Saturday, January 15, 2011

Natasha the tug, is toast

My adventures with Natasha, my '96 Ural Sidecar rig have come to an end.

During a ride to the hardware store during lunch yesterday, she started emitting a loud metallic rubbing noise, very similar to what I'd experienced before when the splines on the wheel hub of the pusher tire had stripped; and there was no force able to be applied to the rear tire.

I coasted to a stop a bit short of a mile from the house, in a local neighborhood.  Since I was so close to home, I just pushed her there, and boy was that a long way to push.  But I had to get home you see, as I was telecommuting and my lunch hour was expiring.  At this point, I was mad because I'd somehow stripped yet another wheel hub spline and it would cost a bit over $250 to replace it

Later on that afternoon, once my shift was over, I tried to remove the rear wheel on the tug (that's what sidecarists call the motorcycle portion of a sidecar rig).  I've done this many times before, both to swap out tires, wheels and do services.  This time, the axle was not coming out.  I could barely, with much force and using the tommy bar as a lever, even get it to rotate!

I even tried loosening the mounting bolts on the final drive (FD), made sure the castellated nut was off and the pinch bolt was complete luck.  You're supposed to be able to just pull it out

Removed the sidecar propshaft from the FD and pounded on the axle from the right side.  No luck and I damaged the threads while doing so, which should give you an idea of how hard I was hitting it with the BFH.

While long range plans in my head had included someday replacing the Ural tug with my '87 R80 Beemer Airhead, I had been planning on it being done AFTER this Winter.  What is it that they say about the "Best laid plans of mice and men"?  Or in Mr Riepe's case the "best laid mice of men and plans"?

Some phone calls later, my decision was made, try and sell the tug as a parts motorcycle to the local Ural mechanic: Linden Engineering up in Golden, CO; and start the process of obtaining the right subframe mount and parts to mate my R80 "Brigitta" to the sidecar.  Further on down the road, figure out a way to afford a GS type BMW for two-wheeled motoring.

It's kind of sad and dissapointing in a way, but I think in the back of my mind I knew this day would come.  If nothing else, Natasha's sometimes questionable reliability precluded the really long distance rides I wanted to do with a sidecar.  I've been lucky each time she had issues, I was close to home and not up in the mountains.

More to follow...

Update: 31JAN2011: So, the damage was mostly in the wheel hub.  Replacing the driven gear hub in the final drive which was eating the wheels, replacing seals/bearings.  We'll see if I can repair her for now.


RichardM said...

After I saw your comment on Chris's post I was wondering what happened. Are final drives hard to find or is it just not worth the trouble anymore?


SonjaM said...

Oh, Dom. So sorry to hear this, after all you had so many fantastic adventures together, and I was anticipating many more to come. But I am glad for you that it happened close to home.

I am curious, how Brigitta will like her new job as tug.

Charlie6 said...

RichardM, to answer your questions...yes a slightly different version is available. Its more a matter of not pouring more money down that particular money pit.

Charlie6 said...


I won't know for sure how Brigitta will do but from what I am hearing, she should do just fine with the right hardware in place.

Chris Luhman said...

Dom: I'm very sorry to hear about your FD problem. I hope they give you a fair price. The ural cart should do well on your bmw with the right subframe. If you were closer, I'd recommend a sidecar builder for you.

I'm going to miss the Ural stories. I am looking forward to your new hack!

-Chris @ - year around riding in Minnesota

Gary France said...

That is a sad day. I am sorry Natasha has broken beyond repair, but I am glad I got to ride in the sidecar before her problems became terminal. On the bright side, I am sure the marriage between Brigitta and Natasha will prove to be fruitful, but I won’t expect any little babies to come from that particular pairing. You do realise that you may be the brunt of “Dom’s riding a lesbian bike” don’t you? Joking aside, you are probably right not to spend a lot of money trying to fix the Ural – the BMW will be a much more reliable tug.

Raftnn said...

A sad day indeed, i enjoyed you posts and the many photos that you posted with herin them.. One door closers and another will open!

Stacy said...

Sorry to hear about Natasha. Despite our best intentions and efforts, sometimes you just have to say goodbye.

irondad said...

Amazing how you always seem to land on your feet. I'd of been 900 miles from home with no cell service.

A "tug", eh? That's kind of like a farm mule. I threatened Elvira with that next time she got us into trouble. I think she looked a bit worried though she tried not to show it.