Short day trip on a Ural sidecar motorbike

Hartebeespoort – Magaliesberg – South Africa

 Ural Sidecar Tours



Two (almost) old timers on a vintage style side car motorbike

Two (almost) old timers on a vintage style side car motorbike

 

About 3 years ago in 2016 we spent the day zooming around on a Ural side car. Or to be honest, we were buzzing around at a sedate speed. We were given a gift voucher by one of our sons to hire a motorcycle with a sidecar complete with chauffeur to tour from La'WiiDA Lodge in the Hennopsriver Valley via Hartebeespoort Dam (also known as Harties), then Skeerpoort near the Magaliesberg and back to Hennops.

 

Posing on our Soviet Steed in front of the Ural showroom and workshop

Posing on our Soviet Steed in front of the Ural showroom and workshop

 

I think we can classify this as the shortest road trip ever but it’s still a road trip, right? Besides, we had great fun on our Soviet Steeds.

The vintage style side car motorbike is from a bygone era, not used originally for touring but for necessity and mobility during World War II, but believe it or not, has lately become quite popular for touring.

 

Ural sidecar tours

Ural sidecar tours

Side Car Tours in South Africa

Ural Side Car Tours and Side Car Africa seem to be the leaders for doing tours through South Africa.

They supply short day trips or longer tours consisting of 3 to 6 days.

 

Tips and information for a motorcycle side car tour:

 

Although the motorcycles and side cars have a classic vintage look, they come with modern mechanics such as disc brakes, so you can feel safe on today’s roads.

The Ural motorcycle and side cars are late models. They are kept in an excellent condition by their in-house URAL mechanic. Good to know!

You are supplied with themed helmets but it is a good idea to bring your own jacket, scarf, and gloves. Got to look the part!

Each sidecar can take 3 people: the driver and 2 passengers. I’m not sure where you’ll put all the luggage for three people, though! There isn’t even enough room for my make up bag and trust me, that’s quite small.

If you plan to tour and self-drive, you will be trained to familiarize yourself with the bike. You will however be escorted by a tour leader. Good idea, because you might be tempted to disappear into the distance.

NB: A valid motorcycle license is necessary to drive a side car in South Africa.

 

Arch at Hartebeespoort dam wall

Arch at Hartebeespoort dam wall

 

Day trip through Harties and the Magaliesburg.



We felt like two real old timers on a vintage style side car motorbike. Our bike was called ‘The Red Baron’ and I started off in comfort for the first half of the tour by sitting in the side car until we swapped places about midway. 

 
The Red Baron - Ural sidecar motorbike

The Red Baron - Ural sidecar motorbike

 

We began our adventure with a scenic drive from La'WiiDA Lodge, a conference centre and nature reserve. We were driven to the Ural showroom and workshop a short distance away where we enjoyed coffee and muffins while we were educated about Ural motorbikes.

 
Vintage style World War II Ural sidecar motorbike

Vintage style World War II Ural sidecar motorbike

Vintage style World War II Ural sidecar motorbike

Vintage style World War II Ural sidecar motorbike

Things my motorbike has taught me

Things my motorbike has taught me

 
 

After passing through the curved tunnel at the Hartebeespoort dam, we stopped on the dam wall and admired the triumphal arch as well as the view. Our chauffeur gave us a drive by while we walked across the bridge.


Chameleon Craft Beer Brewhouse

Chameleon Craft Beer Brewhouse

We moved on to the Chameleon Brewhouse where they brew craft beer. Fortunately we didn’t have to drive so we could sample the various brews.

 
A map to meander around Hartebeespoort Dam

A map to meander around Hartebeespoort Dam

The next place where we had a break was at Van Gaalen cheese farm. We were tempted to sample the cheeses, but instead just had some coffee.

After that we returned to La'WiiDA Lodge for a short drive through the nature reserve where they have giraffe and various antelope.

We parked under the trees for a picnic lunch with sparkling wine that was included in the cost. Our chauffeur laid the table and put out cushions and then tried to be discreet to give us some privacy to enjoy the meal. After a couple of minutes we felt bad having the feast all to ourselves and asked him to join us.

Although the morning started off chilly, it warmed up and was sunny throughout the day. It was a great treat to be driven around in a classic vintage look motorcycle and I can highly recommend it. In fact, I wouldn’t mind doing a longer tour… as long as the weather is good.

 
The Red Baron Ural sidecar motorbike earning a well deserved rest in the shade of the trees

The Red Baron Ural sidecar motorbike earning a well deserved rest in the shade of the trees

Picnic under the trees

Picnic under the trees

The origins of the IMZ-Ural are linked to developments in the Eastern Front during World War II. The Soviet Union was preparing for possible military action by Nazi Germany. Joseph Stalin ordered the Soviet military to prepare in all possible areas, including the ground forces that would be defending the Soviet Union against invading German tanks and infantry. Mobility was especially stressed after the Soviet Union had witnessed the effect of the blitzkrieg on Poland.

A meeting was held at the Soviet Defence Ministry to devise a motorcycle that would be suitable for the Red Army. The Red Army wanted to modernize its equipment after the suspension of the Winter War with Finland. The motorcycles used up to that point had not been satisfactory; their technology was outdated and the manufacturing quality was inadequate to endure the harsh Russian climate and terrain.

The motorcycle was modelled after a late-1930s BMW sidecar bike called the R71, which Nazi Germany provided to the Soviet Union after the countries signed a nonaggression Molotov–Ribbentrop pact in 1939.
According to official accounts, after lengthy discussion, the BMW R71 motorcycle was found to closely match the Red Army’s requirements. Five units were covertly purchased through Swedish intermediaries. Soviet engineers in Moscow dismantled the five BMWs, reverse engineered the BMW design in every detail and made moulds and dies to produce engines and gearboxes in Moscow. Early in 1941, the prototypes of the Dnepr M-72 motorcycle were shown to Stalin who made the decision to enter mass production. One of the original BMWs purchased through the Swedish intermediaries survives and is displayed in the IMZ-Ural factory museum.

In 1941, BMW began series production of the R75 and ended production of the R71.
As production escalated, the Moscow Motorcycle Plant was established, producing hundreds of Russian M-72 sidecar motorcycles. The Nazi Blitzkrieg was so fast and effective that Soviet strategists worried that the Moscow factory was within range of German bombers. The decision was made to move the motorcycle plant east, out of bombing range and into the resource rich Ural mountain region. The site chosen was the town of Irbit, located on the fringe of Siberia in the Ural Mountains. Irbit had once been an important Trade and Fair centre in Russia before the Revolution of 1917.

The only available substantial building was a brewery outside of town, beyond the railway line. It was converted into a research and development building to prepare for the construction of a massive new facility to build the M-72 motorcycle. On October 25, 1942 the first batch of motorcycles went to the front. During WWII a total of 9,799 M-72 motorcycles were delivered for reconnaissance detachments and mobile troops.

After WWII the factory was expanded, and in 1950 the 30,000th motorcycle was produced.

Initially, the “URAL” was built for the military only. In the late 1950s, the KMZ plant in Ukraine assumed the task of supplying the military, and the Irbit Motorcycle Works (IMZ) focused on making bikes for domestic consumers. In the late 1950s the full production of the plant was turned over to non-military production. In 1957, the M-72 production lines were sold to the People’s Republic of China.

The export history of URALs started in 1953, at first to developing countries. Between 1973 and 1979, Ural was one of the makes marketed by SATRA in the UK as Cossack motorcycles.
— Wikipedia
 

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