Sheldon's 1998 Ural Sportsman - Week 7
6/6/98 Saturday Day 43... BAD, BAD, BAD, BAD DAY... Had to give a "Tour of Old Duluth" today. Tour starts at 1:00 so I left home at 9:00, with plenty of time to get there on time. About five miles from home I felt the bike losing power. At first I thought something was caught in the fuel system so I flipped the petcock to reserve and then back. That didn't help. I finally coasted to a halt on the side of the road. The bike was still running, it was in gear, but I wasn't moving. Looked at the driveshaft and it was turning but there was smoke coming from the differential. I had just checked all the fluids about three days ago and all was well, and remember being sick I haven't ridden much. Not any more! It looked like there was grease all over the rear wheel so something must have loosened up and leaked very badly. I always monitor the rubber mat on the garage floor and it didn't have any more than quarter sized spots where things had been leaking from the bike. No notice of any major problem, the thing just gave up the ghost.
Sitting by the side of the road I started to wonder why I had bought a bike built with 50 year old technology... Then I remembered: I didn't want to be like every one else, I wanted something simple to work on, something that would stand out in a crowd of any kind of bikes, something that excited me. And this is that bike. I have to expect problems with anything mechanical and this is no different. I am very disappointed to have this happen on the night that I am having a party. It is so seldom that I entertain that it is quite a big event for me. I have a stump in my back yard that I want to get rid of and have been piling maple and birch logs on for a couple of years, and I now have a respectable pile of dried logs to burn. So tonight I am having a bonfire and I have invited a bunch of folks over. It has been at least five years since my last party so it is about time. I had hoped to give Ural side-car rides tonight but it looks like that will not be happening.
I stuck out my thumb and a man and woman in a Chevy Pick up stopped immediately for me. Gave me a ride to the house where I hopped in the trusty Ford and went and did my tour while the bike sat alongside the highway. Called Son #1 to tell him what happened and ask if he could help me load the bike in the truck. When I finished I called Son #1 from the truck and his wife told me that he was already at the bike waiting for me. Loaded the bike up, went home, called Northern Sports and headed out for the 220 mile round trip to Garrison Minnesota. Dropped the bike off but Marlow was out of town so he will not learn about this until he returns on Sunday. Should be a nice surprise... Made it home at 5:00 and have been scrambling to get the house ready for company. Had to take a few minutes out to post this though. It will be interesting to see if it something major, if Northern Sports has parts, if not then how long it takes to get them, and when I get up and riding again... Stay tuned...
11:00 p.m. Had my bonfire party tonight and had a great time. My friend TopHat, the Harley rider that is ready for a Ural, showed up. Also Mike Switzer and his wife Laura showed on her 95 Ural Tourister. If you remember the guy in the city truck that followed me to the parking lot on day one, he is the one. We double teamed Tony (TopHat) and maybe we will get him up on one yet.
The fire was spectacular and is still burning. I can see it out the window as I type this. After everyone left I sat out there for a while reflecting on my day. The Ural is at Northern Sports; I don't know when I will see it next, but I am not sorry that I chose it as my ride of choice. I have had more grins and smiles per mile than any 10 bikes that I have owned. I know that it will soon be fixed, that I will be riding again and I look forward to it more than I have to almost anything, ever.
I also had to reflect on the people that I have met, either in person or on the internet who own Urals. The folks at Northern Sports have been incredible, the people at Ural have been more than helpful, especially Tech Support. People like Warren, Gonad, Bruce Wagner, Derek Smith and all the others on the Ural discussion board have become like family to me already.
Mike Switzer and Laura are the most incredibly nice people you could possibly meet. If you could bottle the spirit, energy and character that they have, you could become wealthy beyond belief. I believe that they, like me, are rugged individualists and it seems that may be what sets the Ural owners apart from other motorcyclists. All that I have met seem to go one step beyond the biker image into a whole new realm, and there they stand apart from the crowd.
I'm sorry I am so long winded today but it has been an emotional day, a wonderful day and one where I have had time to look at my world from a little different perspective.
6/7/98 Sunday Day 44... Picked weeds, took a couple of naps, watched a Trans-Am race, stoked the fire (which is still going), washed clothes and never left my yard. Should have worked on the Moto Guzzi but didn't have the heart for it. I guess I just needed a real day off, and that is exactly what I had.
6/8/98 Monday Day 45... The prognosis is in from Dr. Marlow at Northern Sports. Three bolts on the differential case were so loose that he could turn them by hand. Apparently the grease had emptied itself and the pinion gear had ground itself to nothing. What is really amazing about this is the I had no warning. There was no extra noise, although how one would hear anything over the engine would be amazing in itself. There was absolutely nothing to indicate that there was anything wrong until it failed. So far, at least a dozen, screws, nuts or bolts have come loose. From now on every part that gets removed will be put back on with a drop of locktite on the threads.
Marlow is faxing the parts list to Ural America and he assures me that they are very responsive and I may even see the bike by the weekend. He tells me that they usually ship the same day they have a faxed order. That is very encouraging news. I just hope they have the parts in stock. I sit here envisioning in my mind, some lady in the parts shop in Irbitz, hammering out a gear to be sent to me by pack steamer. "Yes comrade Sheldon, you should have it in your hands by spring"...
10:00 p.m. and I am checking my e-mail, and there is a message from Ural America Tech
From: Ural Tech Support
Sent: Monday, June 08, 1998 9:34 PM
To: Sheldon Aubut
Subject: RE: Disaster!!
I did indeed check on your warranty order; it was received as of 12:00PM your time. The entire final drive will be replaced...Won't take Marlow long to put it in.
Next order of biz: The "new" final drive will have to be broken
in...I'll check to see what the actual requirements are for a final drive break-in, and
get back to you.
Kind of one of those good news / bad news kind of things.....
Break in????? Ya mean like drive slow???? Again???? 30 mph??? <running off screaming and laughing maniacally> <banging head against wall> <much wailing and tearing of clothes> <Arghhhhhhhhhhhh!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!>
6/9/98 Tuesday Day 46... Ural Tech support assures me that it "isn't all that bad", but they haven't told me what the break in will be. I'm on the road this week traveling the roads of Wisconsin and watching the thousands of Harleys heading towards Milwaukee for the 95th Anniversary Gala. Gosh they sound good, but none of them looks like a Ural...
6/10/98 Wednesday Day 47... Sitting in a hotel room at the Country Inn in Shawano Wisconsin typing this and wishing I were out riding. Oh well, I will be heading home tomorrow and I will call Northern Sports from the road to see how my bike is coming.
6/11/98 Thursday Day 48... Made it home around 3:00 p.m. and the first thing I did was call Northern Sports to find out when the bike would be ready. No Idea... The parts haven't come in yet... There were several messages on my answering machine from the organizers of the Wolf's Head Rally. The rally will be held July 13th-18th here in the Duluth and Cloquet areas and they would like me to participate with my Ural. They have purchased the blue and cream one that I had originally been interested in and are going to raffle it off. They asked if I could help them with a bit of promotion this weekend. It seems that a young man with Multiple Schirosis was recently interviewed on a local TV station. In that interview they had asked him what he dreamed of doing and he said he would like to have a ride in a motorcycle sidecar. Because their new Ural is not insured they asked if I could take him for a ride for the TV cameras and to fulfill his wish. I would have loved to but I DON"T HAVE A URAL right now... It is broken... Darn... I have them trying to get hold of Mike Switzer to use his or they will be going out looking for a Harley to use. I would have loved to have done it but there will certainly be other opportunities to show it off.
6/12/98 Friday Day 49... It has been raining in the Northland for a week and it is probably good that it has been. The downtime has been easier to bear because of it. Called Northern Sports at 1:00 and they said their UPS delivery hadn't arrived yet so they didn't know if the parts would be there or not. They did tell me that the spare tire cover that I had ordered when I put the down payment on the bike had finally come in though. I would rather have the gears thank you.... I will check back later...
Oh, Ural Tech Support tells me that I just have to take it easy on the rear gear set and feel it every once in a while to make sure that it is not overheating. If I feel heat then I have to slow down. I will probably go back to 30 mph for a few miles then up to 42 for a while. I can live with that for a time.
4:00 p.m. UPS showed up but the parts didn't. I hope it rains all weekend.
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Last modified: March 22, 2011