2011 Ural Adventure Ride
Nothing stops a Ural Adventure Ride!
Eight Ural outfits gathered in Tamworth on the last day of April. This was the start of an Adventure Ride loosely coordinated by Ural of Oz which saw a total of 13 Ural sidecars take part. It was a back roads trip all the way to Mt Kosciusco and back searching for adventure. A 2,500km round trip in 10 days, not about distance or speed but about having fun and a challenge.
We found our first adventure just 100km out on the Barry to Glenrock stations road beyond Nundle. Summer floods had removed some gully crossings that made a road sign “4WD only” all the more interesting on single wheel drive outfits. Katherine was in the lead and rode straight through the first massive gulch. She has ridden to Tibooburra and the Barrington Tops on a sidecar before! The next couple of riders took a pull as they watched the dame from Snowy River take that terrible descent, before they also safely negotiated it!
Next were Mick and Julie on a slightly overloaded Ural. After an uncharacteristic Ural wheelstand as they came out of the deep chasm, the outfit pirouetted to the left and parachuted Mick and Julie back down into a waterhole! The front alloy rim was buckled and the impact saw the heavy spokes tear pieces from the hub as some 600kg of bike, riders and gear impacted the far bank of the hole.
Richard, who came along looking for adventure on his Ural and with a big camera to record the fun was in his element now! A team effort ensued to pull the bike back out and replace the front disc braked wheel with the drum braked spare wheel. Soon they were away again, up and down the steep trails with only back brakes!
The following 21 stony water crossings were a treat and performing fast crossings for the camera were good to wash the dust off! Already the less experienced riders were learning new techniques riding their outfits. Back on the tar at Moonan Flat pub, we swapped a front wheel with one of the day rider’s outfits, allowing Mick and Julie to ride out the whole tour with a Brembo brake up front again and the other bike to ride home without its front brake that evening.
The following days saw road conditions alternate from scenic Bylong Valley to a lap of Mount Panorama and a photo shoot of the start grid full of Ural Sidecars complete with suitcases on the luggage racks. There were the high country roads around Oberon and awesome treats like the Wombeyan caves to Mittagong road. Ridden in sunshine with well graded and dustless sandy surface, this narrow and winding track combined stunning sandstone surrounds with challenging technical sidecar riding. Down the smooth Kangaroo Flat road to another campground at Huskisson, gave us a change to a coastal climate and winding tar road. Campgrounds and pooled meal preparations kept costs down and built the team spirit and camaraderie that made this trip so successful.
Up we climbed again to Braidwood, and then down the Araluen Valley to Bermagui for another night near the coast. Pat, our famous Ural stunt rider, was with us here and entertained with impromptu tricks like standing on the seat with arms outstretched while his bike completed circles. His sidecar reversing drive while sitting on the front mudguard is a favourite.
Back up the mountains through Nimmitabell and Dalgety for lunch on day five, we reached Jindabyne campground early. Gear was left in the camp and with extra clothes we made it to Charlotte Pass for a Kosciusco view in the afternoon sun and then time to take the link road to Guthega on the way back dodging among the roadside wallabies out to graze.
So far one outfit had suffered a broken throttle cable and that, along with a puncture from a piece of sharp flint stone embedded in a tyre, had been our only short delays. A spare throttle cable and the Ural spare wheel feature had kept us rolling. By this time, we had picked up another 4 riders at various locations. Some Ural owners have to work and could only join us for a few days of the ride. There was a lot of information sharing about the Urals as everyone has their own anecdotal experience or modification to share with fellow riders.
Cruising speeds had increased gradually as we became accustomed to the loads and there was little dust on most dirt sections. We rode at an easy 85 – 95kmh on the better roads and, with all the bikes being the same, meant no-one was faster or slower and we had time to enjoy the scenery.
The Alpine way going west from Jindabyne was a hoot and perfect sunshine made it all the more so, as we look now at the heavy snow and icy temperature they have there just a week later! Cornering techniques were well practiced by the time we crossed the Murray briefly to add Victoria to the list of states our Queenslanders had visited. We were in Tumut by nightfall and our friends at the Russian Embassy were calling to know when we would hit town the next day.
The ride through Brindabella was a little bony and rough on the Canberra side, but the anticipated reception at the Russian Embassy when we got there was memorable. The Embassy staff had always kept in touch with Ural Australia and their support of our importing their Ural icon was evident as they lined up more than twenty staff and dignitaries to meet us on the lawn. I wonder if the American ambassador chats with Harley riders outside his embassy, I thought, as Ambassador Vladimir Morozov plied us with commemorative bottles of Vodka and Russian flags while we were taking photos with the staff.
With the guidance of Bob in his home town, we easily navigated through the city and cheekily took a few liberties. There was a photo taken of our Urals on the lawn outside Parliament House before we rode out through Bungendore to Goulbourn for the night. A couple of South Coast riders left us again there and we headed out in another thick fog for Crookwell. Word travels fast in the countryside and Peter met us outside town on his nice road outfit and escorted us in for a coffee break.
The roads on to Wyangla Dam revealed some of the charm of the Central Tablelands hilly terrain rarely visited by tourists. The riding was enjoyable and the many by roads continued to be traversed with no-one missing turns, having break downs, suffering from too much dust, or heaven forbid, not enjoying themselves.
We were back down to 6 outfits for the home run north, but the adventures were not finished as we left Blayney next morning. Breakfast was taken in Millthorpe on a Sunday morning and we had the usual interested onlookers asking after these classic looking sidecars - and from Russia no less! “What a novel way to travel” “I wish I could come with you”, “what a good restoration job you have done”, etc.
Out of Orange, we took the Long Point road which becomes a 4WD track at the end, descending steeply into a gorge along the Maquarie river. A rock crossing leads to a steep climb back out and another 80km to Mudgee. It is the long way to take a short cut across from Orange to Mudgee via Hill End! It is a popular picnic spot for 4WD owners.
As the road deteriorated to a serious 4WD road, there were severe gutters in the road and rock outcrops to clamber over on the ridges. Unfortunately, one of the sidecars had a mishap when it was negotiating a gutter and allowed the bike to fall over the road edge. The sidecar was quickly righted and pushed back onto the road by some passers by who came and helped our riders. John and Jan were shaken, but unhurt and the bike had taken some engine oil into the engine cylinder which was running whilst tipped up.
Our efforts to restart the bike were unsuccessful, and after removing the cylinder head to check the problem at roadside, we had to figure a recovery plan. It is a 10 minute job to remove a cylinder on a Ural using the toolkit issued, but a suspected bent conrod prevented repair, so we reassembled it and a towrope was hooked up. We coasted the bike down to the river, where we were relieved to see more helpful 4WD vehicles and an easy river crossing only about 60 metres across in 30 to 40cm of water.
All the bikes crossed and then we had a tow for about 1.5km from a Toyota to get the stricken outfit up the very steep exit road. It was a challenging ride for the rest of the outfits with one section so steep the passenger had to move some of their weight up on the pillion as the bikes wanted to steer left because of sidecar drag with a heavy luggage load and loose gravel surface. It was one of the rare occasions we could have gained from having a 2WD Ural like they have with the right side sidecar Urals in Europe and America!
At the top it was now 2pm and we needed to make at least 80km to Mudgee by nightfall. It was an interesting Mother’s Day, especially for Jan. She now rode in Norm’s sidecar while her plucky John steered his fully loaded silent outfit attached by a 3 metre towrope behind my Bondi model. We took the downhills slowly with John keeping the towrope as taut as he could by using his brakes, and then we had to attack the hills with vigour. Some of the early ridges in the 80km tow were challenging and with 2 fully loaded outfits to haul, we needed a push on two short climbs that were too rough to get enough run up!
We made it in daylight and I can only compliment the group on their fine teamwork, their never ending positive attitude and John’s never give up attitude as he learnt the art of sidecar towing. We all slept well that night and unfortunately, John and Jan had to pull out. Their outfit was back in Armidale for repair next day and they took their memories and stories of adventure home to Victoria on the train!
On the tenth day, five Urals rode north through some remote tracks to Merriwa and then over Pandora Pass and on to Tamworth. We were kindly offered lunch refreshment in Werris Creek as we dropped Wayne off at his home. Wayne rode ‘Blue Healer’ in the sidecar for Vic who lives in Tamworth. At one coffee stop, Vic considered leaving Wayne to make room for a nice young waitress who showed some interest in coming with us. It was an interesting trip for Wayne who owns a nice Purple Gold Wing outfit that he has toured extensively, but has never taken on Ural type adventure roads!
An Adventure Ride it was and everyone went home with a sense of achievement. There were tales of mischief and mayhem to be told back home, and the experience of camaraderie enjoyed in a ‘one for all and all for one’ effort.
We now have a lot more experienced Ural sidecar owners. The final question from them all was "when and where is the next Ural Sidecar Adventure going to be?"
Many thanks to Richard Arnold and Michael Taylor for the fantastic photos taken during their participation in the Ural Adventure Ride.