STILL can't wipe the smile off my face from today's maiden voyage.
I think Douk and I are in for a lot of happy times if this first ride is an indication of things to come. I did just over 50km today with my dog Hector in the chair and the experience was an eye opener to say the least. Here's my initial thoughts and impressions:
First of all, parked next to my Dnepr the new Ural looks almost dainty in comparison. But the Tourist's fit and finish is much more refined than the MT10-36 and I could only find a couple of minor flaws in the glossy black paintwork and powdercoat. I had a bit of a giggle when removing the lower seat cushion to make way for Hector's doggy blanket; the seat base is made of black painted plywood while the lower support is a whittled down 2X4! So much for state of the art Russian upholstery technology.
I removed the rear fender seat from the bike and jammed its rubber suspension block under the rider seat for added support; I still find it a bit too flexy for my taste but it is surprisingly comfy. I'll be getting a seat cover ASAP, though, as the rubber surface of the tractor style solo seat feels just a little too freaky on the buns. I'm not sure about the sidecar windshield, it's way too much protection for a dog who spends most of his time lying down while the rig is in motion and the drag it creates was noticeable on a windy day like today. I'm going to remove it and see what difference that makes on my next ride.
The bike fires up and idles so easily I can't help but get ticked off - my Harley could take some lessons in this area. Ken did a super job of jetting and adjusting the carbs and I had no problems with the performance - the exhaust headers only show a slight goldish hue so I doubt anything will need tweaking in this area. Despite my careful twists of the throttle and gentle acceleration (much to the disgust of some twit in an SUV who went blasting by me around a blind corner because I wasn't going 40km over the speed limit like he was) I could tell the bike has lots of low down torque, so I don't think I'll have any troubles riding in traffic. It pulls willingly and without a lot of mechanical noise and fuss, the only hiccup is the need to very firmly tromp on the shifter to change gears. The transmission is hella clunky and downright hard to shift into reverse but I expect this to improve as the gears wear in. The ratios seem well spaced and a brief (and careful) run up to 80kmh left the definite impression that more power is on tap should I need it; but it'll be awhile before I try that. The manual says no special techniques are needed during break-in other than the usual varying of speeds and light acceleration/deceleration, but I want this bike to last a long time and will be giving it a very easy first 500km.
The ride quality was, well, different. I'm not sure if it was the strong wind, the new (to me) leading link front end, a pusher tire that was 6lbs low, the big windshield or a combination of them all but the bike was yawing all over the place at speeds above 60kmh. I stopped at a friend's place and pumped up the pusher tire, checked the other two tires (40psi all around) and put all four bike shocks to the highest preload setting; this made an appreciable difference but I could still feel it gently wallowing about from side to side on the highway. I think the windshield might have been the major culprit here so I'm curious to see if there's a difference with it removed. I did notice that it takes very little effort to steer into corners, the rig is easy to control even in an off camber decreasing radius curve that I specifically tried just for sh*ts 'n' giggles. I am impressed with how easy it is to change direction with this bike.
Speaking of windshields, I need one for the bike. Ken Beach (Old Vintage Cranks, 519-856-2822) has a Ural metal fairing on order and it can't get here fast enough for me. I've been pampered all these years by riding behind slabs of plexiglass on my bikes and the absence of one today was a strong reminder of why I like them. Bugs in the teeth are fine when you're young, but at 43 they're a real pain to pick out of one's beard at the end of a ride.
Ride comfort was amazing - all those shock absorbers help the bike glide over road imperfections and train tracks with a Cadillac quality. Very little vibration is felt through the footpegs and handlebars but the long stalk mirrors get fuzzy pretty quick after 50kmh. Hector seemed quite relaxed in the hack and didn't seem to be getting tossed about like he does in the Dnepr. I think at one point in our trip he actually fell asleep.
Brakes... this thing has brakes! What an absolute joy to squeeze the lever and pedal and feel the g-force of deceleration. Again, Ken did a marvelous setup as the hubs ran cool all day and the bike stopped straight and true every time. Contrast that with the "hammer it and hope for the best" Mapquest-assisted stopping ritual of the Dnepr and the Ural feels like it's hit a patch of quicksand when the brakes are touched.
So, colour my butt a sparkling shade of happy! More to follow as the miles go by...