I took delivery of the bike one sunny morning in Long Beach, California. "Have you ridden a Ural before?" asked Will, who dropped off the bike.
"Have you ridden an ATV before?"
I thought about the eight- to 12-hour summer days I spent as a kid riding an ATC, the three-wheeled Honda that predated the quad runners everyone rides today.
"Yes, yes I have," I answered and I was handed the keys and told that you steer the bike similar to an ATV. In addition to how you actually steer, adding a sidecar to a motorcycle also changes how you see the road. I can't lane split, and the additional weight and space taken up by the passenger portion of the bike takes a bit to get used to.
If anything, the least weird part was the electric powertrain. That has a lot to do with Ural's partnership with electric-motorcycle company Zero providing the motor, battery, controller and components. They've even included the Zero instrument cluster.
By teaming up with a leader in two-wheel EVs, Ural has leapfrogged any issues with the way the bike propels itself. The company just attached the rear wheel to the electric engine and added batteries under the gas tank and beneath the sidecar seat. The combined capacity of those two power packs is 19.5kWh. Which results in a range of up to 103 miles.
Not exactly great. But remember, this is a "proof of concept" and there's a lot of tweaking Ural and Zero could probably do to get that range further above the century mark. If this bike ever does make it into production (fingers crossed), that sidecar and its ability to handle more batteries than a typical bike would be great for range.
What it does have is power. Actually more than the gas version of the bike. The Ural electric outputs 60 horsepower and 81 foot-pounds of torque. The combustion engine version has 41 horsepower and 42 pounds of torque. On the streets, that additional torque is a godsend especially when pulling away from stop lights.
Sadly, I rode the bike alone and without a dog wearing goggles as my co-pilot. I was unable to see how the motorcycle handled the extra weight of a friend or pilfered pup. But going solo meant I was never wanting for power when riding around town.
As for turning: Yeah, it's weird. But after about an hour you get used to leaning like you're riding an ATV. It's a muscle memory for me (a very old one); for others, it might take a bit longer. Yet once all that falls into line, the electric Ural goes beyond the quirkiness of riding something designed before my parents were born and used by the Russians to fight Nazis (even though the initial bike was a clone of the BMW R71) and opens up a world of possibilities.
The sidecar also has a trunk where I was able to store my camera gear. But you could easily put two small overnight bags in there for a weekend trip. Preferably a location with a route along a back road.
The Ural is not made for highway riding. It's got a rough ride and you really shouldn't go faster than 65. The bike will do 88 miles per hour, but I wouldn't recommend it, alone or with a passenger. Even at low speeds, if you're on a particularly rough road, you and your spine are going to feel it. Riding it in town and along meandering backroads? Great. Riding it on the freeway? Bad.
That's the nature of the bike itself. Add the rapid discharging of batteries at high speed and going fast really isn't ideal. And yet, I really hope this bike does go into production. Ural says it'll make a decision "based on market research, consumer and industry experts' feedback" if it'll build this EV with a sidecar. If that pans out, it'll be two years of development before the bike is under the butts of riders.
But if it's half as fun as what I rode on a sunny weekday afternoon in Southern California, it'll be worth the wait.