The Vulture's Chronicles
Maintenance and Reliability. If you spend any time on the forums dedicated to Ural bikes, you will come away thinking the bikes fall apart in about 100 miles and require herculean roadside repair. It scared the hell out of me when I was researching Urals as a bike to buy. I suppose this is true of any Internet based motorcycle user group, but it seemed to be quite acute with Ural.
What you have to keep in mind, is the manufacturer has been on a rapid quest to improve the overall reliability of their product in recent years, and many of the posters have older, and less likely to be reliable bikes. A 2012 Ural is distinctly more reliable than my 2007, which was way better than the 2005 for example. Today, a careful digester of forum information will see the comments about broken stuff are more from owners of older machines. It should assuage some of your concerns.
That said, are Urals as dependable as a BMW of any other modern bike? No, so they will require more care and feeding, and more frequent repair, but the technical skills required to keep a Ural maintained and repaired are not excessive. You really do get all the tools you need with the bike, and I found the service videos on YouTube of all places. You just need rudimentary mechanical and electrical skills and a willingness to learn things unique to the Ural.
Changing engine oil and filter, transmission, and final drive fluids is easy. Spark plugs are easily changed as are the various jets in the carburetors. Adjusting valves is simple. The more challenging and time consuming things like lubricating drive line splines appear more daunting than they are in practice. Fact is many owners change clutches, and replace wheel and steering bearings with little difficulty.
Frankly, a Ural is easier for an owner to maintain than any modern motorcycle I own. Try changing the oil/filter on a KTM 990 Adventure and replacing its air filter, or replacing the clutch on a BMW boxer engine. Not for the meek or timid. Sounds too good to be true, right? Well there is a Ural downside, I suppose, as the interval between required services is quite short so you will be doing oil and filter changes much more frequently. Valve adjustments too.
The reason is the engine is working pretty hard, and holds much less oil than a modern engine, and it is strictly air cooled - no oil cooler. Initially, I saw this as a frustration but just dealt with it realizing it didn't take too long to do. I'm always doing chain cleaning and lubrication on my KTM and Yamaha bikes when on a longer ride so really, there isn't much added aggravation with the Ural.
In the "old days" I would always pre-flight my bikes. I'd check the chain, check the various nuts and bolts to ensure everything was as it should be before I rode off for the day. More modern bikes should be so attended to, but they have become "reliable" and most of the time we just check air pressure every few days and check the oil once a week. Doing this develops bad habits and if you approach a Ural like that it will fail you quickly.
I religiously check my fluids, check every nut and bolt I can locate, and check tire pressure. Stuff gets loose, and oil gets consumed, and a couple pounds low in tire pressure makes a big difference in handling. Do your pre-flight and catch the problems before they get serious. Your Ural life will be much better for it. While traveling, I think it is best to do this at day's end. You have time to do a thorough inspection and not be as rushed as you might be in the morning when all you want to do is get riding.
My 2007 Patrol had some issues. There was a recall on the transmission to correct a condition that could result in the drive line locking up. Interestingly BMW had the exact same issue with one of its transmissions many years ago. This was fixed under warranty. My starter hung up and it drained the battery before I could undo it. This too was quickly repaired under warranty. Otherwise nothing else major.
The other issues were very minor, but aggravating until I figured out what was wrong and could fix them. The brake lights would fail and it was because of a funky way the Russians built the bulb receptacles. A little epoxy kept them from vibrating into bits and pieces. The rear brake switch would hang up and my brake lights would stay illuminated. A little WD-40 fixed that. The turn signal flasher would die - I replaced it with a substitute from NAPA. The good news is these things have been rectified by the manufacturer since 2007.
So, if you expect a Ural to be like your modern motorcycle with respect to service maintenance and reliability you will be disappointed and need to look elsewhere. If you like to tinker with your bikes and become intimate with their functioning then a Ural is something to consider. There is no funky CAN-BUS electrical system, modern electronics, and other such things found on a modern bike so if it fails in some way you can figure out what went wrong, trace a circuit on the electrical schematic, or simply replace a fuse.
Old school has its advantages.