A lot of manufacturers make sidecars for their motorcycles, including (at least until recently) Harley-Davidson. Ural makes sidecar motorcycles. The company, based in Irbit, Russia, has been producing these machines since the early days of World War II, when Joseph Stalin directed the Russian military to prepare to face Hitler’s invading forces. Based on a late 1930s BMW sidecar bike, the Russian motorcycle was made in the Ural mountains—hence the company name—for military use only until the mid-1950s. Ural began exporting its retro-style three-wheel bikes to the United States in 1993, finding a boutique niche that has kept it in business. No longer mass-produced workhorses carrying machine guns or loads of hay over rugged tracks, Ural sidecar motorcycles are now made by hand in Irbit. The 2007 Gear-Up 750 is one of the company’s two-wheel-drive vehicles, designed to handle rough roads.
It is powered by an air-cooled, 749cc, horizontally opposed two-cylinder four-stroke engine, with an overhead cam valve configuration and dual Keihin carburetors. The front suspension is a leading link fork; the rear is a twin-sided swing arm with a spring preload shock—it’s worth noting that these machines are notorious for their stiff suspension. The five-speed transmission works with a crossover drive shaft; two-wheel drive, which also transfers power to the sidecar’s wheel, can be manually engaged. A Brembo hydraulic disc provides stopping power in front; the rear brake, which needs to stop both the motorcycle and the sidecar, is an IMZ drum.
In honor of its military roots, the 2007 Gear-Up comes in two camouflage-inspired paint schemes, desert camo and forest camo. A multitude of accessories are available, ranging from a sidecar tonneau cover to a NATO luggage rack for the spare wheel. For those who are serious about using the bike as an off-road vehicle, Ural offers an ""adventure package"" that makes a number of modifications.
The Ural Gear-Up is perhaps not the most practical vehicle one could choose. Ural’s modern-day bikes are not known for their reliability, smooth operation, or fine fit and finish, though the company has upgraded many components since 2001. The Gear-Up has a top speed of 60 miles an hour—and no one recommends going that fast very often or for very long. The sidecar rig makes operating a Gear-Up a very different experience from riding a two-wheel motorcycle, and training is advisable. But those who love these machines love them for their unique look, heritage, quirkiness, and romance.