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17th June 2005

Riding Old Urals in Europe, Part Three

Finally, Dan Barratt manages to make his Ural run right. And then he has to queue up for the ferry...

After struggling to safe harbour in Cognac, we rebuilt the M67 engine and found a cracked piston, scored barrels, a huge gap in the oil rings, and a blocked oilway - it now no longer smoked, went faster, used less petrol, and ran cooler.

Now we had a decent place to work we also spent three or four days pottering with other things that had niggled, but had not stopped forward motion so had remained broken - brake lights, wobbles, speedos, that sort of thing.

Good runner. Needs slight attention.

The only thing that we didn't fix was low charge on one battery, and the high one on the other. I guess the average between the bikes was 12V. We decided to only ride during daylight and ignore the vague feeling we had about there being a law in Europe about always having your headlamp on.

We didn't really ever get the brakes working either, but got very good at reading the road ahead instead. Once we had both bikes running as we thought they should it was time to head off in different directions, Ignacio for Spain, me for Portsmouth.

Would you sell a Used Ural to these men?
Ural Stuff on

Nacho left for Spain, appeared again an hour later, twiddled the carbs, and headed off again. He made Spain in a day, which was a daily record for both mileage and reliability, lost his key the next, and then broke down in the Basque country. After some playing about with the ignition he was obliged to give rides in the sidecar to the population of the village, young and old alike.

Next stop was the middle of a tunnel in the Pyrenees, once again the points problems. Breaking down in a tunnel is most unfortunate, and he had to be towed out. As the truck was there it was decided to take him the last 30km to the next haven, the parents of his girlfriend. The spring on the points had snapped.

Another set arrived from the UK. With a combination of new-found mechanical skills and the odd prompt by sms it ran again, and run it did, all the way to Santiago without missing a beat (not a sufficient amount to stop it anyhow). From a novice motorcycle mechanic three weeks earlier Nacho was now a veteran. To be totally honest he wasn't a total novice - his other bike is a Bullet.

My girlfriend Katie had turned up in Cognac (leaving the hairdryer and other essentials behind and bringing barrels, pistons and wheel bearings instead. Good girl). She couldn't really see what all the fuss was about, sitting there in the sidecar on the journey to England it was disappointingly reliable all the way to Portsmouth, almost the kick and ride experience we'd rather naively dreamt of when we planned the trip. The only event really was a superbly heavy rainstorm, and it was the passengers who complained, more than the bike for once.

This is not the hard-shoulder of the M275.

The exhaust fell off on the M275, the first and only bit of motorway we'd been on in the last 2000 miles, and it's only two miles long. I melted my boot trying to hold it on. Oh, and would it start when it was lined up right at the front of the queue to get on the ferry? Just as people started shouting 'push it to the side' it chuffed to life like an aging tractor with puffs of black smoke from the exhausts. The 20 or so pre-first war Renaults returning from their tour of France behind us sat there ticking over like sewing machines, just to add to the frustration.

I would like to thank the support team back home without whom we would have had to leave the bikes somewhere in Europe. My parents and Chris from Uralmoto Ltd spent a lot of time chasing parts and sending them out to meet us. Chris from C&C also got us some bits for which we are grateful, and we also want to thank my godmother Wendy for her hospitality in France, the barn, food, tea and Cognac!


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