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ADV BikesUral Solo sT Review – The Ural Unleashed from its Sidecar

Ural Solo sT Review – The Ural Unleashed from its Sidecar

 This obscure sidecar-less Ural gets a technology update for 2014.

Published on 02.28.2014
Icon Quartermaster Ural Solo sT
The "Quartermaster" is a custom built Ural Solo sT created in a collaborative effort between Ural and ICON.

No one really knows the truth about the origin story of the Ural. Some say the Russians covertly acquired a set of BMW R71 sidecar bikes and reverse engineered them. Others believe Nazi Germany provided their old R71 designs voluntarily to Russia as part of a pre-war nonaggression pact. One thing is certain, the Ural was already using dated technology when the bike was released in 1941 and has been outdated ever since.

Outdated technology or not, the Ural as a military vehicle helped win WWII and would go on to become an inexpensive mass-produced vehicle for the Soviet people. Ural built its reputation on the rough dirt roads and severe winters of Siberia. A bike that if it did break, was easy to fix on the side of the road with basic tools.

Eventually, Ural motorcycles became a popular export product to Western countries. Subtle improvements have been made over the years to improve the bike, but the basic design hasn’t changed much since 1941. Today it’s still using the same flat-twin air-cooled boxer engine, four speed transmission and shaft drive, based on the original 1939 BMW R71.

Over the last 73 years, Ural motorcycles have developed a legendary reputation for durability under the harshest conditions. Most people are familiar with Ural’s off-road capable two-wheel drive sidecar models, but few are aware that Ural also makes a model without the sidecar attached. The Ural Solo sT offers the same bulletproof toughness and classic styling, but without the extra weight of a sidecar.

Motorcycle.com recently published a Ural Solo sT review article highlighting some of the updates for 2014. Improvements include electronic fuel injection, a revised camshaft that produces more torque and a convenient spin-on oil filter. Continuing their heritage of durability, Ural incorporated dual ECUs so the bike can still run even if one fails. Paraphrasing Ural president, Ilya Khait, EFI advances the Ural from 1950’s technology to that of the 1980’s.

Although you wouldn’t buy a Ural motorcycle for the performance or technology, rest assured the bikes have received updates in recent years to improve safety, emissions and performance. The bike now rides on stout 40mm Marzocchi telescopic forks with 4.3″ of travel and Sachs rear shocks with 3.94″ of travel. The Ural Solo also comes with high quality Brembo 295mm 4-piston caliper brakes in the front and 245mm 2-piston caliper brakes in the rear.

Some may feel that updating Ural motorcycles with modern technology, like EFI, ruins their simple low-tech nature. But we don’t think the Ural has lost any of its classic charm by receiving a few strategic updates. Urals have a distinctive character that no other modern retro motorcycle can duplicate. The bikes can’t even be classified as retro motorcycles. They aren’t replicas, they just never changed.

We were surprised that the motorcycle.com Ural Solo sT review was critical of the bike’s price comparing it to the Triumph Bonneville, Moto Guzzi V7 Stone, Royal Enfield Bullet Classic. While we agree that the $1,300 price increase for 2014 does seems a bit steep, we think the price is still reasonable for a low volume, made-to-order motorcycle. Also, the three bikes compared are all street bikes and don’t have the off-road toughness of a Ural.

A better bike to compare a Ural to would be the Triumph Scrambler. Both are classic styled dual-purpose capable motorcycles with similar power and weight. At $9,299 the Ural is only $300 more that the Scrambler. For the price difference you get a made-to-order, low production, exclusive motorcycle, while the Scrambler is a fairly commonplace bike. It would be interesting to see a comparison article between these two bikes in the future, including an off-road test.

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Who Buys a Ural Solo sT?
Buyers of this motorcycle will appreciate the bike as an expression of beauty and style. They want a unique motorcycle that can be custom built to their individual taste. They like that it’s a low-volume motorcycle that is rarely seen on the road. They have a great deal of pride in the history and character of the bike and enjoy having an instant conversation starter wherever they go.

The Ural provides the character and soul of an old bike, with a warranty and dealer support. The bike benefits from modern technology like EFI and disc brakes, but retains its classic styling and vintage ride experience. The Ural is a peace of art that can be ridden without worrying about hurting its resale value.

Ural purchasers appreciate the bike’s low tech nature that invites them to perform their own maintenance and add custom touches. They also like the bike’s unique features like the kick-start option and distinctive exhaust note. With its legendary reputation for reliability, they feel confident exploring remote areas and rugged off-road trails.

It’s not a performance bike and will struggle to reach 90 mph, but it will take you anywhere you want to go and back home again. Owners enjoy the unique feel and satisfaction they get when they ride their Ural. It’s a bike from another era built in a far away land. There really is nothing else quite like a Ural.

The Ural Solo sT as an Adventure Bike
The characteristics of the Ural Solo sT make it a pretty good Adventure Touring bike as well. With a 5 gallon fuel capacity and 47 MPG, you can travel well over 200 miles on a tank. The bike has a tractable engine, low center of gravity and 30.2″ (767mm) seat height, giving it friendly off-road characteristics. Add a windscreen and softbags and you are ready for a world tour.

What is most surprising though is that Ural only sold 18 Solo sT models in 2013 out of a total of 1,206 motorcycles worldwide. Maybe Ural was overwhelmed with the success of their sidecar models and hasn’t had the resources to promote the Solo. Or it could be that these custom order bikes lack visibility on the dealer floors. The problem seems to be more about awareness than lack of competitiveness on the market. If Ural makes a stronger effort to market the Solo sT this year, then we just might start seeing more of them appearing on the roads.

ICON Custom Built Ural Solo sT Project

Author: Rob Dabney

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4 thoughts on “Ural Solo sT Review – The Ural Unleashed from its Sidecar

  1. I’ve ridden that bike a few times as it’s been ten feet from my desk for the last 90 days. Fun to ride. Not gonna lie – a little scary.

  2. Pingback: How Good is the Ural Gear-Up With 2WD Off-Road? » ADV Pulse

  3. “No one really knows the truth” is a fitting introduction to this fiction of a “Bike Review” and
    I’d like to add some real-life, non-fiction to the quaint picture painted above…

    My 2013 Ural Solo sT is indeed, as Cristophe Noel says — a little scary — and I see no evidence whatsoever that whoever wrote this “Review” has ever ridden an sT.

    Sure, according to the Owners Manual, 47 mpg and a 5-gallon tank adds up to
    “well over 200 miles on a tank” but, in actuality, my sT gets about 47 kmpg.
    That’s right — I’m talking 47 kilometers per gallon!!

    The Owner Manual also clearly shows progressive rate springs on
    the rear shocks. My Ural sT came with dual rate springs*,
    rides like a “bucking bronco,” and, for my $10,000,
    Ural first said the springs ARE progressive,
    now admits they are NOT, and still
    Ural Won’t Do A Thing For Me!
    *just like the stiffer springs one would expect with a sidecar mounted?

    So Much For The 3-Yr Warranty; Then there’s the V-I-B-R-A-T-I-O-N…
    My Ural sT vibrates SO Badly over 60 mph that
    I don’t ride over 60mph…

    Can you imagine a $10,000 motorcycle that you don’t dare
    ride over 60mph?!

    Then there’s the Ural sT clutch… No matter how little slack
    I dare have at the clutch lever, the clutch drags and,
    quite predictably — You can’t find
    Neutral…

    The absurdities go on but Take my word for it — With or
    without EFI, the Ural Solo sT is one Pig of a Bike.

    And I had to buy mine without a road test.
    Now just how the Hell do you think
    I’ll ever be able to sell this
    PIG?

  4. oh… And did I forget to mention the Ural sT’s “wiggly tendencies on the highway”?!
    The day I rode mine home I had to stop and pull over at one point,
    certain that I must have a flat tire. No, no flat tire.
    It’s just that the Ural sT is —
    “a little scary” to ride.

    Don’t take my word for it. The wiggly maneuvering has been noted
    Since 2010 by everyone but
    Ural USA —

    http://motorcycles.about.com/od/ural/fr/2010_ural_st_solo_motorcycle_review.htm

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