December 01, 2015 By C! Magazine Staff

2015 URAL Retro 750

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Words: Brando Rosales
Photos: Juanito Vinluan

Most sane people spend their Sundays as “family day.” You know, going to the church, eating like there’s no tomorrow at an eat-all-you-can restaurant or just simply window shopping at the mall, but I spend most of my Sundays touring solo far in the countryside or sometimes with some friends, even getting mud-splattered on the back roads of Cavite and Rizal if it’s a rainy Sunday. A few times, I spend it doing 1000-kilometer endurance runs when invited by the organizers of such events. Last Sunday was a little different. Yes, I still toured using a motorcycle, but this time my family tagged along. How was this possible? Did I become a hooligan by letting four people ride on my motorbike? No, sir. Thanks to Ropali, the exclusive distributor of the Russian IMZ Ural, I was still able to tour and at the same time bond with my family riding the Ural Retro 750.

Built like a T-34 Tank

The T-34 Tank was a Russian medium battle tank during World War II and it put a lot of scare to the Germans due to its firepower and durability. Like the T-34, the Ural Retro’s toughness is epitomized by its “very basic” 750 cc boxer engine with an almost maintenance-free shaft final drive. And that’s the idea: no sophisticated electronics or plastics, just the basic stuff that you can fix with merely a screwdriver and an adjustable wrench. More so just like the BMWs of old, every gearshift of the Ural Retro “clunks.” In fact, to shift from second to fourth gear you have to literally kick the shifter to engage, giving that nostalgic feel of the motorcycles of the era. There’s also a reverse shift. Yes! You are reading it right – a reverse shift that doubles as a neutral finder and a spectacle whenever I put this 700-pound bike in reverse. As we loaded ourselves on the Ural Retro, me, my two kids, my wife plus the school kits that we were about to donate to an Orphanage in Angeles, I could already sense that this was going to be a fun and challenging cruise. As heavy as a tank, we headed off to Pampanga.

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Time Machine

The Urals are known as adventure bikes on three wheels. Before World War II, the Kremlin covertly purchased five Wehrmacht-grade BMW R71s through Swedish liaisons to be reverse-engineered as preparation for a possible slugfest with the Nazis. During the war, the factory was moved from Moscow to the town of Irbit in the Ural Mountain region, hence the namesake. Fast-forward to today, IMZ Ural brings us a taste of the old days with the retro-inspired styling of the Ural Retro. The curvatures, the headlight work, and practically everything on the Ural Retro is retro. I also liked the fact that plastics were kept at a very minimum. There are only two pieces of plastics all over the bike (that’s an exaggeration, but you get the point). A pillion seat is standard while the sidecar could fit a big adult or two children, and its mammoth trunk can carry enough supplies for an RTW (Round The World) trip. That being said, riding a Ural Retro would get a lot of stares, and conversations too, as we experienced during our trip to Pampanga. From car drivers, to people that were just passing by, and from the local tricycle drivers, the questions and looks of fascination were endless.

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If you are familiar with how local tricycle drivers sit on their workhorse, you’d guess that sitting on the Ural Retro would be no different. But no, the Ural Retro has a simple yet effective adjuster at the handlebar that acts as the steering damper, making the ride less of a wrestling match aiming the bike to the right direction. Honestly, the first few hundred meters from Ropali Classics where I took the bike was a little frightening, but thanks to a few pointers from Aldrin Anderson, Ropali’s top mechanic, I was able to ride the Ural Retro like a pro once I started employing his tips on my driving.

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In the mostly straight roads leading up to Pampanga, the Ural Retro was gliding smoothly. Wiggling would only start if you gun it at extra-legal speeds above 100 km/h. The traffic situation here in the Philippines is like a circus: If not on full stop, it may be flowing but not without those crazy drivers cutting left and right and racing to the next stoplight. A few dozen times, the front Brembo disc and the mechanical rear and sidecar drum brakes were put to test during our trip and they worked perfectly putting this 700-pound bike to stop whenever needed. During our photoshoot the next day at the winding roads of Marcos HWY and up to Real Quezon, it took me a lot of effort muscling the bike through the twisties but it was a blast! I couldn’t imagine that a motorbike with a sidecar could do left and right turns at 80-90 km/h and that was achieved through proper throttle control and early braking. The Marzocchi front forks and Sachs hydraulic rear and sidecar shock absorbers not only complement good handling, but also have just the right amount of damping and rebound for a comfortable ride whether riding solo or at full capacity.

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Like a Galloping Pony

Average fuel economy during this test ride-cum-family trip was 11-13 km/L. It may average just like a pocket car but it is the excitement and freedom of riding a motorcycle that you’re paying for. The 38 lb ft of torque that propels the bike is more than enough during overtaking and the engine’s 40-stallions can sustain cruising speeds of 100 km/h or more, that is, if you have the guts to do so which makes the ride even more fun. With its almost 300-kilometer fuel range, one top-up of the 22-liter tank was all we needed for the round trip including a side trip at Bataan. Top speed during the test was 130 km/h on open highway although the boys from Ropali did more than that. I wish IMZ Ural made detachable wind-protection equipment standard (main bike) out of the factory, but hey, with just a few clicks on the internet and a credit card, you can have all the blings installed on these Urals and that includes a winch.

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Barely Legal

As of this writing, the guidelines for allowing 750 cc tricycles inside the expressways are a little bit of a gray area. While some expressway officers will allow you to pass since it is still and technically a motorcycle with a 750 cc powerplant, other toll guards still see it as a normal tricycle. But don’t be sad, Ropali is lobbying for a law or a court order to finally allow these big Urals inside the expressways and hopefully we can hear a court decision before the year ends. This would make people who have difficulty lifting a heavy touring bike happy as they can again enjoy the freedom of riding motorcycles minus fretting about balancing or dropping their ride.

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Brando’s Pick

With all the motorcycles that we have tested during the past year, all of them are great. But only a few bikes had character and the Ural Retro 750 is one of them. It was fun to ride, my kids love it, requires some muscle to ride on corners, the transmission gives out funny noises during shifts and it is definitely a hauler. Not only did we drive all the way to Angeles, Pampanga carrying school supplies for the orphans, I was also able to share the experience with my wife and kids. It was like driving a pick-up truck on a motorcycle. You can’t wheelie but you can lift the sidecar. Did I also mention that the Ural Retro attracts a lot of attention? Truly, this family bonding experience with the Ural Retro 750 is one for the books. Will I buy one? Definitely! But I’d choose the more aggressive Ural Gear Up 2-wheel drive model that would be perfect for my off-road escapades (more of this bike in the future). But if you prefer to tour more on pavement, the Ural Retro 750 would be a perfect touring bike on three wheels and in style.

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Engine: Air-cooled, 2-cylinder boxer, SOHC, 4-valves, 4-stroke
Displacement: 749 cc
Max power: 40 bhp @ 5600 rpm
Torque: 38 lb-ft @ 4600 rpm
Transmission: 4-speed, 1 reverse
Seat height: 750 mm
Fuel capacity: 22 liters
Dry weight: 326 kg
Top speed: 130 km/h as tested
Price as tested: PhP 899,000.00

+ Attracts a lot of attention, hauling capacity, reverse gear
The transmission could be improved

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