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Bike Review - Posted Friday 30th March 2012
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Ural Sidecar Project

One man's dream sidecar outfit takes shape, starting with a 1997 Ural Patrol and some Grand Designs. The first thing that owner Wizid has to fettle is the budget...

Last time I posted on the RealClassic message board I think I was talking about the idea of replacing the Ural engine in my sidecar outfit with a BMW R80 or R100 engine, upgrading the gearbox, using a BMW clutch, and the end result would be a more literal poor man's BMW sidecar rig.

I've scrapped that idea mostly because I can't get past the idea that to me that's cheating. Most of my joy in tinkering is trying to improve on a design without actually just abandoning it for something pre-improved. That was a sold part of getting the Ural, kind of like getting a box of castings of say an Edgar T Westbury engine, or maybe an L.B.S.C. engine (for those other model engineers in the crowd) and then depending on one's skill and dedication to details you can end up with something really special. Just takes time and patience. God knows I have time. I don't have quite the same amount of patience as my father did, nor his attention to detail - but I'm young, I can improve on both over time.

So with the BMW idea scrapped I began to figure out what my outright dream Ural would be, set a budget, and then go through my usual process of trimming it back. The US government owes me back payments on two years of disability payments as I have been declared disabled from childhood, which happened on my 28th birthday. Best damned present of all time.

A Ural Patrol, yesterday...

Here's the way I figured the budget; the cost of a 1997 Ural Patrol in 1997 from Ural was - if memory serves- just under $10,000. I still owe my best friend $4,500 for the bike, so my budget is $5,500 after I pay back my friend.

I came up with a parts list from companies in Poland, England, here in the USA, and the Ukraine.

The dream Ural is a bike with 2 wheel drive with a differential like the Dnepr MT16 but with the ability to lock in straight drive to the second wheel for those ultra tricky situations. Alloy fenders, Lucas style lights, updated electrical and bearings, speedo in the headlight, reverse levers, etc, etc, etc.

I costed that out (mind you, this update covers several months of thinking and rethinking - I have LOTS of time to think). The Locking Differential and Sidecar reduction drive were going to run close to $2,000 not including the cost of having the sidecar frame modified for the shaft to slip through.

Inverted levers, cables, throttle, etc, were going to run about $200. The speedo in headlight and all that was going to be another $200. Alloy rear fenders for Royal Enfields which are the right size would be $65 each. Shocks, bearings, alternator, etc, was going to be another $1500 or so. Then for $500 there is an engine tuning kit which has thicker base gaskets, German pistons, a crank with nice bearings, and what not.

Russian bikes on

All in all this first dream bike was going to run $4,300. That was my usual "let's do it all" first budget. I always do this, what would make it perfect, what will it cost. That's straight-up lusting for parts right there. So much I don't actually need.

So I revised it some.

I scrapped the 2WD set up, because honestly I don't do anything really that warrants it, and a shovel is much cheaper. Also for the cost of all that I can buy a rather nice 7" swing lathe.

I did however get it in my head that all my headaches with the JRC carb intakes being bigger than the manual choke on the gearbox could be solved by ditching the original airbox. The first version of this you saw:

Tubes on tubes...

It was ugly, but worked great and gave me a common air filter that only costs $8 to replace and I could buy anywhere. But I lost something I really dug about the bike, the manual slide choke built into the gearbox. I mean that's just brilliant.

About a month after I did that I had one of those moments where a realization smacks you upside the head really quite hard. Stupidity at its finest! How could I be so blind! I had used the back half of a pancake filter to cover the mounting hole for the stock airbox. If THAT fits….. So Airbox Idea No.2 went into effect, and I got back my beloved manual choke!

Airbox Idea #2...

A downside to this however was the fact that when it rained I flooded my engine. This happened a few times, and even though while not riding I began to use a camp bowl to cover the filter, riding in the rain still flooded the engine. So I am now back to my original airbox.

I have been thinking on adopting a Dnepr airbox like this:

Airbox Idea #3...

But I don't know if it allows for the same type of choke that I so love. I suspect it could be modified to do so, but we begin to work back to the why - why do it? So I will only further this idea if it turns out that my original airbox won't fit anymore with one of those modern 50amp alternators (not the hand grenade, the really new ones).

Either way at some point I plan to abandon my rubber intake pipes and have a friend knock me up a set of these:

Airbox Idea #4...

Right now I've had to do some crazy spacing with rubber hose inside of rubber hose to make up for the fact that the manual choke diameter is so much smaller than the intake on the carbs. With metal pipes I could make spacers out of 1/8" aluminium that fit over the manual choke tube and the tubes going from the carb to the airbox could remain uniform in diameter.

That followed with a new string of insanity on the subject. I have ALWAYS wanted a set of pre-monobloc Amal carbs, I have no reason for this beyond they look cool. So I thought well gee if I buy those I bet I wouldn't need to worry about the hose diameters! And I could prime them! But my god that's insane. Expensive and insane. My trusty JRC carbs work fine.

So by shaving some of the costs off of my original plan I shaved $1,688 off total cost, bringing the figure down to $2,541.

Then I revised it some more

The Dnepr airbox became a sure thing at $44.

I decided to keep normal/modern style levers but still upgrade the throttle as the casting of my made in Taiwan replica Amal leaves a bit of want, also my cables from the carb to the throttle - the sheath on them past the adjusters isn't quite long enough even with the cable stops, so I figured new cables and a new throttle would solve this. Also my Doherty levers required some modification to accept the Ural cables, the cable adjusters needed to be drilled out and cut down and now act like cable stops. I thought if I got Ural levers I'd be able to ditch that setup as those stops are beginning to rust.

So that was going to be $125 into the controls.

Everything else would remain the same.

Finally I have Revised it down to my most recent and cheapest rebuild. Replace ONLY what needs replacing. Modify only what needs modifying.

The first thing, which has already been done as of last week with the help of one of my best friends, and the cost of the part donated by a loving uncle. I replaced my 1997 Russian electronic ignition seen here off the bike, with the cover of the "Igniter" off to show the beauty, crudity, and simplicity of it:

Original ignition unit...

With a Ural Power Arc Ignition:

Ural Power Arc Ignition...

My God what a difference! When cold the bike starts first kick with manual choke on. When the bike is hot she starts first kick with the choke off. The bike idles with no fiddling of throttle. No more pops. No more backfires. It has two ignition curves controlled by a switch, one retards the ignition for heavy load or steep hills. It has a tach lead. It goes in in 20 minutes (if you know a bit more than we did when we started, otherwise it takes two days and a whole lot of reading up on the electrical diagrams of 1997 Urals). We/I thought the "igniter box" under the seat was a massive rectifier. Oops.

Brent who despite a dislike for motorcycles, and who refuses to ride on one, does not have my same ambivalence to surface rust. Last summer I ground all the paint off the sidecar and then became bedridden and well it's just surface rust… So he absconded with the tub when we took it off to make the motorcycle hauler. He on his own nickel had it bead blasted and painted:

The tub, bead blasted and painted...

Ever since he was 16 Brent has run a side business out of his garage doing professional grade installation work of equipment in emergency vehicles. Lights, radios, antennas, etc. He also grew up the son of an electrician so he's got a great head on his shoulders for that kind of work. Which is awesome since I am famous for butchering electrical systems… ask anyone ha ha ha.

He and I are both tired of the Ural electrical system. Especially the fact that all the different colored wires have faded to various shades of white. So in a couple months I am going to buy the upgraded alternator, the 50amp Nippen denso. When I do that, he and I are going to completely rewire the bike. A whole new harness using wires that are actually different colours! Going to go all out. Connectors that are water proof, no exposed wiring, heat shrinking over all connectors. Wires grouped in different stretches of loom, the ignition marked in red, lighting marked with blue, etc. Everything is going in the tub. A modern fuse block, an ammeter, the ignition switch, the battery, and even an old style Lucas pilot light under the sidecar dash to make fuses easier to change at night. No more flashlight in the teeth. This is my general idea for it:

Kneebone connected thighbone, etc...

Ignore the regulator comment, turns out the new alternator has the rectifier and regulator built into it. The only wiring to the bike will be handlebar switches, horn, headlight, tail light, and blinkers.

I want to duplicate this entire setup for the Cargo platform

A medium sized motorbike fits on the cargo platform...

I'll mount it all in an old steel craftsman box with the ammeter on top in the cover. When I switch from tub to cargo platform I just want to have to unplug the one and plug in the new, change the battery over, and be done. Currently my battery is in that plastic box. The new platform will be slightly more deluxe, but not much more.

I've also been playing with the ideas of proper ballast. The original plan for the cargo platform - which was built to bring a 1989 GS500 down to Savannah, for the ride home I was going to have 3-4 milk crates mounted with bags of sand in them. But I rode the bike the other day as seen in the picture and other than having to be careful in right hand corners, she is just fine. Still though, some ballast would be nice over by the wheel. So I came up with this idea:

A weighty problem...

The barbell weights will allow me to play with how much weight I have specifically, they won't interfere with the passenger's leg room like my current 80 pound bag of sand, nor will they interfere with ground clearance. It'll also be quite cheap.

I have also gone about buying some parts to change out my current tail light system. I went to a Lucas replica lamp after fixing the Russian lamp for the fourth time. But as you can see it's not the setup I'd hoped it'd be. The tow bar gets in the way, and I got yelled at for bending the plate to fit over the bar. So as of now the lamp is about 10" above the plate, which is zip tied to a not so solid plastic bracket that's designed for non-American motorcycle plates.

So I went to Domiracer and I bought an old style license plate bracket like the one that was on dad's Norton Atlas, and I bought what has become my favourite Lucas style tail lamp. Sadly it turns out it doesn't FIT on said number plate. The light I have now would, but I don't want the light I have now. So I just have to move 3 holes down a couple inches on the plate, and the new lamp will bolt right up, and then the license plate light will only be 1/2" above the plate.

A selection of rear lights, yesterday...

As far as the handlebar levers and cables go, it dawned on me, now that I am getting a lathe again, I can start thinking like I have a lathe again. The throttle cables not working right can be fixed by making longer cable stops out of brass - I've done this before, I did it for the Triton I built.

I can also make brass cable stops to fit into the ends of the Doherty levers that will work and look much better than what I have now. They won't rust either. Even better I don't have to replace the cables or the levers.

I also discovered a company in Poland sells snow chains for sidecar rigs. I am truly tired of swapping out the 3 season tyres for the knobblies in the winter, it murders my back, so next winter, and from now on I am going to buy four sets of these one time, and just use them every winter. I also suspect that they'd work decently for off road riding.

The only other small things to get done soon will be a bash plate, high pipes, and finally mount my solo seat. I've decided to scrap the alloy fender plan for now, I simply don't need them. I can rationalize buying them, but I don't need them.

The high pipes on the other hand… I kinda started a small fire in a field the first summer I had the Ural… don't want to do that again. I've seen a lot of ideas and styles. The easiest would be to just flip the current pipes upside down and add a couple bends, but that makes me nervous with proximity to the fuel lines. I did find this picture, and this is what I wish to have duplicated for the Ural:

High pipes looking good...

Beyond that stuff there is just the main stuff that I've been wanting to do since I got the bike. Modern wheel bearings, modern head bearings, Hagon shocks in all 5 spots, and the alternator kit.

The final future plan will be to pick up a second Ural gas tank and have the fuel taps converted over to something more English. Currently there is a large fuel tap that splits off to two pipes, one for each carb, then there is a balance pipe between either half of the tank - which results in gas everywhere if you try to remove the tank alone. There is a disconnect you can buy that will lock them closed when taken apart, but while I may do that for now, what I eventually want to have done is to remove both outlets for the balance pipe, remove the current fuel tap, then weld in bungs so that I can thread on the standard fuel taps you'd find on your average 70s Triumph. 1/4" feed with reserve. Have one on either side of the tank, one for each carb.

From the original "Dream" to now, I have cut $3,000 off of my wants and desires, worked in enough money for a lathe, and managed to have some left over.

Words and Photos: Wizid


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