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URAL Motorcycles of America

Loyalty and Dedication Transform a Russian Icon in Redmond

As with many Russian businesses trying to make a go in the American marketplace, it's been an uphill struggle for the Russian born Irbit MotorWorks both at home and in the United States.

In Russia, Irbit MotorWorks primarily produces sidecar motorcycles under the name Ural and has done so since the late 1940's. The company, located on the outskirts of Siberia, has built more than three million units since then. Following World War II the sidecars became popular with many Russian families as a means of both daily transportation and leisure time recreation.

But it wasn't until the 1990's that the value priced sidecars reached U.S. shores. At that time engineering of the rigs pretty much mimicked its technical status from the 1940's. The rigs were imported into the U.S. and distributed and serviced at a facility in Preston Washington. For several years the American counterpart worked closely with Russian engineers to work out the inherent bugs and make the three-wheelers more dependable.

In 2001 Russian entrepreneur, Ilya Khait, purchased Irbit MotorWorks and proceeded to overhaul both its Russian and U.S. operations. In early 2003 he terminated the agreement with the Preston affiliate and together with Gary Kelsey, a skeleton crew and a dozen loyal volunteers, the team opened its own operation in Redmond, Washington where they successfully do business today as URAL Motorcycles of America, Inc.

During the restructure numerous modifications were made to the sidecar rigs including the addition of disc brakes in the front, electric start and numerous motor and transmission modifications to improve the durability of the rigs. At that point all models were re-certified to conform to EPA and DOT standards.

In an effort to expand their market, Irbit has released a two wheel cruiser model, the Ural Wolf, said to be the "wild child created from an unconventional union between the Ural factory and the Russian Night Wolves biker club." In order to prove the Wolf's ability, Ural rider, Sergey Senelik (at right), who has been riding Urals around the world for some years now, began a trek last October that will lead him across the Americas, through East Asia and through Australia on the Wolf. In all he will log 50,000 miles.

In February 2004 the Irbit team made the trip to the Dealer Expo in Indianapolis to show their latest models and offerings to potential dealers in an effort to bolster its U.S. dealer network. As for the Northwest, there are number of dealers in Washington and Oregon. Interested buyers can also view the various models at the Redmond offices.

At Left: Ilya Khait and Gary Kelsey worked the crowd at the 2004 Dealer Expo in Indianapolis in an effort to build the Ural network of dealers both here and abroad.

Ural maintains a robust website that includes model and dealer information, downloadable owner's manuals and a web board where owners and those considering a purchase can exchange information.

Prices on the bikes are very affordable with the Wolf model starting at just $5075 msrp, and full tilt boogie, Patrol, which can deliver power to both rear and sidecar wheels, lists at under $10,000.

For more information, visit the website at

TM/Winter 2004


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