2020 Ural Gear-Up 2WD Adventure Sidecar - A Ride and Test Report in Three Parts

Discussion in 'Hacks' started by mikepa, Mar 28, 2020.

  1. mikepa

    mikepa SideCzarist Supporter

    Joined:
    Dec 10, 2001
    Oddometer:
    814
    Location:
    Seattle, WA in the Great Pacific NorthWET (USA)
    I’m here to disclose a re-kindled love affair with an old friend, the internationally-sourced, Russian-built 2020 Ural 2WD Ural Gear-Up, the world’s most capable, purpose-built motorcycle/sidecar “combi”, with a host of features unmatched by any other production vehicle today.

    About Me: Sidecars are a passion. I’ve owned eight, currently have two at home, one in Germany, one in Japan. I’ve re-built several for friends. Both solo and with my wife, along with 25 lbs of tools, spares, and a well-considered road kit, I’ve piloted one of our rigs on both organized and self-guided tours across five continents. I’m a former military missile technician, amateur six-hour endurance racer, product design and manufacturing engineer, and I am passionate about building and making things hands-on.

    I’ve owned three different 2006 to 2008 Gear-Ups. They were a great way to tour state and forest service roads while taking in the varied and gorgeous landscapes of our home stomping grounds, America’s Pacific Northwest.

    However, the prowess of the then-carbureted/coiled ignition system Gear-Ups off-pavement didn’t hold true on the Interstates and trailering a Gear-Up to where we wanted to ride soon lost its charm. I found a compromise - take the Ural’s rugged sidecar chassis and body and mate it to a BMW GS-series motorcycle. That was a kick-ass combi, I built two of them, still own one, and since, have built BMW GS-based combi’s with sidecars from one Japanese (ABEZ), and three Dutch sidecar kit manufacturers: EZS, EML and LBS/Stepler. I’m not a sidecar expert, but I have a wide and deep experience base to draw on.

    I’m going to do a ride report on the 2020 Ural Gear-Up in three parts. First, the up-close-and-personal, lots of photos. Second, a highways ride on local, state and Interstate pavement, two-up. Finally, a run on some dirt roads, also two-up. I know some of you are Ural owners and experts, some are at least familiar with the brand but not the details, for some, it will be all new. I’ll do my best to make it real for those of you in the latter category.

    The 2020 Gear-Up, with improved “pretty much everything” over my previous Urals, has really come into its own. Over the last decade, the factory has evolved Urals from “Russian tractors” with unmatched off-road performance, to a multi-functional vehicle that performs well at freeway speeds. They were once 650cc, now 750cc. They once had carburetors, they now have Keihin throttle-body, closed-loop fuel injection systems. They once had coils and breaker ignition systems, now an electronic engine management system. Drum brakes have been replaced with three-wheel disc brakes. In short, its still a high-capability retro-styled machine, but now with thoroughly modern components.

    Let’s take an up-close-and-personal look!

    Ural Vice-President Madina Merzhoeva, showing a freshly uncrated 2020 Gear-Up in the headquarters and warehouse in Redmond, Washington (State) USA:

    2020_Ural_GearUp00.jpg


    A 2020 Gear-Up in Burnt Orange (aka “Screaming School Bus Yellow”):

    2020_Ural_GearUp01.jpg

    2020_Ural_GearUp02.jpg

    2020_Ural_GearUp03.jpg

    2020_Ural_GearUp04.jpg

    2020_URal_GearUp05.jpg

    2020_Ural_GearUp06.jpg

    2020_Ural_GearUp07.jpg

    2020_Ural_GearUp08.jpg


    A signature feature of the Gear-Up is a manually selectable 2WD (the sidecar wheel is driven). It is a true or “full locking system”, both the bike’s rear wheel and sidecar wheel are powered and turn together, even if one or the other loses traction. An absolute hoot on loose traction surfaces like sand and snow:

    2020_Ural_GearUp09.jpg


    2WD is engaged by this ball-end selector lever on the right side of the transmission:

    2020_Ural_GearUp10.jpg


    Viewed from underneath, looking at the inside of the bike’s rear wheel, you can see the 2WD output shaft from the final drive:

    2020_Ural_GearUp11.jpg


    Viewed from under the nose of the sidecar, looking back, the large diameter lower cross-member is part of the chassis, the smaller diameter tube above is the driven output shaft that transfers power from the bike’s rear wheel final drive, to the sidecar’s wheel. Also note the two black rubber “snowmen” or “Michelin Men”, these two towers are shock absorbers, isolating the rear of the sidecar body from the chassis, makes the ride smoother for a passenger, man’s best friend, or your gear:

    2020_Ural_GearUp12.jpg


    View from the saddle. All standard hand controls, 5-gallon fuel tank, good for an estimated 155-185 range, with fuel economy estimated from 31 to 37MPG:

    2020_Ural_GearUp13.jpg


    Digital speedometer and odometer:

    2020_Ural_GearUp14.jpg


    Manually operated parking brake, it really holds!:

    2020_Ural_GearUp15.jpg


    Pedals operated by the right foot include a mechanically linked rear wheel/sidecar wheel brake system with independent hydraulic circuits, and also FORWARD/REVERSE selector pedal. Reverse is an awesome feature that attracts as much attention in the parking lot as the rig itself:

    2020_Ural_GearUp16.jpg


    750cc, air-cooled, horizontally-opposed twin cylinder motor. Develops 46HP and 42 ft-lbs of torque. Motor has both an electric and time-honored manual kickstarter. All new front cover and valve cover casting give a finished appearance, while the new cylinder heads improve heat dissipation:

    2020_Ural_GearUp17.jpg


    Introduced in 2019, the new Keihin throttle body, closed-loop fuel injection system results in immediate cold starts, and surprising power delivery. Throttle response is smooth. Emissions meet US, European and Japanese standards:

    2020_Ural_GearUp18.jpg


    Re-located oil filter makes for super easy oil and filter changes:

    2020_Ural_GearUp19.jpg


    The standard motorcycle telescopic front fork is not well-suited for a sidecar combi, as they do not take well to side-load forces, and don’t need to since motorcycle bank in a turn. Experienced sidecar designers choose a leading link front fork as the optimal design for sidecars. They are designed to take side-load forces, and have the added advantage of reducing or eliminating nose-diving during had braking. New for 2020, a single-piece forged brake caliper carrier:

    2020_Ural_GearUp20.jpg


    All three wheels have disc brakes. The rear brake caliper is operated hydraulically by the rear brake pedal during normal operation, and is cable actuated mechanical by the handlebar mounted parking brake lever:

    2020_Ural_GearUp21.jpg


    Rear wheel disc brake:

    2020_Ural_GearUp22.jpg


    Front end is now equipped with a BITUBO steering damper:

    2020_Ural_GearUp23.jpg


    Twin LED auxiliary driving lights are standard:

    2020_Ural_GearUp24.jpg


    (continued next)
    #1
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  2. mikepa

    mikepa SideCzarist Supporter

    Joined:
    Dec 10, 2001
    Oddometer:
    814
    Location:
    Seattle, WA in the Great Pacific NorthWET (USA)
    (Up-Close-and-Personal, continued)

    Anti-slip molded step makes passenger ingress and exit simple and safe:

    2020_Ural_GearUp25.jpg


    It comes with a fourth wheel, and the spare will fit in front, on the rear, or on the sidecar. Wheels are sourced from Italcerchio S.R.L.. Italy:

    2020_Ural_GearUp26.jpg


    Spacious trunk has improved latches and a keylock for security:

    2020_Ural_GearUp27.jpg


    Passenger compartment. In sidecar parlance, the passenger is often referred to as “the monkey”, no offense intended!:

    2020_Ural_GearUp28.jpg


    Seats are contoured, embossed, nicely stitched, and also sourced in Italy, and the seat bottom is removable, revealing a molded storage compartment that holds a tool kit, tonneau cover, and paint touch-up kit. Not even BMWs come with a tool kit any longer:

    2020_Ural_GearUp29.jpg


    A Hella/Euro-style 12VDC accessory outlet is included for a passenger’s heated clothing, charger, or other devices:

    2020_Ural_GearUp30.jpg


    In time-honored tradition, the Gear-Up still comes with an “entrenching tool’:

    2020_Ural_GearUp31.jpg


    A rugged steel NATO canister and carrier are standard equipment:

    2020_Ural_GearUp32.jpg


    For active off-roading, an accessory 2-into-1 high pipe is available, all stainless steel construction:

    2020_Ural_GearUp34.jpg

    Here’s what the high-pipe exhaust system looks like from down under:

    2020_Ural_GearUp35.jpg

    Ural is the world’s only motorcycle/sidecar combi that is certified for international sales. The 2019/2020 models have remained faithful to their retro design, and have come into their own as both a capable touring sidecar, and also an unbeatable off-pavement machine that can carry two and your road kit in comfort. With its new fuel injection system, 2WD, reverse gear, fully interchangeable spare wheel, capacious trunk, three-wheel disc brakes, parking brake, and let’s not forget the entrenching tool, it an unbeatable value, and perhaps the most multi-functional and fun vehicle money can buy:

    2020_Ural_GearUp33.jpg

    On the next installment, a highways road test, "two-up"!
    #2
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  3. Tall Man

    Tall Man 129% of people exaggerate.

    Joined:
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    Brilliant photos. Well done.

    A few comments in passing from a Gear Up owner, respectfully submitted and for the sake of clarity.

    "Manually operated parking brake, it really holds!"
    Yes, for about a month or so after delivery. :-) It isn't self-adjusting. That is to say, as the rear brake pads wear, the owner will have to adjust the parking brake cable at the front of the swing arm to maintain the function of the parking brake feature. A simple procedure for doing so is clearly illustrated in the Owner's Manual.

    "750cc, air-cooled, horizontally-opposed twin cylinder motor. Develops 41HP..."
    The 2019+ rigs provide 46 hp, a 5 hp increase when compared to their 2014-18 ElectroJet FI brethren. Yes, a website edit to the spec data is probably indicated.

    "All new front cover..."

    The current iteration of the front (ignition) cover, with the external oil filter, was introduced with the 2014 model year.

    "Front end is now equipped with a BITUBO steering damper."
    Introduced with the 2018 model year. A marked improvement over the previous design used from 2014-17, some of which were subject to leaking due to premature seal failure.

    "...the seat bottom is removable, revealing a molded storage compartment that holds a tool kit, tonneau cover, and paint touch-up kit."
    The one-piece under seat storage tray, while convenient, is a bit shallow. The center divider prevents the tray from holding either the standard Ural tool roll, or perhaps even a folded tonneau cover (without compressing it) possibly to the point of damage. It's best used for a few loose tools, carefully packed, as well as a first aid and a spare pair of gloves.

    "Switched Hella/Euro-style 12VDC accessory outlet..."
    The Powerlet socket is in fact unswitched (i.e., always hot). It can be used to power a 12 V accessory, or a USB connection with the appropriate adapter. When the rig is parked, the socket can also accept input charging/float voltage from a battery tender.

    The toggle switch on the fuse panel is a remnant of (and was intended to control) the sidecar spotlight that was discontinued after the 2017 model year. As delivered, the switch controls nothing. It can be wired to control an owner-installed electrical accessory of his choosing.

    ----------------

    Best of luck with your road test. Be safe.
    #3
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  4. mr.spui

    mr.spui Been here awhile

    Joined:
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    107
    The Ural is not "the world’s only purpose-built motorcycle/sidecar “combi”, ". It might be the only one available in the USA, but the Jialing JH600B-A, Chang Jiang CJ650B and Shineray XF400B are available elsewhere.
    #4
  5. davide

    davide Been here awhile

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    Elizabeth, Colorado
    Great write up and beautiful pictures, Mikepa, and thank you, Tall Man, for the extra info. Looking fwd to reading more. Nothing like Ural porn to get thru this period of isolation. Just one question about the skid plate and the protective cage around tail light: stock on 2020 Gear Up or from accessories catalogue to be bought extra?
    Thanks!
    #5
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  6. GR8ADV

    GR8ADV Safety Second!

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    What is the up charge on the raised exhaust? Given that I at least would replace the stock exhaust and cat does this play into the system? Thanks for the write up.
    #6
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  7. mikepa

    mikepa SideCzarist Supporter

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    The Ural is available in major international markets, the Chinese makes are not. But, you're technically correct, I've made the edit, thanks for pointing that out.
    #7
  8. mikepa

    mikepa SideCzarist Supporter

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    Thanks for the comments @Tall Man. Relevant corrections have been made.
    #8
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  9. mikepa

    mikepa SideCzarist Supporter

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    The high pipe and skid plate are accessory products, and like most in that category, high-pipe is, of course, "for offroad use only".
    #9
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  10. mikepa

    mikepa SideCzarist Supporter

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    Thanks! I would recommend you find your nearest dealer for pricing of anything of interest. Although my loaner has the standard twin mufflers, I believe the high-pipe includes headers, a 2-into-1 collector, and the high muffler.
    #10
    rg sw wa. likes this.
  11. Flyin' Monkeys

    Flyin' Monkeys Wicked Witch Airlines Supporter

    Joined:
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    Mike, if I may make an observation, and suggest an improvement that should be passed on to Ural Vice-President Madina Merzhoeva, in this picture you posted,
    it shows the exposed U-Joint, that drives the axle for the sidecar wheel.

    In MY world, I would immediately make a measurement of the overall length of that complete U-Joint, and the overall diameter of the same U-Joint, then check with certain automotive manufacturers to see which CV Boot would properly fit over that entire exposed U-Joint. Personally, I would go with a Fuji brand one, used on the Subaru's, as they have been using CV Boots longer than most manufacturers, and use them on all 4 wheels.

    Given the intended use of a Ural 2-Up, with off-road duties being a focus, there is no way I would leave that U-Joint exposed. :nono

    Frankly, if I were Ural Vice-President Madina Merzhoeva, I would JUMP on this idea, and send a memo to the manufacturing facility in Mother Russia, and get this implemented ASAP. The "cost" for installing a good/quality CV Boot on each and every Ural 2-Up would be about $ 5.00 per machine.

    2020_Ural_GearUp11.jpg
    #11
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  12. GR8ADV

    GR8ADV Safety Second!

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    Reminds me of the old line from eating in a restaurant with a dirty bathroom. “ if that’s what they will let me see, what’s behind the closed kitchen doors”
    #12
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  13. windmill

    windmill Long timer

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    The always hot lead to the power outlet can be changed to the switched lead by simply unplugging the one, and plugging in the other without any modifications.
    #13
  14. rg sw wa.

    rg sw wa. Long timer Supporter

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    See pic of:
    A Hella/Euro-style 12VDC accessory outlet is included for a passenger’s heated clothing, charger, or other devices:

    The wires need to be better secured. Refer back to Mike’s excellent posting / write with pics on re-wiring a BMW / sidecar.

    I’ll never look at another bike / car wiring repair / installation job the same way again.
    #14
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  15. Tall Man

    Tall Man 129% of people exaggerate.

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    Link?
    #15
  16. Bar None

    Bar None Long timer Supporter

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    Nice photos of the GU. Waiting for the next part.
    #16
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  17. rg sw wa.

    rg sw wa. Long timer Supporter

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    #17
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  18. Scott of the Sahara

    Scott of the Sahara Been here awhile

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    Mighty Fine Ural
    #18
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  19. SLACKER

    SLACKER Been here awhile Supporter

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    As someone who hasn't owned or driven a Ural since a 2000 model which I sold years ago I am anxious to read a ride report from you Mike. I swore Urals off many years ago but this has piqued my interest.
    Thanks for sharing your unbiased experiences here
    #19
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  20. GR8ADV

    GR8ADV Safety Second!

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    Mike, Mike, Mike ...
    #20