The larger, 749cc engine on 2014 and newer Urals makes highway travel possible, but still not very fun or comfortable compared to other motorcycles. Route with caution, especially when breaking in the engine.
I shopped Urals for over a decade. One big reason I waited so long was that the bikes had a bad reputation about going on the highway. I’ve lived in suburbia for the vast majority of my adulthood, and commuting on the highway is a fact of life.
I’m not a fairweather rider. I try to substitute driving a car for riding a motorcycle whenever possible. As such, as I was sensitive to the Ural’s “max speed” of around 60MPH. There were stories on ADVrider and Soviet Steeds about people going over the recommended limit, as well as many cautionary tales about the consequences of doing so.
In 2014 the Ural got fuel injection and a slightly larger (749cc) engine. My finances weren’t right for a few years, and it wasn’t until 2018 that I was able to make my purchase.
All of that being written, the Ural, regardless of engine size, is not like riding a regular motorcycle on the highway.
I’ve owned a bunch of bikes in my life, and the only motorcycle that came close to the gutless, flightly feel of a Ural at 65-70MPH was my old 1980 Honda CB400T.
The Ural GearUp weighs over 800 pounds dry, and the 749cc motor and the 4 speed transmission isn’t built to cruise on the highway.
Yes, you can get up to sort-of highway speeds, but once you get there you won’t have any more room to accelerate in case of a problem. The Ural doesn’t handle very well at those speeds, either, so even when your experience in the saddle increases, it won’t be nearly as stable as a proper sport touring bike or even a cruiser.
This video shows how much space a 2018 Ural GearUp sidecar motorcycle needs to achieve 65MPH at wide open throttle.
I hit full throttle at the 6 second mark in this video. I am going approximately 40MPH as I clear the onramp. I achieve 65MPH (the limit on this highway) at the 17 second mark. There is a slight elevation to the highway.
That’s 11 seconds to get the final 25MPH.
Here are some things you can do to make Ural highway travel a little less bad.
Make sure that your tires are properly inflated.
This is very important for overall stability and safety on a Ural, but especially so when you’re at max speed.
Plan way, way ahead.
You won’t be able to easily pass vehicles once you hit about 50MPH. If you need to over take a vehicle, make sure that you have plenty of time to get up to speed, and that you can sustain speed as you encounter any elevation changes. I go over a bridge on my way to work, and if I am not going 70MPH by the time I am at the bottom, there’s no way I’m maintaining 65MPH halfway up.
Ride extra conservatively.
Don’t make rapid lane changes. The bike isn’t confidence inspiring at that speed, and the controls feel “floaty.” Hitting a bump, going over bridge joists, or metal grates will have a more pronounced effect than on a 2 wheel motorcycle built for highway speeds.
Running at highway speeds, especially with a full load, may cause premature engine problems
The 2017 and 2018 Ural GearUp manual (not sure about the earlier years, I just have these two) list these maximum speeds:
- Rider, no passenger or payload: 65-70 mph.
- Rider and passenger, no payload: 60-65 mph.
- Rider, Passenger and payload up to max GVW 50-60 mph
This is the real deal. Replying under the promise of anonymity, we contacted several Ural riders who took long distance trips (or attempted them). They all had premature service issues, including one Instagrammer who gave up their Ural for consignment and bought a different bike.
Additionally, Ural states the following:
Ural recommends a maximum speed of 70 mph. – The recommended max speed is not intended to be maintained for long periods of time. Reduce maintained max speed accordingly as temperatures rise throughout the day and/or if you will be traveling long distances with additional payload.
- Reduce max speed for heavy payloads and as ambient temperatures rise.
- Allow the motor to cool at fill-ups, take a break before resuming on a long trip.
- Give your Ural 20 minutes to cool for every 2 hours.
Again, this is not lawyer-generated hyperbole. Once you hit about 50-55MPH you will feel that the engine is approaching its limits. I ride for less than 6 miles at day at speeds faster than 65MPH and I grimace during every one of them.
The cT and (now discontinued) Retro models may be able to go a little faster, but some of the people we spoke with owned those models and still had engine troubles attributed to longer travel at highway speeds.
The Ural certainly can make the posted speed limits, but I wouldn’t do so for very long. I don’t take any passengers on any road with a speed limit of more than 55MPH.