Driving Today

Ural Hits 70th Birthday

Russian Motorcycle-maker celebrates seven decades by kicking off two special editions.

What Harley-Davidson is to American motorcycles, Ural might well be to Russian motorcycles. The legendary manufacturer of sidecar motorcycles was born on a brutally cold day in November 1941 as the Nazis in the outskirts of Moscow were preparing for an all-out assault on the Soviet capital. That same day, in the tiny town of Irbit -- which is located on the eastern slopes of the Ural Mountains -- a freight train arrived with machinery, materials and workers who had been given the almost impossible task of building a factory in the middle of a Siberian winter to produce motorcycles for the Red Army.

The motorcycle built at the Irbit factory was called the M72, a copy of the BMW R71, and was acknowledged as the best sidecar motorcycle of the time. During the war, nearly 10,000 M72s served in reconnaissance and were used to evacuate the wounded from battlefields. After the war, the factory continued producing motorcycles with sidecars and built more than 3 million of them.

Now, after surviving the death of Communism, Ural has become a cult brand for motorcycle enthusiasts worldwide. This season, it will introduce North America to the M70 edition sidecar and solo motorcycle models that pay homage to those who built the first M72s 70 years ago. The new limited-edition M70 bears a close resemblance to its veteran predecessor, but it is completely modern in its mechanical design.

The motorcycle is painted olive drab, the sidecar has a machine gun mount, and its tonneau cover is made of canvas that is similar to that used on the M72. Just like its wartime predecessor, it also includes a spare wheel and utility shovel, and the teardrop gas tank is decorated with a replica of the original factory badge. The motorcycle features a tractor-style seat and a luggage rack on the rear fender.

While the look is old-school, the mechanicals are modern. The 749cc M70 comes equipped with 18-inch aluminum rims, 40 millimeter Marzocchi telescopic forks, Sachs shocks, Brembo front disc brakes and other modern features. A longer wheelbase and lower-sitting sidecar make this model the fastest and best-handling Ural ever. However, it won’t be easy to get your hand on one of these bikes; the total Anniversary Edition production run is 30 sidecar motorcycles and 10 solo motorcycles. The suggested retail price is $14,200 for the sidecar model, and $9,150 for the M70 Solo.



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