Throughout history, there have been many lesser known motorbike manufacturers who’ve managed to survive into the modern day. This may be because they specialise in designing niche models or because they’ve adapted to a changing market. An example of an obscure European manufacturer that took off is IMZ-Ural. The Russian company was founded during WW2 and originally produced military vehicles. Over time, the company transitioned into designing customised machines and we’re looking into the history of the IMZ-Ural.
A military mentality
During WW2, Joseph Stalin feared an invasion from Nazi Germany, so he ordered the military to prepare in every way possible. Vehicle mobility was emphasised in response to the Blitzkrieg that Soviet troops had witnessed in Poland. Stalin wanted a modern motorbike that could be utilised for the Red Army in the unforgiving Russian terrain.
The Soviet Union acquired the designs of the BMW R71 motorbike, determining that it matched the requirements for the Red Army. Five BMWs were reverse engineered to Soviet specifications, becoming the Dnepr M-72. Production increased to the point that the Moscow Motorcycle Plant was created, which developed many M-72s.
Fear of the Blitzkrieg motivated officials to move the factory to the Ural mountain range. Setting up in the town of Irbit, the factory resumed work and the first batch of motorbikes went to the front in 1942.
After WW2, the factory expanded and the Irbit Motorcycle Works (IMZ) took over production, with Ural exports beginning in 1953. From 1973 to 1979, SARTA Motors marketed Ural in the UK as Cossack motorbikes.
IMZ-Ural in the modern day
Today, Ural mainly produce sidecar motorbikes that are adapted for going off-road. Joining the likes of Watsonian-Squire, it’s one of the few large motorbike manufacturers to produce sidecars. They are popular in Russia because of poor road networks, making them a necessary form of transport. The bikes are muscular and adaptable, with many of them being exported to the UK, Australia and US.
The modern Ural motorbikes come in standard and customised editions. A recent model is the Ural Baikal LE, that comes with a metallic blue paint job. It’s also equipped with a side-mounted carbon steel hatchet that makes it ideal for cutting through icy environments. The bikes also come with a variety of accessories, such as a waterproof speaker, flask and stormproof matches. Ural motorbikes have become a popular vehicle to travel the world with, as can be seen from the company’s blog.
IMZ-Ural has carved out a suitable niche for itself and remains one of the most well-known Russian vehicle manufacturers on the planet.
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