Hammarhead Industries made a splash earlier this year with the Jack Pine, a stripped-down, hopped-up, blackened Triumph Scrambler that feels like it should be followed everywhere by uniformed Germans in Kübelwagens. And to prove its legitimate dirt capabilities, the folks at Hammarhead created this short video: a dusty ballet of supreme hoonage against a backdrop of urban decay. We spoke to James Hammarhead, founder, owner, and possessor of the coolest name ever, about Pier 18 and his latest project, the Ural Solo X.
And you’ll just have to make the jump to see it.
Pier 18 was filmed at an abandoned coal pier northeast of Philadelphia, on the shores of the Delaware River—”this crazy area where kids play paintball or ride quads and older folks fish—” says Hammarhead*. “Clearly these guys are the bravest.” It’s the sort of dingy, forgotten locale he would have taken his old VW Rabbit out back to “retire” it, had he known about it earlier—the sort of abandoned area rife with hoonage opportunities.
Hammarhead is intrigued by these short films, despite how difficult they are to do; Pier 18 was financed out of pocket, “it was hard to do, he says, “and the camera was maybe too static.” But as he experiments with dramatic, well-shot films like this, he assures us that the Solo X will be shown in a similar light: fast-paced, adventurous, and reflecting its off-road capabilities.
Of course, we make no apologies for our love of all things Ural. It’s a scrappy, “they still build those?” underdog in the world of $14,000 BMW adventure bikes; it’s a bike that hasn’t seen fit to change much since the Soviets were sweating Eisenhower at night. And well-crafted custom examples are hard to come by. In case the regular Ural sT wasn’t dirt-oriented enough, however, Hammarhead cranked up the its capabilities, stripped down an already bare-bones bike, and matte-blacked the rest. A man after our own hearts. Meet the Hammarhead Solo X.
The Ural, Hammarhead says, harkens to a time of the “universal” motorcycle–when people rode impractical machinery on the dirt like it weren’t no thang. People rode street-oriented R75s and R90s through the mud and the muck in an era before BMW GS adventure bikes set the standard for cross-continent journeying. “I see the bike as a throw back to the universal bike rather than a scrambler or dual sport,” says Hammarhead. “It does it all well. Not intended to get big air like the Jack Pine, but maybe friendlier on a long road ride.”
“My goal,” says Hammarhead, “was to make riding the Ural sT aggressively on fire roads and unpaved dirt roads less likely to cause damage and more enjoyable.”
He does this by attaching big crash bars to protect the boxer twin engine, a unit derived from BMW many, many moons ago. Skid plates and higher pipes, reminiscent of earlier Urals, were installed. The instruments were thrown out and all wiring moved to inside handlebars capped with bar-end turn signals. Perhaps most unusually, the twin cone air filters were relocated to the inside of the gas tank, accessible through a panel behind the fuel filler.
All of this made building the Ural a challenge: how do you simplify an already simple bike? Once again, comparisons to the Jack Pine crop up.
“These bikes come from very different places. The Jack Pine is a very modern design that has been simplified, the Solo X is a very old design that has been simplified. The Solo X gives much more vintage bike ride than the Jack Pine.”
Hammarhead first got involved with Ural when he used one as a support bike while filming Pier 18, and decided to give modifying one a go. “At first glance the Ural sT looks like it should be a nice retro vibe street bike but once ridden in the dirt the shocking universal potential is revealed. Maybe because its design dates from a time when paved roads were not a given.”
Despite the aging design, he was impressed by its build quality, handling, and ability to be ridden aggressively–an attribute he’s improved on with the Solo X. Sadly, you’ll have to wait until Hammarhead’s home of Philadelphia thaws out in the spring to see the Solo Xi in action; he plans to shoot a Pier 18 film with the bike then.
We’re looking forward to it.
[Sources: Hammarhead Industries, BikeEXIF]
*And yes, that is his real name—a combination of his last name and his wife’s maiden name. He deserves a punk band named after him.