Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Popular Mechanics review of the 2010 Ural Patrol T

I saw a posting on sovietsteeds.com providing a link to a Popular Mechanics Magazine online article on the 2010 Ural Patrol T Sidecar Rig.

The 2010 Patrol T
source: Popular Mechanics

The Popular Mechanics writeup was pretty good though I could tell it was written by someone who'd never been on a sidecar rig.  He got his story wrong when he mentions Hubert Kriegel's epic and ongoing journey around the world, as Hubert started off with a R100 Beemer tug sidecar rig. 

Still, a pretty good read if you want to learn a bit about the history behind Ural's Sidecar rigs and how they've been improved in recent years.  There's also a nice slideshow of them playing, I mean road-testing, the new Patrol T rig in the snow. 

Here's a link to the full article on Popular Mechanics website:  LINK

Here's some excerpts from the Popular Mechanic's article with my own commentary:

Attacking moonscapes like Death Valley, Moab and Copper Canyon, these hearty enthusiasts revel in the simple pleasures of loading up their hacks with ballast, clicking their two wheel-drive into gear, and hopping, rocking and grinding their way through topography that would make a traditional two-wheeler skulk home.   Why yes, yes we do.....

But without the Darwinist benefits of capitalism in place, build integrity (and subsequently reliability) went unchecked.  This is a nice way of saying crappy production and no quality control was the norm during that time period.

The boxer-style engine starts up with an innocuous exhaust note and a metallic timbre that has inspired some riders to slap on a cheeky sticker that reads "Loud Valves Save Lives."  Oh yes, I must get one of these stickers!  The other variant of course is "Loud Gears Save Lives" since the saying goes that Ural owners are expected to do the "final machining" of the transmission gears through actual use.

Go read the article.....these rigs are a lot of fun and while they do require maintenance at shorter intervals, they're very easy to work on.

Saturday, May 08, 2010

A Tech Day with the Denver Area Uralisti

A beautifully sunny day here in Colorado, and I hosted the DAU's first Tech Day.  We had a total of five Ural Sidecar rigs in my garage/driveway the weather couldn't have been any better for it.

The tech day (gathering to exchange technical know how, practice jobs you've never done under guidance, shoot the breeze and share in general motorcycling camaraderie) was scheduled to start at 8:00AM.  I had the garage emptied of cars, leaving only Natasha in her usual spot.

Before the arrival of the Uralisti

Pretty soon rigs and riders started arriving with Steffen making a surprise and welcome appearance after having written saying other commitments precluded his participation.   Introductions all around, coffee in hand and breakfast noshes provided my Martha my loving wife, and we got ready for work.

Left to right: Craig (S 854), Jay (Mapperjay) Steffen (Scapello), John (Spat), 
Brian (Trialsguy) and yours truly.

Jay had brought along the factory fuel can and bracket to mount and lucky for him Craig had mounted his exactly where Jay was planning.  The assembly went in smoothly I believe, at least I didn't hear any cursing from Jay's rig's area while we were starting work on my sidecar's tire swap.

mounting Jay's new fuel can bracket on his Patrol

My objective for the day was to swap out the tires on all three wheels on the Ural.  Two were near the limit in terms of wear and one ended up a working spare. There was some debate whether to use the 110/90 -10 heavy duty inner tube or the 3.5-19 regular duty inner tube.  We ended up with the heavy duty as they were similar in size:

John and I comparing the new inner tubes

Brian, who is a new Ural owner, had come by truck as he's on the way to Wyoming to participate in a cattle roundup/drive along with his wife and some other folks.  I am hoping he'll do lots of pictures as he's participating on this drive on his trials motorcycle!  Being a new owner, he was glad to pitch in to get some hands on practice on some of the tasks we were doing today.

Brian, loosening the drive wheel's pinch bolt prior to removing the old pusher tire

Here's a look at my garage and driveway with all the rigs present and accounted for.  There's still room for more rigs in case you're a Ural rider or heck any kind of sidecar rider.  I am sure we'll be doing this again.

The fleet's in!

Another view of the fleet

Here's Steffen's indecently clean Retro, you can see Jay's Patrol and John Gear Up inside the garage

The first tire we swapped on Natasha was her sidecar tire which was worn smooth down the center.  The operation went well with lots of kibitzing from all involved.  I learned smoother ways of doing it and the first tire was installed with a new inner tube and we didn't pinch a hole in it!  One down, two to go.

Once we had the pusher tire off, that one proved a bit tougher to work on for some reason.  It was Jay's turn to try it and his luck of the draw wasn't too good.  Much struggling ensued with some head scratching but we finally got it done!
Tire #2 was a booger to get the old tire off, getting the new tire one wasn't too bad.

While all the above was going on, Craig and Brian graciously worked on my rear drum brake on the tug and on the sidecar.  Craig was doing most of the guiding and Brian was getting his hands dirty.  They got my brake shoes adjusted, the brake cam angled better for leverage and cleaned out the excess grease I'd left in there.  Thanks guys!

 Here's Craig and Brian working on the sidecar's drum brakes
(I kept hearing them talk about greasing the brake shoes....hmmmm)
photo courtesy of John
Brian and Jay expressed interest in the valve clearance checking procedure on the Urals and John stepped up immediately and used his own rig to demonstrate his version of the procedure.  I believe that both Jay and Brian are now familiar with the process and will be ready to do this on their own rigs when the time comes during services.  Oh and Jay swapped out his air filter for a new K&N filter as well, under supervision of course so it all went rather smoothly.

Alas, Craig had to leave us prior to this point, he had to motor down to Colorado Springs and meet people.  Steffen would soon follow him as he had soccer matches to attend with his kids.

Craig motors away

We had a brief break for a quick bite, courtesy of Martha.  Andrey, my Russian friend showed up around this time as well and joined us for some conversation around the kitchen table as everyone got something to eat.  Andrey even brought us a bottle of vodka!  

Lunch break over, John finished showing Brian and Jay the valve clearance check procedure and I remounted the front wheel with the new tire on it that Brian had helped me swap.  That one went the easiest of all three tires today!

Working on the third and final tire swap, this is the front wheel

I did a quick adjustment of the brake controls.  There was general cleaning up of tools and putting them away along with cleaning things up.  Jay left us at this point as he had other things to get done.  Brian left soon afterwards after some more chatting with John and I.  We hope to see him at an upcoming trial motorcycle event down near Howard, CO.   He lives in New Mexico, near Sipapu, so John and I are thinking of going to the annual gathering of Beemers there and perhaps seeing Brian again then as well.

Here's Brigitta, parked out of the way.  She remained unmolested but admired by all.

That left John and I, and he graciously accompanied me as I took Natasha out on her new tires to do final adjustment on her brakes.  There were a bit loose so I tightened them down some more, did some quick riding with semi-hard stops until I got things braking nicely.  Nice job there Brian and Craig!

 Natasha and her new tires
photo courtesy of John
John then left after a few more words, it was his tire irons that made the job so much easier along with his expertise with tire swapping.  Thanks John!

Once John had left, I piled up four worn tires I had, two of which had been with me for a while from the 1150RT I used to own, Maria.  I motored over on Natasha to the local tire shop where we buy our car tires.  Since I was a client of theirs, they let me throw the tires into their disposal bin, no charge!  Otherwise, its like $2-3 bucks each, good deal

The cars are back in the garage, the motorcycles are back together in their single bay.  Nothing was broken and I believe a good time was had by all.  Much learning and practice was performed so it was a successful tech day I believe!

Sunday, May 02, 2010

A Spring ride to Estes Park, CO

Sunday's forecast was for a high of 50°F and mostly cloudy skies with about a 30% chance of rain in the Denver Metro area.  I was to encounter slightly different conditions while riding with four other fellow Uralisti on our way to and from Estes Park, Colorado.

The plan was to meet in Boulder, on Boulder Canyon Rd, also known as CO119, at 9:30AM and ride towards Ward, CO and then north towards Estes Park, the gateway town to the Rocky Mountain National Park.  I used the I-25 and US36 super slabs to make my way to Boulder, traffic was light early Sunday morning and I got there about 15 minutes before the appointed time.

Before I could even get off Natasha, my Ural Sportsman Sidecar rig, I was joined by Steffen with his son Nicholas on their 2006 Ural Retro Sidecar rig!  We chatted for a bit, enjoying the warm sunny weather in Boulder at that time while we waited for Jay and Deana on their 2007 Patrol Sidecar rig to show.

We were entertained by this rather tame squirrel who came up to us, sniffed around our rigs and begged for food from Nicholas who was munching on a cookie.

Nicholas and his new friend
photo courtesy of Steffen

Jay and Deana met up with us shortly before 10:00AM and after introductions, we prepared to ride west on Canyon Road:

A warm and sunny start to the day

 Uralisti ready to ride!
photo courtesy of Deana and Jay

The twists and turns start right away as soon as you start heading west on CO119 out of Boulder.  Steffen was in the lead and he kept a brisk pace that had both Jay and I swinging our rigs and our bodies into the turns!  We didn't stay on Boulder Canyon for long, soon turning right onto Four Mile Canyon Road on our way to the town of Gold Hill.

We soon left pavement behind and it was dirt roads all the way to Gold Hill.  The first portion of the dirt road was a bit rough and washboarded but it soon smoothed out enough.  It's quite the winding road with some steep grades where I had to gear down to second gear to maintain headway on my Ural.

The Red Store in Gold Hill
photo courtesy of Deana and Jay

Gold Hill, fittingly enough, is located to top of a big hill.  I'll have to go back one day for more leisurely exploration of the area.  After a brief stop, Steffen once again led off, this time taking Lickskillet Rd north and down from Gold Hill.  When I say down, I mean down.  The road led us down the mountain, all of us in first gear I am sure and mostly riding the brakes in order to avoid building up too much speed!  I am very glad that the muddy parts of that dirt road were not wide or frequent.  I am not sure I'd go down this steep hilly road with snow on it.

Less than five minutes later, we were at the bottom of the road and pretty soon we were heading west on Lefthand Canyon Road towards the town of Ward and the junction with CO72, also known as the Peak to Peak Highway.  Ward is another interesting old Colorado town I'll have to make time one day to go and explore thoroughly.

As we cruised northwards on CO72, I could see darkening skies ahead.  The skies were overcast and the clouds were very low today, obscuring the usually breathtaking views of Mount Meeker.  The thick pine forests floor on either side of the highway was still covered in snow and made for some beautiful but chilly scenery.

We got onto CO7 and it started snowing lightly on us as we passed Allenspark but it was no big deal as the snow would melt immediately upon touching the pavement.  Just south of St. Malo's church site, we made a pit stop to get rid of the morning's coffee.  The snow fall got a bit thicker as we did this but still, it was not a big deal:

You can tell by Steffen's expression that he's having a good time!

photo courtesy of Deana and Jay

Continuing on CO7 the snow would taper off, then start again, then taper off.  Everyone seemed to be warm enough in our gear so we continued on and soon were past Lilly Lake and saw before us the partly sunlit valley where the city of Estes Park is located.  We rode down the mountain to Estes, the roads remaining wet but not icy as we got into town.

 On the Peak to Peak Highway
photo courtesy of Deana and Jay

 Low flying clouds today, obscuring most of the mountain views
photo courtesy of Deana and Jay

 Some of the rock formations the road was cut through on the way to Estes Park
photo courtesy of Deana and Jay

 The valley where Estes Park is located
photo courtesy of Deana and Jay

 Some more rock formations on the way to Estes Park
 photo courtesy of Deana and Jay


Riding into Estes Park
 note the deer by the side of the road at the end of the clip
video courtesy of Deana and Jay

After a bit of meandering, we found parking spots within short walking distance of a place that sold pie.

photo courtesy of Deana and Jay

It was lunchtime after all and we all purchased a slice a pie each and walked over to the nearby Starbucks coffee shop to get seats and take a break.  I had a warm slice of blueberry pie, it was delicious!

Soon enough, we were all done and warmed enough to go out into the now driving snow fall that was blanketing the town in a thin coat of snow.  We all got ready and I made sure to put on my rain pants for the remainder of the now snowy ride.

 After lunch
photo courtesy of Deana and Jay

Gearing up after lunch

Ready for more!
photo courtesy of Deana and Jay

We took US34 out of town, turning right on McGregor Avenue once past the historic Stanley Hotel (film location of the movie "The Shining").

 The Stanley Hotel
photo courtesy of Deana and Jay

We then turned onto Devils Gulch Road and in the falling snow, enjoyed views of snow covered ranches; twice we passed small herds of what looked like reindeer to me.  They'd just cluster together, not too far from the road, and watch us watch them as we rode past.  I am sure both groups were thinking: "Now what are they doing out here in this weather?".

 Near the start of Devil's Gulch Road
photo courtesy of Deana and Jay

The weather got a bit worse in terms of snow falling, and all our visors ended up getting wet on both sides as we had to ride with the visors cracked open in order to see.  I regretted having brought my "fair weather" helmet and also leaving my cold weather face mask at home.  Oh well.


Riding on Devil's Gulch Road
video courtesy of Deana and Jay

Devils Gulch Road, leads you through the small town of Glen Haven and after a few miles of twists and turns with a couple of steep portions with hairpin curves puts you back on US34 and the beginning of the Big Thompson Canyon Road near the town of Drake, CO.

Like high rocky walls, twisting turns and a view of fast moving water just a few feet away from the side of the road?  Well then you'll love riding your motorcycle down this canyon road!  It took quite an effort to not admire the large and looming rock walls of the canyon as we negotiated the road in the now just rainy conditions.

Just a small view of the rocky canyon walls of the Big Thompson Canyon Road
photo courtesy of Deana and Jay

We rode on the Big Thompson Canyon road until we got to the Dam Store's location.  It's just west of the junctions with county road 22H.  Here we parted ways with Steffen who had to get Nicholas to a soccer game in Longmont by 3:00PM.  As it was 2:00PM when we stopped, there remained no time for him to go exploring some more.

 Steffen, who's probably thinking he should buy a windshield
photo courtesy of Deana and Jay

Yours truly, Steffen and Jay
photo courtesy of Deana and Jay

 Once Steffen and Nicholas left us, we geared up once again and took a left onto County Road 22H, past some houses and onto this nicely smooth dirt road.  I have to say, this is a very nice little detour road  for those of you with an inclination for narrow dirt roads bounded by high rocky canyon walls.  Very scenic and it reminded me somewhat of the shelf road down near Cañon City, Colorado.

Jay and Deana were leading me through this nice road and we stopped at the bridge that lies past the canyon:

Sunshine once again, parked on County Rd 22H

photo courtesy of Deana and Jay

This little detour off of CO34 is another road I will come back one day to explore further.  It is well worth your time if you find yourself on the Big Thompson Canyon Road coming from Loveland or headed there from Estes Park.

Pictures done, we cruised on CR 22H until it dumped us back on to US34 which we took into the city of Loveland.  From this point on, it was just boring city driving, with sporadic rain showers for entertainment.  Shortly after passing by Lake Loveland, we both turned south on US287 and rode at highway speeds until we reached the intersection with CO119 were we parted ways.  Jay and Deana were headed back to Boulder to meet with friends and I kept heading south on US287 until I reached US36 East.

Parting ways....a good ride
photo courtesy of Deana and Jay

I tanked up at a gas station in the northern outskirts of Lafayette, CO.  I'd racked up almost 260 Km on one tank of gas, worked out to about 38 miles to the gallon!  I had a little less than one gallon left in the tank when I stopped per the gas meter, not too shabby at all!  I took off my waterproof pants at this point and though it would rain on me lightly off and on all the way home, I was more comfortable with them off as they bind a bit around the knees and hold heat in all too well!

I was home by 4:30PM, 314 Km ridden in about 7 hours of saddle time.  We encountered sunshine, rain, snow, light hail, more snow and ended the day in partly cloudy sunshine.  A typical spring ride here in the great state of Colorado!

I am happy to report that in spite of the generally wet conditions we rode under today, Natasha's ignition had zero issues with all the moisture and fired consistently and perfectly all day long.  I believe her past issues with wet weather are now resolved.

Saturday, May 01, 2010

Afternoon ride near Elizabeth, CO

Spent the whole morning waiting on the DirecTV installer to show up, he was running late but at least calling to let us know he was running late.  Once he got to my home though, around 12:30, he got right to work and by 3:00PM he was done and gone.

I quickly geared up and headed out in a southeasterly direction, heading for a group of storm clouds I saw in that direction.  The county roads I used soon had me in the vicinity of Elizabeth, CO.   It's a small town, the nexus for the surrounding farms and ranches.  I saw folks watching their kids at a game at the local high school, people wandering the few shops in the main part of the town and even saw a few fellow motorcycle riders out and about.

I cruised out of town on CO Hwy 86 and took the first county road turnoff to the south to see what I could see.  It was soon rough dirt roads but Natasha, my Ural sidecar rig took them in stride.  I maintained good speed though at times had to stand on the pegs to give her suspension a break on the rough surfaces.

Lot of  horse ranching in evidence to the SE of Elizabeth, perfect terrain for it really.  Rolling hills and wide open spaces with very few trees.  You can tell folks move out here to get a little distance from their neighbors, except for folks in cars and trucks though, didn't see any other people about once in the country.

I spied a large wooden log ranch entrance gate from a distance and slowed as I neared it.  It seemed adorned with black vegetation.  This vegetation turned out to be black painted iron work depicting animals, trees and horses, cowboys and girls, wagons and all other kind of countryside objects:

I continued wandering the dirt county roads, watching the storm clouds get darker and nearer.  This was fine, since after all, I'd pointed Natasha in their direction when I set off from the house.

I started heading back home along the same county roads I'd taken to get to Elizabeth.  I stopped only once, taking Natasha down this side road for a shot of the incoming storm clouds.  I even got briefly and lightly snowed on for a minute or so while I took this picture:

I got home with no issues, a nice ride in the country and didn't get a drop of water on me.  Tomorrow, I am riding with two other Uralisti members of the Denver Area Uralisti.  Should be quite the fun time.

Hope you got some riding in today.