Motorcycles with sidecars are arguably seen more often in films about World War II then they are on the streets these days. However one company is working to change all of that. Based in Russia, but with an affiliate importer and distributor in the United States, Ural Motorcycles is a company on a mission to bring back the sidecar. Ural bikes are all manufactured at the Irbit Motor Works Factory in Irbit, Russia, and then imported to the U.S. But while the Ural brand is a relatively new name on the U.S. motorcycle market, the fact is that Irbit Motor Works has been churning out motorcycles with sidecars for decades. But like many Soviet-era enterprises, the company was struggling to remain afloat until it found salvation by tapping into an aging population of American riders who were drawn to the retro styling as well as the utility and stability of a three-wheeled motorcycle with sidecar.
The bike that became the modern Ural sidecar motorcycle was modeled after a BMW sidecar bike that was produced in the late-1930s, known as the R71. The Nazis provided that bike to the Soviet military when the two countries signed their ill-fated nonaggression pact. The Russians then began building their own version of the R71, the M-72, which they eventually used to fight the Germans. Irbit continued building military models until 1955 and then shifted its focus to the civilian market, specifically hunters and outdoors enthusiasts. Following the collapse of the Soviet Union, it became more expensive for the company to produce bikes and sales fell sharply. SO in the 1990s Irbit shifted their focus overseas. The imported sidecar bikes struck a chord with American bikers who liked the Ural’s retro design and even enjoyed the fact that there was a machine gun mount on the sidecar. The Ural has become particularly popular with older riders, especially couples who no longer want to ride on the same seat together. Today there are 48 dealers scattered across the United States who deal the 2012 Ural T and other models produced by the Russian motorcycle manufacturer.
If you’re looking for the most affordable way to get yourself into a Ural sidecar motorcycle, you’ll probably like the 2012 Ural T. A functional, affordable model, the T is the raw distillation of everything riders have come to associate with the Russian-made Ural. It’s got the trademark Second World War era retro style, the utilitarian Boxer engine, and of course the sidecar. In keeping with its WWII image, the 2012 Ural T is available in either a Flat Black or Olive Drab powder coat finish. One of the great things about the 2012 Ural T, besides the fact that it looks like its straight out of a World War II film, is how utilitarian it is. You can take the T on a picnic, to the grocery store, or on a run for parts. But more than just merely being the utilitarian workhorse it was regarded as during the Soviet era, the Ural T is also a lot of fun. Originally designed to be easy to repair in the field, the 2012 Ural T is generally no more difficult to wrench on than a 1960s BMW. Although the Ural has been modernized from its Soviet war effort origins, its still fairly old school. You won’t find any kind of fuel injection system for instance. In order to keep the price low, Ural has made the 2012 T a relatively no-frills affair. While the bike comes with no rear passenger seat, spare wheel, engine protector, or windshield, all of these features are available as accessories. The bike does come equipped with an electric starter, although it can also be kick-started. While it’s possible to have many bikes fitted with aftermarket sidecars, there’s simply nothing else like the Ural on today’s market. The original Urals were built to military standards, meaning they had to be rugged, reliable, and easy to fix. The 2012 Ural T carries these same qualities. There’s a 2.9-cubic-foot locking trunk in the rear that can stow a lot of cargo, as can the sidecar itself when sans passenger.