New dog, new tricks: The surprising new tech that makes the Ural Ranger tick

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Ural have not only overhauled their Ranger sidecar outfit to meet all the latest emissions regulations but they’ve delivered a sidecar first: two-wheel drive for a left-handed rig.

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This means that for the first time ever budding sidecar adventurers can go where other bikes can only dream. Achieving Euro5 certification is no easy task for any company, let alone one the size of Ural who only produce around 2000 bikes a year. So, how exactly have they done it? Let’s take a look.

For a start the exhaust system had to be completely redesigned, which involved building a custom stainless steel 2-into-1 with a large high-level rear silencer. This was to reduce noise and increase catalytic area but had the added benefit of improving ground clearance for off-road shenanigans, too.

The exhaust now holds two pre-catalysts in the headers, plus two large diameter catalysts further back. Euro5 regs require rapid warm up of the converters, which some modern bikes achieve with high idles on start up. Fine for water-cooled machines in a temperate climate but not great for an air-cooled engine starting in the minus teens.

Ural have got around this by fitting a set of vacuum valves. A vacuum valve in the exhaust is actuated by the ECU when fed info from a vacuum relay off the throttle bodies, which allows them to rapidly heat the catalysts at low RPM.

Other changes to the flat twin include new pistons, which increase compression by 20%, as well as new coatings on the piston skirts, ring grooves and gudgeon pins to reduce friction. That said, the real genius is saved for the drivetrain.

Ural drive system diagram

On the 2021 model for the first time, LH sidecars have been able to make use of two-wheeled drive.

Right-handed Ural outfits have had selectable two-wheel drive for some time as the driveshaft attached to the outside of the bevel box. But to add it to an LH rig required some serious reengineering, namely a way of sending a driveshaft through the middle of the driven wheel. The way Ural have done it is clever.

In standard drive, the driveshaft spins the bevel gear, which sends the drive to the rear wheel through a splined shaft. The centre of the rear hub is hollow and sits on a driveshaft that also acts as the axle for both rear wheels.

With the flick of a lever, an extra splined collar slides along the driveshaft locking the driveshaft to the bevel gear, driving both the rear and outfit wheels at once.

The ability to engage or disengage the 2WD system is important because there's no rear differential so steering is a bit of a handful.

New year, New Ural: updated Ranger brings 2WD to countries that drive on the left

First published on 4 February by Jordan Gibbons

2021 Ural Ranger

Ural have updated their venerable sidecar outfit with a new Euro5 engine securing its future for years to come, while also introducing a first for a left-handed sidecar: selectable two-wheel drive.

Two-wheel drive is nothing new for Ural, their popular off-road capable Ranger has had it for years but until recently it’s only been available for the right-handed bikes which aren’t much use for UK riders.

Chiefly it’s because the drive for the third wheel comes off the end of the driveshaft, just like the rear wheel of a traditional shaft driven motorcycle. On a right-handed outfit, the third wheel sits on the outside of the bevel box (the item that converts the rotational motion of the shaft into forward motion of the wheel).

That meant that left-handed cars couldn’t get the drive because the third wheel was effectively on the ‘wrong’ side of the bevel box. There’s also the honest reality that most of the world drives on the other side of the road to us, so we can’t really blame them for not developing it until now.

However, with the investment required for updated to Euro5, Ural thought it was time that folks in the UK got a piece of two-wheel drive action.

2021 Ural Ranger in 2WD

For the most part you ride around in one-wheel drive like a conventional bike but if the going gets very tough, such as deep mud or sand where there’s poor traction, it’s simply a case of flipping a lever and off you go. And if you really can't make it through, there's a reverse gear for beating a hasty retreat, too.

As part of this redesign, Ural also worked on the wheels with the result being that all three on the outfit are now the same. That means you can carry one spare which can fit in any of the three positions, so should you get a puncture it’s a 20-minute job to swap one and get back on the road. Nifty. 

The Ural uses a Euro5 compliant 745cc air-cooled boxer-twin engine that's good for 65mph cruising. The sidecar is obviously a seat for a passenger, but also has an 82-litre trunk, LED fog lights, a luggage rack, spare wheel, jerry can and even a shovel!

Plans are afoot to expand the dealer network into the UK, but in the meantime the outfit will be available from an Irish dealer when it arrives later in 2021 for around £16,740.

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Jordan Gibbons

By Jordan Gibbons

News Editor, owns some old bikes. Should know better.