After several years of ownership and after having been employed at a well known Ural dealership, it is my opinion that the marque has become somewhat of a victim of its own success and has only another 5yrs left before disappearing from the motorcycle scene altogether. While I still believe that the staff at IMWA and at the factory in Irbit are passionate and dedicated to their product, a series of baffling production miscues and a narrow focus on the American market will lead to the eventual demise.
The engine is a case in point; it has remained unchanged in design since the early 50's. Yes, it has been bumped from 650cc to 750cc and has had numerous improvements in metallurgy and components over the years, but even the recent addition of EFI cannot hide the fact that it is still an air-cooled, low horsepower, splash lubed lump of Soviet engineering that is long past its prime. In their quest to satisfy the American appetite for more power and speed, Ural has joined the global economy by outsourcing the majority of components to obtain better quality and reliability, but this has come at the expense of a higher per unit cost of manufacturing and a resultant higher MSRP. $20k is a lot of money to spend on a machine that, compared to other sidecar units, drives like a proverbial tank and is plagued by (expensive) reliability issues. Sidecars are a very small niche market as it is and while the retro looks and performance are a cherished novelty in the modern day world of technology, the charm only lasts so long before the reality of the high cost of ownership becomes apparent.
One of the customers who purchased an Ural while I worked at the dealership has since become a good friend and has kept me up to date on the struggles he has had with his 2014 Gear-Up. During the warranty period, his rig spent several weeks in the shop for various ailments. Less than two weeks after purchase the transmission ate 3rd gear and was replaced with a new transmission. A couple weeks later it was back for EFI issues, which resulted in both throttle bodies being replaced. Then his sidecar brake seized up and a new rotor and caliper had to be installed. A new motor was installed when the right cylinder overheated and seized up. Then the bike's rear brake seized and its rotor and caliper were replaced. Twice. It went through three steering dampers, a fuel gauge sending unit, a fuel tank (replaced because of chipped powdercoat on the toolbox lid). After the warranty had run out, he had to replace the sidecar rotor and caliper again, plus a new ignition switch, a rear brake light switch and a flexible drive coupling (the Ural's Achille's Heel). Recently, the left side cylinder and piston had to be replaced after the motor seized up again.
Unfortunately, the above tale of woe is not an isolated incident. There have been countless similar experiences suffered by owners over the years, myself included. I could relate my own saga with my 05 Tourist, but it's a bit unfair to add a 12yr old bike to the discussion. Anyway, I mentioned "baffling production miscues" earlier and I should probably expand on that. In 2014 the long awaited EFI upgrade was introduced and right away there were many, many problems with it. We had three brand new bikes that could not be set to idle properly until it was discovered that the butterfly plates in the throttle bodies were warped. The American manufacturer had stamped their logo onto each plate and warped them in the process, making it impossible to tune the throttle bodies. Another EFI miscue was the addition of individual ECM's, one per throttle body. Every other motorcycle manufacturer has one ECM per bike, regardless of the number of cylinders, to manage the EFI system. Ural's reasoning was that if one ECM failed the other would handle everything by itself. Which sounded good until one day I had an EFI Ural show up at the shop on the back of a flatbed truck because it had shut down while the owner was driving in downtown Toronto traffic. I determined that the left cylinder's ECM had failed, but could not figure out why the right cylinder's unit didn't take over the operation. After checking the schematic I discovered that the fuel pump was controlled by the left cylinder's ECM only. Lose the right side ECM, you could make it home. Lose the left side ECM, and the fuel pump shuts down. What. The. puck.
As if that wasn't enough, the much boasted addition of three wheel disc brakes in 2014 brought on a whole new bucket of issues. Poorly designed linkages resulted in rear and sidecar brakes seizing up. Instead of using a proportioning valve to ensure equal braking forces on rear and sidecar brakes, Ural chose to employ completely different sized rotors and calipers on each of the three wheels, which meant that the spare was now essentially useless as it only fit the bike's rear wheel. It used to be interchangeable on the rear and sidecar. When we asked about this, we were told it could be used on the sidecar "in an emergency" by removing the sidecar brake caliper and using only the bike's front brake. Oh, and the dealer now had to stock three different sets of brake pads, including one size that was unique to a discontinued Brembo unit that had no aftermarket options.
I could go on, but you get the point. I have been told that the 2017 models are the best yet and that all of the issues from 2014-2017 have been corrected, but it isn't enough for me to consider getting another one. Like a bad relationship that ends in a bitter divorce, I have no urge to get together with the "new and improved" girlfriend.