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Ural Returns to UK

Ural sidecar outfits, including the legendary two-wheel drive version, are back on sale in the UK with a new importer – but they are no longer made in Russia. Production was moved last summer from Ural’s factory in Irbit, central Russia to a site in Petropavlovsk, northern Kazakhstan, 370 miles south east of the original factory, where Urals had been made since 1941.

Putin’s invasion of Ukraine, and the international sanctions which it brought down on Russia, made continued production at Irbit impossible. The company itself wasn’t subject to sanctions, but the venerable flat-twin has been radically updated in recent years, with 80% of its components now sourced from outside Russia, including Brembo brakes, Nippon Denso electrics and Paioli forks.
Ilya Khait, CEO of IMZ-Ural, says, “We spent 20 years inserting ourselves into the global economy. It was a very lengthy, difficult, and costly process of moving away from the Soviet-style factory in Irbit, which did everything in-house and didn’t do it very well, to becoming more modern and purchasing the best components for (our products).”

Assembly has now been established in Ural’s new home, and a new UK importer recently signed up to sell the bikes here, including the two-wheel drive outfit. Matt Bishop and Reece Gilkes, better known as ‘The Sidecar Guys’ rode a Honda scooter and sidecar around the world in 2018/19, but now sell Urals from a base in London and their ‘Sidecar Experience’ centre in Northumberland. The Experience offers the chance to ride a Ural on and off-road for a day or two.

Jim Freeman, Chair of the BMF, said: “A blast from the past, as venerable as Royal Enfield. The Ural copy of a 1930s design BMW military outfit was always a curiosity. I admire their determination, there was nothing particularly wrong with the concept, just the execution. How it’ll fit in these days is open to question. Most of the world is looking towards turning electric, mind you, a factory produced outfit with battery-electric might be a much easier project than a solo. Nothing like a chunky battery pack for keeping the chair down!”

Written by Peter Henshaw

Top image courtesy of Ural