Saturday, September 19, 2009

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.


Allen Madding said...

You may want to check the toe settings on the Ural. Here is a link that addresses pulling to the left issues and making a sidehack go straight.



redlegsrides said...

Thanks Allen for the link, it's a really minor pull if I can even call it that. It only evidenced itself at 100kph or so.

mq01 said...

what a beauty!! i'd love to be able to go off road. congratulations!!

Mary said...

She's a beauty. Enjoyed reading about it. Can you ride her in the snow??? Glad to find your blog with an examiner link, too. I'm the Baton Rouge mc travel examiner.
Ride safe, and have fun.

redlegsrides said...

mq01, thanks for your kind words...once I get better at riding this rig, expect to see her on more rugged terrain. No more turning back because I'm on the R80 and things are getting rough.

Pinky, glad you liked it. She's supposed to be a hoot to ride on snow...keep visiting and you may see shots of the rig on snow. Glad to meet a fellow examiner as well!

RichardM said...

She looks great! I didn't realize that it was 2 wheel drive with a differential. I thought that the sidecar wheel was engaged with a lever for rough roads. Looking forward to your posts.

redlegsrides said...

Richard, yep fulltime two-wheel drive....they don't make them like that anymore for the US market due to a change in the law apparently. The newer models of the Gear-Up and Patrol I believe have the manual two wheel drive for when you get stuck but you can't drive all the time with it on, the rig wants to go straight!

Dan said...

To shift the Ural, preload the shifter just prior to shifting, then back off the throttle at the same time as pulling in the clutch and the tranny will shift into the next gear perfectly. Heel on heel stub, toe on toe stub. And do not cram it into gear or you'll bend something.

I own a 2006 Ural Tourist LX with 47,000 Km on the klock. All put on since 05/06/07.