Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Miles and Natasha at Red Rocks Park

Since I am currently in between jobs, it worked out that I had four workdays off between leaving my UAL contract and starting work at DISH Networks this coming Monday; and my #2 son is tracked off of school (year-round schooling here from K-5th grade), we decided to go for a ride.

This would the be "shakedown" ride for Natasha since all the repairs and such from the weekend. I'll tell you now, she did great!

Nothing broke, engine ran fine but Miles got a little car sick. I don't think he's used to being in the sidecar for long periods, hopefully it was because of the windy conditions we encountered most of the day.

We left the house a bit after 8:30 AM and were in Red Rocks Park near Morrison, CO at around 10 AM. (we stopped briefly to get Miles some ibuprofen for his headache).

Here's some shots of the two of them as we wandered about the park. There was very little traffic, it being the middle of the week.

Short tunnel leading to the upper parking lot

One of my favorite rock formations at the park. Note the loose gravel parking lot, it was nothing for Natasha to traverse! Easy.

A tired Miles, he went up and down the amphitheater steps (69 rows), twice, because he forgot his count the first time!

The ramp leading up the amphitheater, that was enough exercise for me!

The view as you leave the park through Entrance #3

Miles admiring the view

The Amphitheater

Rock formation on the way to the Amphitheater

Natasha in one of the graveled parking lots

We left Red Rocks near 11:30 AM and transited through Morrison on the way east towards Denver. Lunch was at the Colonel's, the KFC colonel that is. Afterwards it was city streets over to a motorcycle accessories place where we got a real motorcycle helmet for Miles and Patrick to wear. They'd been wearing their ski helmets till now, this will be safer.

Got home a little after 1:00 PM, we removed the windshield from the sidecar as it sits really close to the passenger and I think was contributing to buffeting felt by Miles. We also removed the tarp cover for now as it gets in the way of the passenger sometimes. Then, we removed the windshield and side wings from the fairing, leaving only the center plate. You'll see what I mean in the next posting.

Why? It's warm! Need air hitting me on these rides! It'll all go back on, hopefully easily, when the first snows arrive or it turns really cold.

Great first long ride for my #2 son and I. He and I had a good time.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Natasha, with apologies to Simon and Garfunkel

Cecilia, one of the great songs from Simon and Garfunkel and on my list of favorite tunes, kept running through my mind this past weekend as I worked on Natasha; my 1996 Ural Sportsman Sidecar Motorcycle.

Prefaced by my profound apologies to this great work by Simon and Garfunkel, I give you my version of this song, with a Russian Ural twist:

Tasha, you're falling apart
You're shaking my confidence daily
Oh, Natasha, I'm down on my knees
Working on faults that I find

Fixing stuff in the afternoon on Natasha
down in my garage
I got up to wash my hands
When I come back
something else is wrong on her

Tasha, you're faults are less now
I'm growing my confidence daily
Oh, Natasha, I'm down on my knees
finding out how to fix you some more

Jubilation, she runs fine again,
I fall on the floor and I'm laughing,
Jubilation, she runs fine again,
I get on the rig and I'm riding.

Today was a WWID day for me and Natasha. The supports/rack that held up the ammo box onto which the previous owner had mounted had issues while on a ride to the hardware store. One post's welds broke from the horizontal support, the other broke in two! Sigh.

I think it was the vibration back and forth that the rack permitted, coupled with the weight of the battery and ammo box. So really, can't blame it on the RPOC factor. No problem though, a bit of thinking and trying things out resulted in this:

I bent a flat piece of iron I had laying around, anchored the top end on frame support bolt on the motorcycle's frame and the lower end to the ammo box containing the battery.

The support post on the left, with the black tape is the one that broke in two, I placed the broken ends withing a pipe to prevent it from moving apart. It'll do until I find a way to weld it together again. The post on the right broke free of its welds from the frame supporting the sidecar. I used a exhaust pipe clamp to keep it firmly in contact with the support frame for now.

After all this, that battery box does not move at all! Heck, part of the process even involved a BFH, an apparently mandatory addition to any Ural owner's toolkit. (Big F*ing Hammer)

Got in a couple of rides in spite of the repairs needed, Natasha is running nicely still, we'll see tomorrow when I hope to get in a long ride with my #2 son.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Natasha is better now....

Good news, Natasha is about 99% back to normal. Well, as normal as a Ural can be. : )

This recent experience was the result, apparently of contamination in the fuel system, near as I can figure it.

The initial issue of the engine not restarting reliably from either electric or kick starter is theorized to be "vapor lock" by Mike of He was a very informative and helpful guru that I was passed onto by Felicia when I called them about parts for Natasha. The symptoms I was able to relate to Mike led to:
  • Resetting the fuel mixture screw on the carburetors to 1.5 turns from seat, 2.5 being too rich. Then re-doing the idle speed and another carburetor sync. (This tip came from Felicia; apparently one can't believe everything one reads in the owners manual)
  • Draining some fuel from the carburetor float bowls and checking for water or crud. None found.
  • Blowing compressed air through petcock into gas tank to clear any obstructions in that path, through the carburetor with a partially filled fuel bowl via the fuel intake and having it vent out. This to ensure fuel jets are cleared.
  • Putting back the old NGK BP7HS plugs vice the Autolites because they're too "hot". I am to always stick with the NGKs.
Took Natasha out for test run and she can accelerate just fine now! Some minor bogging which I don't think is related to the carbs but to too much freeplay in the throttle grip. More investigation to be done there but for now, she's about 99% back!

While it had its frustrating moments, I did learn a lot from this:
  • A simpler and easier way to sync the carbs. Start with free throttle cables, get fuel mixture equal first, then equalize the air settings, when that's balanced, then remount the throttle cables and recheck. Easy!
  • Learned how to drain the carbs without dismounting the fuel bowls. Good for checking for fuel contamination. It takes more effort to take the bowls of the Keihin carbs than the Bing carbs on an Airhead Beemer!
  • Learned what type of fuel petcock I have, that it needed cleaning and that there's a better version out there somewhere for me to search for. I wonder if I can use Beemer petcocks on the Ural tank? Sure, you have to shut them off when parked or they leak but I am used to them.
  • Learned where my ignition coil and control unit are located and how they work with each other and the spark plugs. Tomorrow, I do my first timing light check, learned that as well from a different source.
  • Learned a "quick" way to clear the fuel jets on a carburetor. A thorough cleaning is in order for the near future.
  • Learned from Felicia of a source of oil/fuel compatible hose for replacing the cracking intake boots on Natasha.
  • Finally, re-learned the lesson to check the basics first before diving headfirst into the deep end of the troubleshooting pool. Checking the spark plug cables first would have saved me some trouble. It was not the major contributor but a factor nonetheless.
I've new spark plug cables, replacement carb flanges, new spark plugs and clear fuel lines on order, they should be here on Wednesday I think. The old NGKs are black from too rich a fuel mixture in the past, hopefully the settings I have now will prevent that. The plugs are to remedy the mismatched cables on Natasha now. The flanges will replace the aging and cracked ones that Natasha came with. Finally the clear fuel lines is for me to detect crud in the gas hopefully.

My heartfelt thanks to Felicia and Mike of Wagner's Cycles, their willingness to help me gained them a new customer. My gratitude as well to Andre, my Russian friend who showed me the simpler way to sync carburetors and set them correctly.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Diagnostics 101 for Natasha

So, tried a few things, re-learned diagnostics on boxer engines, learned a few new things about Natasha and while she's not 100%, I think I've got a good idea of what needs to be replaced now.

  • found a bad spark plug cable (it was the cap actually) that read zero ohms between ends, it's supposed to read 5000 ohms. Could not find the right one at the auto parts store so I took an old one from my beemer and made it work.
  • checked the existing spark plugs, found them black and a bit sooty, which means I am running too rich in fuel. Replaced old spark plugs with Autolites, properly gapped to .50 mm per the manual.
  • verified fuel levels in carburetor float bowls are about the same. In the process, found rpoc screws securing the right hand carb float bowl, replaced them with good allen head screws. Left side carb already had those replaced by previous owner.
  • with help of a friend and my manometer, synchronized both carburetors after having to remove the right hand carb to get at the stupid stripped rpoc screw.
  • cleaned out the fuel petcock bowl, had found some cork crud on the bottom, probably from a disintegrated cork seal or something. Verified good fuel flow from both lines.
Natasha now idles great, starts every time with the electric starter or with the kickstart. Of course, it's not a hot day today and I did not go on a long run.

Problem is now that she's got no acceleration power. She just kind of bogs long, slowly creeping up in speed. So while rideable, not exactly what I want in terms of being able to accelerate and keep up with traffic!

I know the carbs are sync'ed and she idles great. I figure it's a timing issue, perhaps the fact I've got mis-matched spark plug cables, perhaps a failed interruptor within the ignition control unit....or a combination of these. I know for a fact its probably not the coil as I first suspected, since it would not hold idle at all if that were the case. So at least, I eliminated the costliest part I was looking to replace (about $100).

I'll be ordering the replacement interruptor first thing tomorrow along with new spark plug cables and new spark plugs. I put some "equivalents" in from Autolite but would like to use the ones recommend in the manual.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

An RPOC kind of day

*RPOC: Russian Piece of Crap, the unkind nickname given to Russian sidecar rigs and usually referring to the crappy quality control on the components used for said motorcycles.

Warm day today, sunny skies, figured it'd be perfect for a ride to Golden, CO on Natasha to introduce myself to the nearest known Ural mechanic and show him some stuff I wanted replaced due to cracks being in evidence.

Took me an hour and ten minutes using city streets. Mainly Hampden to Kipling, then a brief sprint on US6 till I got to Golden. I got to the shop and found out that Dennis, the owner, was on a parts run and wouldn't be back for an hour. Instead of hanging out, I rode up Lookout Mountain. You might remember the road up to the top is full of hairpin turns. I must have been one of the slower vehicles going up that road today. I was taking it real easy on the right hand turns and not much faster on the left hand turns!

There were two packs of beemers that zoomed past as I was stopped, luckily, taking pictures. There sure were moving along smartly.

Heading up on Lookout Mountain Road

That's Golden in the background between North and South Tabletop Mountains

Got to the top of the mountain, where the Buffalo Bill Museum is located, turned around after checking in with my loving wife. Headed back down the way I came up, again setting no land speed records but managing to at least go the speed limit.

Got back to the mechanic and talked to Dennis, showed him the carbs on Natasha and he tut tutted for a bit, while rummaging through his spare parts area. Turns out, that since 1996, the airbox has been modified on Urals and I'd either have to replace the airbox or cut it to make the current rubber air intakes fit correctly. The current ones had some cracks developing around the ends. I'll have to think on that one and see if I can find a suitable part elsewhere, don't really want to cut up the airbox!

I did get some gas lines, 6 feet worth, to replace the crackings ones on Natasha so it was not a totally wasted trip. It's quite a ways to Golden from my house, not sure it'll be convenient to use Dennis' shop for repairs I can't handle.

On the way home, I kept getting stuck in construction traffic. I was sweating and I am sure Natasha was not having a good time either! Then, the RPOC sequence began: She stopped running while I was idling while stuck in traffic. I went to start her with the electric starter....nothing. Several attempts later using the electric starter had only resulted in me slowing moving out of traffic and into a shopping center's driveway. I pushed Natasha the rest of the way into a parking spot, not too bad but did I mention it was a hot day?

I thought perhaps something had overheated, so I doffed my riding gear and let Natasha cool down. Perhaps 30 minutes later, tried the electric start again. Nothing, the starter would spin but the engine would not catch!

On a whim, I tried the kickstart and damned if she didn't start! I hurriedly put on my riding gear and continued riding home, thinking that there was apparently something wrong with the starter switch! (In retrospect, this did not make sense since I could hear the starter spinning)

I was riding along when perhaps 2 miles from the house when while idling at a stoplight, she dies on me again. Again the starter failed to get the engine to restart. I managed to move her off the street onto the side of a housing area's entrance.

Took me a while to get her in neutral and when I did, no amount of kick starting would get the engine going! Desperate, I tried the electric starter and it started! Damn, so it's probably not the starter switch. I got my riding gear on and made it home.

I cleaned out the air filter while I let the engine cool down and I posted some queries on the discussion forums for these RPOCs.

I took it out for a test ride and she was running really rough and misfiring under load. Not good, I got her back home.

I checked online at the forums and the consensus seems to be leaning towards a bad coil. I located it, checked for loose connection and tightened one that seemed a bit loose.

Took it out for another test drive and there's still misfiring going on at anything above say 5mph! Aaaaaarrrrgggghhhhh. It's definitely ignition related though, she's acting like she's misfiring. Now I have to find and order a new coil I think. Hopefully, I'll find or someone will list how to check the existing coil to see whether its bad or not.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Running the Ural out of gas, on purpose

Natasha, my 1996 Ural Sportsman Sidecar Motorcycle, comes with a 5 gallon tank according to the online manual I found for a 1998 model. She's also designed to get about 30 mpg, do the math, that works out to a max range of 150 miles.

To prove out this important range detail for myself, I'd been carrying about a half gallon of gas in a spare gas container stored in the sidecar's trunk. I was over 200 km on the tripmeter this afternoon when I took Natasha out for a spin after working at the airport. This was, by the way, my last day of work at the airport! I've found new work, and am going to start as a contract-to-hire for DISH Networks at the Meridian Business Center south of Denver.

I rode over to the DTC or Denver Tech Center to turn in my Cendant Data Center badge since I would no longer require access to the UAL portions of that facility. On the way there, Natasha started sputtering and losing power at around 225 km on the tripmeter. Aha, I said to myself, got to switch to reserve! I did so, while moving slowly in traffic and a few seconds later I was rewarded with a return of power at the engine.

I did my paperwork at the data center and headed south to check the Honda dealer for some mirrors, none to be hand. I want some with longer stems to get better views behind me.

I left the dealer and just wandered around the Centennial Airport area trying to run Natasha out of gas. This was to see how long I could go in terms of kilometers or miles before the reserve ran out.

Centennial Airport's Control Tower

I wandered for quite a bit actually, in fact, she did not start sputtering until I was close to my new work location near Peoria Street and E-470. I managed to chug my way into one of the employee parking spots! Hah! I looked into the tank and I could see the metal bottom (with some disturbing calcium appearing growths scattered about) with no gas swishing about as I rocked the motorcycle. I was out.

Natasha made it all the way to 266 Km before running out. I think I could have made it to 270 but will use 260 Km as my max range and 225 for when I should be thinking of turning the gas petcock to reserve. That works out to hitting reserve at 139.5 miles and a max range of 161.5 miles.

I know, not as good as Brigitta my R80 which regularly gets 40 mph, but then again she weights 532 lbs dry, Natasha weighs 700lbs dry, not to mention the 70-80 lbs of ballast additional in the sidecar. Makes a difference!

Just one more step towards getting to know Natasha. I am debating whether to continue carrying the spare gas can in the trunk (which has breathing holes) or mounting it outside the sidecar.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

My loving wife's first sidecar ride

One of the several reasons I got a sidecar rig was to be able to take along one of my family members along for the ride. My two sons have been having a blast while we go on errand runs to the auto parts store or the hardware store.

Today after work, I took #1 son to the auto parts store, then for a ride that included his middle school. #2 son of course had to get a ride as well, I took him along to try and capture the sunset since his ride was way after dinner.

We got home shortly after the sun set and it was twilight. I poked my head into the house and saw my loving wife sitting on the couch. I said: "Last chance for a ride!". She thought it over for all of two nanoseconds I think then jumped up to get ready.

A few minutes later, we were ready to hit the road. #2 son took several pictures, here's one that came out decent. More in the future, I am sure.

We went for a short hop through the neighborhood and exited onto Smoky Hill Road near the public library. We were home soon enough and she said she had a good time, two thumbs up!

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Tool Farkle for my motorcycles

Well, it's mainly for use on Natasha, my 1996 Ural Sportsman. One of the regularly scheduled things you're supposed to do on all motorcycles, but specially on Urals, is the checking of nuts and bolts for tightness.

I've had a couple of fasteners "dissapear" on me already so I spent some time this morning checking over every nut and bolt I could find and reach. There's a bunch! Not only that but as a bonus, I basically had to use every size in my metric set from 10mm to 19mm! What a PITA.

My beemer on the hand, requires about five sizes of metric wrenches. Sigh. Not only that but things don't tend to fall off the beemer in my experience.

So, to better and more smoothly do these checks in the future, I ordered this today from via

It's called the HK1 Hydrokinetic Adjustable wrench, here's more information and photos of this beastie: LINK
One wrench, and I can tighten bolts/nuts from 7mm to 19mm. It'll save so much time I hope in searching for the right wrench.

I plan to also supplement the pot metal toolkit that came with the Ural with a Harbor Freight Metric Tool set. Perhaps a small jack as well to thrown in the sidecar trunk. Nice to have when fixing a tire and it'll function as ballast! It's all good.

Update: The tool, much as I tried to like it, is not really much of a help....

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

A Trunk Lock for Natasha

Ural Sidecar Motorcycles come with spacious trunks in the sidecar for storage of tools, supplies and whatever else comes to mind when riding such vehicles.

The trunks however, do not come with a lock. These vehicles are descendants of Russian military motorcycles after all and locks could be a bother when trying to access the ammunition stored in the sidecar's trunk in the middle of a fire fight!

Since I can't have a Russian Army Private guarding my stuff when I park Natasha away from home, I decided to install a lock. I've always lived in big cities and sometimes temptation makes thieves out of marginally honest people. Locks keep the honest people honest I was once told.

I found this link on the site. Pretty simple: LINK

I emailed them on Sunday, no response by today so I just went to the local hardware store and cobbled the components together. Worked out pretty good too. My youngest son rode in the sidecar with me, and the employees who saw us park were much entertained.

Here's the final results. Note, measure carefully, I have two holes in the trunk where one would have been enough. Oh well.

The area circle in red is the hook which engages the trunk lid latches, the area in yellow is the handle which rotates the hook out of the way.

As you can see, with the lock in place, the handle cannot rotate up and move the hook away from the trunk lid latches. It's WWID security but should be "good enough". If someone wants in badly enough, they'll get in.

First work commute with Natasha

Rainy, windy and cold. That was the forecast for yesterday, Monday, and my first commuting ride on Natasha, my 1996 Ural Sportsman Sidecar Rig.

It was in the high 40s I think as I opened the garage door to prepare to get underway. I tried, briefly to put the "batwing" fairing back on but it's not very easy to do single-handed. (Not that much easier with the help of my son but it was a "bonding" moment, hopefully he didn't hear me cursing under my breath).

So I rode into work without the fairing, leg protectors or handguards. Brrrrr. Lots of wind hits you when your ride Natasha without all that stuff on. I sure missed the heated grips on Maria or even Brigitta, my hands were quite cold by the time I got to the airport for work!

Still, the backroads to the airport were nice and empty mostly, got there with no issues and backed Natasha onto a couple of motorcycle parking spots. I was worried the other riders would mind me taking up two spaces but there was only one other motorcycle out in the lot today!

After work, I rode home under windy and gray skies, it had rained heavily again and the roads were wet. Still, Natasha did just fine. I did have to use the chokes on her carburetors to start her at the work parking lot though, but that went well too.

So, that was my first commuting ride, true to her planned for purpose by me, the weather was crap and she did just great. Now to get that fairing back on!

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Short rides with The Boys

An eventful day today, lots of maintenance tasks accomplished on Natasha:
  • rust removal followed up by painting, mostly frame and sidecar bottom
  • did a WWID and "fixed" temporarily the broken bulb mounting bracket inside front left turn signal. WWID: What Would Ivan Do.
  • troubleshot and figured out another WWID fix for my high beam light, we'll see if it lasts
  • replaced missing insert in clutch handle, failure to do so would result in handle coming off, usually not a good thing. Used hardware I bought at Home Depot.
Rode to Sanoke's house, aka John my riding mentor. He took Natasha out for a spin, came back and I got in the sidecar and we went off for another spin! That was fun. This was my first ride through the city as well since John lives in the central-west part of town. I had to use busy Arapahoe Road most of the way, had no issues and only one missed shift into second. Natasha accelerates just fine when one knows how to engage gears at the right desired time!

Got home to a sumptuous dinner and afterwards, took both my sons (one at a time since they've somehow grown up from when they used to both fit in one regular car seat). I took each around the the neighborhood, perhaps 2-3 blocks worth of riding, no main roads. We all had a blast!

Miles went first, he's always up for adventure

Here's Patrick, he loves the fact that a sidecar passenger is called a Monkey

The boys and Natasha, with a beautiful rainbow in the background

I am having so much fun riding and working on Natasha, being able to share that with the boys was a bonus I expected, I just didn't realize it'd be so nice. Coming soon, Martha's turn to ride in the sidecar.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

More pictures from Maria and Natasha's Swap Day

Phil, Natasha's former owner, took some pictures of his own while traveling here with Natasha and his wife Sharon and their two labrador retrievers.

Here's Natasha's trip from Oklahoma using Phil's pictures. Thanks Phil!

Natasha leaving Phil's Shop

At the border of her new home state

You've already seen pictures of the actual swap: LINK Here's a couple shots of yours truly, taken by Phil:

My last shot as Maria's owner

Done deal

Phil and Sharon then drove Maria out of my life, but hopefully not for good. Both parties expressed a desire to keep in touch. Phil and Sharon said they'd check in on Natasha via the blog; we told them to send us pictures of their future travels with Maria.

Here's a couple of shots of Maria as she made her way to her new home in Oklahoma:

Maria leaving her old home state

Entering her new home state

Resting sedately from her long trailer ride, her new digs seem quite spacious!

Shift it like a Man!

During yesterday's practice riding on Natasha, my new-to-me 1996 Ural Sportsman sidecar motorcycle, I had been having much trouble finding second gear and up. The rig is not that fast off the mark as it is and delays in finding the next gear would cause me to back up traffic behind me....not good.

I sought advice from Phil, the PO and from the online forums. That's where I saw the techniques used by others and the expression that generated the title of this blog.

Russian motorcycle transmissions are not for the faint of heart. They make grinding noises until well broken wag said basically you're doing the final machining of the gears by shifting them!

The Urals come with heel-toe shifters and now I know why. I'd never used one before and yesterday the heel portion of the shifter had produced crappy results.

Armed with Phil's advice and techniques described in the Russian Iron and Soviet Steeds forums I went out this morning to try it again.

Right from the first use of second gear, the new technique worked! Still some small grinding noises even after waiting a full second between rolling off the throttle and engaging the next gear. However, I can now FIND second gear in a timely manner. I could actually almost keep up with traffic and not be a hindrance.

Here's what works for me: Get the rig going till its time to shift to second, pull in clutch, roll off throttle...engage the heel shifter with ball of foot and smooth and continuous push down until you feel the gear engage. Release clutch, roll on throttle and away you go! I can't tell you how happy I am that I've got the technique down, now its just practice and muscle memory development in order to find the dang heel shifter with my boot each time without looking down.

I went over to the nearby police station, up the nearby hillside for pictures of Natasha without her fairing and leg protectors. Too warm yet, will wait till first snow storm perhaps to put them back on. I think you'll like the way she looks.

In just about over a month, there should be snow on the ground at this same spot

I had parked on the pavement out of habit before I took the above pictures. Then I realized that hey, she can go off road easy enough, so I got back on her and rode her onto the grassy top of the small hill. Cool stuff.

Afterwards, I headed towards Quincy road to see how fast I could get her going in those long straightaways east of Gun Club Road. Takes a bit but I got her to 100 kph without any major issues. Sometimes, if the hill was steep or long enough, I had to downshift to 3rd to power up to the top but mostly I was in 4th gear.

Steering inputs are constant but small at higher speeds. You really can't let your mind wander. At one point, I found the rig had steered itself over the center line! She tends to pull to the left for whatever reason and you have to watch it! I gingerly forced the wheel over, after failing to move her by leaning (two wheel muscle memory reaction)and got back in my own lane safely.

Here's a couple of shots at another spot where I like to pose motorcycles. That's Quincy Road in the distance, heading east to Colorado's eastern plains.

Looking East next to Quincy Road

Looking West next to Quincy Road

I headed on home at this point as it was near noon. Got home with no issues, lane wanderings or shifting problems. A great practice ride and confidence builder. Still have to work on being more confident on the right turns but that will come with time and practice.

Update: 29SEP09: Have become more proficient at shifting gears on Natasha, now using heel for up shifts and toe for downshifts....sometimes I even shift gears with no grinding noises! : )

Update:02NOV09: Per the 1998 manual (close enough to 1996 for Russian work), one must not exceed 12 kph before shifting into second gear! Holy crap, that's like starting to shift into second once you've barely got her moving! It's a limit of 9 kph before the engine is "broken in" at 2500 Km.

Friday, September 18, 2009

From Russia, with love.

I heard from Phil, the Ural Sportman's previous owner at 09:30 AM today, stating that they were in the vicinity of Limon, CO! Wow, I'd not expected them to arrive till late afternoon, assuming an early morning departure from Oklahoma. Turns out they left yesterday afternoon after work, overnighted in Colby, KS and got to my house around 11:30 AM.

I spied their truck with trailer in tow, Natasha sitting sedately on the trailer, pull into the cul-de-sac and I rushed downstairs to greet them.

Here's Phil releasing Natasha from the tie-down straps as Sharon watches on

Maria meets Phil and Sharon

One last photo with Natasha

Maria, almost ready for her trip to Oklahoma, she looks weird on a trailer doesn't she?

Natasha and the wives

The guys and Natasha

Phil, Sharon, their two dogs and Maria left around 1:00PM I think, we chatted quite a bit and Phil and I briefed each other on the features of our respective motorcycles. I believe we each thought that everyone got a good deal out of this swap. I was hungry but took five minutes, and yes I was not fully ATGATT but I just went around the cul-de-sac a few times at a dead-slow pace.

The "training" I had gotten with Sanoke came through for me and I managed to do a few circles of the cul-de-sac and such with no issues and actually pretty smoothly. Note, I did this with no ballast in the sidecar yet!

Look at the wind protection afforded by the fairing and the leg protectors

Martha, aka my loving wife, sits for the first time in the sidecar, she's open to the idea of riding with me once I feel safe and proficient enough to take on passengers.

The girls in the garage, some repositioning is in order so that I can take either motorcycle out of the garage without having to move the other one out of the way first.

I spent perhaps two hours total the rest of the afternoon riding neighborhood streets and roads, getting a feel for the steering, the brakes, the rather stiff gear shift and just the overall feel of riding Natasha. I had a blast!

I'd placed about 120lbs worth of ballast in the sidecar to help keep from "flying the chair" as I did my initial training. That worked out well, never felt the wheel come up at all. Little by little, I worked on increasing speed and moving in heavier traffic. I had a bit of issues with finding second gear and I am sure was holding up the cagers who were behind me. Oh well!

Right turns were a bit more stressful than left turns as I worried about "flying the chair" but I soon got into hanging into the sidecar on right turns to help all wheels keep touching the pavement.

By the end of the training rides, I had gotten her up to about 80 kph, about 48 mph, and let me tell you, it felt pretty damn fast! She sure takes a long time to get there by the way but I think that will become faster and smoother with practice once I get the "hang" of shifting her klunky gears.

First impressions: Beautiful condition, thanks Phil! Simple design and everything is pretty accessible. Her boxer engine is damn similar to Brigitta's engine layout; no surprise since Natasha's ancestors were copies of BMW's R71 motorcycle designed back before WWII.

A few spots with light rust, nothing I can't fix and coat with anti-rust stuff for the upcoming winter riding. A little touch-up paint is in order, some rubber gasket/seal material for the trunk lid and the light mounts on the sidecar fender, one of which is slightly askew.

Definitely not a BMW in terms of construction, more like a tank. Thick steel sheets comprise the sidecar, and all support points for the sidecar are beefy and workmanlike. Nothing delicate about a URAL!

There's also something weird going on with the high beam headlight switch, it shuts the headlight off for no apparent reason. The first time it happened I thought the high beam portion of the headlight bulb had burned out but no. More investigation is in order. Low beam seems just fine except that its quite weak. Same goes with the turn signals, they seem "weak" but more examination is warranted. They all seem to work though so that's a good thing.

Very happy with this swap, I have to say, I hope Phil derives the same enjoyment from Maria, the R1150RT.

So long, farewell, auf wiedersehen, goodbye Maria

For those of you who've seen and enjoyed the movie "Sound of Music", you know that I've used the names of the female characters in the movie as names of my vehicles.

source: google images

Brigitta, one of the younger girls of the movie's Von Trapp family, is the name chosen for my 1987 R80 Beemer. (Front row, all the way to the right)


Liesl, the "I am sixteen, going on seventeen" girl, is the name I chose for my 1987 560SL Mercedes Benz Convertible. I thought she was my midlife crisis, little did I know it would be motorcycling! (Second row, all the way to the right in first photo)


My big 420SEL Mercedes Benz, who was not long with us, was named Elsa after the Baroness in the movie.


Lastly, there's Maria, my 2004 R1150RT Beemer, she was named thus because my wife stated: "Once the Captain found Maria, there would be no more for him". At the time, a thinly veiled warning to me to be happy with the RT since I had just traded in my 2006 Honda Shadow Aero (Gretchen, front row, second from right in first photo) for her.

Maria's been with me since OCT of 2006 and today I am swapping her for a 1996 Ural Sportsman Sidecar Motorcycle.

Maria, waiting for her new owner.

She will be missed but I think she'll get more riding from her new owner than from me. My motorcycling focus has gone from long distance riding to mountain trail explorations and wanderings here in the great state of Colorado. It it in this kind of riding that I believe the Ural will excel.

I picked Maria up with 19,437 miles on her odometer, she leaves me with 69,505 miles on her odometer. That makes it 50, 068 miles that we rode together. We had an excellent run, and I believe she'll take Phil right past 100,000 miles with no major issues.

So auf wiedersehen Maria, have fun in your new home in Oklahoma.