see how far we could go without breaking down. Then the debate as to what constituted a breakdown started. For example - the M67 throttle broke one day, so when the self-tapper and a bit of wire fell out a few days later, did that count as a separate breakdown? How about if we managed to wire it back up again without the engine stopping (which we could do after a few practice attempts)? Oil top-ups … we had to stop every hundred K or so for them, was that a breakdown? Maybe we should have tried to perfect the top-up from the sidecar whilst under way to avoid the stop…

Let's go back to the throttle incident that was so casually mentioned just now. It was Sunday morning and we were somewhere in Germany, in the middle of another forest as it happens, although this time a cooler one than the Polish forest (see Part One), with nothing that sucked blood.

Another black dog hiding in a dark corner of a photograph. This one is Pichon.

Once again when we stopped for the night everything was more or less working. We replaced the front brake cable that snapped before moving two feet, and tried again. The throttle then joined the front brake cable. Alas, once apart it was not the cable, but the twistgrip that was broken. After a few hours of highly ingenious and yet fruitless attempts at a repair I headed for the nearest town on the working bike with the cursed twistgrip in my pocket.

Not only was it a Sunday, but it was a bank holiday the next day, and Germany was closed. The German who donated his workshop, drill stand, wire and screws wouldn't even take our remaining six pack for getting us out of that forest. It's good to know at least one word in a foreign language. If you're on a Ural forget bonjour, hola, and hallo and go with cassé, rota and kaput.

This oil consumption was a trait that did concern us. It concerned Nacho because it was his bike that was getting through a couple of litres a day and lots of spark plugs.

It concerned me because I was frightened of passing out through lack of air whenever I had the misfortune of bringing up the rear, and no doubt it would also concern everyone else because of its contribution to the greenhouse gasses and sudden recurrence of smog into Germany wherever we went.

We ordered new pistons, rings, barrels, heads and carbs from the UK and they were sent ahead of us to my godmother's house in France. This is actually a précised version - it took quite a bit of organisation to find and post the parts out, something that would not have been possible without the help of quite a few people back home.

Ural Stuff on

There were two times along the way that we thought that we would have to abandon the bikes. Both times I imagined teeth rattling round the final drive as we rolled noisily to the side of the road. The first time it was a couple of broken spokes, the other a disintegrated wheel bearing. It's handy, having that fourth wheel on the chair. Actually there was a third time … images of loose cogs rattling about inside the engine were just the generator falling off. I must be a pessimist by nature.

The mission now became to make Cognac where the parts awaited us. Things weren't too bad until the last day. The M67 overheated whenever we went through a town and had to stop at lights, or when it went up a hill. Its oil thirst was still on the greedy side so it was a pity when we left the oil container by the side of the road. All this stopping for thermal reasons and spark plug swaps meant that it was getting dark as we approached Cognac, which is probably why the headlamp bulb blew. The dip / beam switch had broken miles ago so again out with the toolbox to re-wire the headlamp. The K750's battery died a little later followed by a reluctance of the port cylinder to fire on the M67.

With one headlight and three pistons between the two bikes we disturbed the peace and clean air of the vineyards as it approached midnight. Just for effect the Smoker cut out and rolled through the gates. It was pushed into the barn, but had made our goal under its own - all be it single cylinder - steam. Any further and the towrope would have had to be unpacked. We took the next day off from Soviet bikes and went round the distilleries of Cognac.

Good runner. Needs slight attention.


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