Papua New Guinea To Kathmandu with Ural sidecar

Discussion in 'Epic Rides' started by bokad, Apr 29, 2012.

  1. bokad

    bokad Difficult Child

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    About the rain
    ---------------
    In theory there is a rainy and dry season in Indonesia. I think it's more like a very rainy and somewhat less rainy but still wet season. And when it rains, it comes in buckets. For hours. Usually starting in the early afternoon. If you're sitting inside somewhere, listening to the beating against a thatched roof, then it's very relaxing and beautiful. If you're driving it's a very damp experience. If you're driving up hill then you're fighting against an angry river. Ariver raging from one side of the road to the other and carrying all sorts of debris with it. Masking large holes in the asphalt and sometimes pulling the mountain down on the road or the road down the mountain. You can pull over and wait tillit passes but you may be waiting for hours. I think we've found all the mystery leaks now. The trunk and luggage stay dry. The jugs on my Ural steam profusely in the rain. I like that.
    #21
  2. Donmanolo

    Donmanolo Been here awhile

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    Trieste, weird north-east bit of Italy
    Subscribed...this is just brilliant..!


    (as is the choice of name for the beast, Uzhasniy indeed :D )
    #22
  3. bokad

    bokad Difficult Child

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    When I first decided to buy a Ural I came up with all sorts of cool Russian-esque names. Sputnik (travelling companion or satellite), Brodyachaya Sobaka (stray dog), Kroota (cool). But the day I bought it and clumsily rode it home for 5 hours, all I could think was "terrible"
    #23
  4. bokad

    bokad Difficult Child

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    About the driving
    ------------------
    Driving in Indoesia is a special sort of hell. I've ridden in Cambodia, Thailand, Vietnam. It's worse here. Magnitudes worse. It's stressful, dangerous, uncomfortable, and slow. If I had known just how bad it would be I would have made a trip somewhere else.

    On a decent day, with aggresive passing, we manage an average speed of 33km/h (20mph). If it's not a decent day and no good opportunities for passing then it can be much slower. Sure you can go faster at times. But never for a sustained period. You might burst to 50 or even a screaming 70km/h but then you'll get stuck behind an uphill mammoth truck at 15km/h. Or a train. Or an accident.

    No amount of description or video or pictures could accurately describe it. But I'll try.

    First, imagine a place like England or Germany or a crowded US state.
    Now remove all the interstates, autobahns, two lane, and divied highways. There is none of that here. Just a narrow single lane in each direction. No dedicated entries or exits. No turning lanes. No road shoulder. So a narrow street lines with businesses and houses for miles. There is no special place for pulling over to pick up passengers or fixing a flat, or making a turn across traffic. Because there are no highways, all the traffic that belongs there is on these secondary roads instead. Hurtling busses. Mammoth size trucks, people trying to drive as fast as possible between cities.

    Just to make it a little more spicy, picture traffic that you've never seen in your country. A 10 year old transporting his younger brother on a scooter while yacking on cell phone. Sprinting and darting in who knows what directions. A grandfather peddling a wide and incredibly slow becek bicycle taxi. Three generations of family in one horse drawn cart. Someone walking and pushing a snack wagon. Trucks so lumberous and overloaded on the sides and top that they have to drive in the middle of the road or run in to the tops and sides of trees. Agricultural vehicles bristling with pointy metal things. And people just carelessly walking.

    None of these things are where they should be. Slow things don't stay to the side where they are easily avoided.
    Mix all these things, big and small, fast and slow, in to one narrow road.
    And everyone seems to drive without any awarness of the vehicles around them. Someone stuck at 10km/h thinks nothing of pulling in front of 50km/h traffic. Large slow trucks will occupy the oncoming lane (your lane) to pass another large slow truck. They flash their lights to say "I know it's you're lane but I'm coming so you better move". Nobody is TRYING to injure you or themselves but they're definitely putting very little effort in to avoiding it.

    So you've pictured (ex Germany). Removed the interstates, put all the large trucks on secondary roads, added in horses and children on motorcycles and pedestrians. Removed driver education. Removed turns lanes and shoulders.

    And finally but crucially, increase the population density 500%. So crowded that there is no room for error.

    But things do happen. You come around a corner at speed (and by speed I mean 30mph) and suddenly grandpa and his becek are in the middle of the road. You slam on the brakes to avoid rolling over his antique tin cycle and he doesn't even notice. You are stuck behind a ginormous truck grinding along at 20km/h. You can't see anything in the front or to the side. Just this huge truck posterior. You cautiously edge out to pass. You accelerate. Then mid way through the pass this monster suddenly swerves to avoid a pothole or scooter or horse. He swerves without ever looking beside him, and you're forced in to the ditch. You are stuck behind a slow moving vehicle. The minvian behind you is therefore stuck behind you. He attempts to pass, even though it's obviouly not clear. He's just accelerating and hoping there's nothing around the corner. He's parallel with you now. But there is something, a hurtling oncoming buss, so he weaves back, forcing himself in to the space you were occupying. Running you over or forcing you to the side.

    There's a thousand different permutations. All come from the same origins. A maddening cocktail. Too many people, not enough space, bad infrastructure, traffic types that should never mix.


    It was the second week here. The first time (in all my miles travelled and 60 countries visited) I've ever seen a fresh body on the road. And what I thought was "huh, I'm surprised we didn't see this sooner".

    I hate driving here. I dread it. It's a chore, not a pleasure. I wouldn't recommend self drive here to anyone. You're damn near the smallest dog in the yard and those big boys will think nothing of squashing you. Car and driver are so cheap to hire here anyway. I dream of returning with a freight train of a truck. Hundreds of tons and steel and motor. Annihilating all those busses and trucks and vans and cars that carelessly tried to kill me. Seriosuly, I dream of it.

    The best solution is to drive at night. You miss the scenery and you might bleed for awhile after an accident (like when you hit that dark 50lb bag of rice on the road ) before someone else comes along, but god it's smooth sailing. 99% less traffic and cool air. Double the speeds you can make during the day. You have the road and all those glorious curves to yourself.

    I hope it gets better. It has to. I'm too stubborn to quit and the only way out of Indonesia is to continue through Indonesia.

    I hate driving here.

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    The view often looks like this for extended periods of time. Can't see anything to the front or the other lane. If you try to back off a bit to leave some safety space or get a better view, the [$%^!@#] behind you will quickly pass then wedge in in front of you. Thus leaving you one car further back and still not safety zone. Notice also that the truck is well over the center line. You could maybe pass on the right but not if he swerves to avoid something in his lane. It's not so bad though. Sometimes they are loaded a few feet taller and drive exactly in the center.

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    We also spend a lot of time viewing this. The one advantage of being behind a large truck is that at least it acts like a shield and you can be sure not to have a problem with oncoming traffic in your lane.
    #24
  5. bokad

    bokad Difficult Child

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    11 April 2012
    --------------------------------
    Bandongan to Kaliurang (Hargo Binangun on Google Maps)
    60km

    This is where famous mount Merapi. Deadliest or biggest or most active or most something or other Volcano in the world.

    Uneventful day. Thank god. Google maps is pretty poor for Indonesia and frequently takes us to the wrong city and through some abandoned roads but we made it without drama. Again, thanks god, I need the break.

    Kaliurang is a mountain resort town near Yogyakarta. Has been since early colonial times. There's about a thousand guest houses.

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    Google says this is the best route.

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    Guest house has a nice summer cottage feel.

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    Some careless person has spilled jelly all over the volcano map

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    This is an alligator snapping turtle. Belongs with the dinosaurs. So ugly I thought it was a stone sculpture. Doesn't belong in Indonesia. Awesome decoration.
    #25
  6. bokad

    bokad Difficult Child

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    12 April 2012
    --------------
    Trek to see Merapi.

    Another one of those wake up numbingly early to see the beautiful sunrise type expeditions. Hike before dawn. Terrible idea.

    Apparently the name translates as Mountain of Fire. Nice....


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    This was a thick forest until the 2010 eruption wiped it out (and some villages too) . Just a few hulks now. Grass comes back quickly though.

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    This was a thick forest until the 2010 eruption wiped it out (and some villages too) . Just a few hulks now. Grass comes back quickly though.

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    The eruption was so big it blew of several million tons of it's own cone

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    This lava river is much older. The guide says there are magic earth crystals in the lava and you should rub your feet on them for energy. I'm a skeptic (and an ass), so I left my boots on.
    #26
  7. bokad

    bokad Difficult Child

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    13 April 2012
    ---------------
    Kaliurang to Yogyakarta.
    26km

    All downhill. I coasted in neutral the entire way. Felt wonderful.

    They say Yogyakarta is the cultureal capital of Java.

    At tall man in a short country walks in to many spider webs.

    If you like fried rice (nasi foreng), Indonesia is the place to be!

    If I don't learn patience Indonesia will probably kill me. Certainly I'm not going to change her.

    We've been 'alone' so long and now so many foreign tourists. I exciteadly (and literally) point out all the white people to Anna. I introduce myself to people stupidly like I've just wandered out of a decade of jungle isolation. I'm sooo exuberant to see them. And they all think I'm weird.

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    Excellent

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    What's a sexy girl like you doing in a hippy backpacker hang out like this?

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    Come with me...

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    The king's socks.
    #27
  8. bokad

    bokad Difficult Child

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    14 April 2012
    ---------------
    Around Yogyakarta

    The primary product of Yogya is batik, which is some sort of hand painted clothing.
    The secondary is construction of shops to hold the batik to sell to you.
    The third product is ten times too many becek drivers to hassle you and drive you to the batik shop so they can get their comission.

    Other things in Yogyakarta:
    A crummy palace where you can see the king's socks.
    Lots of tourists.
    Touts, scammers, and harassers to serve the tourists.
    An animal market where you can buy an owl, monkey, or pink chicken.

    A shout out and thanks to the Yamaha lovers group of Yogya. Like all bikers in Indonesia they are superb. Helped me to fix some swinging luggage too.

    I hear there is a sizable antique group in Yogya but sadly we didn't cross paths and I was in a hurry to get the hell away from all these people.

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    Hundreds of these crooks everywhere.

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    It's art!

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    chirp chirp

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    Who are you looking at! Anna said it would be a bad idea to buy a monkey or an owl. What a sour Sally!

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    Also art!

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    One of the cool guys from the Yamaha lovers group. He's not a vampire, really.
    #28
  9. bokad

    bokad Difficult Child

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    ------------------------------------
    15 April 2012
    Yogyakarta to Malang
    357km

    I saw the 'stuff' in the center of the road first. Maybe a busted open crate or some lost bags of rice. It was dark, hard to tell. Traffic slowed and someone was waving us around the debris. All sorts of things fall off of trucks and scooters here. Then I noticed the crumpled motorcycle on the left. Only it took me a moment to realize it was a motorcycle. I'd never seen one in quite this shape before. Like it was some delicate paper origami that been crushed in hand and tossed aside. "Huh", I thought, not understanding. Slowing down to pass the mess my eyes followed the pool of fluid from the motorcycle back to the center of the road and a heap of news papers. "Strange", I thought, still not realizing what events had made this odd diorama of broken motorcycle, spilt papers, and crowd standing round. Why don't they move this stuff off the road? And then, the newspapers suddenly took shape, and I understood why they were there, what they were covering, and why they couldn't be moved. I've never seen a scene like this before the ambulance and police arrive. Before the accident is cordoned off and what has happened is obvious. It's a terrible jump in the second from curiously looking at a pile of papers in the road to understanding what you're seeing. It certainly makes an impression.

    R.I.P. to the rider.


    The roads here are congested. Single lane filled with big and small. Fast and slow. All dancing and weaving around each other with just a few cm to spare.
    #29
  10. bokad

    bokad Difficult Child

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    -----------------------------------
    15 April 2012
    Yogyakarta to Malang
    357km

    I was determined to make this in one day and proud to say we did. It took until 1am but it's the longest distance we've covered at one go. After 2100 the roads were beautiful. Smooth, slithering, devoid of other cars. We rocketed past mosques, farms, volcanos, and mountain resorts. We rolled in to a city of empty wide boulevards. It felt marvelous. The best 4 hours of driving in Indonesia ever.

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    There was hours of twisting road like this. It made me soooo happy.

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    Love it

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    #30
  11. bokad

    bokad Difficult Child

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    Malang. Hotel Tugu.
    Open air. Large traffic circles with green and monuments in the center.

    They have mud volcanos!

    Amazing hotel. You can wander around it like some sort of museum maze. Each room filled with strange antique treasures and unusual furniture. You're never sure where a hallway or doorway may lead. Best part is it's low season so we basically have the place to ourselves. Private eccentric mansion!

    The main function of the hotel seems to be for the owner to store his collection of asian oddities.

    They have a full and relaxing bar with competent bartender. Pretty rare in Java. I appreciate it.

    I'm planning to do alot of nothing today. Probably tomorrow too.

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    Eccentric hotel

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    Eccentric hotel

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    Eccentric hotel

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    Eccentric hotel
    #31
  12. bokad

    bokad Difficult Child

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    17 April 2012
    -----------------
    Malang

    One of the guys working at the hotel is also a biker. The Ural draws attention. We go out for a few dinners and rides with the group. B.R.A.M. - Byson Riders Arek Malang. Big group, about 40 strong. Friendly too. All riding the Yamaha Byson. I still don't know what Arek means. When we ride they form a protective shell around me. Covering the back and sides, clearing the front. We fly through traffic. I'm mildly worried I may accidently run one over them with the tractor stearing Ural though. They give me a t-shirt and it feels proper to change in to it on the spot. We all have a good chuckle at my ultra pale skin and man boobs. For real.

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    B.R.A.M.

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    B.R.A.M.

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    B.R.A.M.

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    B.R.A.M.
    #32
  13. bokad

    bokad Difficult Child

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    More strange hotel.

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    #33
  14. bokad

    bokad Difficult Child

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    18 April 2012
    -----------------
    Malang

    Lazy day. Another animal market. Still no monkeys purchased. Or vampire bats ((
    We go to the bank to exhange money. It takes over an hour. The teller photo copies every bill.
    The bank guards have crocodile dundee knives instead of guns. The largest denomination of bill is only worth USD $10. Pockets are always stuffed just to cover hotel, dinner, and gas. And drinks. That seems to be a large expense.
    The rest from driving feels good. My butt recovers. I buy some baby powder.
    Mostly I take pictures of rice paddies and other old timey crap. I'm a tourist so that's what I want to see. These are modern cities though and there is no shortage of coffee houses, fancy cars, and new buildings.

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    It's not all rice paddies.

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    One again Anna is a kill joy to my great ideas.

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    Traffic circle and park in front of the hotel.

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    Public square, fountain, mosque.
    #34
  15. bokad

    bokad Difficult Child

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    19 April 2012
    --------------
    Bromo

    Today we will go to mount Bromo. It's like a volcano, but better. Actually it's three volcanos inside the crater of an ancient super volcano. Like a zit on a pimple. Awesome!

    Although only 40km or so away you need 3 hours to get there. Indonesian roads, remember? So for sunset you need to depart the hotel at 1am. I'm ashamed to say we didn't take the Ural but hired a car. I was really tired and they said 4wd was needed. In retrospect I think the Ural would have managed (the scooters did) and it would have been a great photo op. Ashamed.

    It was an incredible day. Looks like nothing else in Indonesia. More like Mongolia.

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    Living on the edge of an ancient crater

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    Three volcanos and a sea of sand

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    Sea of sand

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    Gaping maw of Bromo. Sulphur fumes from the earth.

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    Like nothing else in Indonesia.
    #35
  16. bokad

    bokad Difficult Child

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    20 April 2012
    --------------

    I feel better and better as we get to less crowded areas. I realize that we're moving slowly and this trip is going to take much longer than planned. If it get's finished at all. I don't mind. We could blow through areas but I actually want to see things. It will be a trip of experiences, not miles. I look at the map and I'm proud of how far we've come.
    I look at the pictures and they're so amazing. Also I see my man boobs are getting more prominent in photos.

    Indonesians have been very good to us. Kinder than I could ever expect.

    There are a million uses for bamboo. It's better than duct tape, p-cord, and a multi-tool combined.

    There is a gecko in our room. Geckos are always a good omen. He's watching me write.

    I Ural'd over a man's bare foot in traffic. I gave him $5 and his pain seemed lessened.

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    It's possible to have fun without drinking but it sure is a lot easier that way.

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    I love my old lady. And my Bonneville too ))

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    Giant gecko watching you!
    #36
  17. Catalyst

    Catalyst Explorer

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    Augusta, GA
    What a trip! I'd love to do something like this with my girlfriend.
    #37
  18. Frey Bentos

    Frey Bentos not listening

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    Fermanagh. Ireland
    I'd love to do this trip with HIS girlfriend.....:evil
    #38
  19. isaac-wombat

    isaac-wombat Adventurer

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    Hey bokad, I'm lovin' ya story!

    My only Indo experience is a few trips ta Bali but yeah, I hafta agree with yur opinions on their driving habits.
    The biggest vehicle has right of way whenever & wherever it decides to exercise that right! But not only that, it seems they lack an understanding for dangerous traffic situations.

    I was one of three people in a small mini bus and a local fella mentioned my 'concerned look' as we drove along (I was 'concerned' after several near misses).

    I explained in my Country we don't overtake vehicles and sit in the opposite lane as we crest the top of a hill! We wait until it is safe to do so, when we can see what's coming. At home it's considered incredibly dangerous and in fact it's illegal.

    He pondered this and said, "Here we look at the situation - and if we think we can make it we will go for it" or words to that effect...

    But anyways, two things:
    I'm on the verge of buying a URAL and I gotta say some of yur comments have me worried. I'm surprised to read it runs outta puff in some sections. But it seems to be altitude and fuel mix issues, yeah?

    Papua New Guinea; I see yur heading there with ya lovely Lady... Mate, be very careful.
    PNG has quite a reputation as a dangerous place. It's stunningly beautiful but theft & muggings & far worse is a regular thing over there. You sound like a seasoned Traveller, so please do some homework on this one.
    #39
  20. bokad

    bokad Difficult Child

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    Thanks for the reminder. I'd forgotten about the great crest of the hill passing! Even if you don't engage in such practices you're still at danger from people who do. Nuts!

    Sorry for the long rant below. I have complicated thoughts about Ural.
    I drove my Ural in the US for a few thousand km before bringing it here. Didn't have any problems. Cruising on the highway at 65mph for hours. It's horribly unsuited to driving here though. Quick shifting, acceleration, braking, and maneuverability are a must. And those are all areas where the Ural falls short. Ural has notably poor quality control and a new bike needs a thorough going over from the dealer or yourself. The rear drum brakes can be decent if they're properly set up. Near useless as they come from the factory. The transmission can be less crunchy with clutch adjustment. I own two Urals. Both of them came new with holes in parts, loose nuts, rust, and/or other issues. I love my Ural sometimes and hate it others. It's NOT a bike that can be recommended without reservation. You should have a desire to tinker, patience, some tools, and the time to adjust and fix the things that need it. It's the cheapest and quickest hack combo you can get. It looks cool. Hundreds (maybe even thousands) of people are very happy with their Ural. If I was doing it again and had the extra $'s I'd seriously consider a Ural sidecar attached to another bike though. Less worry and more riding. But I don't like to spend a lot of time wrenching.

    About air/fuel mix and altitude and puff. Ural claims in their manual that their carbs automatically compensate for altitude but the general consensus is that they don't. If you're staying around one altitude range, just get it figured out right once and no problem. You'll need to become educated about jet sizes and needle taper, etc... If you're going from sea level to 2000 meters in one day then that can be a problem. My puff problems are usually a result of the roads here. Either having to drive too slow because the road is very rough and so the RPM's aren't in a high enough range to produce enough torque and the Ural isn't geared low enough. Or getting stopped by traffic on an incline and not having enough oomph to get going uphill again from a stop. As an air cooled engine it runs pretty hot and some have said the air intake and carb design heats the air up quite a bit before it combusts. Hot air is of course less dense and has less oxygen. I notice a HUGE difference in hot and cold performance.
    Soviet Steeds forum is a great resource for all things Ural and they are a bit more optimistic as well.
    I've had simple to fix (but very frustrating) problems that I never would have solved without the knowledge there.

    #40