Thursday, April 01, 2010

Published in "Sidecar Riders" Magazine

Yet another step towards becoming a more widely known motorcycling content author, I was recently tapped to write about riding my Ural Sidecar Rig, Natasha, around the beautiful mountain countryside of the nearby Rocky Mountains.

Click HERE to see the magazine online

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Springtime on Squaw Pass Road

 A beautiful sunny day was forecast by the weather guessers today for us in Colorado.  The high temperature was to end up in the mid 60s by the middle of the afternoon!  So I geared up and rode out of my home neighborhoods with temperatures in the low 30s but sunny.  I am happy to report that things warmed up pretty quickly and I was able to dispense with the heated grips less than an hour into the ride.

I took my usual route on US285 to cut across the Denver Metro area.  Less than 40 minutes after leaving home, I was at the outskirts of the town of Morrison.  I headed north on CO93 out of Morrison and made my way to the start of US6 on the west side of Golden where it junctions with 6th Avenue:

Here's the start of US6 near Golden

Traffic was light on US6 but there were enough cagers eager to go above the speed limits to make it annoying as they stacked up behind on the twisty road.    It was good practice though for doing my leanings into the turns to make sure the sidecar did not fly up on me.  I turned off of US6 onto CO119 headed towards Idaho Springs.  Soon enough, I had reached where the road junctions with US40 and the I-70 super slab.

From here it's a three mile sprint on the super slab until you get to the first exit for Idaho Springs.  I tanked up at the Shell gas station located on the CO103 exit off of I-70 and checked in with my loving wife.

That taken care off, I headed south on CO103 to see what kind of road conditions existed on this road which leads one to the Mount Evans Road.  I knew, and the signs confirmed, that the Mount Evans Road was still closed for the season.  The roads up to Echo Lake were really not too bad but I was glad to be riding Natasha, my Ural Sidecar Rig when I encountered the occassional snow packed surfaces along with melting ice patches.

Echo Lake, with the top of Mount Evans in the background

another view of Echo Lake from near Echo Lake Lodge

I pulled into the Echo Lake Lodge parking lot and visually confirmed that a snow berm blocked the way to Mount Evans Road and the Ranger toll station.  There was a group of hikers making their way up through the berm, I bet they wondered what I was doing there as they turned as a group to stare back at me.

I got back onto CO103, turning right to continue eastward.  I  made my way up the increasingly narrow and snow-covered pavement and soon was at a favorite scenic pullout:

on a clear day, you can see forever....

looking west back towards Echo Lake, not sure what mountain top that is though

I continued eastward on CO103 and soon arrived at and passed by the picnic/trailh ead area for Juniper Pass.  There was a good view of the mountains behind me and I pulled into a nearby pullout area for a shot:

Near Juniper Pass

I proceeded eastward for  a bit but another nice view of the mountains presented itself behind me as I rounded a turn.  I stopped, turned myself around when safe and moved back west to line up these shots:

Turning back to get a shot of the mountain tops

I was moving closer to the curve in the picture above to get a better angle on the mountain tops visible to me.  As I slowly moved along the snowy roadside, I saw a Beemer rider with what looked like a F650GS going east!  Kudos to that rider, conditions were beyond where I'd take my two wheeled motorcycle!

This is, IMHO, the best shot I took today.

So I got myself turned back around again safely and continued eastward.  Road conditions in the shady areas of the road were iffy at best.  Lots of melting ice and snow packed pavement.   Luckily, there were very few cars moving along at the same time I was so I was able to take it nice and slow.   I never did catch up with the GS rider either, which is good since that means he didn't have an incident on the really crappy traction conditions I encountered.

I came upon the turnoff for Squaw pass and turned onto it for the requisite picture of the sign at the pass:

Squaw Pass

The view from near the Squaw Pass Sign

As I got going again down the mountain road, I came upon another trail head parking lot and I caught sight of another Ural!  Yep, one of the newer models with the green camouflage pattern paint scheme.  I quickly slowed and turned to park by the rig, meaning to leave my calling car on it as the owner was off hiking somewhere nearby.

the original reason I stopped at this trail head parking lot

I'd noticed some folks trying to tie some flimsy looking rope onto the tow point of a sedan which was apparently unable to back out of its parking spot.  I walked over with the tow strap I carry in the sidecar and offered assistance.  The tow strap worked just fine as you can see:

My tow strap in action

I continued on my way after the car was unstuck and I'd retrieved my tow strap.  That was my good deed for the day.  The rest of the way down the mountain was nice and sedate, taking it easy on the iffier parts of the road and I got down to Bergen Park with no further incident.

I elected to swing south through Bergen Park and made my way down to the town of Evergreen via CO74.  I transited through Evergreen smoothly and continued on CO74 heading towards Bear Creek Canyon and Morrison.  This is one of my favorite twisting road to make my way back towards Denver and I was soon cruising past the small settlements of Kittredge and Idledale.

Soon enough, I was moving through Bear Creek Canyon Road and its high rocky canyon walls were partly covered by the recent snow storm's measure of snow.  I stopped below to get a shot of Bear Creek which has carved out the canyon named after it:

Somewhere on CO74, near Idledale I believe

I came upon a small park less than a couple of miles from the above site, which while it was closed to vehicular traffic, one could see folks hiking along the base of the canyon walls, along Bear Creek's fast running waters:

I continued onwards on Bear Creek Canyon Road and was working up a sweat doing my leanings right and left on the rig to negotiate the tight twisting turns of Bear Creek Canyon.  I made it to Morrison with no incident and decided to turn back south on US285 to get on the North Turkey Rd exit near Tinytown.

A brief "sprint" on US285 and I was then twisting my way on North Turkey Creek rd heading towards the fire station at Fenders.  I encountered a gaggle of riders of sports motorcycles heading the other way, the roads were pretty clear so I can't say I was surprised.

I turned onto Deer Creek Canyon Rd and made my way closer to the Denver area, enjoying the twists and turns provided by this road.  I guess the motorcycle gods must have thought I was having too good a time because as I reached the flatter portions of Deer Creek Canyon Rd, I got a flat tire!  

At first I didn't realize my rear tire had gone flat, I had felt the rear end go a bit squiggly on me on the turn beforehand and had thought perhaps I'd hit a patch of gravel.  Nope, I then heard a constant thumping noise and I quickly puller over to the side of the road where it was flat.

Yep, a flat tire.  I also found several of the wheel spokes loose!  Heck, they were disconnected from their mounting points and one was completely missing!    Lucky I stopped as fast as I did.

I checked in with my loving wife to let her know I'd be delayed.  Then after a couple of attempts, finally got the rig jacked up on the small bottle jack that I carry.  It's good that I carry that bottle jack, as the flat rear tire did not allow me to deploy the center stand enough to allow me to lift the rear end onto it!

I went to the nearby steep creek bank and got a rock to make sure the motorcycle did not move on me and got to work.  The hardest part?  Getting the dang safety cotter pin off the castellated nut which holds the axle for the rear tire on the right side of the motorcycle!  It was a bit of a pain but I got the old wheel off, dug a small trench for the spare tire and got it mounted on and secure with no real big problems.

As I was doing this, several bicyclists passed me by without stopping.  One even had tire trouble and had stopped on the other side of the road as I worked.  Several motorcycle riders came and went, and not one stopped to ask if I needed help.  Rather disappointing, don't you think?  To add insult to injury, two other bicyclists stopped and rendered assistance to the previous bicyclist!  Oh well.  Got everything mounted, secured and tools put away by 2:00PM and headed towards CO121 which is where Deer Creek Canyon Road ends.

I stopped where the bicyclists one sees on Deer Creek Canyon stop to park their cars to check in with my loving wife as I'd forgotten to do it before leaving the breakdown site.  I opened the pocket case and there was NO phone!  Aaaarrggghh.  I did some quick searching of the sidecar, no luck.

I turned around and headed back towards the breakdown area and got there around 2:15PM.  No sign of the phone.  Damn.  I was getting ready to fully unload the sidecar in a frantic search for the phone when it occured to me to search the creek bank where I'd gone to pick up a rock to secure the biek during repairs.  Damn if the darn phone wasn't right there!  Pheew!

I checked in with my wife, counted my lucky stars again and then headed back out to Wadsworth Blvd aka CO121.  I headed north on Wadsworth until I was able to turn eastward again on US285, making my way back through the Denver Metro area.  The rest of the ride was no problem and my spare tire did just fine in getting me home safely.

A fine day of riding, flat tire notwithstanding.  I wonder if the spokes had been loose from when I bought the wheel from Linden Engineering?  I'd not checked the spokes for tightness since I'd bought the wheel, hmmmm.  It would kind of explain the slight tendency the rig had been displaying lately of pulling slightly to the left while riding at higher than 50 mph speeds!  

Natasha and I covered 335 Km today, about 201 miles ridden in about 7hrs of riding.  I was tired and sweaty but still, it was a good ride!

EOM Mileages:  Brigitta: 83,871 Miles.  Natasha: 16,027 Km

Saturday, March 27, 2010

All about Natasha and her kin

 This post will list the information I've gathered on my 1996 Ural Sportsman, Natasha, to answer the typical questions I get when UDF'ed (Ural Delay Factor) while riding this sidecar rig.

It's a Russian motorcycle, made in Irbit at the foot of the Ural Mountains, initially a copy of a German BMW motorcycle sidecar rig.


Ural is pronounced "ooral" by the Russians.

Manufacturer's website:

History, according to IMZ: LINK


  • Five R-71 BMW motorcycles covertly bought through Sweden by Russians, taken apart, copied down to last bolt and approved as M-72 motorcycle for Soviet military starting early 1941.
  • October 25, 1942, first M-72s sent into battle with Soviet Army, with almost ten thousand produced during the course of the war.
  • 1950, the 30,000th motorcycle was produced.
  • Late 1950s, the factory in the Ukraine dedicated for military production, the one in Irbitz for civilian consumption.
  • 1998, the factory is fully privatized.
Design really has not changed much since the 1940s.  More recent models have outsourced components such as Hertzog Timing Gears, Ducati Ignitions, Italian handlebar controls, Brembo Front Disc Brakes.

Over 3.2 million copies have been delivered world-wide.

Natasha was made in 1996 and originally had a 650cc engine. The previous owner had it replaced with a 750cc engine, a deep oil sump, a Harley Davidson solo seat which replaced the hard rubber "tractor" seats.

Max speed is 65 mph but these rigs prefer to run at 55 mph when run for extended periods of time.

Transmission: Four forward and one reverse gear.  "Loud Gears Save Lives".

Natasha has fulltime 2 wheel drive, in that both the motorcycle's rear tire and the sidecar's wheel are driven. Newer models don't have this, instead their 2Wd is manually engaged by the rider when in difficult terrain to get the rig unstuck, then disengaged once free of the obstacle as its difficult to steer with 2WD engaged.

5 Gallon capacity tank, about 35 MPG depending on whether or not the sidecar's windshield is mounted or not.

Natasha came with a Russian 35 amp alternator, which imploded, now using Total Loss Electrical System.

These motorcycles require regular maintenance, with service cycles every 2500-3000 kilometers.  Seem short to you?  Well, if you were a 40 HP engine, powering a drive train designed for 19HP, and pushing along about 1000 lbs of'd require short maintenance cycles too!  : )

While you can't neglect their maintenance they are also very simple in design and easy to work on for the most part.  I can usually, working slowly at that, swap out the engine, transmission and final drive fluids in less than one hour.

Rides pretty good on snow, and it traverses stuff which my car has gotten stuck in.
Read about the adventure of 4 Ural Riders in the 2010 Elephant Ride.

Training in sidecar rig riding is a must.  These beasts are night and day when compared to their two-wheeled counterparts.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Oh, so tempting.....

Saw this on the techie blog, I must admit it would be quite tempting to attach it to the back of my motorcycles for the more than occasional tailgating cager!


From the posting:

Ever wish you could do something to get the idiot behind you from riding on your tail down the highway? Over in England, Colin Fruze developed a way to keep drivers away. He built a flamethrower into the tail of his motor scooter. Trust me, you don't want to follow this guy too closely.

However, the article ends with the author stating he'd been told that using it on public streets would be equivalent to using a firearm.  Still, it would be quite amusing in the short term until the cops caught up with me.