Why you don't want to buy a Ural motorcycle!
The question is often asked here and elsewhere, 'Should I buy a Ural or ... ?'
Bottom Line Up Front: Ural motorcycles are poor quality (fit and finish) and reliability for the price they charge. They are one of the MOST UNRELIABLE new bikes you can buy in America today. If you're buying a new bike at new bike prices then you deserve new bike quality. Old design is not an excuse for poor quality control.
This is all OPINION. Except for the links to other people's breakdowns. Those are real world events.
My experience comes from owning two new Urals. Within the first few months and thousands of miles, both of them have had serious 'bike stop moving' problems like final drive failure, electrical problems, broken swing arm, and water in the carbs. There's also been a host of smaller things like broken brakes, malfunctioning turn and brake signals, a speedometer that bounces back and forth across a 20mph range, and broken steering dampener. On top of that there are the overall poor workmanship issues. New parts with holes in them, debris in the gas tank, etc... Simply put there is a complete lack of attention to detail and quality control in the Ural manufacturing process.
If you already own a Ural, DON'T read this post. You will become upset!
I GREATLY appreciate all the help I've gotten from the Ural community. They are a helpful and devoted bunch. The community is great, I just don't like the bike.
Unfortunately the Uralistas don't like disagreement and are easily wounded. Talk bad about the Ural brand and they will talk bad about you. It's easier for Ural fans to attack a person than defend the bike. So, I'll admit up front to being a pussy whining know-it-all know-nothing. An immature carpet bagging goldbricker who was fed with a silver spoon. I don't even own a Ural, I've never lived in Russia, and every word I say is an anti-Ural conspiracy and lie.
Now that we have that out of the way, can we try to talk about the bike instead of the people?
Your Ural will be fun to ride but eventually you will tire of a quick trip to the store turning in to 2 hours of roadside maintenance.
Do you want to spend your time riding or tinkering?
(1) They are unreliable, require frequent maintenance, and have poor quality control.
In the 100's of posts that will follow this, no one will ever claim that any other brand is less reliable than Ural.
They've been making the SAME motorcycle for 70 years now, you'd think they would have figured out the bugs already!
(2) They are poorly designed and non user friendly.
(3) Ural warranty - Parts covered by warranty but you will still have out of pocket expenses when it breaks (towing, etc...).
(4) Even the Ural community acknowledges they are unreliable.
(5) Poor dealer network
(6) General reasoning: Would you buy anything else made in Russia?
(7) You can get something better! There are other sidecar options in the same price range that are much more reliable.
(8) Good things about Ural motorcycles.
(9) Ural Deniers
(10) Photo summary
(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...]
In the 100's of posts that will follow this, no one will ever claim that any other brand is less reliable than Ural.
- They've been making the SAME motorcycle for 70 years now, you'd think they would have figured out the bugs already!
- 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/viewforum.php?f=5
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.
- 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 poor quality.
- 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.
- Almost everyone I've met has a wildly inaccurate odometer. Mine is off by 8%.
Here are some other owners 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:
Broken Swingarm on new Ural
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:
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. 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 poorly built 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.
- 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 EXPENSIVE premium fuel.
- The gas mileage is lower than other similar hacks.
- 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!)
- The tires are very skinny. There is not a good selection of tire available in that size and there is not enough room in the frame for a wider tire. The skinny tire also affects braking and handling. Giving you very little contact patch and control on gravel, sand, wet surfaces. It's not uncommon to try to make a quick/emergency turn but keep going straight because your front tire is in a slick spot and doesn't have enough grip. It just skids straight forward while turned to the side.
- The tires are also expensive and the Ural burns through the pusher quickly.
- Because Urals are much less common, made to fit accessories (luggage, lights, etc...) are much more limited and hard to find than on more popular platforms like BMW, Triumph, Harley, Yamaha, Kawasaki, Honda, etc...
(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) Yes, even the Ural community knows they are unreliable 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.
The general owner attitude is "I like how this sucks!"
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."
"I like that it breaks often, then I get to FIX IT!"
"I just sold my second Ural. ...I should never have sold my first one, the second was a cursed POS that left me stranded more times than not. (the cylinder should not fall off) I'm putting a hack on a Goldwing because when I take my daughters on rides I don't want them stuck every time. ... I love the bike, but the consistency of quality is too varied for me to trust one for now."
(5) Poor dealer network. There are alot of very inexperienced and low quality Ural dealers. This stems from the fact that most dealers don't sell many Urals and so haven't invested alot of time in training, etc... There are over 50 Ural dealers in the US and combined they sell about 500 bikes a year. That's LESS THAN ONE PER MONTH PER DEALER. Obviously not enough revenue from that to properly train their staff. 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. Often dealers use a "that's just how Urals are" excuse to cover up their inability or lack of desire to fix a problem.
My dealer is of course a great guy! Most of them aren't.
(6) 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. Want to make a Russian laugh? Tell him Americans pay $12,000 (that's 400,000 rubles) for a Ural motorcycle! Want to hear some creative cursing? Ask a Russian what he thinks about the quality of Russian products!
So what, you think that Ural motorcycles are somehow a fortunate exception to this trend? A golden egg laid by a sick goose? Good luck with that!
Even Ural (the company) recognizes this. All their improvements over the years have been done by outsourcing components from other countries. Unfortunately too much of the bike (and final assembly) is still made in Russia and those are the parts that have problems.
You wouldn't buy anything else made in Russia so why would you consider getting a Ural?!
**I say these things with the utmost respect for Russian people. My girlfriend is Russian. She was the first person to tell me that Urals are awful. Her father was the second. They've owned one!
(7) You can get something better! There are other sidecar options. Take a look at all the options in the advrider sidecar photo thread. Any other brand of bike will be more reliable, have a smoother transmission with more gears, stronger motor, and less failure prone drive train. You will have disc brakes (instead of the Ural drums). And it will rust less! 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.
Ural and 2wd are not your only off road option. Just read around to see all the off roading possible on many other bikes. And the skinny tires are a real limitation.
(8) Good things about Ural motorcycles.
- It is the cheapest outfit with 2 wheel drive and reverse (though the 99% of other sidecar owners get by fine without this)
(unless you live in the UK, Australia, or any other left hand drive country then no 2wd Ural for you!)
- Comes with a warranty.
- Easy access. You can walk in to a dealer and walk out with the bike today.
(9) Ural Deniers
The basic tactics of Ural defense are to talk about anything but the reliability (prefer to attack the poster who says they are unreliable) and to say that 'you don't own one so you don't know' (if you don't own a Ural) or 'quit complaining, you're not man enough' (if you do own one).
Here's a few arguments you will hear in support of Ural and my counter arguments:
- 'That could happen on any bike!'. Yes, it COULD, but it happens much more frequently on Urals. Or are they suggesting that there is no reliability difference at all between brands?
- 'Urals are designed from the ground up to have a sidecar' Ok.... but then they are poorly manufactured.
- '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 that 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 way below standard.
- '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. The Ural owner community is great!' Sure! And what does that have to do with the quality of the bike?
- 'Breaking down is part of the experience, modern bikes don't break down enough' I agree, a Ural will break down much more often than any other new bike.
- 'You meet lots of people on a Ural!' You'll meet lots of people on any sidecar outfit. They ALL stand out.
- 'A Ural is not for everyone.' I agree, that's what I'm saying.
- 'A Ural has more character than other bikes'. There is a difference between character and poor running/brakedowns.
- 'My Ural is so much fun to ride!'. Yes, just like any other sidecar, only with more breakdowns.
- 'I get so much attention on my Ural!!!'. Yes, just like you will on any other sidecar.
- 'Here's pictures of my ural doing fun stuff!!!!'. Yes, just like any other sidecar.
- 'It's your fault for buying it. It's the dealers fault for not setting it up correctly. It's the subcontracted suppliers fault for making bad parts.' What an amazing string of bad luck for Ural. Apparently it is everybody's fault except for the company that built and sold you 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. They know better.
- 'It's a super cool vintage motorcycle'. No, it's a brand new mass produced bike. You haven't restored or built anything. There's all the difference in the world between a REAL old vehicle and a new one with old style. A new Ural is a cookie cutter off the shelf bike that anyone can buy. There's no street cred in that.
- 'The Soviet Union was awesome comrade, I want to share in that history! ' Uhhh....yah....
- 'You can play soldier! Look at all the awesome camouflage color schemes!' *sigh*
(10) Ural Photo Summary
Not my pics.