Saturday, February 27, 2010

2010 Minnesota Motorcycle Safety Conference

I attended the 2010 Minnesota Motorcycle Safety Conference today in St. Paul. It was hosted by the Minnesota Motorcycle Safety Center and Saint Paul College.

conference poster

The conference started at 9am and upon entering the parking lot I met Charles, another Ural rider. He’s the first motorcycle I’ve seen on the road in 2010! He is also the chair of the Minnesota Motorcycle Safety Advisory Committee, and an interesting rider to talk to.

The first hour we all met in a large group and learned about advanced training opportunities available in Minnesota. Apparently, 2010 is the first year sidecar and civilian motor-officer training will be offered. I already signed up for the sidecar course in June, and may sign up for the motor-officer training too.

After the welcome session in the Theater, we separated to six breakout sessions. The topics included: group riding, see and be seen, seasoned riders, street smarts, advisory committee open forum, and motorcycle maintenance. I chose the motorcycle maintenance session which turned out to be hands-on!

It was a good learning experience. The ten students were separated into four groups. We rotated through four different learning stations while our two instructors guided us through the exercises on the practice bikes.
training bikes training bikes
The above are the two Suzuki GZ250 training bikes we used in class. They are also used in the basic rider course (BRC) taught in Minnesota.

I really enjoyed the maintenance session. Sure, some of the material was review, but I did learn a lot. We all had the opportunity to learn how to: fix a flat tire, change brake pads, check rotors, replace and gap spark plugs, check and replace fuses, adjust suspension sag, align wheels, replace turn signal bulbs, adjust hand and foot controls, replace broken throttle and clutch cables, and change the engine oil and filter. A lot of material for six hours!

learning about replacing a throttle cable
After two hours, we stopped for lunch which was provided as part of the conference. During lunch we heard a presentation from Bill Shaffer the MMSC program administrator principal.

His talk was sobering. On the plus side, there are fewer crashes per 10,000 motorcycles on the road in Minnesota over the past few years. On the other side, those fewer crashes are more deadly. It seems many of the motorcycle deaths in Minnesota are single vehicle accidents. That is, just the motorcycle crashing and killing the rider. Most of those single vehicle accidents are caused by riders who had been drinking. Crashes and deaths which could be prevented.

talk at lunch

The morning sessions were also repeated after lunch to provide maximum learning opportunities. I went back to my hands-on maintenance session.

In the afternoon, we learned how to plug a tubeless tire.
screwed tire
They let us pick which hole to patch!
inserting the tire plug
Inserting the plug after reaming the hole.
patched tire
The finished plug.

I really learned a lot from this conference and found it totally worth the $45 fee. I met a number of interesting riders and some new friends. I collected some new posters for the garage and a number of websites to review later. It was a great conference and I am looking forward to the 2011 event.

Friday, February 26, 2010

How to Replace the Ural Brake Light Bulb

During my regular pre-ride inspection yesterday, I noticed my brake light was not working when I touched the front brake. Once a day, I try to check the brake lights, turn signals, and headlight on the bike. I also like to check the oil and tire pressures a few times a week. If the bike has been sitting for a while, I like to check everything before riding.

When I squeezed the front brake only the brake light on the cart came on, but not the tug. I checked the rear brake lever and had the same results. This was good because it suggests that the switches in the levers are still good and the problem is likely with the bulb.

Using a flat head screwdriver, I removed the cover and looked at the bulb.

Ural Tail Light Bulb Replacement

I found the filament missing in the top bulb which is the running light/brake light.

Ural Tail Light Bulb ReplacementUral Tail Light Bulb Replacement

I looked around for a bulb of the same type. The bulbs in my SV650 are a 1157 type and wouldn’t work in the Ural. The Ural bulbs only have one filament instead of two and a different base pattern. They are 1156 type bulbs.

I tried to think of what I might have that only had one filament. I didn’t really want to go to the store. Then I remembered the box of stock turn signals I had when I bought the my SV650. I took one of those apart and pulled out the bulb. It fit perfectly.

Ural Tail Light Bulb Replacement

I pulled it back out and put some dielectric grease on it.

dielectric grease

I put everything back together. Success!

Ural Tail Light Bulb Replacement

I am pretty sure that when I was using the portable jump starter mentioned here, it caused the bulb to burn out since I had the parking brake on while I was jumping it.

Lesson learned: turn off all lights while jump starting the bike.

The parking brake on the Ural is just a crude hunk of metal that holds the rear brake lever down. It is simple like everything else on the Ural and it works very well.


Ural brake light bulb is a 1156 type

Related Posts:

Troubleshooting an Electrical Short on the Ural

The battery was running down while connected to the Ural. It also wasn't charging on the tender when connected to the bike. I realized I might have a short, and needed to track it down.

1) Start with everything off. The key and the kill switch.

2) Disconnect the negative cable (black) on the battery.

3) Connect the voltmeter to the positive side of the battery and the negative cable removed in step 2. It should read 0.0V. If not, then there is an electrical draw in the system somewhere. It is likely a short since everything is off. Mine read 0.52V. 
phantom draw of 0.52V

4) Locate the fuses on the bike. On the Ural there are two blocks – one near the forks the other in the side car. 
sidecar fuse blocktug fuse block
Remove one fuse at a time looking for the voltage to drop to 0.0V. This will indicate which circuit is the problem.
no draw when corroded relay removed
After checking every fuse twice, I still had a draw. I started disconnecting other things to check them. Eventually, I removed one of the head light relays on the left side and it dropped to 0.0V. The relay looks a tiny bit corroded. It looks worse in the photo than real life.
problem relay - corroded
I cleaned it up and added some dielectric grease to keep out future moisture causing corrosion.
dielectric grease
I greased both relays and put them back in.
dielectric greased up headlight relays
The draw went to 0.06, so I pulled them out again and removed a bit of grease. I put too much on the first time. Then I was back to 0.0V.

The battery was at 6.78 and put back onto the charger for the night. By morning, it was back up to almost 13V. I rode to work and was down to 12.7. By the time I left work, it was still 12.7. I think the problem has been resolved.

Related Posts:

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Dead Battery on the Ural

Yesterday morning, the battery on my Ural was dead, so it spent the day on the battery tender while removed from the bike. This morning it seemed fine. The battery was at 13.1V when I left. I just chalked it up to Ural weirdness.
I rode to work without any heated gear and didn’t freeze. I was still warm from kick starting the Ural. Surprisingly, it was 1F! (before wind-chill) My new record for riding without heat.
I wish I would have put the voltmeter on the Ural when I got to work, but I didn’t. It would have been nice to know the voltage. I made sure everything was off and went in.
When I went to leave, I put the key in the Ural and gave it a twist… nothing. No headlight… no dash lights… not again. I pulled out the voltmeter with the nice SAE2 connector:
volt meter combine with battery tender cable
It only showed 9.01V. Not good. I tried to kick it, but it wouldn’t start. Exhausted, I went back inside to make some calls.
After a bit I came back out. I tried to connect my spare battery which I use as a backup for my heated gear to the main via the SAE2 and just ended up blowing fuses instead. I thought I could use it to start the Ural or jump it, but four fuses later I gave up on that idea. I am going to revisit it, but in my own garage where it is warm and bright.
The only thing left to do was to start removing the seat and plate to get at the battery terminals directly. I’m glad I had some practice.
battery terminals exposed
Then I could jump it with my portable jump starter.
 portable battery jumper and air compressor
I have been thinking carrying the jump starter around a bit excessive, but then stuff like this happens. It has a nice light, an air compressor with built in gauge, AC inverter, and jumper cables.
It was 20F in the parking ramp. I was glad I put a pair of gloves in the Ural tool roll. My motorcycle gloves are a bit too bulky for this type of work.
work gloves  in ural toolkit
I was able to jump it and get it started. By the time I got home it was sitting at almost 11V, so the alternator is charging the battery. I may have a power leak somewhere? The battery is on a charger now, and I will investigate later.
I added the mint tin below filled with spare fuses to the Ural’s trunk. I have a bunch of spares on my SV and WR already.
mint tin filled with spare fuses

I did get a nice surprise when I got home. USPS finally delivered my business cards for the blog:
business cards to hand out
I thought it would be nice to give something to the people who ask about the Ural, how I ride year round in Minnesota, or those who just don’t believe me when I tell them I don’t have a car. I wish I would have put some FAQs about the Ural on the back, but I was being cheap. I got a few hundred of the above, in color, for about $15.

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Ural Battery Removal and Replacement

I heard the battery in the Ural could be tricky to remove, so I thought I'd get some practice with it in the comfort of my well lit and warm garage. After doing it, it isn't hard at all. The Odyssey PC680 fits in the Ural.

I like to use the tools that I carry on the bike to make sure I am not missing anything. It also ensures I've had some experience using them and learned their limitations.

Tools needed:

tools needed to remove battery

1) Remove the left side cover by gently pulling on it
2) Use the 17mm socket to remove the bolt under the front of the seat.
17mm bolt holding front of seat

3) Remove the seat by pulling it slightly forward while rotating up.
pull seat foward and tilt upseat removed

4) Use the allen wrench to remove the four bolts holding the seat mounting plate on.
remove this plate under the seatallen wrench to remove bolts
I couldn't get enough torque for some of the bolts with the normal wrench. I put the end of the screwdriver on the wrench to extend it slightly and provide a more hand-friendly grip.
use the screwdriver handle to make the allen wrench easier

5) Remove the plate.
plate removed

6) Use the 8mm wrench and the philips screw driver to loosen the bolt holding the battery tie down in place.
loosen the battery tie down

7) The top of the battery was blocked by a cable connected to this plug, so I found it necessary to disconnect it.
disconnect this connector to get the battery out

8) Use the philips screwdriver to disconnect the battery terminals negative (black) then positive (red).

9) The trick to removing the battery since there is hardly any space is to:
a) Hold the kick starter down with your foot to add an extra inch to work with
b) Shift the bottom of the battery forward and start to twist it
c) Get the bottom of the battery on the upper right side and the top on the lower left (see below)
d) Watch for snagging cables. It will just slide out with less than 1/8" all around.
e) It is a bit heavy, so don't crush your fingers.

trick to removing battery

10) Done! Reverse the steps to reinstall the battery.

This is a picture of my "original" Harley battery for reference. My original Russian factory battery was defective and replaced immediately after purchasing my Ural.
"original" HD battery

I would use the Odyssey PC680 Battery in the future.


I have replaced the stock battery with the Odyssey PC680 Battery and cold weather performance is noticeably better. To put the Odyssey batter in, I needed to remove the airbox.

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Sunday, February 21, 2010

Winter Riding – February 21

Ural on Lake Josephine

I took the Ural out for a bit today and rode it on Lake Josephine. Someone had plowed a “road” across the lake from the boat launch to their ice fishing house on the far side. Without the “road”, I wouldn’t have been able to ride on the lake. The snow is piled up almost 12 inches. If I had knobby tires, I probably would have tried it. I might buy some knobbies this week. It still made for some good photos.

Ural on Lake Josephine

I also took the Super9 out as I needed to get my two wheel fix. It was really nice to get back on two wheels again. The scooter doesn’t have a windshield, so it has a lot less wind noise than the Ural. I had forgotten how quiet riding could be. 

For fun, I took it to a snow covered parking lot to see how it would handle on the ice and snow. It was much more slippery than I expected. I’m glad I changed my mind and bought the Ural to ride in the winter rather than the Super9. No pictures of the Super9 today. I was having too much fun and forgot. :)

I also spent some more time with the SV650. I made more progress on the HID install. I spent a couple hours just trying to figure out where to place all the bits. The ballast and the hi/lo relay have been the tricky parts. I did a test run of the HID and it is at least three time brighter than the old bulb.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Uraling & Scooting Around

World's Largest Walleye

The weather has been warm the last couple days. Yesterday was 40F on the way home and today was 36F. The blue skies and warmer temps really made me want to ride, so after work today I just pointed the Ural north and started riding. After a while, I ended up on I-35 and followed that for a bit. I didn’t have a destination in mind. I was just enjoying the blue sky, brown trees, and white snow. It really looked great.

After a bit, I pulled off the interstate for some gas and to look around. I saw this giant Walleye (above), so I had to go take a look. The sign says it’s the world’s largest walleye (1999 lbs and 15 1/2 oz) caught by Paul Bunyan in Rush Lake using a 35lb tiger Muskie for bait on a line made of one inch manila rope. The rod was a 62 foot white pine with a three ton loggers winch for a reel.

Ural in front of Largest Walleye

of course I had to park the Ural in front of it… I was very tempted to ride onto the muddy grass to get a shot parked in front of it. While I was contemplating shifting into 2WD and riding in front of it, two snowmobiles pulled up and parked there instead. I took that as my cue and set off again.

Just down the road from the giant walleye is the Dennis Kirk Scratch and Dent store. I had to stop and check out the deals. In the parking lot, I got into a discussion with a guy in a station wagon who followed me from the giant fish. Apparently, he has a 850 moto guzzi sidecar rig. He’s too scared to ride it in the snow. Crazy. I told him to get it out and enjoy it.

There were a lot of deals to be had inside. I tried on some roost protectors, but I didn’t like how they fit. At 1/2 off, I really wish they fit better. They also had some decent cheap boots and helmets. I didn’t buy anything and headed out.

On the way home, I had a couple people wave and give me the thumbs up. The Ural just seems to make people smile like no other bike I’ve ridden.

Reflections in Ural

A self portrait in the Ural’s green gas tank. It reflects the sky quite nicely.

After I got home, I couldn’t help but think of the fun Bobskoot and Charlie6 have recently had on their two-wheelers. The roads were mostly clear. Thinking I’d be a bit rusty with the whole counter-steering, leaning thing, I grabbed the Super9.

It really didn’t want to start. The Super9 doesn’t like the cold, which is anything under 45F. It eventually fired up, and I gingerly road onto the street with both feet hovering above the ground expecting to crash.

 Super9 in the snow!

It was just as much fun as I remembered it. I went to a nearby parking lot and practiced some figure eights and braking. I was happy I remembered to put my feet down when I stopped. I put a few miles on riding around the side streets. I got a few looks, but almost everyone ignored me. It was nice being invisible. Sometimes the Ural attracts too much attention.

Monday, February 15, 2010

3rd Annual John Larson Memorial Ice Race

A friend and I attended the 3rd Annual John Larson Memorial Ice Race on February 14, 2010. The race was held on Long Lake in Isanti, MN which is just a short one hour drive north of Minneapolis up MN-47.

IMGP6943 cropped

The track was massive! One of the largest I’ve seen for an ice race. This, of course, isn’t saying too much since I’ve only seen a few events. I heard someone say it was over two miles long! I couldn't get close to capturing it with the camera, but here's the panorama anyways:

track pano

Before the race started, the national anthem was sung as a rider road around part of the track with the American flag. I really thought it was a nice touch and more events should consider it.


The race was three hours long and broken into two 90 minute halves with a 30 minute break between the sections for track cleaning.

IMGP6746track cleaning

There were 27 bikes in 25 teams. Many teams had multiple riders. One team, #17, did the first half solo!


For the start, the bikes were lined up into three rows of ten with #1-#10 in the first row, #11-#20 in the second row, and the rest in row three.


During the break in between the races, the teams worked on their bikes. Some just needed gas while others had to replace parts. Many of them re-tightened the ice screws back into the tires.


The second half started with everyone lined up in their finishing order from the first half. It was just a long line of bikes that quickly spread out after the start.

2nd half start

The day started as a beautifully sunny day at 18F and ended with a snow storm and dished out more than two inches.

I think it is impressive to see the handlebars below the knees in the middle of a turn and the bike is still stable. The ice studs give the bike a lot of traction.


I took an amazing amount of photos and video for this event. I took over 350 photos --only 260 photos were worth keeping. I also captured over 40 minutes of videos and cut it down to two videos. A long version at thirteen minutes and a shorter, more lively five minute version.

IMGP6964 #4 winning

The full flickr photo set is here.

Short Video at Youtube: (short video on Vimeo)


Long Video at Vimeo: