This is a long one – better have your lunch. When I bought the bike, shifting was clunky, but they say that’s how it should be – like driving a tractor. You have to shift deliberately and with purpose. It’s not smooth and easy like any other bike I’ve ridden. I eventually adjusted to the new way and found my groove. However, there are some things about a Ural that even the best driving can’t overcome.
My husband, Jym, works and stays out of town and I let him take my bike to get back after he came home for Thanksgiving because he had more to take back than he could put on his own bike. On the way, he was having clutch trouble, but not enough to need to park the bike. So I started with the easy fixes trying to rule out the actual clutch as the problem.
The original clutch actuator arm is made too long and the material is not strong enough to keep the long arm from bending. This results in not being able to engage the clutch when you pull the lever even when the cable is adjusted. The company came out with a better arm, though, so I ordered it. In the meantime, there are off-road routes near him, and he went exploring on the Ural. He ended up getting stuck in the mud and had to push the bike out. He got it to his RV and parked it noting that it was not disengaging.
On my next visit to see him, I changed out the clutch arm. This was a simple job since it’s just bolted on. However, this did not fix the problem. I called Ski at Triquest to order clutch plates. Ski said that I should first inspect the clutch pushrod since the bearings in there have a tendency to disintegrate (yay Ural!). Another visit to Jym confirmed the clutch is the bad apple since the pushrod was beautiful and the bearings were spinning freely.
Thinking that the clutch couldn’t be that bad with only 9000 kms on it, I read a thread on the Soviet Steeds forum about driving the bike and trying to work through the stuck gears. Since I wasn’t with the bike, Jym accepted the task and clunkily drove around town with it a bit. While out, the main u-joint to the final drive snapped and broke off! Luckily, we had towing on our insurance. Upon inspection, the u-joint coupling (donut) was torn and the drive shaft forks surrounding the u-joint were pretty banged up. The bike would roll in neutral, so I believed the final drive to be in good shape despite the snapped u-joint.
I was introduced to Charlie Tiongson from Plano, which is about 3 hours from where I live. He offered to help me sort out my clutch and if it took longer than the day, he offered his home for me to crash. So, when my clutch plates and a fork/u-joint assembly (thanks to Terry Crawford for his last one) arrived, I arranged to trailer the bike to Charlie’s and met him and Blain, another Ural owner, for a long day of tear down.
I removed the tank prior to leaving home (see the cascade of funnels to drain the fuel). One-time use hose clamps are not easy to remove. At Charlie’s, we removed the seat, rear wheel, and final drive, and replaced the fork/u-joint assembly as well as the donut. Blain got some burgers and we took a break for lunch. It was hard to accept that the clutch would be a problem so soon – and we almost put the bike together after just fixing the drive shaft. But something in me really wanted to see inside that clutch housing and make sure, so we tore down the bike disconnecting everything and trying to take pictures along the way to make sure we put all the wires back where they came from.
We removed the transmission and pulled the engine. (Note to self: drain all fluids before tearing your bike apart lol.) It's scary to see the empty frame of my bike. The screws that hold on the thrust plate are held in with red Loctite. To get red Loctite to break up, you have to heat it to at least 350 degrees. It was 32 degrees in Charlie’s garage, so we had to work fast because as soon as we took the torch off the screw, it would cool quickly. The material of the screw is soft too so the allen head holes on 2 of the 6 stripped and we had to get out the Dremel. We were able to get a couple out before we called it a day.
Being the perfect host, Charlie took me to a nice local Italian restaurant called Covino’s. The food was great and the atmosphere friendly. We got back to Charlie’s, cleaned up, and crashed.
We were up early the next morning and Charlie, continuing to extend his hospitality, made breakfast for us...eggs, bacon, hash browns, strawberries, and coffee.
Blain showed up to help again and back at it, we were able to get the screws out. As the screws are removed, the plates should rise as the springs are allowed to decompress.
This did not happen. There was a ton of dirt inside making the plates stick together like glue. We sprayed in some Deep Creep and went to lunch while it worked its magic.
Unfortunately, they hadn’t released when we returned, and we had to get creative with a reverse hammer tool that we were able to guide in one of the holes on the driven plate/friction plate. I had the 2 new driven plates from the dealer, so I wasn’t worried about damaging them trying to get the pack out. They finally came unstuck and we each sanded all the baked-on dirt from the intermediate plate, pressure plate, and thrust plate. If I had those plates new also, I would have changed the whole pack out.
We reassembled the clutch pack and got it all aligned and started putting the bike back together. Blain had to go, but Charlie and I worked to reassemble most of the bike. We didn’t finish though, and I had to return home. Throughout the next week, Charlie and Blain would selflessly work to finish reassembly and chase a wiring issue that was making my brake lights not work.
I returned the following Saturday to put on the tank and connect the fuel lines. We started it up and went for a test drive with Charlie in the sidecar. I was moving through the gears without any issues. Charlie even let me ride his bike around the parking lot. One day mine will be as smooth running as his, but until then, I'll keep wrenching.
I am so grateful for the Ural community. If it weren’t for them, my bike might just be in the garage as something to sit on while I drink away my sorrows. Special thanks to Charlie and Blain, and to Kent Silk for putting us together.