I would soon find out that nothing - not mud, not snow and not even a rushing stream of mountaintop runoff acting as a de facto roadblock to vehicles with lesser capabilities - would stand in the way of the 2014 Ural Gear Up making its way to the top of Snoqualmie Pass outside the suburbs of Seattle.
But first, the heavily updated Ural was going to have to prove its mettle where past models fell farthest short: on the highway. And for a first test of newfound high-speed capability, the conditions were about as bad as could be, with a mixture of rain and sleet combining with near-freezing temperatures to send a full-body shiver through my innermost fibers.
I found myself in this predicament due to a complete set of upgrades from Ural for the 2014 model year, including a fully electronic fuel injection system replacing the previous carburetors, triple-disc brakes and a hydraulic steering damper supplanting the old screw-on friction unit that was impossible to adjust on the fly. These bits and pieces serve to bring the Ural outfit, which could otherwise be charitably thought of as 'time tested,' closer to the modern world. And that's a good thing, considering that the tough-as-nails bikes trace their heritage all the way back to World War II, when Russia "borrowed" the designs of BMW's three-wheeled German war machines and hauled the tooling to a plant near the Ural mountains deep in the Land of Rus.
Highlighting these upgrades on paper is one thing. Putting them to the test, with life and limb clinging to Ural's redesigned knee pads on the gas tank and twin handlebar grips, is another thing entirely. And so I approached my first highway on-ramp with a day's worth of riding set out ahead of me and my guide, a rider astride an earlier Ural that didn't have my model's updates. I honestly feared for both our lives... me for my inexperience and him for his old-school mount. As it turned out, I needn't have worried about either.Permalink | Email this | Comments