This Ural PR piece hit my inbox yesterday and it got me thinking. What is it about the Ural that has them on the upswing while so many other bikes are collecting dust on showroom floors? That M70 anniversary model we wrote about just over a month ago sold out in less than 2 weeks. The Ural is "suddenly cool" after being around for 70 odd years. It's certainly no super bike, it isn't going to be a favorite of the boy racer crowd, there aren't any carbon fiber accessories and the majority are sold with sidecars, yet the numbers are going up and the dealer network is actually growing, 22 new ones in the past year. So, what's up?
The cool factor plays a part; as the press piece says, they put one in the Hammacher Schlemmer catalog and Brad Pitt and Ewan McGregor put Urals in their garages, and to some that sort of thing makes a difference, but most buyers couldn't care less. I think it has more to do with more folks wanting to get back to motorcycling basics, a nice weekend ride instead of a cross country tour, a cruise down some unpaved back roads, a place to carry a few things you pick up at the store or want to take with you, and to top it off, it's different. People wave and want to talk when you stop. You have that Indiana Jones adventurous look about you even if you just rode out of your garage ten minutes ago, and I also think, people who have no desire to get the biker look can see themselves tooling around in one of these.
Ural also shares something with the Royal Enfield, another brand doing really well right now, they're not intimidating to maintain. After all, you can't build 2WD sidecar adventure rigs that need computer diagnostics every time something isn't right, so like a Royal Enfield, they're designed for a more basic tool set. These days, that's a nice touch.
Prices are lower, too. Although Harley exited the sidecar business, getting into a touring rig with a sidecar attached was no cheap date and it wasn't made for any off road excursions. With a Ural, you're starting with a much more basic rig where you can add or subtract pieces and still keep your investment from getting out of hand.
Maybe the Ural upswing will be short lived, maybe it will last a long time, but either way, they're doing pretty well right now and quite a few riders could probably see themselves and a significant other off for a weekend adventure with a Ural, even if it's only for a day.
Press release follows: Ural Sees 39% Increase in Sales for Second Consecutive Year
REDMOND, WA -- Ural Motorcycles experienced dramatic growth in 2011, logging a 39% increase in unit sales for the second consecutive year and welcoming 22 new dealers to its existing network.
Additional 2011 highlights included a New York Times feature, a Solo sT collaboration with esteemed bike builder James Hammarhead, being chosen for the prestigious Hammacher Schlemmer catalog, and seeing both Brad Pitt and Ewan McGregor add Urals to their garages. Last but certainly not least, Ural rang in the New Year by watching the year-end release of the M70 anniversary-edition sell out in less than two weeks.
So why is a 70-year-old Russian company -- one that still builds its motorcycles just east of Ural Mountains -- experiencing such success in an otherwise quiet market? Says Ural CEO Ilya Khait: “Sidecar motorcycles are ideal for a wide range for applications, from adventure riding to daily commuting. Being the only sidecar manufacturer in the world, Ural has experienced an increased demand from all age groups. Mature riders are interested in sidecars because of the added stability, and the unique opportunity to share the ride with their family members. The younger urban crowd is also getting into sidecars in their search for practical transportation and their desire for something unique -- an experience and identity -- they can associate with their own lifestyle.”
With infrastructure paramount for a fast-growing company, Ural is carefully expanding across all fronts. To service an increasing customer base, standout 2011 new dealers – Leo’s South, Kissell Motorsports, Santa Fe Motorsports, Philadelphia Cycle Center, San Diego BMW, Motorcycles of Charlotte and others -- will be joined by an additional 25 to 30 dealers in 2012.
Meanwhile, Ural’s North American operation, located in Redmond, Washington, is moving to a larger facility to accommodate offices, parts and logistics departments. Additionally, Ural is pleased to announce the appointment of Chuck Schram, former Dealer Developer for Piaggio, to the position of Director of Dealer Development, and Jon Bekefy -- previously employed by Ducati and LeoVince -- to the position of Director of Strategic Marketing Communications.
With new Urals, special projects, dealers, and websites on the way, 2012 promises to continue the excitement and success of 2011 -- and then some.