Why you should NOT buy a Ural motorcycle!
The question is often asked here and elsewhere, 'Should I buy a Ural or ... ?'
So, I will write this comprehensive post to link to whenever someone asks the question.
It's not intended to start a fight. There are a few reasons to buy a Ural and quite a few people are very happy with theirs. There is always someone to love an ugly duckling. I am sure some of those people will rise to the defense of Ural and nitpick on specific details. Others will say funny stuff like 'you should be looking at the road, not your speedometer' to indicate that you are wrong to expect gauges to work.
I believe that if you're buying a new bike at new bike prices then you deserve new bike quality.
Old technology is not an excuse for poor quality control.
I wish I had read something like this before I bought my Urals.
I thought a Ural would be fun. But I'm tired of a quick trip to the store turning in to 2 hours of roadside maintenance. Or being late for an event/work/school because although the bike ran just fine last night you get on it in the morning and it's broke.
Do you want to spend your time riding or tinkering? I prefer riding.
(1) They are unreliable, require frequent maintenance, and have poor quality control.
(2) They are poorly designed and extremely non user friendly.
(3) Ural warranty, it doesn't cover roadside assistance or towing from your breakdown location. Covered by warranty but you will still have out of pocket expenses when it breaks.
(5) Even the Ural community acknowledges they are crap.
(6) Poor dealer network
(7) General reasoning: Would you buy anything else made in Russia?
(8) There are other sidecar options in the same price range that are much more reliable.
(9) Things that are broken on my TWO new Urals in less than 6000km (3700 miles) and 7 months.
(10) Good things about Ural motorcycles.
(11) Ural Deniers
(1) Urals are UNRELIABLE, there is POOR QUALITY CONTROL, and they require FREQUENT maintenance.
Unreliable is of course a relative term, and I mean unreliable compared to any other new motorcycle sold in the USA today. People get defensive when you say they are unreliable but I'd LOVE to hear someone say that on AVERAGE a Ural is more reliable than a [Harley, Triumph, Honda, Yamaha, BMW, Suzuki, etc...]
- There are so many things to go wrong on a Ural. Things you would never expect. Things that should never happen on a NEW bike. The best way to see this is to go spend some time browsing the Hammerin and Wrenchin forum over at Soviet Steeds. http://www.sovietsteeds.com/forums/
Read it, think about it, this is what is in your future if you decide to buy a Ural.
You are paying new bike prices and getting forty year old quality.
- Incredibly short maintenance intervals. Oil change and more required every 1500 miles
- The paint they use in the gas tank throat starts peeling immediately and falling in to the gas tank. You should remove all the paint somehow then take out the fuel petcock for cleaning.
- Riding in the rain or wet leads to drenched air filter and water in the carbs.
- They use soft metal for many of the bolts. Recommended to replace them before the head strips.
- Almost everyone I've met has a wildly inaccurate odometer. Mine is off by 8%.
- It's very common to have an inaccurate or swinging speedometer.
- The inner tubes they use are known to be extra leaky. Expect to check your tires often and add air every few days or week.
- The vacuum operated fuel petcock is recommended to be changed by many. It has a reputation for failing and flooding the cylinder with gas and also for not working well at altitude.
- The air pump a Ural comes with is generally accepted as worthless and known to burst on first use. Not a big deal but representive of Ural quality.
- Because it doesn't meet standards they're not able to sell a gas can accessory, just a 'fluid cannister'
- The first thing many new Ural owners do when they get one is set about replacing and up grading the things that are known to be crap.
- They are known to leak and seep oil from engine, transmission, and final drive. So you should check your levels often to prevent future failures.
- The dual carb setup leads to many problems.
- Your Ural will rust, and quickly.
Here are some choice problems. I looked for posts that took place in the last 6 months and about bikes that were 2010 or newer.
Go further back in time for posts or look at older bikes and it gets much much worse!
Given the relatively low numbers of Urals sold there sure seems to be alot of problems.
And this is just one forum.
Brand new Ural, dead while driving home from the dealer ( < 2 hours):
Final drive failure on new bike:
Transmission failure on new (< 5 miles) bike:
Kick starter snaps in half on new bike:
Cylinder full of water and hydro-lock on new bike:
Driveline (donut) failure resulting in tow home on new bike:
Transmission failure on new bike:
Gas in crankcase of new bike:
Front brake failure on new Ural:
New-ish bike, horn stops working:
Clutch actuating rod failure on new bike (2nd post)
Speedometer failure on new bike:
Running lights stop working on new Ural:
Turn signals stop working on new bike:
Carb problem resulting in only one cylinder working on new bike
Can't go above 15mph on new bike, unknown problem:
Brake switch failure on new bike:
Carb problems on new bike:
Starter/battery problems on new bike:
These are all major problems. Minor things that are loose, leaking, or electricly disconnected are a more frequent but petty annoyance.
But hey, even something as simple as a poorly done electrical connection can leave you stranded.
(2) Urals are poorly designed. Simple tasks become overly complicated. They seemed to be DESIGNED to be non user friendly and hard to work on. These are just examples, representative of the overall Ural experience. When you ride a well designed bike you just feel it. And the longer you ride it the more you appreciate the subtle things and how it just works and feels good. Things are simple, well placed, smooth, and easy to use. And the same is true for a crap bike. The more you ride it, the more the failings are evident. For example but not limited too...
- The battery is notoriously difficult to get to.
- The reverse shift knob becomes too hot to touch/user after extended driving. You can burn your hand here.
- Neutral is notoriously hard to find
- 2wd CAN BE impossible to engage when the bike is not moving. So you should have the forsight to enage 2wd BEFORE you get stuck.
- Stearing is quite difficult with 2wd engaged (because there is no differential)
- You can't use 2wd on hard surfaces (because there is no differential)
- You can't get a copy of your Ural keys. Ural doesn't offer key blanks. Some say there other blanks that will sort of work if you can get a custom locksmith to modify them. I went to 4 locksmiths and none could make a copy of the Ural key.
- The center stand is just short enough to make it almost impossible to get the rear tire out. There is no flip up rear fender.
- There is no fuel gauge or even low fuel light (although there is a reserve function on the petcock)
- The odomoter is in kilometers.
- The odometer and speedometer are more general indicators than actual tools of measurement.
- For some reason they can't design a trunk that keeps water out. They leak.
- The owners and maintenance manuals provided by Ural are horribly out of date. Refering to parts that have changed or been eliminated and procedures that are no longer needed or are incorrect.
- The light for the speedometer and odometer is insufficient to actually be able to read them at night.
- They require premium fuel
- The gas mileage is not so good, 25 to 30mpg
- Although marketed as rough and adventure ready, the Ural has some basic failings. There is not enough low end torque, especially when the engine is hot. The gearing is not low enough. Off road yes. Off road and hilly, no.
- The stock tractor seat is very much like sitting on a tractor. One of the worse stock seats around.
- The rear drum brakes, by design or poor set up, are damn near useless. (People will say that most of your breaking power comes from the front anyway due to weight transfer but this is much less so on a sidecar rig and 2/3rds of your road gripping tire surface is in the rear!)
(3) The Ural warranty.
Yes, Ural has a warranty. What it doesn't cover is the expense of recovering the bike or getting the broken parts back to the dealer.
So when your Ural breaks down on the side of the road (and it will), YOU eat the cost of the tow truck or trailer or whatever else is needed to get it home.
What do you do when you're a mere 30 miles from home and the nearest dealer is another 100 miles away? How much does that cost you in time and money?
(4) Safety. Having a well maintained and reliable machine is key to safey in motorcycling. Think about the things that happen with Urals and then think about if you want them to happen while you're rolling through traffic, around a corner,at highway speed, or in the middle of the night on an empty stretch of road when the next car might not pass for hours.
Final drive dies and locks up the wheels? Brakes give out? Engine dies due to electric problems?
At least on the hack you have three wheel stability. God help you on a solo!
(5) Yes, even the Ural community knows they are crap and joke about it amongst themselves.
Read Ural owners stories. How many of them involve fixing something? How many of them of them mention trailer or towed home?
There's a cute acronym "RPOC" for Russian Piece Of Crap. It's used often.
There is a long thread devoted to "It didn't break today" for self affirmation because with a Ural, that's something to celebrate.
They develop safety procedures like kick starting the bike with the ignition off to check and see if the cylinder might be full of gas or water.
Here's some great quotes that summarize the general Ural owner experience and attitude.
"Keep your spirits up.....it's a Ural!!!"
"sorry to hear that you are having problems, good thing is its still under warrenty."
"In 2 days I will have had the bike for a Year. It's been down 2 1/2 months and counting at this point."
(6) Poor dealer network. This is my opinion, based on lots of forum reading. There are alot of very inexperienced and low quality Ural dealers. This probably stems from the fact that most dealers don't sell many Urals and so haven't invested alot of time in training, etc... The forums are riddled with stories of terrible dealer setup and maintenance. Quite a few people just recommend to do the maintenance yourself since it's safer that way and at least you will know it is done right. Many (most?) dealers are still in the stone age. No online store, no credit card payments.
Often dealers use an "that's just how Urals are" excuse to cover up their inability or lack of desire to fix a problem.
(7) Made in Russia. This is part of Urals story and history. One of their selling points even, it's cool and unique to have something made in Russia. Stereotypes exist for a reason and you know what the stereotype about Russian quality is, right?
Let's think about this for a minute.
Would you buy a Russian (car, airliner, watch, television, parachute, ski lift, computer, food stuffs, clothes, camera, pacemaker, elevator)? No, you wouldn't, because you know they are all likely low quality. You know what, Russians wouldn't either. Given a choice, they avoid their own national brands like the plague. Ural sells almost no bikes in their home country. Think that is coincidence? Russians know what Russian quality is.
So what, you think that Ural motorcycles are somehow a fortunate exception to this trend? A golden egg laid by diseased goose? Good luck with that!
You wouldn't buy anything else made in Russia so why would you consider getting a Ural?!
(8) There are other sidecar options. When I first started looking at sidecars I thought it was going to be hard getting a sidecar put on a regular bike and that Ural was the only direct non hassle option. I know better now. Read the hack forums on advrider and you will find quite a few experienced and quality places that can put together a street or dual sport rig for you. For as little as $12,000, with a brand new bike. That's less than the price of a new Ural and will be more comfortable, more reliable, and smoother running. If you are price comparing to Ural, don't forget to factor in the expenses of fixing, towing, and much needed modifications. Also your time. People talk about UDF (Ural Delay Factor) and meeting nice people because of the bike. You will meet people on any unusual bike, any sidecar. You don't need a Ural to get attention. Personally I think UDF refers to the delays you will have from Ural problems.
(9) Things broken or not working on my TWO new Urals in less than 6000km (3700 miles) and 7 months. I include this not to cry about my bikes but as personal anectdote and to prevent those 'you don't know what you're talking about, you don't even own a Ural' claims.
2010 Ural Patrol, purchased new in October 2011 (~7 months ago), 6000km, 3700 miles
- Final drive failure. Stranded halfway up a hill in a very rural area.
- Bike dies uphill in traffic due to loose electrical connector in headlight assembly.
- 1/4 of pusher brake shoe broken off
- Steering dampener broken
- Left rear turn signal stops working several times due to loose wire and bulb
- Broken pusher brake spring (not certain yet, gotta get back to the bike to find that horrible noise)
- Trunk lock doesn't lock, replaced.
- Tire pump blew out on first use.
- Rear brake light switch malfunction/stuck
- Misc loose/lost nuts that we're tightened well enough and came off.
- Trunk doesn't seal, water gets inside during rain
- Speedometer light too dim to read speedomoter or odometer at night
- Ural cargo cannister bracket broke (bad welding?)
- Peeling paint in gas tank throat necessitates paint removal and removal/clean of petcock.
- Odometer inaccurate by 8%
- Speedomoter inaccurate above 55mph.
2012 Ural M70 Solo, purchased February 2012 (4 months ago), 2500km, 1500 miles
- Crash bar has large hole in it, not structurally intact. Replaced.
- Steering dampener broken.
- Water leaks in to left carb (unsolved how), float bowl needs to be drained after rain or washing.
- Speedometer bounces across a 20mph range.
- Kick start doesn't work. Not enough throw in the lever.
- Gas tank is advertised and spec'd to 5.8 gallons but only holds 5 gallons from COMPLETELY drained. 14% short!
- Headlight assembly loose, doesn't hold angle position.
- Bulb in speedomoter too dim to see speedometer and odomoter at night.
(10) Good things about Ural motorcycles.
- They come with 2wd. You can do this on other sidecar outfits but it's pretty complex.
- They have a reverse gear. Useful. Can be done on other outfits but difficult.
- Comes with a warranty.
- Easy access. You can walk in to a dealer and walk out with the bike today.
(11) Ural Deniers
Here's a few types:
- 'That could happen on any bike!'. Yes, it could, but it happens much more frequently on Urals.
- 'Yah, maybe you got a bad bike but that doesn't mean they are all bad.' No, certainly not all but a way higher percentage than what should be. We're talking averages, remember?
- 'It's not bad.' Ask this person to honestly say how much time they've spent wrenching on their bike, what problems they have fixed and things that have been adjusted or upgraded.
- 'That problem can be fixed with...' Yep, lots of things can be fixed with time and money but basic things should work right out of the box.
- 'You don't really need to know your speed or distance traveled anyway (etc...) anyway, who cares about that new fangled odometer stuff!'
- 'They're much better than they used to be.' Absolutely, MUCH better, but still crap.
- 'You're an idiot/wanker/liar/pussy because you don't like my brand of bike.' Well said sir!
- 'My dealer is a great guy. The people at IMZ (Ural) are great.' Sure! And what does that have to do with the quality of the bike?
- Glowing magazine and website reviews. Yes, they look great and they're fun to ride for awhile. But that reviewer didn't end up laying out his own cash for the bike, did he? He didn't own it for years, didn't keep up with the maintenance and repairs, didn't put it in his daily life. I've met lots of people (reviewers and others) who say 'that's awesome, I would totally get one', but when the time comes, when they have money to spend, they don't.