Sunday, August 8, 2010

New Toys in Texas

I decided I better just throw this out and get it over with.  I have a new motorcycle!  There are family members who will take this as yet another sign of my diminishing mental faculties, and begin anew their efforts to have me committed, "for my own good."  My Lovely Bride, after asking me numerous time why I didn't just go ahead and buy one, has now changed her tune and is saying she never encouraged me...she just didn't want to be blamed for making me unhappy for the rest of my life.

Some of you may remember my last misadventure almost four years ago, when I got lost in the fog and woke up with many broken bones and my BMW sitting on top of me.  Since then I have worked on getting most of my body parts to function in an almost normal fashion.  The BMW, sadly, is still sitting in my closer to running again.  Part of the reason why is certainly a mental hesitancy on my part to get out on two wheels.  After all, the last time I tried it, I fell down and went BOOM!

Still having the desire to be out on the road with the wind in my face, yet somewhat unsure of my ability to manage a motorcycle, I began exploring possibilities.  Modified bikes with a tricycle rear end grafted on was one option.  However, with price tags starting around $30,000, and an image of being for those who are too old  or physically unable to ride a "real" motorcycle made them unattractive.  Perhaps especially because I fit into both the "too old" and "physically unable" categories.  There were other bikes with two wheels in the front, which were even stranger looking.  Sidecar rigs were more attractive to me, probably because they had an almost normal appearance, yet still stood out.  Many of these had the same pricing problem of the trikes; first buy a $12,000 Harley and then have a $7-8,000 sidecar grafted on.  Sidecars tend to be very particular about how they are setup, and lots more time and money could be expended trying to get it just right.

Over the past couple of years, one rig which kept coming up in my search was the relatively unknown Ural.  This Russian made motorcycle is a copy of a 1930s era military BMW.  Depending on which story you want to believe, the Russians stole, bought or were given some of these already outdated motorcycles which were specifically designed to have a sidecar attached.  They then reverse-engineered them, or more probably, were given the tooling by the Germans during that brief span of time between signing a non-aggression pact and Germany invading Russia.   A factory was initially set up in Moscow, but when Hitler's panzers headed east, it was packed up and moved deep into the Ural mountains.  Seventy years later, the little shop in Irbit is still cranking out modern copies of an antique design.  Even though its appearance hasn't changed, many of the mechanical parts have been upgraded with more modern materials over the decades.  It still will not be mistaken for anything other than a 70 year old design...each gear shift ends in a "clunk", and the factory mandated top speed is 100 kilometers per hour.  That translates to about 61 mph for those of us who are still confused by the metric system.  Driving my new, used rig home, 50 mph felt very comfortable and the few times I got close to 60, I felt stressed, even though the bike probably was not.  It is a rig designed for rough, off-road or back-road operation, which is just what I have available all around me.  It even has available two-wheel drive(the sidecar wheel being powered) for use off-road in snow, mud or sand.

The machine I found is a 2008 Patrol with a little over 8,000 miles.  One of my first purchases is going to be a set of fog lights to help me avoid a repeat performance.