• Jul 15th 2009 at 11:55AM
  • 46
2009 Ural T sidecar motorcycle – Click above for high-res image gallery

Despite its obvious link to Thirties-era wartime motorcycles from BMW, the 2009 Ural T sidecar motorcycle can't really be described as "retro." Instead, the three-wheeled machines rolling out of Ural's factory in Russia really are a direct link to the past – a bygone era of motorcycling that's sure to intrigue some and disinterest others. Which camp you belong to depends largely on your expectations for a bike. Many motorcyclists relish the opportunity to zip away from stoplights with telepathic ease, weave through dense urban traffic and slide knees from apex to apex. If those are your intentions, the Ural is most certainly not your mount. If, however, your motorcycling passions tend to favor leisurely strolls through the countryside and you'd like to share the experience with your significant other, we suggest clicking past the jump to read about our time with Ural's latest sidecar motorcycle.

Photos Copyright ©2009 Jeremy Korzeniewski/Weblogs, Inc.

If you've never driven a motorcycle with a sidecar (otherwise known as a 'hack' or an 'outfit'), you're in for a major surprise when piloting the Ural. Since the sidecar's wheel isn't powered, the entire bike lists to the right when accelerating and to the left while braking. Thankfully, it didn't take long to get used to the odd motions and sensations, and by the end of our second day behind the bars, we were completely at ease with the see-sawing, eventually using it to our advantage around the streets of Seattle. Long, sweeping, uphill left-handers with a passenger in the hack proved to be the only occasion when the sidecar's effects were truly tiring to cope with, but beyond that, the Ural tracked confidently, delivering a measured amount of feedback that was both confidence inspiring and relaxing.

In the past, Ural offered some sidecars with powered wheels working through a differential. While this arrangement allowed the bikes to traverse nearly any terrain with nary a concern and reportedly did away with the constant adjustments required to keep the machine pointed in a straight line, the system wasn't exactly bulletproof and has been nixed as an option. A lockable two-wheel drive system is currently available on the Ural Patrol and camouflaged Gear-Up model and is reportedly quite stout. Although our bike lacked a powered sidecar wheel, we were quite content without it in the urban setting that Ural considers the new T's perfect environment.

Interestingly, Ural chose to name its new lower-cost sidecar after the classic Model T from Ford. Just as that automobile was intended to provide transportation for the masses, Ural hopes the T's reduced price point can introduce sidecar motorcycling to a new generation of riders. Plus, the factory is keen to recycle Henry Ford's classic quip, "You can have it in any color you'd like, so long as it's black." As such, the Ural is only available with a matte black powdercoat that should prove extremely durable, although we were less than convinced about the mandatory maroon pinstriping. However, there's no denying the bike's presence strikes a chord with passers-by. Hence the so-called "Ural Delay Factor."

It's nearly impossible to go anywhere without playing 20 Questions about the 2009 Ural T. "What year is that?" "Did you restore it yourself?" Or, the most frequently asked question when rolling to a stop: "What is that thing?" We had trouble convincing many of our interrogators that the Ural was a brand new motorcycle and that anyone with visions of sidecar motorcycling can order one right from their nearest dealer. Our advice for riders in a hurry: Carry pre-assembled pamphlets or feign a lack of English skills.

It's easy to send the sidecar's wheel northward in tight right-hand bends.
Once underway, other than the aforementioned right-to-left weight transfer, the biggest sense that you're riding something completely different comes when it's time to take a turn. Frequent motorcycle riders will need a quick mental reboot to clear any memories of countersteering as it will undoubtedly send you off in the wrong direction. Instead, turning right requires a firm push on the left grip and plenty of body-english if there's no extra weight in the sidecar.

As you can see from our accompanying photo gallery, it's rather easy – not to mention extremely entertaining – to send the sidecar's wheel northward in tight right-hand bends. Turning left requires an equally hefty push on the right handgrip, and we've been told it's entirely possible to pivot the whole operation on that sidecar wheel if the rider doesn't shift his buttocks to the left rear in fast corners. As you can imagine, we happily assumed the position.

Once right- and left-hand turns have successfully been negotiated, it's time to practice the art of shifting. Changing gears on the Ural's four-speed gearbox (plus reverse) requires a hefty stomp on the heel-toe shifter. We also strongly advise patience when releasing the clutch, especially if there's a passenger mounted in the sidecar. Reach down to the right of the gearbox and you'll find a handy lever that allows the rider to engage reverse as long as the machine is in first or second gear. We also found the lever to be an ideal way to force the somewhat recalcitrant shifter into neutral. The entire process of rolling through the gears mustn't be hurried, which lends itself well to a casual pace.

Riding the Ural is an adventure, even more so than most other two-wheelers.
That's not to say the Ural T isn't capable of highway speeds. We had no problem keeping up with traffic, even with a passenger and luggage aboard. Top speed is somewhere past 70 mph, but we found the sweet spot to be somewhere between 55 and 65 mph. According to Ural, the bike's 750cc air-cooled horizontally-opposed Boxer engine, which is shared with every bike across Ural's lineup, makes 40 horsepower. We don't doubt that figure and found most of its tractor-like power to be accessible very low in the rev-range, though there's certainly no need to lug the engine when putting around.

We'd love to be more specific about RPMs, but the lack of a tachometer makes it impossible to know exactly how fast the twin-cylinder mill is spinning. In any case, we found it easy to judge our shifting patterns based on the sound of the engine, and suffice it to say, there's plenty of noise coming from under the rider, though it's never an alarming amount.

Perhaps the most modern aspect to the Ural riding experience is the front brake. That Brembo full floating disc proved more than capable of hauling the 700-plus pound bike (along with rider and passenger) down from speed with ease. We dabbed at the rear brake lever (which actuates drums on both the bike's rear wheel and the sidecar wheel) from time to time just to be sure everything was working properly and sometimes used it when idling on uneven surfaces, but it's not essential to slow the machine.

In reality, riding the Ural is an adventure, even more so than most other two-wheelers. Specifications don't seem to matter nearly as much on a machine such as this (as opposed to the typical sportbike from Japan Inc.). Horsepower, torque, suspension and braking bits – on a Ural, all that just translates to 'go', 'stop' and 'turn'. We found it rather cathartic but could certainly understand why it wouldn't suit everyone. If you fancy yourself as a Ural rider, we think you'll find plenty to like in the new T, especially with its low base price of just $9,999.

Photos Copyright ©2009 Jeremy Korzeniewski/Weblogs, Inc.

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    • 1 Second Ago
      • 6 Years Ago
      I've always wanted to try out a side car. I do like the look. But not sure I could live with the limited corning. And for $10k? ....I'd go another route; like a SpeedTriple.

      And Epyx is correct. Proper breaking is done by applying front and rear with 60/40-70/30 pressure.

      "...or feign a lack of English skills."

      "Spreken zie deutsch?" works wonders in southern CA!
      • 6 Years Ago
      I own a 2005 Ural Patrol and love it. I also ride a Honda Aero. The difference is night and day between the two bikes, but the Ural is unique and awsome to ride on the country and mountainside. It's not made for high speeds, but rather a enjoyable leisure type of ride. Nice to do this in the fast paced world of today. If I want ride faster, I ride the Honda..

      There nothing like riding a Ural:)
      • 6 Years Ago
      I have the new Ural T, and love it!! much quicker than my Gear-up. It flies a LITTLE easily. but FUN!!
      • 6 Years Ago
      I like motorcycles, but I have no idea why someone would choose this over something like a second gen Miata. It seems like the worst part of a motorcycle (lack of safety) and the worst part of a car (size.)
        • 6 Years Ago
        Let's compare; two passengers, no top, no knee dragging, $10k. It would seem I can compare the two.

        Hipsters are into cafes, not sidecars. Best I can tell, these are for old timers.
        • 6 Years Ago
        I see your point - a bike is not really a bike anymore when you add the side car. I still dont think the Miata is an appropriate comparison though given the "image" part. Well maybe a thrashed Miata, brush painted drab green with political stickers all over it.

        And you cant see some Hipster ridding this with his ugly Darla girlfriend in the sidecar? Seems too perfect, and its flat black. Hipsters cream over flat black.
        • 6 Years Ago
        Naa. I can totally see hipsters riding in this thing while listening to The Shins.
        • 6 Years Ago
        Weird comment comparing a Miata to a motorcycle but here is one potential reason.

        The typical hipster doofus would look totally out of place in a Miata while this bike fits the image well. Remember the typically, hipster ONLY cares about image. They have to look the part of the sagged tight jeans, Ramones t-shirt, and chucks.

        Also, you can not in any way compare a bike to a car. One does not usually replace the other.
        • 6 Years Ago
        galant, two questions; 1) do you like The Shins? and 2) would you settle for "old soul?"

        For the record I like The Shins
        • 6 Years Ago
        Haha, The Shins yeah I guess it does have Garden State written all over it.
        • 6 Years Ago
        @cdwrx: I'm 25 and love Ural's (and the sort of related Dnepr). Hopefully I don't count as an "old timer" yet ;)
      • 6 Years Ago
      I like this a lot. I'd love it to be a tad more mechanically modernized, but you really can't argue with the character or price.
      • 6 Years Ago
      $10K seems like too much for what you are getting. To each is own I suppose. The hipster, art school crowd should love everything but the price.

      I really like the looks but it seems to be a turd by every objective measure. Sure, I understand you dont compare it to a sport bike - that would be asinine. But one should compare it to sub 10K cruisers - to which this thing is outclassed by EVERY OTHER BIKE on the market. It may have some looks but the rest is crap. That is fine if you value the looks over any substance. This bike is made for people to look cool, end of story. That is fine but, lets be honest.

      Why would anyone want this over a Triumph Bonneville with a aftermarket sidecar?

      Also, you guys review a motorcycle and admit that you dont know how to properly brake?
        • 6 Years Ago
        Epyx -

        Braking with the front and rear brakes simultaneously is undoubtedly the best way to brake in a panic situation. No argument there. I encountered zero panic situations in our test of the Ural. The rear brake (which also activates the sidecar wheel brake) was tested and it functioned...

        That said, the 70/30 argument certainly doesn't apply in this case. In reality, the front brake on the Ural probably provides as close to 100 percent of all stopping power at the maximum limit as you can get. Unsafe design? That's up to you to decide. I did not in any way feel unsafe on the bike and found its front Brembo to be perfectly adequate.

        Stopping distances on the Ural will most definitely be longer than most current two-wheeled motorcycles. In fact, it's highly likely that adding a sidecar to just about any motorcycle will lengthen its average stopping distance.

        For what it's worth, there's absolutely no way you'd ever lift the rear of this bike under heavy braking. I didn't specifically try, but I imagine there's sufficient power to lock the front tire if you really wanted to.

        If you're actually interested in testing its braking performance, I'd suggest a test ride since you've never ridden one.
        • 6 Years Ago
        "Braking with the front and rear brakes simultaneously is undoubtedly the best way to brake in a panic situation. No argument there."

        It is the proper way to brake ALL the time. Locking the front brake has little to do with lifting the rear end, as much as it does pitching the rider or losing control.

        Both brakes are supposed to be used in tandem ALL the time and not just for panic stops. Its a bad habit to only use the front brake. It is like driving with two feet in an automatic car. Yes, it can be done but it is not safe.
        • 6 Years Ago
        Epyx -

        I won't be discussing the proper braking technique on a Ural any further. Anyone curious about the Ural's braking performance should take one for a test ride.
        • 6 Years Ago
        Epyx -

        Also, you guys review a motorcycle and admit that you dont know how to properly brake?

        Have you ever ridden a Ural?
      • 6 Years Ago
      So this sort of competes with the Enfield another retro bike from the 30's.
      • 6 Years Ago
      12 (13) comments and not one person complaining about a bike on autoblog? Wow!
        • 6 Years Ago
        Many car guys likes bikes.
        • 6 Years Ago

        I think he's referring to the fact that earlier articles posted were riddled with anti-two-wheelers.
      • 6 Years Ago
      Isn't it great? American Autoblog sings odes to a Russian bike! From Russia with love :-)
      Kak uzhasno. Amerikanskij Autoblog peyot pesenky dla russkogo Urala. Iz Rossiji s ljuboju :-)
      • 6 Years Ago
      Some appallingly incorrect and uninformed comments here. Windmill sums it up pretty well. A sidecar equipped motorcycle shares nothing with its two wheeled counterpart aside from controls. Additionally, the experience shares nothing with any car. Between my sportbike, two wheeled cruiser, and my sidecar rig, I am most attached and satisfied with the rig.

      On braking, I recall a video comparison of sportbike emergency braking in which it was demonstrated that there was little benefit in using the rear brake in terms of stopping distance. In fact, for the inexperienced rider, it would at worst increase distances or cause fishtailing from overuse (locking the rear wheel). Few motorcycle have ABS yet and most new riders will slam the rear brake.

      Regarding lifting the rear, it has everything to do with front braking power. In stunting, it is referred to as a stoppy. Also, locking the front wheel on a rig like this is different from locking the rear on a two wheeled vehicle. A two wheeled vehicle will lose stability, begin to violently shudder, and then if locked long enough throw the rider off in what is known as a highside. A rig such as this will behave much more like a car and begin to slide along its track.

      On depreciation, no these probably will not depreciate like rocks. The US is not a large market for premade rigs, much less individual sidecars. Many applications are fairly custom and low volume, so rigs can hold their value quite well over time... if you can find a buyer.

      Parts is a different story. If anybody is interested, there is a Russian Iron club somewhere online that could assist in fixes/tips on that subject.

      Part of the appeal of Urals and Royal Enfields is the fact that they have maintained a fairly primitive design. To dismiss either because more recent/updated motorcycles are more sophisticated and can support a sidecar completely overlooks the inherent appeal of true retro. There is a large following of muscle cars from the 1960's and 1970's. If the makers were to manufacture a small run of say, Mustangs or Challengers of those era and completely faithful to the original design, I am sure there would be buyers. Strictly speaking, it would be a poor value by today's standards, but there is intrinsic subjective value not solely related to numbers.

      All things said, it's a great and exclusive experience, especially if you stumble on a cheap rig.
      • 6 Years Ago
      Triumph Bonneville: from $8,000
      Aftermarket sidecar: from $2,500 (tiny plastic Velorex is the cheapest option)
      Subframe: from $500
      Intstallation: from $1,000
      Front end modification (optional): from $500
      Color match (optional): from $700
      Sidecar brake (optional): from $200
      TOTAL: $12K min + voided warranty on the bike.

        • 6 Years Ago
        That's exactly the point that I was going to make.
      • 6 Years Ago
      If i had money to spare i would pick one up for the entertainment. As it stands however i'll continue to push my scrambler around while i save for a daytona.
        • 6 Years Ago
        Ok. Can anyone explain me why 10K is too much for this bike?
        From what I know, if you want sidecar motorcycle, you wouldn't find anything even close to this price tag, other than the Ural-T.
        I mean, new factory built rig, specifically designed for sidecar use, with 2 year warranty, dealer support and such.
        Andy why would anybody care how new (old) is the technology, if the thing serves it function, reliable and fun to ride?

        • 6 Years Ago
        For 10K (if I HAD to have a sidecar) I would opt for a Triumph Bonneville with an aftermarket sidecar. One could even get the flat black look with the Bonne. I have even seen HD XL883N or XL12000N with sidecars, the black garb. There are many way better options than this.

        The only real competition for this would be the Royal Enfield, but I dont understand the draw to either being they don't undercut the competition in price. For what the buyer gets they are sort of overpriced. Especially because in their home countries they are both ridden by poor people that cant get anything else. Here they are fashion statements. Weird how perspective can change in different countries.

        Dont get me wrong, I like the look, I just think one can get the look and better value elsewhere.

        Also - keep that Scrambler even after you get the sweet Daytona. I am sure you will miss it.
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