The Ural Gear-Up rolls off the factory line, ready to face most roads, and even some snow. However, there are a few modifications that I felt needed be made to make it ready for an extended off-road trip.
Handlebars: The stock Ural handlebars are of the “come back to meet you” variety. A generous bend makes them very nice for rolling around town, but put your wrists at a weird angle for turning. Being a tall white man with long gangly arms, the stock handlebars always gave me the distinct impression I was driving around a motorized wheelbarrow. I found some used KLR 650 handlebars on eBay for 20$, which gives me a little more room, and leverage on the bars for turning.
Skid Plate: From the factory, the Ural doesn’t come with any sump protection. Fine for 90% of the riding anyone might do, but throw in some gravel and large rocks, and you’ll want something to deflect the brunt of anything the front wheel slings towards the engine. I went with the “shortie” sump guard from Ural NE.
Tankbag: Not technically a modification, this Wolfman tankbag is right off my 1150GS, and isn’t meant for the Ural (so I think it counts). However, it fits real nicely on the nose of the hack, provides a little wind protection for the dog, and easy access to tools, rags, hats, snacks and other regularly used items.
Airbox: The stock air filter on Ural motorcycles works very well, but is prone to clog very easily in dusty, dirty conditions. Since I planned on eating a bunch of DRZ-dust on this ride long ride, I didn’t want to be cleaning air filters every night. I was lucky enough to get on the beta program for the “Windmill MK-III”, made by Barry (windmill) on SovietSteeds.com.
The Windmill MK-III uses regular oiled foam filter elements instead of circular cloth/fabric K&N style air filters the factory airbox uses. Easier to clean, replace, and I can carry 5 air filters in the space one OEM filter takes up. As far as cost savings, the bulk Uni Filter foam is about 16$ for a sheet large enough to make 6 air filters. The original (OEM) filters are around 35$ each.
Exhaust: The stock Ural exhaust cans are of great quality. Big hunks of stainless steel which offer pretty decent performance without all the noise. Unfortunately, they hang pretty low. Low enough that large rocks or eroded trails have a tendancy to pull them off the mid pipes and leave them along the trail.
There are a few options for high-mount exhaust systems to fix this, however most of them are north of 800$. Since I’m a cheapskate, I decided to try and build my own. I started with 165$ worth of mandrel bent tubing:
Some cutting, grinding, grinding, and more grinding, and I ended up with this mock-up:
I ended up cutting, and drilling the existing mufflers, to make one free-flowing exhaust can that I’ll use with it. I was very concerned that it would be too loud. However, while on the road, I can hear the airbox noise more than the exhaust, so I think it was a success.
Did the final welds, painted part of the headers with VHT, played with the jetting for a bit, and got everything right where I wanted it. Runs good, not too loud, and puts almost all the power right in the mid-range. Saved around 700$ compared with an off-the-shelf solution.
Gas Can / Shovel: There are several 200+ mile stretches on the GDR, without any water, or gas. My Gear-Up came complete with a spare gas can already, but I need an additional can to get through the longer sections. Together, the cans hold around 5 gallons of extra gas, putting my range at about 360 km.
You may think the shovel is for digging the Ural out of a crevasse, or digging out large puddles to drain. You’d be wrong. The shovel is for digging cat-holes and slit-trench latrines. I’ve spent enough time with flimsy plastic trowels, digging in rocky ground over the years. A full size shovel is a luxury when you need to evacuate last nights questionable pulled pork sandwich at 5:00am, pronto. It sounds silly, but it really is the little things.