Seen in Savannah: the Ural Patrol

Cars aren’t the only motorized piece of transportation that hold my interest. Motorcycles get me going as well. But, and unsurprisingly given my penchant for classic cars, I prefer motorcycles that are are more, shall we say, traditional. Crotch rockets are great for blasting down the road in a millisecond or two, but I find myself gravitating toward  the classic, upright old British, American, and German bikes.

In spite of the name, I could throw the Ural in with the Germans. It’s a reverse engineered version of the BMW R71 from the early 1940s. The BMW lineage is apparent in the Ural’s horizontally opposed cylinders nested in the frame. That cylinder arrangement dates back to their first bike, the R32, and gives their bikes better balance (or so I’ve been told)  and better cooling since the cylinders are sticking out in the airstream (which just makes sense). 

The Russians took this design and, as they always tend to do when they decide to reverse engineer another product, ran with it for six decades.

Regrettably, I couldn’t get a good shot of the boxer engine. While Savannah is a fairly pedestrian friendly city, I don’t feel comfortable standing in the middle of the street to take a picture of a cylinder head.

At any rate, this is an Ural Patrol. It doesn’t have the fairing around the headlight or clean pinstripes available on other Urals such as the limited edition Taiga or Retro. But what it does have is a nice piece of kit attached to that sidecar.

The “2WD” painted on the sidecar’s back says it all. The Ural has two driven wheels. 

It’s a fairly simple system, and the picture says it all. Attached to the rear wheel hub is a small, simple differential with a drive shaft running to the second wheel. There’s a small u-joint next to the differential that, coupled with the shock absorber next to the wheel, basically gives the sidecar independent suspension. The rider can engage the differential at will, making this the bike equivalent of on-demand all wheel drive.

Well, nearly.

Since the Patrol is designed to go off road, the second drive wheel seems as though it would be incredibly useful. Unfortunately, having never even sat on one, I can’t say. However, Autoblog reviewed it about a year ago.

If I had the money and the urge to constantly ride offroad, I’d be tempted to get an Ural. There are a number of different models on their website, most of which just different trim and option levels, including a model without the sidecar. Prices range from around $7,100 for just the bike, to a hair under $14,000 for the classy Retro.

It never ceases to amaze me what I see on Savannah streets. I’ve seen more Volvos and Jaguars here than probably exist in their home countries—naturally, pictures are forthcoming—and now I’ve seen a Russian bike with German genes dating back to World War II. I’ll be sad when it’s time to leave after I graduate. There’s an eclecticism here that I haven’t seen in many other places when it comes to cars, and bikes.

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