Friday, October 29, 2010

Scrambler Cycle and Ural

A few weeks, back I discovered Scrambler Cycle on the Ural website. We were able to checkout the place and meet Kevin, the owner, on the Fall SKUNK ride. After talking to him, I was feeling pretty good about his ability to work on my Ural.

Two weeks ago I took the day off work and rode the 97 miles one way to his shop in Cameron, WI. Kevin graciously offered to let me hangout and watch him work (awesome!). He also didn’t seem to mind that I was interested in photographing his work. (bonus!)

Excited to finally find a competent mechanic to work on my Ural, I quickly came up with a list of things to do:

  • check the alignment (st. croix ural said it was correct, I didn’t believe them)
  • check the valves (wanted him to check my work)
  • check the carb balance (wanted him to check my work)
  • install a tach (Ural’s don’t come with one stock)
  • install my heated grips (can’t do electrical work myself and keep the warranty)
  • install my trunk lock (lazy and lacking a 3/4” drill bit)
  • install a headlight switch (can’t do electrical work myself and keep the warranty)
  • lubricate the cables
  • check the spokes
  • adjust suspension

Kevin hear me coming and opened the door for me to pull right in. He quickly got to work taking the covers off the valves to let them cool down while we working on other things.

IMG_7807 IMG_7816

Next he got to work on the alignment. He attached two long pieces of metal to the bike and measured the distance front and back to get the correct measurements.

IMG_7803 IMG_7805 

He found the sidecar was “toed out 1/4 of an inch” which means it was angled away from the motorcycle. Being out like that would cause the bike to pull to the right and cause excessive tire wear. It may have also caused all of the spoke issues I had.

Some adjustment later and we had it set to 1/2 inch toed in. (sidecar aimed towards the motorcycle).


He also adjusted the lean angle of the motorcycle to balance tire wear against handling.


While Kevin started with the tach install, I took the opportunity to remove the fairing and headlight to help him get at the wiring for the heated grip install.


I also installed a second battery tender cable. They are really cheap and I still have a bunch laying around. I have them on all my bikes and use them to power my heated gear. Last winter I had one of them crack at the boot of the cable causing it to fail. This meant I didn’t have any heated gear. It was a cold ride home. The second pigtail gives me a backup power source in addition to the backup battery I carry in the sidecar. Redundancy is a good thing in winter!


Kevin working on the wiring for the tach:

IMG_7817 IMG_7851

The new tach installed:


While Kevin played with the wiring for the grips (he made a beautiful custom harness to avoid splicing),


I removed the stock grips. (carb cleaner is your friend)

IMG_7821 IMG_7824

I had to remove my throttle lock to install the new heated grips.


test fitting the new hotgrips

IMG_7826 IMG_7827

I was a bit dumb… the stock Ural grips are 5.5 inches long. I struggled to choose between the 5.25 and 5.75 hotgrips. I settled on the 5.25 and I should have bought the 5.75 inch. Because the new grips were slightly smaller, Kevin had to trim my throttle tube a tiny bit.

He mixed up the epoxy and put the new grips on


We put the resistor on top of the fairing behind the headlight. Good out of the way place with good airflow. We used a ziptie to hold it in place while the epoxy cured.

IMG_7842 IMG_7843

Next he lined up the switch location for the grips, and drilled a hole.

IMG_7853 IMG_7860

New switch perfectly centered:


The new farkles installed!


Next was the Delaware Dave Ural Trunk Lock (no longer needed on 2011 models!):


Kevin is smart, he put some tape over the hole he was drilling so the metal shavings wouldn’t scratch the paint:


Lock in the locked position:


Lubing the throttle cable:

IMG_7832 IMG_7833

Finally Kevin checked the valve adjustment (good) and then balanced the carbs.


I brought my Twinmax with since he’d never used one, and I REALLY like it.

IMG_7880 IMG_7881

After using it for a few minutes, he got things dialed in perfect. He also told me he’ll be buying a twinmax soon.

Before I left, he also adjusted my suspension a bit by firming it up. It was set to the loosest setting and was a bit spongy. He ended up tightening a couple spokes on the pusher. We ran out of time before we could finish the light switch. Next time!

I had a great time hanging out with Kevin of Scrambler Cycle while he worked on my Ural. He is a machine! He hardly took a break; he just kept working. I think he did a great job.

My Ural has ever run or handled so well for the last ten months I’ve owned it. I am impressed! It tracks nearly straight (still a very slight pull to the right), and I don’t have to fight the bars so much anymore.

I’m very happy with the service! Thanks Kevin!

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Ural at the Airport

Ural at the Airport

Today was exceptionally windy again. It was also in the low 30sF and rain mixed with snow. Minnesota has finally started gearing up for November! Today was also the day my wife returned from a two week trip in India.

Since I don’t own a car, the logical choice for picking someone up at the airport is the Ural. It has plenty of room to haul luggage and an extra person or two depending on how they pack. (My wife still owns a car, but driving is so boring compared to riding I just don’t like it anymore).

Her flight from India landed in Chicago, and the flight from there to Minneapolis this morning was cancelled due to the wind. She finally got on a new flight which was delayed several times before it finally took off. I received her call around noon and left to go pick her up.

I got some strange looks pulling into the baggage claim area with a sidecar, but any Ural owner gets used to the strange looks pretty quickly as they are frequent.

I had my wife’s gear packed away in the sidecar, and I pre-warmed most of it with the Little Hotties Hand Warmers. She quickly got geared up while I stowed her bags in the sidecar. They fit perfectly and just before she hoped on the back of the motorcycle, we were stopped.

A random guy ran up to us: “Wow! You guys are hardcore, can I take your picture?” I just responded with a thumbs up.

Out came the camera phones, and soon we were on our way.

My wife didn’t mind the rain or the cold. She even commented that she really enjoyed riding on the Ural again. It’s good to have her back.

Here is a shot of her while we filled up at the gas station on the way to the airport two weeks ago. You can see her luggage just fit. The nose of the sidecar was also full! We could have put a couple more bags on, but fortunately we didn’t need to.

Taking someone to the airport with lost of luggage? Go Ural!

In the photo, you can also see her new helmet accessories. As if the Ural didn’t get enough looks, with tiger ears and tail, we REALLY get the looks. I can hardly stop laughing watching the people watch her. The looks she gets are hilarious.I should try to get a video. So funny.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010


When riding a motorcycle staying alert and aware of your surroundings is extremely important. Constantly scanning and reacting to avoid hazards becomes second nature to those to ride regularly, but it takes vigilant concentration to stay safe.

The ride home tonight was a perfect example of needing to stay alert. It started after I turned onto the one-way near my office and sat waiting at the stop light. I kept one eye on my mirrors for cars approaching too quickly, and the other watching for the light to change. While waiting for the light a car approached from the opposite direction against the one way. Facing a sea of headlights, they finally figured it out and turned quickly as our light went green.

At the next block, I planned on making a left from my one-way to another. My light was green, and I slowed for the turn. Sidecar turn slower than motorcycles because they can’t lean. Even though I had a green, I checked the cross traffic to make sure they were stopped. All lanes were, except for the middle who was flying right through against their red. I tapped my brakes and used my horn. It would have been a painful left-turn for me if I hadn’t looked to my right!

Further up the road a few miles, a car decided to stop for the green light. With my bikes I like to keep 2-3 second gap, with the Ural I like 3-4 seconds. It’s heavy and doesn’t stop nearly as fast as my two-wheelers. I’m glad I kept a gap, because I used it all up stopping. The nice part about a three-wheeler vs. a two is locking the front wheel doesn’t have a nasty penalty.

The road was wet and cold (41F) and the front easily locked up. I released it get it rolling and locked it up again! A three-wheeler can also turn while under heavy braking (as long as the front isn’t sliding), so I aimed myself away from the stopped car. After I stopped a few feet short of a collision, they realized they had a green and started going again.

At this point, I had my fill of the side roads and jumped on the highway. Minnesota is under a wind advisory until tomorrow night. I didn’t pay much attention to it until I got on the highway. Wow! Riding into a 30mph headwind is something. I could barely keep 55mph with the throttle wide open (normally I could easily do 70).

The wind was blowing steady at 30mph and gusting up to 60mph. It was exciting riding home the rest of the way! As I am typing this, the wind is impressively loud outside. I’m curious to see how much damage the area will have in the morning. On the positive side, I have been delaying dealing with the leaves in my yard. When I came home tonight, they were gone. Nice! Thanks wind!

Tonight had to be a record for crazy drivers! One of the more exciting commutes I’ve had in a while.


PS: I took the Ural today, and didn’t take any photos (dark on the way in and on the way home). Here are a couple from the Super9 this weekend.

Como golf course Super9 and fall colors

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Preparing for Winter Riding – Part 2

In the previous post, I talked about getting my gear ready. The main task now is getting the Ural ready for the snow, salt, and cold.

This is my Ural in summer form. I like the naked look of it, but it doesn’t do much like this to help with the cold wind.

Ural before

One of the most important things to staying warm on a motorcycle in winter is to stay out of the wind. The lower leg fairings and large windshield do a great job of bending the wind around me. When installed, they leave a nice pocket of clean air. No buffeting, roaring, or negative pressure. It’s nice just listening to the sound of the engine.

ural wind protection

Before I mounted the main windshield, I needed to fix it. Earlier this year, St. Croix HD cracked it when they put it back on after “cleaning” the bike. They tightened the bolts too much and broke the plastic. The hairline crack has been growing and is now almost three inches long.

crack in windshield

I took the smallest drill bit I could find and put a tiny hole at the end of it to stop it from getting any longer. then I filled in the crack and hole with superglue on both sides. It isn’t the prettiest thing in the world, but it will be strong again.

crack in windshield repaired

The lower leg fairings installed:

leg fairing installed 

and the main fairing:

Ural with legs fairings and windshield

One thing I learned the hard way this year: make sure the windshield is installed squarely and evenly. If not, since it is attached to the handlebars, the wind will cause a pulling sensation on the bars. Not fun!

Ural with legs fairings and windshield

I decided not to install the the sidecar windshield this year for two reasons. The first is it’s extra drag/wind resistance and I get better mpg without it. The second, and more important reason, is the sidecar windshield pushes air at the side of the motorcycle and me. Without it, I am riding in a calm pocket of air, but with it, I get a continuous cold blast from the right. Not fun. When I have a passenger in the winter, I’ll put it on. Otherwise it’s better without it.

sidecar windshield goes here. sprayed it with ACF-50 first

The last step is to coat the bike in anti-corrosion spray. Last year, I used Boeshield T9. It worked pretty well, but formed into a waxy surface that wasn’t very nice to look at or remove. I wanted ACF-50, but couldn’t find it. I found some for this year. ACF-50 is what they use on seaplanes to keep them from rusting. Like the T9 it is safe for electrical connections and comes in an easy to use spray can. It isn’t cheap at $1 an oz either.

ACF-50 anti-corrosion spray

I covered the bike with it. It sure looks shiny! It also doesn’t really dry, so it will collect dust and gunk. It removes easily with warm soap and water, so that is a plus. It smells a lot like WD-40 and I wonder if they aren’t chemically related.

In my next Winter Riding post I’ll talk about my trip to Scrambler Cycle last week.


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Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Tire Pressure

I am behind on my blog, so I’ll just start with today and work backwards. Almost every Wednesday my co-worker and I ride to lunch (usually Chipotle). It has been a tradition for the past few years. It has been great to get out of the office and sneak in a quick ride.

On the way to work today the Ural felt like the rear tire was a bit low. I tried to make a mental note to check is before we went to lunch. I also asked my co-worker to remind me. I know I should check before I left home…

When we left for lunch, I set out with my tire gauge and checked the Ural.

tire gauge

The manual states the front should be 32psi, side 30psi, and the rear 40psi. The front was 30 and the pusher was 34. I had the Slime Power Sport Tire Inflator handy in trunk. It took care of the low pressure easily.


While I was filling up, my co-worker asked for my tire gauge since he didn’t remember the last time he checked his tires. He rides a Concours 1000. The rear came out at 30psi. The front was at 25psi. He thought it was maybe ok. I told him no way a bike that heavy would be ok with that low of a tire pressure.

Filling up the front tires too

We hunted around on his bike looking for the recommended spec. My bikes all have them written on the swingarm. Not on the Kawasaki. We found it under the rear seat. It said 41psi for the rear and 36psi for the front! Quite a difference!

A friend putting air in his tires with the slime compressor

I was finished with the slime pimp, so I let him fill up his tires too. I just ran the pump off the Ural since he didn’t have a SAE connection or a 12v socket. It took the pump a couple minutes to get up to those higher pressures, but it did. With everything set right, we set off.

I almost always ride with the pump and tire gauge now. They have come in handy so many times this year I have lost count. When was the last time you checked your tires??

It was very windy, but beautifully blue skies. Great day for a ride!

American flag in the wind


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