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A Retrospect - Part One

Story and Images Iron & Air Staff


Back in 2015 we decided it was time to produce an issue from the out on the road. We teamed up with our friends at Ural and got the idea to do something that we hadn’t heard of anyone doing before—ride Urals across the country and back. The result was a nearly 8,000 mile, 37 day road trip to some of the most iconic places in the United States and the production of Issue 022. Here we take a look back at the first leg of the adventure.

We decided we would ride into the sun on fully-decked out sidecars from the Eastern seaboard of the continent. To test the Urals and ourselves, the trip would be over 2,000 miles west, from the hilly forests of the Northeast, through the endless, flat farmland of the Midwest, and on to our furthest destination from home: Butte, Montana. We’d bang a left and head south into Wyoming, Utah, and Colorado, stopping at some of the West's most iconic locations: Yellowstone, Grand Tetons, Rocky Mountains, and the Great Salt Lake. Then put together an entire issue from the experience.

Before we hit the road though, we turned to our friend Jason Michaels who made
some modifications to the bikes to ready them for the journey. Here's Jason's description of what he did -

"Starting at the front, we swapped out the stock bars in favor of a set of heavy-duty Biltwell Moto bars and grips. This changed the rider position to make for a much more comfortable and controllable experience. Besides, who else puts Biltwell gear on a Ural?

We made custom seats (for both rider and sidecar) with more comfortable foam and gave each a custom covering. Then we fabricated a myriad of racks, guards, and tie-down points, ensuring maximum gear storage and anchor points for all the Nemo camping equipment they’d take on the journey.

We also built custom 2-into-1 exhaust systems using tubing and mufflers from Cone Engineering, and with the help of Ural New England, remapped the bikes, squeezing as much torque and performance possible out of the cold-blooded boxer twin. We could actually sustain 75mph on them after the modifications. Pretty impressive, if you've ever piloted a Ural.

To top it off, we added almost every OEM accessory available. Jerry can holders, push bars, auxiliary lighting – you name it. We also integrated a solar charging system by Goal Zero that allowed the boys to keep their digital devices topped off for the duration of the five-week trip."

Departure morning was exciting and tense, mostly because of the nagging questions inside ourselves and from well-meaning friends and family. As we packed up the bikes, we all wore it on our faces. “What the hell are we getting into?” Motorcyclists scratched their heads when we told them our ambitions: 8,000 miles in just over a month on Russian sidecars. New territory for us and for most of our readers; sidecar owners are a small bunch. No stress the throttle and open road can't alleviate, we thought. Our asses settled into their new homes and we began our journey, riding a perfect New England summer day through our backyard and into Vermont.

Our route took us through beautiful roads in the Allegheny Mountains of Pennsylvania, through cornfields of Amish country, and into the heartland of America. Even with the throttle wide open, a slight headwind in the prairie land meant a top speed of 65 mph with the Urals.

We mostly refer to these personality traits as charming. To speak in "Zen" terms (since we were en route to Montana, the home of Robert Pirsig), the choice to ride Urals across the country when none of us had embarked on a journey of that scale on any kind of motorcycle was, admittedly, a romantic one. The Ural is aesthetically beautiful and carries everything you'd need for a proper adventure. But we'll admit we weren't truly prepared for the level of "classic" thought that was going to be required to parade these battleships around the country. The first half of the trip—getting there—presented its challenges. Unexpectedly, we found the Ural's leaving their mark on every gas station we pulled into. Apparently the use of synthetic oil inspires the Russian beasts to cause shrinkage to its seals. Oils gotta go somewhere. We made the decision to keep them topped off and happy until we made it west. Maybe then she'd purge herself of the man-made stuff and we'd be back in shape? The adventure had begun.

Badlands National Park / South Dakota
Our first real scenic destination, the name alone conjures feelings of wildness and intrigue. They are an otherworldly labyrinth of vibrant spires, massive buttes, and deep gorges all carved into the terra firma of the desolate prairie. They’re home to one of the world’s greatest beds of fossils. Ancient saber-toothed cats and giant rhinoceros-like creatures once roamed this God-forsaken ground.

Black Hills/Spearfish Canyon / South Dakota
Entering South Dakota’s Black Hills and Spearfish Canyon delivered 19 miles of towering pink and grey limestone sprinkled in evergreens and race tracks—the kind that make you drop below the posted 35 mph limits and breath in the entrance to the Great American West.

Devil's Tower / Wyoming
We rose an hour before dawn to make the 36-degree ride to the base of the tower to catch the morning light dance across the massive geologic formation's anomalous eastern face. It may sound cliché or even hackneyed to say that this place has a peculiar and magnetic energy, but it's the truth, and as the sun rose, the awe set in. It was a lone monolith rising defiantly from an otherwise vast and open plain. You can sense its lore. It's not just a place that tells stories of humanity's ancient inhabitants, but a place that tells stories about the birth of the universe itself.

After Devil's Tower we were off to Bozeman, Montana where we would meet up with our friends Dave Mucci, Kara Dianne, Becca Skinner, and Jenny and Mike Linquist.

To be continued...


This article was originally featured in Issue 022 of Iron & Air Magazine.


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