By guest writer Ian Lee.
The Yamal Peninsular on the northwest tip of Russia is cold. Mind numbingly cold. Temperatures of minus 60 degrees Celsius have been recorded there, even in summer the arctic winds will bring on a chill. It’s definitely not the sort of place you want to find yourself locked out without your keys. It takes a hardcore form of transport to get around such an area, one of these being the nuclear powered icebreaker Yamal, named after the peninsular which it sails around. With a giant set of cartoon jaws adorning it’s prow, most pictures tend to show the Yamal leading other icebreakers through fields of ice, showing what it takes to traverse these waters. When Ural were looking for a name for their new special edition, Yamal seemed the perfect moniker. We present to you, the ultimate ‘go anywhere’ bike and sidecar unit, the 2012 Ural Yamal Limited Edition, complete with sidecar mounted oar.
Now for a history lesson. Depending upon who you ask, there are two main theories as to how the M72 motorbike came into existence. One story tells of 5 BMW R71 motorbikes being bought in Sweden, shipped back to the mother country, stripped and every component copied to make the M72. The other theory is that the plans for the Beemer were handed over to the Russian Defence Department as part of a pact between Germany and Russia at the time. No matter what story you believe, the BMW R71 was a counterfeit worthy bike, it being the inspiration not only for the M72, but also the Harley Davidson XA and the Chiang Jang CJ750.
No matter how it came about, the M72 was a hit with the defence department, 30000 units being supplied in the first 9 years of production. Over the years the M72 changed from being a military unit to a more civilian friendly unit, until eventually the Russian state sold it’s stake and the Ural Motor company was born. The new owners decided that the design of the bike was good enough to continue, but the manufacturing methodology needed to be changed. Better quality control and build practices bringing this 70 year old design into the 21st century. And that’s where our feature bike comes in.
The 749cc BMW derived engine puts out 40hp@5600rpm, with an almost matching 38ft-lbs@4600rpm. Because simpler is better when you take the rough road, twin 32mm Keihin carburettors are fitted, economy allows 165miles from a tank. The clutch fitted is a dry dual disc setup, running power to a 4 speed transmission, with reverse gear for when you get stuck. And this bike is built for taking places where you are likely to get stuck. As with lots of other Russian machinery, two methods of starting are available, both electric and kick, just to be sure.
Interesting roads require adequate suspension, Ural decided that front and rear fitted Sachs hydraulic shocks are able to take the stress of where ever you are tempted to test this bike. The front leading link suspension harks back to the bikes original incarnation, the Brembo floating disc brake setup definitely does not. The rear end and the sidecar are both drum braked, again going with an easy useable idea. These units aren’t built for speed, so braking capability is more aimed towards stability at low speeds, for which drum brakes are adequate. Due to the bike being built on the same platform as Ural’s Gear-up model, on demand 2 wheel drive is fitted standard to these ‘in your face, where the mud at’ machines.
Finished in a shade of orange that would come in handy to alert rescue helicopters, the bike is nearly all go and no show. Sidecar mounted foglights, crashbars, rider as well as passenger windshields, crashbars and more crashbars keep you safe on nearly any shortcut you wish to take. The only break from this style of the bike is the ‘grinning jaw’ decal fitted out on the sidecar, a homage to the Yamal icebreaker from which it gets it’s name. Tires are a nice and tall 19” front, rear and sidecar, aluminium rims steel-spoked around cast aluminium hubs.
If you are planning on touring anywhere the roads are rough, then this bike is for you. Even more so if there are no roads, as testified by the oar that comes as factory equipment when you buy this bike. It is a bike that is been 70 years in the making, and as Ural themselves say ‘there are many places in Russia where only horses and Ural motorcycles can be used to transport gear where you need it’. This is the ultimate ‘that track looks interesting’ touring unit you can get your hands on from factory, surpassing even it’s namesake in ability. Whereas the Yamal icebreaker can’t go on land, the Yamal motorbike must have come with an oar for a reason…