Bikes and Beards puts it to the test.
We've previously called the Ural GearUp the ultimate dadbike. Editorial Director Jason makes no secret of his love of all things Eastern European, so of course, he enjoyed both his whirlwind tour of Seattle on one as well as is short term loan of one at home in Detroit. Like most owners of off-road capable SUVs, Jason did not test the Ural's allegedly extensive off-road capabilities.
Leave it to Bikes and Beards to fall on that sword for us. They recently picked up a GearUp, and immediately took it to their local off-road park to put through its paces. It was always going to go one of two ways. Either the Ural would positively crush it in the difficult conditions, or it would break down spectacularly. There is no in-between when it comes to a Ural.
First, though, they recreated a few scenes from Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. Bikes and Beards claims that Indy rode a Ural in the big motorcycle chase in that movie. There is no way Germans would be using Russian motorcycles during World War II. There's a loophole here, however. The original Ural was really a copy of the BMW R71, which explains its similar boxer-twin engine and overall design. So really, if Harrison Ford and Sean Connery were riding a Ural in the movie, it could easily pass for a BMW of the 1940s. The design department wouldn't even have to work too hard to make it happen.
After living out their cinematic fantasies, they flipped the switch for two-wheel-drive and saw what the Russian could do. Its reputation did not let it down. The GearUp is an absolute boss in the rough stuff. Through inclines, declines, and shallow puddles, the GearUp handled most of what they threw at it on the first try. What little it didn't handle, it managed with a bit more speed on the next try.
That is, until one puddle that was much deeper than expected. The engine stalled hard, waterlogged. After pulling it out of the puddle with a quad, they opened the Ural's extensive toolkit to remove the spark plugs, drain the cylinders, drain the carburetors, and do whatever else they could to get the water out of the engine. Just as they were about to give up, the Ural began to sputter. With a few more kicks, it was running again and served them well for the rest of the day.
Some criticize Ural for using such an outdated design. My Kawasaki KLR 650 looks as advanced as a Yamaha Ténéré 700 in comparison. Yet it is unlikely you could field repair a T700's flooded engine the way these guys did. It would even be questionable on my KLR. The Ural's beauty not in its unrefined appearance, but in its simplicity. That's what makes it mighty.