The Russian company that used to specialize in manufacturing sturdy sidecar motorcycles has recently ventured into the solo style motorcycles. It was the sidecar that popularized the IMZ-Ural and gave it its worldwide appeal. Initially manufactured in 1941, by BMW, the R-71 motorcycle design was copied by the Soviet Union. Just before the operations of the factories that produced these bikes were affected by the threat of the German Nazi army onslaught, they had been located in Kharkov, Moscow and Leningrad, now known as Saint Petersburg.
The Ural motorcycles design had been copied by the Russians from an original design given to them by the Germans in the late 1930s. The sidecar bike model was known as the R71 and latter on the R75. A decision was reached to move the factories that manufactured these sidecar motorcycles and scale up their production to utilize them in the war against the Nazi army.
As history would have it, the initial production was, therefore, for military use by Russia’s Red Army, with the bikes being produced at their Ukrainian factory, the KMZ. Later on, in the 1950s, the Russian production arm, IMZ or Irbit Motorcycle Works, took over the whole manufacturing process and produced the motorcycles for domestic use.
Spread of the Ural wings
Historical accounts state that, not only had the Russians copied the German design of the sidecar and used it to mobilize their army, but also, in Japanese and the Americans had a similar idea. Riyushko in Japan opting to copy the American version. Harley-Davidson, popular for their chopper style, iconic motorbikes, had followed the same path as the Russians, copying from the Germans. They had copied and manufactured a flat, twin-shaft driven motorized bike and supplied the United States Army to be used, later on, in the Second World War. Other versions, of this account, claim that the Russians may have received the designs of the Ural after BMW discontinued the design of the R71 and choosing to proceed on with the design and manufacture of the new R75.
From the initial model, the M-72, the design was later on, in 1957, bought by a large Communist-China company, the Nanchang Aircraft Manufacturing Corporation, who built the Chang Jiang. These sidecar bikes started infiltrating the world market as early as 1953. Names such as Cossack motorcycles, popularized by the SATRA company of the United Kingdom, being an early version seen on British roads as early as 1973.
The Ural legacy continues
More recently, the Ural story has continued to take on a more modern shape as the Russian government slowly relinquished the grip hold it had on the company. In November 1992 the Uralmoto Joint Stock Company was created after its acquisition by private Russian investors. The ownership was split amongst private ownership, the management and the employees. The government still maintained a stake in the company.
A new company has blossomed since 1998 when private Russian investors purchased the government’s shares which were later on distributed to private investors in the year 2000. A fresh appeal to the company has been brought on by new designs and manufacturing technologies and employees. This, topped up with a committed quality control department, ensures that the modern bike contains an updated engineering and design pattern to match any of the world’s top brass motorbike companies while still maintaining the old, classical appeal of its original, IMZ Ural predecessor.