Sheldon's 1998 Ural Sportsman - Week 2

1998 Ural Sportsman5/2/98 Day 8 Took the rig to Northern Sports in Brainerd Minnesota where Marlow tore into it to give the machine its 500 km check up.  I was impressed by all of the things he did and checked.  He also put on a couple of options that I had ordered.  The tractor seat just bolted to the frame with no effort, the rear rack though had to have holes drilled.  One thing I noticed was that neither the seat or the chrome rack came with any nuts or bolts.   I'm glad that Marlow was aware of this and had chrome bolts on hand.  He changed the fluids in the engine, transmission and differential, took the front cover off and checked the timing, pulled the valve covers and set the tappets, checked the spokes.   He also hooked up a frame to the wheels and checked toe-in and camber of the rig.   One thing that I found to be a real problem with the Sportsman that other Urals might not have was changing the oil filter required removal of the exhaust system on the left side.  There is a crossover pipe between the right and left headers and it is in the way of the filter.  That makes changing the filter quite a hassle.  It looks like they could have put the pipe a half inch further towards the real and not had this problem.

The red stars were waiting for me but now I have to make a decision whether to put them on the bike.  I kind of like the fact that no one has any idea what this thing is.   If I put the stars on they will know it is Russian.  I have mixed feelings on this.  The spare tire cover didn't show up in the shipment of parts, and of course there was no starter in the box.  Ural America is trying to find a starter for my bike but I don't hold out much hope that they will find one.  I have heard that there are people that have been waiting for six months.  I now own this bike but I believe that if I had known that up front I probably never would have bought it.  But now that I have it, and love it, I will not give it up just because of that on problem.

Marlow worked on the bike for quite a while.  The entire service cost me $79 which I considered pretty cheap for all the effort that he put into servicing the bike.   Then as I was writing the check he asked me, "Do you still need a repair manual?"  I had asked him about it when I picked up the bike and he had gotten one in with this shipment of parts.  I believe they list for $29.95.  He threw one down on the desk and I said, "add it to the bill."  He said, "It's yours," and he gave it to me for free.  Not a bad deal considering that he had given me three t-shirts already.  I have to say that I have been treated better at this dealership than I have been treated at any automobile or motorcycle dealer in my 34 years of riding and driving.  I would certainly recommend Northern Sports to anyone!

7:00 p.m.  A friend came by and I decided to give my first side car ride.  I had not felt comfortable doing this until this evening.  We headed out for a slow ride around the neighborhood but it was just too nice out so we ended up going for a much longer ride than anticipated.  After about 30 minutes, mostly at about 40 mph on country roads, I was cruising on a flat stretch of two lane road when the bike lost power completely.  I looked at the odometer and it showed that I had gone 138km since filling the gas.  It seemed like it had run out of gas.  As I pulled to the shoulder I reached down and pulled the fuel lever to reserve, kicked it into second gear, and popped the clutch.  The bike started right off and I headed out to the nearest gas station.  I kept thinking that 138km certainly couldn't be a full load of gas.   When I filled the tank it took 3.0 U.S. Gallons and I had thought that the bike had a five gallon tank...  After leaving the gas station, about five miles down the road the bike did it again.  Just died off, losing power over about a block then cutting out.  I pulled to the shoulder and as the bike slowed I popped the clutch again and it started right up.  I have no idea what was happening.  I am going to ride the bike again today so I will see if it happens again.  I will probably call Marlow on Monday and get his opinion.  If anyone has any ideas please e-mail me at

5/3/98 Day 9  Today was another beautiful day here in Duluth.  In the 60s F. with bright sunshine.  Had s luncheon party to go to and luckily it was on the other side of town.  Duluth is a very narrow city which stretches for about 25 miles along the shore of Lake Superior and because I am still trying to stay below 42 mph I have to take all back roads.  So the 25 mile run easily becomes about an hour ride.  Just had a beautiful ride, lots of waving and smiling.   The bike died one more time.  This time it was when I was approaching a stop sign.  I pulled in the clutch to shift down and the bike just went dead.  Took me about 10 kicks but it got started again.  The bike seems to be loading up with gas and even backfiring once in a while when under load.  I suspect something is off on the timing but I am not sure.  I will check with Northern Sports tomorrow.

I put the bike away about 5:00 pm. but had to drag it out again about 6:30.  Just couldn't let it sit in the garage when the weather is so nice.  At least it let me get my onions and gladiolas planted in the half hour we were home.  I now have 800 km on the bike

5/4/98  Day 10  The Ural is at home in the garage today.  We are expecting serious thunderstorms this evening and I have a meeting to go to so I wouldn't be getting home until late.  I decided that the poor thing wasn't ready for that kind of weather yet.  Darn, there I go again, assigning feelings to an inanimate object.  One of my on-line friends suggested that I do name the bike and that Chernobyl would be a fitting name.  I am still thinking about that one...

Got so busy at work today that I didn't have time to call Northern Sports to ask about the shut downs.  I will try to remember tomorrow.

5/5/98  Day 11 Went for a ride in the country at lunch.  Did some paved and unpaved country roads and the Ural handled remarkably well.  It was more stable on dirt roads than just about anything I have driven or ridden, either biker or car.  The thing is phenomenal on dirt although no matter how you try it is impossible to keep the thing CLEAN when on dirt.  But then a little patina only adds to the military look of the bike.

I added the optional red stars to the front and back of the bike but I probably will take them back off before they stick too permanently.  I just don't like the look of the stars on the bike.  They add to the military look but they also detract from the clean lines of the bike.  Another reason for taking them off is that I have kind of liked the fact that no one knows what kind of bike it is or where it came from.  With the stars on the bike it only becomes too plain that it is Russian. 

Went for another ride tonight and being able to cruise at 42 mph seems like riding with the wind after the first 500 km at 30 mph.  Can't wait until I can really open the thing up.

5/6/98 Day 12  Rode the bike to work this morning at 30 degrees F. again.  Brrrr....  At lunch time I decided to go to the park for lunch then head out for a ride.  About a mile from the park a Honda car started to follow me.  At every turn he was right behind me and when I pulled into the park he stopped next to the bike.  Turned out that he just wanted to chat about the bike and take pictures.  The poor soul has two BMW motorcycles and knew just about everything about them.  I educated him a bit about the IMZ Ural and the guy couldn't stop talking.  He was a bit excited.  I ended up spending my whole lunch hour in the park chatting.  No ride, but I still had fun.

Our receptionist brought in her motorcycle riding husband after I got back to the office from lunch.  I had given her a copy of the Ural America flyer to give him, after he had seen the bike outside our office.  He had to come in to tell me that was all he could think about now and how he kept it with him all the time.  He is another convert and hopes to buy one soon.  I think that I have about four people that are within weeks of being Ural owners, that have come to that point because of my Ural.  Gosh, I hope they end up happy.  That kind of recommendation could go two ways....

Had a pleasant ride home from work and took the Ural out on a shopping expedition to Wal-Mart.  In the parking lot it took me ten minutes to get from the bike to the building.  I was of course stopped for questions along the way.  It is funny but it almost always starts with the same question, "So, what kind of bike is that?"

5/7/98 Day 13  If one were superstitious, and this one is not, one would think that day 13 was a downer because of the number.   But not being superstitious I knew that it was just normal to have an off day now and then.  Several nights ago I had posted on the Ural America web site, in the discussion area, a message asking for an explanation of why it was taking up to six months to get a starter from their supplier.  At work we had several very serious systems crashes and I was about to tear my hair out trying to fix them.  Soooooooo....   I decided to get away from all that for a couple of minutes and check to see if there were an answer to my question.  By the time I got done reading the answer I was about 50 degrees warmer....  I am not going to go into too much detail, other than to post my message to them, their response, and the response I posted two days later. 

Topic: retro-fit starter (1 of 3), Read 61 times
Conf: Parts
From: Sheldon Aubut (
Date: Monday, May 04, 1998 05:48 AM

When I bought my Sportsman recently it was with the understanding that it would have an electric starter installed when I picked it up. Turns out the dealer has had a pretty hard time obtaining the starter. Being handicapped it is very difficult for me to kick start a bike so I am badly in need of electric start.
Could you explain why it takes so long to get these starters? I have heard that it sometimes takes up to six months and that is certainly not acceptable performance from a supplier. Please explain.

Topic: retro-fit starter (2 of 3), Read 75 times
Conf: Parts
From: URAL - International Dept. (
Date: Monday, May 04, 1998 02:25 PM

Dear Sheldon;
We have introduced electric start option and retro-fit just 1/2 a year ago, and you can imagine how many URAL owners now desire to upgrade their bikes! Being concerned about an electric start on your bike, you should have ordered it factory installed, or should have waited for the dealer to install a retro-fit onto the bike you picked prior to picking it up, if you specified the terms of sale with him this way. We just received an order for the e/s retro-fit kit from your dealer on 4/28, which is less than a week ago, and it will be processed immediately after queued orders from other URAL owners. It seems that there may be some miscommunication regarding the ordering procedure and timing of your order between you and your dealer. You can contact us directly via e-mail link above if you have any other concerns about status of your order. URAL America promptly and rapidly fills out all incoming parts orders based on the order in which they are received.
URAL Parts Dept.

Topic: retro-fit starter (3 of 3), Read 25 times
Conf: Parts
From: Sheldon Aubut (
Date: Thursday, May 07, 1998 08:31 PM

Glad to see that the starter sales are booming. I guess there must have been some miscommunications, as both the dealer and I believed they were a stocked item, and I never even thought that my buying a brand new bike would be considered "retro-fitting", but instead I thought it would be like any other "dealer installed option". Live and learn I guess.

(note: Don't stop reading here or you won't learn how quickly this was resolved with the help of Ural Tech Support)

I plan to make no further comment about this here until some later date when I see how things shake out.  I parked the bike until I had some idea what would happen as at that point I was considering returning it to the dealer for a refund.  Instead I chatted with Marlow at Northern Sports and he again suggested that he would be willing to tear apart a new bike and put the starter on my bike.  We have an appointment for the 16th to do just that.  I am still very impressed by Northern Sports attention to the customer.  They have been nothing but fantastic to deal with.

5/8/98 Day 14  Two Weeks!  No riding today.  We had high, up to 40 mph, winds today and I have to be out late tonight to attend a "Murder Mystery Dinner" and I didn't feel comfortable taking the bike out for the evening.  So it is sitting at home in its garage stall just waiting for me to jump up and down on that pedal on the side.  I guess I am getting a bit better about starting it now.  I would say that I usually have it started by the 10th kick, usually.  Except when I forget one or the other of the combination.  When we put the tractor seat on it we also discovered that there is an ignition cut out switch under the seat.  That means that there are:  Ignition switch, handlebar kill switch, ignition cut out switch, reverse gear, neutral, fuel petcock, enrichener 1, enrichener 2, and the choke to all get in the right positions before starting.  I think I am going to put together a checklist like pilots have so that I am sure to not miss anything.   Can you picture me standing there going over the bike with my pad in my hand? "Ignition switch, on, check....  petcock, open, check..... etc."

Tomorrow I ride!!!!!!!!

Week: Intro, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22

You can e-mail Sheldon at

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And Sheldon's Deco Diary at:

Copyright 1989-2010, Sheldon T. Aubut, all rights reserved
Last modified: March 22, 2011

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