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Two-Wheel Tuesday Review: 2010 Ural Solo sT

For a company that has been producing the same motorcycle, virtually unchanged, since 1941, the 2010 Ural Solo sT represents all the things motorcycling stands for: risk, uncertainty, freedom. But those qualities aren’t exactly the basis of most solid business strategies. If the Solo fell flat on its face, it might spell the end for IMZ-Ural’s 70 year dream. Can a clone of a pre-war German motorcycle go Solo?

In a word, DA! Instead of being hopelessly obsolete, hopelessly outclassed by modern competitors, the Solo points out a stark fact that should be more of a wake-up call to the big boys of the two-wheeled world than an ice-pick to Trotsky’s brain: the Ural Solo sT has no competitors. Expensive, heavily specialized bikes like BMW’s G/S bikes or more single-minded rides like a Kawasaki KLR simply aren’t the generalist the Ural is, which can do more for less with little in the way of compromise. You’re looking at the last of the truly utilitarian motorcycles – a bike so rugged, so understressed by what most pockmarked roads could throw at it that I’m half-tempted to trot out the zombie-apocalypse trope. Ural invited me out to their Redmond, Washington headquarters to sample the Solo this past week, and luckily the weather cooperated and the Solo didn’t disappoint.

If you think they’ve accomplished this out of sheer unsophistication, forging wagon-cart parts out of pig-iron in some crumbling Caucasian forge, you’d be wrong. Ural’s dipped into the same high-quality parts bins that feed most of Europe’s highbrow manufacturers, and they’ve come up with a simple and reliable formula that those other guys can’t seem to replicate. Brembo provides excellent 295mm 4-piston units up front, and 245mm 2-piston units out back. They provide excellent, well-modulated braking with no surprises. Likewise, the 40mm Marzocchi telescopic front forks and the Sachs shocks with progressive springs out back provide a remarkably supple ride. It reminded me a bit of how a Range Rover handles on the road – good dampening but enough articulation to take a hard jolt without breaking a sweat, and perfect for double-duty as a road-n-trail rig. Denso electronics mean you won’t be pushing the Solo when it rains, either.

Of course, it would all fall apart, like taking your grandparents to a Slipknot show, if the old and the new didn’t mesh well together. But even your grandparents would agree that the Ural’s 745cc boxer twin, with pushrod OHV and a pair of Kehlin L22AA carburetors, is a fantastically tractable motor. Torque is the name of the game: the Ural pulls smoothly with no drama, although terminal velocity is rather low. While 40 HP and 38 ft-lbs of torque doesn’t seem like a lot, the power compares favorably with Triumph’s 865cc parallel twin (58 HP and 50 ft-lbs of torque) or a Moto Guzzi 744cc v-twin (48 HP and 40 ft-lbs of torque) – and both of those bikes feature electronic fuel injection. The wide-ratio 4-speed is well suited to the engine’s power delivery, and despite the shifter’s vagueness I was always able to engage the gear I was looking for. I’ll admit that out of habit I sometimes hunted for a fifth gear, but the bike doesn’t need one at all. That being said, no bike out there save a Royal Enfield or a Rebel 250 is going to have much trouble keeping up, but that’s not the point. And “slow for a motorcycle” is a relative term – freeway merging and passing is completely adequate. I found the low center of gravity to be comforting in general, but there is a wobble above 65 mph that was disconcerting – the thin rear tire seemed nervous, although anyone familiar with bikes of the ’70s will be right at home. Perhaps a longer wheelbase and wider rubber is in order in the long term? Another quibble was the two-up molded seat on my solo tester. I found the tractor-type saddle found on the base model to be more comfortable, although your butt may have a different opinion. I’m 5’10” and was plenty comfortable despite cramped footpeg placement necessitated by the sideways protrusion of the cylinders, but the long-legged may want to think about some sort of highway peg situation to stretch out some.

I’d say there is potential here for a new genre – something inbetween a JDM and a scambler. I’d call it a utility standard – quite capable of handling a country road or a gravel track. It’s a rugged, well-built bike, and Ural points out it’s almost entirely metal, so it seems like you could beat on a Solo quite hard for quite a few years – as any bike in production continuously since 1941 should be. Strap a tent to the back and wind along a shady lane, up a forest service road, and toss a lure in the lake. Just like their more well-known sidecar motorcycles (more on that next Tuesday!), you have a whole host of options for modifying the Solo to your taste. Ural’s “a la Carte” program means you simply select what options (opens a PDF file) you want on your Solo, and they put it together at the factory and ship it over to the East Coast where it gets transported to your local dealer. While that takes time, it keeps inventory and overhead low, allowing the Solo to be competitively priced – the base model starts at $6,999. Ural is committed to testing and improving their offerings, so expect their loyal customer base’s ideas to slowly be integrated into future Solos (at least, within Ural’s admittedly tiny R&D budget).

Ural – Irbit MotorWorks (IMZ) of America, Inc.

  • Number_Six

    The Ural is several hundred shades of old-school cool but would it really be wise to drop $7000 on it instead of a totally bullet-proof KLR? Some of us don't have the luxury of making a seven-grand impulse buy / mistake, so this vexes me.

    • I think my point with respect to the KLR is that, while it's a great bike that plenty of people use mostly on the road, in concept it's more of a heavily modified dirtbike. The Solo is just a tough motorcycle with a low center of gravity and the coincidental ability to meander around off-road. Ultimately it's a matter of taste – I'm sure if cross-shopped with a KLR, some people will take the KLR for the capabilities while some will take the Ural because it speaks to them. It might come down to aesthetics too.

    • theeastbaykid

      …And a quick visit to the Kawi website shows the KLR MSRP at $5,999.

      • If all motorcycle purchases were made by looking only at the MSRP and the capabilities, no one would own a Harley. Just sayin'.

        • theeastbaykid

          I guess I mentally have Ural in a lower tier than the "established" brands. Specs aside, I expect a discount when it comes to their stuff–but maybe that's not deserved in the real world. Perhaps Ural is the Hyundai of motorcycles in that regard.

          Hey…why DO people buy Harleys, anyway?

          • Good analogy…

            I showed the Kia Forte Koup to someone the other day, and they said it looks pretty cool, has a great price, and has good features… but it's a Kia.

            ouch

    • rivercreep

      Bullet proof until the KLR's doohicky goes BOOM! L.O.L.!

  • Think a dealer would trade my 2006 Kawasaki Vulcan 750 and some cash for one of those?

  • Maymar

    I already dug Ural, in all its oddball Russian anachronistic glory, and I appreciate seeing something just so standard. If I buy a motorcycle any time soon, I've resigned myself (well, not exactly that, I like the added lightness) to sub-250 bikes for quite a few years until insurance becomes a little more reasonable, but I'd be looking for something much like this.

  • The claw! I have been chosen! Farewell, my friends. I go on to a better place.

    Oh yeah, the motorcycle is cool, too.

  • My dad has owned a boxer BMW as long as I've lived, and he actually owns two now. My first bike was a boxer, a R65. I loved that bike, but the wicked conservative school I went to made me get rid of it because it didn't reflect well on the school(Basically, get rid of that bike, or we'll find a way to kick you out) Bike started up every time, never stranded me anywhere and was simple enough that I could work on it with basic hand tools and some duct tape. Since Urals are based on BMW designs, I'm just gonna assume the same stands for them. I wouldn't pay $7000 for a new 60 year old BMW though

    • Sounds like a "you can't fire me I quit" scenario should have played out. Seriously; what school is THAT shallow?

  • That's so awesome. The world needs more standard, honest-to-goodness bikes like this.

    If I didn't have my heart set on a Bonneville, I'd actually consider this.

  • Jim-Bob

    I like it for it’s Russian-ness, but find the price a bit steep. $7k just seems to be a bit much for a very basic motorcycle that will probably be hard to source parts for. It would be like paying $17k for a basic Lada 2107 when you could get a basic Fiesta for $13,900. I think the Lada is cooler, but could never justify the price given the lack of technology and tooling that has been paid for for the last 30 years.

    • I_Tia

      This is just funny. How about paying almost $9K for Moto Guzzi V7? The only difference between two bikes is EFI on latter. So, you are basically saying that you are willing to pay extra $2K for the part which cost OEM $200 or less. Why? Because it makes one bike a little less basic than another?

      • jim-bob

        Not at all. My point of comparison would likely be cross shopping with Japanese bikes that cost less money but incorporate more modern technology. Don’t get me wrong, I like the Ural. I just think it should be priced lower with respect to more advanced bikes, especially since it is not an established brand in the US market and it would help build a following by pricing it competitively enough that people will take the risk of buying one.

        Then again, this is an argument based purely on cold logic and not on a love of a particular machine over the other. Obviously, those are the sort of things that play heavily on the purchasing decisions of enthusiasts or Harley Davidson would have long ago ceased to exist. I am not a motorcycle enthusiast (not that I have any problem with those who are), and to be honest the only bike that really appeals to me is the Honda Super Cub. That is more out of a desire to strip it bare and reassemble it though rather than ride it as I would enjoy studying it’s design. Soichiro Honda is one of my heroes and I would love to have the opportunity to dissect the design of such a great engineer.

    • oldskoolkev

      Part of the reason I love it is for its primitive simplicity. As far as sourcing parts, I have a great shop called Raceway Services with both stock and aftermarket parts just down the road. I really didn't mind paying a little more than you might expect for something this unique. I go to bike and car shows all the time in the summer and so many of the machines you see are new and appear to have just rolled off the showroom floor. They generally bore me to tears and the only aspects of them that I feel safe in trying to identify are the wheels. Sometimes less is more. I'm sure I will be enjoying this bike for a great many years to come.

  • oldskoolkev

    Just ordered mine and I can't wait. I have a long standing love affair with vintage bikes, particularly British but I discovered Ural about a year ago and made up my mind to get one. Really was interested in the Gear-up but I will be happy a with this little Russian hottie until I can add the Gear-up to my collection. As for the arguments, the bike either speaks to you or it doesn't. As for Ural building a successful 2 wheeled machine, well, let's just say i'm gonna do my part as a new ambassador for the brand. I love them.

  • Atomo

    Urals can come with a side car can they not? Sidecars rock.

    • A sidecar with a driven wheel, no less. No one else does that.

    • I have a feeling if you check back here next Tuesday, all your questions will be answered.

  • This is some sort of alien technology cleverly being hidden in "Area 15". You'll not fool us, "Ural" aliens!!!!

  • Decent web site! Thank you!

  • Quite Great Report AND I’d like TO Set THIS Post IN MY Blog.

  • I had some problems viewing the website in Safari on the Mac, but I still loved the post! 🙂

  • Had some difficulty viewing the site in Firefox on the Mac, but apart from that loved the post.

  • Bear Campbell

    I love my 2006 Ural Tourist. Ride it as much as possible. My lady loves the sidecar. But she has to kick the dogs out, they like it too. Over 31.000 on it and just regular maintenance. I even dress the sidecar up as a sleigh for Christmas, I play Santa for the kids. Oh, and in the twisties here in California, It's all about the leaning. But for those of you who are thinking about getting one, if you don't like talking to people, don't bother. "Simplicity by Design"
    Bear,

  • Aardvark

    My wife and I have 9 motorcycles, 7 of which are BMWs from 1967 through 2010. Weare long distance tour folks and put on reasonable miles each year. I have owned BMW bikes continuously since 1967. Of all of the bikes we use our two 2010 F650 twins to the degree that my r1200r is for sale…too complex, heavy and dealer dependent. One of our bikes is a Ural Patrol. We love it and have more fun with it than with any other machine. For years I have communicated to BMW corporate for the need for a retro type bike of modern vintage with the ruggedness and simplicity of the old R bikes. I suspect my fellow BMW AirHeads will find the Ural Solo to be a good fit. I want one and intend to dump a few BMWs to help rationalize the purchase.

  • billy neu

    As Aardvark announced…."Airheads" attention affirms the need for a " It can be fixed on the side of the road,at the local gas station/ garage,Mid Weight Adventure Bike."
    What you give up in speed you might gain in mileage and/or reliability. . A lot of people do not want to …
    be held captive by the "black box.. Or the."Gotta take off the gas tank to find/fix it" roadside routine.
    Easy on/off rear wheel technology is peace of mind when traveling long distance. So is. Driveshaft vs Chain .
    If the Solo has tubeless tires…and an easy to change rear wheel. Hmmmmm?
    Imho…That is worth more than 30 (extra) mph . Officer "You clocked me at WHAT>>>Really? Can we SEE that!"

  • James

    Great article! I've just discovered this bike on the Ural website the other night! Yes- I'm probably way behind everyone else here.-Lol! I love the esthetic of this bike. Being a fan of the older bikes -BMW airheads, Moto-Guzzi Ambassador-850T……This Solo really grabbed me. I've been considering a V7Classic or a Triumph Bonneville T100-but I really like the simplicity of this Russian Boxer engine. Yes- you can look around and find an old R75/5 that has 80,000+ miles. But for the money -you can get a brand new Airhead bike with some modern additions(Brembo Brakes,40mm Marzocchi Forks)-and put your own mileage on it. I think Ural is on the right path. Simplicity and style w/o trying to look like some wannabe Harley. Yes, Ural took BMW's original design but I like the "Simplicity w/o all the unnecessary gadgets." I'm so happy I can get a bike that still has the classic Carburetor and not have to pay extra for EFI( which I really don't care for). I love the choice of Kickstart or Electric start. The Kickstart/Electric start feature should be on all bikes! The fact that I can attempt to try and adjust anything on the bike without being forced to bring it to a shop to have the mapping adjusted or take an hour to remove all the plastic fairings( just to get to the engine), really is a giant plus for me. I guess I enjoy the time when you can fiddle with the engine. Nowadays, motorcycles and cars are so jammed up with technology that you don't even want to attempt to fix anything if there's a problem. Thank you for this article. Now I just have to get to a dealer some where near me and get a true feel of the bike!

  • James

    Once again- Great article!

  • A. T. Ghazi

    I'm 54 and during the years of being an army brat I traveled and seen so many bikes here and there. Simplicity is the key. That's all. Realiable is a must. Looking cool on a ancient two wheel horse is even better. But buy a new bike with high tech is just another person wasting so much money just to ride a bike only when it's nice outside so the chrome will still shine. Hiding under over pass to get out the rain cause for what ever reason. Plus you have to stay on the pavement. I own a Yamaha r1 and love the bike. I bought it used cause I won't pay for something that cost more than a CAR. And a lot of bikes out their do cost big money. I like like riding in all weather. Being German born and picked up some spirited DNA. A bike like the Ural is like real football game with one reff. Not FLAG football with 20 reffs. It's what you are looking for that suit you. My R 1 is quick speeds and fun. Not from Norfolk Va. To Boston Ma. I rather ride a ural st going 65 than 85 or 90 with sore nuts numb hands and perhaps a hurt back. Take your pick Ancient pyramids from Giza or a fabricated house that cannot stand if every one in my family farted at the same time.

  • Andrew

    Thanks for the article. I found interestIng to look what does “east coast” think about our motorcycles. But I suppose “zombie theme” is more suitable for the “village’s 70-s” motorcycles (haven’t seen them? Visit me at my granny’s 🙂 ). Solo st is a brand new bike for us after the “90-s crime-times”.