Thursday, December 10, 2009

Commuting & How Not to Start a Ural – December 9

The ride to work yesterday was quite cold and broke my record of coldest riding by bringing it down to 7F (-14C). My previous record was a few days ago at 13F. The ride home broke it again with 5F (-15C).

Riding to work was a fun, but required a lot of concentration with all the ruts and ice. The ruts would grab one of the wheels and pull the rig left or right requiring constant corrections. There was more snow on the road than the night before too which put the 2WD to work nicely. I still had a great time; it felt like off-roading to me more than anything else.

The ride home was more interesting. The bike started up on the second try after sitting all day in the frigid temps, but because of the inexperienced owner it didn’t stay that way for long. I didn’t appreciate how long it wanted to warm up when sitting in that kind of cold. I’m guessing it should have been closer to five minutes.

When I tried to back out of my parking space, it wasn’t warm enough so it died. I grabbed the clutch and thumbed the starter and began trying to move again. It died. I grabbed the clutch and thumbed the starter, and made the mistake of giving it a bit of throttle. I didn’t know it then, but I flooded the engine.

I tried for some time to start it, but it wouldn’t. I even tried kick starting it. I ended up pushing it back into the parking space, and to get out of the way and to give me time to think. I didn’t know what was wrong, and I didn’t have anyone to call to get advice from.

After a brief moment of panic, I got off the bike and took the owners manual from the trunk. I found the section on starting and read through it again. It warned about flooding the engine and fouling the plugs; it also had the cure for a flooded engine. Open the throttle wide open, and give the bike ten swift kicks on the kick start.

Around kick six it started to sputter, and at kick seven it fired up with a huge roar that echoed in the parking ramp. The happiest noise I’ve heard all week. I let it warm up a few more minutes before heading home.

The rest of the ride home was pretty uneventful until I was about two miles from home. The Ural started sputtering and seemed like it had no power. It nearly died when I tried to shift up to third gear. When I stopped at the next stoplight, it died. After four or five frantic thumbs to the started, it seemed to go again. Another mile down the road, it did it again. Then another half mile it died. Then it died again just two blocks from my house on a slight up hill. I was eventually able to start it again and made it into the garage.

I arranged a ride and made a tour of the local auto parts stores looking for a new set of spark plugs. I didn’t find the NGK plugs I needed, and had to settle on some Autolite 275s alternatives. I will get some spare NGK plugs when I do my first service on Friday morning.

After gapping the new plugs, the bike started up just fine. I rode it to the gas station and put almost four gallons in (five gallon tank). I also added some seafoam for good measure. The old plugs were fouled and one wasn’t gapped enough (040).

I’m thinking and hoping all the drama was just due to the plugs and not a sign of something else more serious. I’m leaving for work shortly today, so I guess I will find out.


  1. This is like riding 1970's style. I spent so much time struggling to start the beasts back then. And changing spark plugs. Oooof. In the 21st century plugs last 12,000 miles and only get changed because I take the Bonneville to the dealer per the manual for an overhaul. 35,000 miles without a roadside plug change.

  2. Chris:

    glad you managed to get your Ural home. You should install a direct line to Dom's cell phone. Here's hoping that the new plugs solve the problem, and get a couple of spare sets

    When I had my 2 stroke, lambretta it seemed that you had to change plugs every time you went for a ride. With both my scoot and Wee being fuel injected, I don't even have to think about it

    happy Uraling

    bobskoot: wet coast scootin

  3. Thanks guys, sorry for the delay in responding to your comments. Google put a BUNCH of comments into my spam folder...

    It turned out it wasn't the plugs, but a combo of a defective battery and the airhead getting so cold it was running lean. A good learning experience though.