Looking for a new riding challenge? Jump in a Ural sidecar. We dare you.
Sidecars aren’t for everybody. They’re certainly not for wooses or people with big ideas on themselves. In first place, the three-wheeled riding experience can be as scary as hell. It doesn’t have to be, but it can be. In the second place, even competent riders are occasionally caught out by some unexpected three-wheeled challenge.
The tenth annual Ural Adventure Ride had a few empty seats in sidecars and BCM was quick to jump on board.
It was a couple of days of amazing contrasts.
The ride kicked off from Ural Australia headquarters in Uralla, near Armidale, NSW.
The annual adventure is actually run by gun sidecar trainer Jon Taylor of uralofoz.com.au and supported by Ural Australia, but it’s such a close-knit bunch of people it’s hard to tell who was taking responsibility for what. In a very refreshing change, it seemed everyone was happy to accept responsibility for their own actions, and at the same time couldn’t wait to jump in and help anyone else in any possible way – whether that was sharing sugar for a coffee at morning smoko or pushing several-hundred kilos of fully loaded Ural up a loose, crappy hill.
Jon gave thorough briefings each morning and evening and did duty as leader. Spanner ace Mat Hodge, who had shown himself indispensable on previous rides, rode sweep, and Clare Mailler from Ural Australia handled the support vehicle and had the only kangaroo contact for the entire weekend.
That meant 28 keen-as-all-getout Urals, chocka with riders, passengers, dogs and some quite astonishing payloads. What a superb, friendly and capable group it was.
Kicking off from Ural Australia in the main street of Uralla, the whole show hit the road for a lazy wander to smoko at Kingstown – a place which made Uralla look like a metropolis. Smoko also gave the opportunity for a last-minute briefing before heading onto the dirt on a road called The Fusty As Duck Trail.
We’re not sure if that was its real name, but that’s what we thought we heard several people muttering, so that was probably it.
On a glorious sunny day the dirt road wound its way through the Nandewar Range, numerous sheep and cattle and some big, fast-moving groups of kangaroos. Sweep Mat Hodge gave an impressive demonstration of a three-wheel-lock-up emergency stop as a gargantuan marsupial hefted its considerable bulk in front of his Ural. We thought we heard girlish screaming, but we couldn’t be sure if it was Mat or perhaps dust on the brake discs.
In any case, the ’roo bounded off to places unknown, and while Mat appeared to stay calm and motored on unruffled, BCM may have lightly soiled its undergarments just having seen the incident from the upholstered, padded-seat opulence of a sidecar some distance away. Until then the sunshine and comfort had us, we admit, in a bit of a dusty drowse
The rest of the field, meanwhile, continued its determined progress westward in eager anticipation of lunch at Barraba and some interesting accom and a great dinner in Narrabri.
Might As Well
Lunch, a very leisurely affair involving a chicken-and-mushroom filo and several excellent coffees, was a very pleasant stop in a very pleasant day. With appetites dealt with and thirsts
quenched the day rolled to a warm close at an old pub in the middle of Narrabri, now converted to a B&B and displaying some truly beautiful timber fittings and stained glass. The Centre Of Town B&B and its colourful proprietor ‘Spider’ were highlights of the ride.
After showers and changes of attire the group retired to a reserved room at the Narrabri RSL where the excellent company and dining continued.
The Ural folks are big supporters of the Westpac Rescue Helicopter Service and a bucket was passed around for donations. Ural rider Chris Barnden was there in person to tell of the Westpac helicopter’s part in his rescue when he lost a leg in a road incident. Despite Chris’ irrepressible nature and humorous observations on losing a limb, the story was a dramatic one and donations were generous.
Dinner conversation was wide-ranging and included the probability of this adventure ride being Australia’s largest gathering of Urals.
As the evening wound on Jon Taylor leapt to his feet to tell terrifying stories of the next day’s adventure section down the east side of Mt Kaputar. Everyone looked pale and scared but agreed they should have a go anyway.
A gentle run through the foothills to the east of Narrabri to a very civilised coffee-and-muffin stop at a trig point and lookout kicked off the second day. The Ural folks really know how to carry a good smoko kit. BCM was treated to an amazing ‘peanut drop’ biscuit and a coffee, thanks to a couple of Ural teams combining to provide all the ingredients. There were plenty of other folks wandering around offering treats of various kinds, and the range of refreshments was quite staggering.
From smoko it was on to the dreaded Barraba Track, the adventure section for the day. In spite of Jon Taylor’s horror stories of the night before, most teams hurled their rigs at the considerable erosion contours and sizable hills with varying levels of confidence. Nobody became fretful or excited. If someone didn’t make it up a hill, everyone nearby just jumped in and started pushing and shouting encouragement.
It was a relatively tense traverse for BCM, cocooned in the comfort of the sidecar while Willawarrin rider Ian Bray powered the rig through the tougher sections of terrain – being careful not to dislodge the fridge from the rear rack of the sidecar – but everyone else seemed to think it great fun. We didn’t realise until later that it had been great fun, and that no-one had looked at any stage as though they wouldn’t get through. The teamwork and mutual support within the group was quite uplifting. It did take a bit longer than expected to complete the track though, and there was a danger Barraba might be closed when the Urals arrived, but nobody seemed too concerned about that either. Some rigs were carrying enough gear to survive long periods unsupported, and lunch would’ve been the least of their problems.
After the Barraba Track the run back to Uralla seemed a doddle – except for a flat tyre on one rig and the support vehicle slamming a ’roo and putting a bend in the new bullbar not far from home base. The return to Uralla marked the end of BCM’s Ural adventure, and it was a very interesting and pleasurable couple of days. The view of all the excitement and challenges from the sidecar was an interesting one – thanks Ian Bray for a smooth and easy trip – and the people made up one of the most pleasant and friendly groups we’d ever travelled with.
The Urals themselves are amazingly versatile, and as a platform for sightseeing they’d be hard to beat. They also bring a whole new dimensionto adventure travel and we’re grateful to Ural Australia for including us.
As we drove off to find our road home cut by bushfires the Ural group met at Jon Taylor’s training facility and capped off a great ride with a morning of not-tooserious competition in oddball challenges followed by a barbecue. It’s an annual event, so log on to www.imz-ural.com.au to look for the next one or line up a test ride.