Monday, November 28, 2011

Review: My 2009 Ural Patrol

Snowy Thanksgiving Day Ride 2010 with the Ural
I love getting emails from readers. One that I get often is along the following lines:
“how's your ural been, do you have breakdowns? I have been thinking about buying a new one but worried about dropping 14K on a bike that has a dodgy reputation and I don’t personally have anybody around here to ask.”
Now that I’ve owned my 2009 Ural Patrol for 24 months and put on 14,000km, here are my thoughts.
Every vehicle has breakdowns. I think Ural's bad rap started with the low quality machines in the 90s and early 2000s. Every year they improve. The new ones are an amazing improvement over pre-2007. Here is a summary of Ural changes 2003 to 2011.

My Patrol needs more TLC than my other bikes due to the shorter maintenance intervals, but the maintenance has been generally easier than my other bikes. What would I improve? Add fuel injection and tubeless car tires. 10mph more top speed wouldn’t hurt either; it isn’t an interstate cruiser. It is more of a street-legal ATV. I like to call it my Russian lawn tractor.

Be prepared to be social when on/near the Ural; it attracts attention which is commonly referred to as UDF (Ural Delay Factor). Buying a gallon of gas or a loaf of bread can easily take an extra five to ten minutes as you answer questions like “what is it”, “a Ural, who makes that”, “how old is it”, “where did you get it”, etc.

Ural is a small company that sells about 650 motorcycles in the USA a year. They built 1,100 in 2011 for the whole world. Urals are made in Russia which means when parts are out of stock they have to come on a boat which takes about a month.
My new 2009 Ural Patrol still in crate
I have owned my Ural since purchased new two years ago. I bought it as seen in the crate above. The dealer assembled it. I have had some problems with my Ural. It has never left me on the side of the road, and it has always gotten me home. Many of the issues I experienced were can be traced back to the dealer I bought it from.

I mistook them for knowledgeable people, but I was very wrong and paid for it. They started importing Urals in the late 90s, but before I bought mine they lost their good Ural mechanic. Their normal mechanics caused many problems (see list below) due to their inexperience with Urals and sidecars. The original dealer generally made my first year of ownership very incredibly painful.

I have since found a competent sidecar/old bike mechanic to augment my abilities and provide warranty support and parts. My Ural experience during my second year of ownership has improved. I've also purchased the extended warranty to bring the regular two years out to three years.

Original Purchase Dealer caused problems (covered under warranty):
My fault:
Manufacturer failures (covered under warranty):
Failures I did not explore warranty replacement since not worth riding 50 miles one way:
Ideas of regular Ural maintenance:
Answers to common questions:
  • 32mpg avg (50km/31miles per gallon – 5 gallon tank)
  • Theoretical top speed is about 78-80mph with engine at 5600rpm redline in 4th gear
  • Actual top speed depends on fairings, wind, and hills. I’ve had it up to 75mph, but the manual warns about going over 65mph for extended periods
  • Comfortable cruising speed is about 60mph with the engine between 4,000-4,500rpm
  • 55amp, 770 watt alternator above 2,000rpm.
  • 750cc air-cooled opposed twin engine rated at 40hp@5600rpm, 38ft-lbs@4600rpm
  • It weighs about 770lbs wet.
  • Uralshina rear tire lasts about 5,000km (3100miles), front more, and sidecar even more. regular rotation helps. other brands vary. I expect the Duros to last longer. k335s last less.
  • 2,500km oil changes (1553miles)
  • 5,000km valve checks (3105miles)
  • Maintenance is easy. Mine came with nearly all the tools needed to perform all regular maintenance (missing carb balancer and gap gauge) including a DVD with video demonstrations

tail in the air


The Fun:

I would buy one again because it is fun and similar features (leading link forks, 2wd, and reverse) cannot be had for similar money ($13,000). I sold my car to buy my Patrol in 2009. It allows me to ride year round in Minnesota. A Ural isn't for everyone, but for my riding needs, it works great.

Ural after playing in the mud in Carlos Avery


  1. Chris, all in all you made your relationship with the Ural sound like a good marriage. It involves work but it is worth it. I take it that fellow Uralisti-to-be's will appreciate your detailed review.

  2. Chris thank you so much for responding to my e-mail. great info and more than I ever expected to get back from you. after the wifes student loan is done it's gonna be time to pick one up.

  3. This was such a great post - you did an awesome job gathering all of those past posts & doing the review.

    The Patrol is like a mythical beast. How can you not be curious about it when you see one?

  4. I never realized that the Ural sales numbers were that low. I would've guessed 10 to 20 times that number. This is a great post outlining what it's like to live with a late model Ural.

  5. Great post, Chris.

    1500 mile oil changes seem rather long compared to my present 600 miles. I suspect it might take more than .8 of a liter of oil.

    As we've said, maintenance is the key to reliability. I'm glad you found someone who could get the Ural set-up as it should be. Here's hoping for a uneventful but adventure filled 3rd season of Uraling Minnesota!

    Ride on ;)

  6. Chris, painful first year? That's scandalous. I'll never understand how some shops get away with such ragged service. The Ural looks like a whole lot of fun, and I contemplated buying one for a while, but I settled into Vintage Japanese. It's just as hard to get work done one them, but at least I know there is thirty years at work, not incompetence.

    I am very happy to hear that they're being improved. My dreams were shattered when I heard some of the horror stories, but I'd give them a fair shake after your endorsement.

    Behind Bars - Motorcycles and Life

  7. Holy crap! $13k for 31mpg? Dude, you're selling me on overhauling my Escort with that logic. Actually, I'm just finishing with a top end on the Escort. It ought to be good for at least another 100k before one of us dies. Clearly, I don't get the Ural craze. It seems suspiciously close to a cruiser.

  8. Sonja: Indeed some aspects are the same. I had to tease my wife about trading in for a newer model, but she reminded me of the no-return policy. :)

    FATTKAW: I had been meaning to write something like this for some time since I get similar questions a couple times a month. Realizing it was the two-year anniversary sealed the deal.

    Fuzzy: Thanks. It took some time to write. Fortunately, winter is almost upon us and the cold will keep the curious in their cars. ;)

    Richard: I was surprised too when I read that NYtimes article. I figured they were more, but when it all made sense why they do some things now. They are a small company.

    Keith: Thanks! 1500 mile oil changes are short compared to my 5,000 on the SV and 12,000 on the R1150GS. Yes, a tad more than .8 of a liter ;)

    I can hardly believe it is December in two days...

    Brady: Yes, painful. I didn't have enough experience with the bike to recognize "normal" since several issues started from the get-go.

    I've thought about dabbling with vintage Japanese. A neighbor recently sold a 70s 350cc yamaha. it was tempting since I could have pushed it home to "fix" it.

    daGeezer: 31mpg is better than the car (WRX limited) I sold to get the Ural. The Ural is more fun in the winter than the car was too. It is currently the best option I see for riding in the winter. As a street-legal ATV, it allowed me to bring my wife on a few dual sporting trips. She loves sand-whoops. Who knew? But like I said, it isn't for everyone. Let me know if you need help with the top end. I can hold a flashlight ;)

  9. Another great post from the keyboard of Mr Luhman. A lot of detail here to look back on and read. I thought it best not to look at "Playing in the mud with my wife" though! Those oil changes are a bit too regular for me.

  10. Gary: Thanks Gary. It was a fun look back on all the adventures I've had with the Ural. Yes, a tad too regular indeed. Psst, watch the mud video. you'll like it. ;)