Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Suitability (Part 1)

This picture is was taken last Saturday at College Coffeehouse and I thought it sort of fits this post. Plus, I thought that it was a cool experiment. It is an ADV version of the RnineT that BMW sales rep, Justin, set up for the local dealer. It has knobby tires, some Touratech engine protection with some Wunderlich parts thrown in. The exhaust wrap and tiny turn signals add to the look. George Rahn thought it looked silly. Justin said that the ride was a bit squirrelly in the rain with the brand new tires. Not really a suitable platform for off road riding but still very cool.

This post is about the suitability of the Ural for my last road trip. Kind of like the RnineT in the picture or Mike Saunders' 49cc Ruckus, the Ural may not be the most suitable rig for MY trips. I know that some have travelled all over the world with their Ural rigs and emphasize that if Urals are used within their design envelope, they will run forever.

Dom has pointed out in a comment on my last post,
"All things, made by Man, eventually fail."
When buying any sort of used vehicle there is always a risk on how it was treated by the previous owners. Raceway mentioned that some of the parts have evidence of "misuse" such as extended driving on pavement in 2WD and flying the sidecar with hard landings. I'm fairly confident that it wasn't me and pretty sure that it wasn't the previous owner but there is still before then. Only time will tell how well the replaced components last. Before, it was always difficult to shift into 2WD. Now it easily "clicks" in and out. Since I didn't have it from new, I didn't know what to expect. I remember that there has always been a lot of play on the sidecar splines but since I didn't have anything to compare it to, I assumed that it was normal.

Riding in very cold temperatures like I did last winter is probably outside of the design envelope as well but now that I no longer have a commute, that may not happen very often. At least one can hope.

Back to suitability. I had absolutely no issue with with the cruising speed of the rig. Especially after I discovered that the speedometer and odometer ran low (or slow) when compared to a GPS. The speedometer error is not consistent but in the past, cruising at 100 km/h on the speedometer was almost impossible to maintain and the engine sounded really strained. On the GPS, that equated to almost 70 mph. No wonder the engine really sounds strained. This fits with antidotal observation. Last May when I rode out to Nenana with the casual BMW group, George mentioned that I was going significantly above my claim of 55 mph. Maintaining 90-100 km/h on the GPS wasn't a problem and felt fast enough.

Engine reliability seems like it should be okay if one follows the general recommendations given by some other long distance Ural riders. Such as don't shift into 4th unless you are above 50 mph. The engine actually sounds really nice between 4000 and 5000 rpm. On the way down, that's also when it was burning oil. On the way back, no problem and 3rd gear at 4000 - 5200 rpm was common. Higher RPM allows the rod bearings to get more oil.

With the new rear brake shoes that happened to come with the final drive, braking is decent. There was the weird "clicking" that I though may have been the head bearings but it turned out to be a loose brake bolt. I'm going to check alignment to see what Raceway set it to as it handles pretty nice right now.

Tire wear is much more reasonable than I had expected. The K28 that I have on as the pusher was brand new when I installed it at Iskut, BC, and now has 9,981 km on it. It is pretty well worn but not completely worn out. The sidecar has the old pusher on it and now has just short of 19,000 km on it. It still has enough tread to get through the next winter. I don't think the tires get a lot of wear in the winter even as the pusher. I was happy to have the K37s installed on the front and pusher for the first quarter of the trip. The traction improvement was noticeable on the dirt, mud and gravel.

If you look at my posts early in the trip, I worried a lot about what was happening inside of the engine. The valves wouldn't stay adjusted, excessive oil consumption, higher than expected cylinder head temperatures, etc. Part of that concern was due to the lack of any service facilities in that part of the road system. I'd probably be concerned no matter what I was riding or driving. After passing the border into Canada, I knew that the next dealer was in the Vancouver area and the next dealer that would honor the extended warranty was somewhere around Bellingham, WA, or Spokane, WA. I had a hard enough time finding anyone in rural BC that knew how to weld the stainless steel exhaust system. Both repairs only lasted a short time before partial failure of the welds.

If it sounds like I'm not sure it's because I'm not. To be cont...


SonjaM said...

The RnineT has a very nice appeal, but looks more for show than for use.

Richard, there might be a reason why most long distance travellers chose Beemers, however if/when those bikes fail, the fix is never easy, and doesn't come cheap.

I believe that a mechanically clean machine will take you around the world, no matter what brand or year (exhibit A: Mike and his Ruckus), and yes, it will break down eventually. The questions being, how easy will it be to fix it, and how much will it cost.
Now that I am venturing out on a 12 year old cruiser to explore East Canada, I have the same thoughts and worries, plus I have no knowledge or talent to repair stuff myself. I just trust that the bike won't fail me, and if so, that a Samaritan or a shop is close enough to help.

The perfect bike doesn't exist... and things will happen...

Learning to Golf said...

Indeed anything can break. I didn't consider who owned your Ural before, but agree with not knowing how it was used or taken care of. Because you and Dom chronicle your breakdowns it is easy to think Urals aren't trustworthy. On the ADV form there is a huge file on why not to buy a Ural and just as many defenders as complaints. In the end we ride until it breaks, we fix it, we ride, we fix, and when the cost of repairs outweigh the pleasure we get we look for a new/different one. Ahhhhhh, the life of a motorcyclist.

redlegsrides said...

Good posting RichardM!

I love my Ural rig but it surely is a love/hate relationship at times.

Lately, I've been looking for ads for vintage Airhead beemers with sidecars....thinking one would make a nice "city" commuter. Sure, it would lack reverse, and the ability to take abuse that Scarlett can take, but the engine/drivetrain would hopefully be as reliable as my R80 Airhead: Brigitta. (she's wrong model for a sidecar)

SonjaM nailed it, there is no perfect motorcycle.

Your comments as to not knowing a motorcycle's prior treatment and history are dead on as well.

Even new rigs though, come with issues. It's the nature of motorcycle ownership, and I see nothing in the horizon (within my parameters and financial expenditure limitations) that is better than a Ural rig.
I empathize with your uncertainty.

Unknown said...

Tuning in to others’ lengthy moto-journeys (your recent Uraling adventure and the adventures of Stephanie Yue, Mike Saunders, and so, so many others) is not only entertaining and inspiring, but enlightening concerning the capabilities of these bikes and rigs: Let’s be honest, when folks think of scooters, they don’t usually visualize camping geared-up cross-country plus tours, but it seems to be working, and fairly well.

Earlier this year I was browsing a moto-magazine, and I came across an ad for Motoped’s Survival bike. Needless to say, I’ve since been dreaming about taking a longer adventure on such a machine (it doesn’t help that the business next door is now building these up for sale). Granted, through populated areas one would have to take the back roads of the back roads, but hey, that’s where the best stuff is anyway.


RichardM said...

You're right, the perfect bike doesn't exist. Though I believe that this Ural had more problems than I would have expected. I continue to be amazed at how few problems that Mike S has had with his Ruckus though the breakdowns he has had meant for some long delays due to the limited parts availability.

Trobairitz said...

That is an interesting rendition of the RnineT, not sure how functional it would be off road.

As far as bike reliability and suitability, they vary with owners. Even the same machine with different owners will have different issues and be suited for different types of riding. Hopefully your Ural's prior issues have all been fixed and it will be smooth cruising now.

RichardM said...

That long thread on ADVrider was one of the things that convinced me to get a Ural. And, you are absolutely right, we ride, we fix, and ride again.

RichardM said...

All isn't necessarily good with Airhead Beemers. Fifth gear use causes early failure of one of the transmission bearings due to end loads from the helical cut gears. Without the sidecar it isn't a problem. Also, the first gear on the Ural is much lower so the Beemer needs more clutch slipping to get moving.

I still think that the Ural fits my needs pretty well. Especially if I want to continue riding during the winter. Occasionally, I think about the BMW engine in a Ural as a good combination. Not for more speed or power but for reliability. Especially since I believe the engine is the Urals weakest point.

RichardM said...

I was looking at the Motoped bike earlier in the year. It looks pretty nice.

Mike is travelling very light. Much lighter than most people would be willing to do. But he has been to some incredible places. He's a great example to those who are waiting to get the "perfect dual sport bike" before venturing to Alaska. And those that carry everything including the kitchen sink for a trip along a road system.

RichardM said...

I don''t think functionality was really important on the RnineT though it would be a great ride on most of the gravel roads in AK.

I'm hoping that the problems have been addressed. It seems to be running great now.

redlegsrides said...

Wasn't aware of the issue re fifth gear and sidecars,thanks

As to the Ural having a lower first gear, sad.

If I end up keeping Scarlett past her warranty period, might entertain putting Brigitta's engine or so me other airhead's engine in Scarlett 's chassis though I believe you lose reverse.

RichardM said...

I wasn't aware of it until George mentioned it. He said to avoid 5th unless very lightly loaded such as downhill with a tailwind. The R80 supposedly has a lower final drive ratio which would help with starts.

According to what I read, the Ural transmission is retained so you get to keep reverse. If you want to use the BMW transmission, you also need the BMW final drive due to the rotational direction of the transmission output. (5 speeds in reverse?).

Unknown said...

Ha-haa! That'd be a one-of-a-kind collector's item right there.

VStar Lady said...

Now that the Ural is as good as new, I'm sure with the right care it will perform well for quite some time.

RichardM said...

That's kind of what I'm hoping for. Regular wear and tear and maintenance is fine. I suspect that the next thing to need attention may be the clutch and possibly the u-joint next to the final drive. The other 2 were replaced. The headset bearings probably need grease but shouldn't need replacement. After all 40k km is not that much.

Artie & Leinen's Grand Adventure said...

"Riding in very cold temperatures like I did last winter is probably outside of the design envelope as well but now that I no longer have a commute, that may not happen very often. At least one can hope."

Very funny. I predict it will still be going out in the cold weather. Remember your daily commute to College Coffee House?

RichardM said...

We'll see...

Bob and Sharon said...

I'm going to have to agree with VStar Lady, since it is as good as new right now, with the right care it will probably go a long way.

I really don't believe the cold is will affect it that much with the right preparations to the bike.

After reading this back and forth how lucky I've been by not buying someone else's problems.

RichardM said...

There still is a cold related item. I had the problem as did Bruce W in Ketchikan when he rode to Fairbanks last January. The engine breather port would freeze when riding for an extended period of time in temperatures below 0°F. This builds up pressure inside the engine which could blow oil seals.

You are lucky to be the only owner!