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What I've garnered over the past year or so...

A few things about names you Dneed to know...

KMZ and Dnepr can be used synonymously and interchangeably, as can IMZ and Ural. However, most folks follow the convention of applying the names Dnepr and Ural to the newer overhead valve (OHV) bikes from the respective factories and reserve KMZ and IMZ for the older sidevalve (SV) flathead motorcycles. KMZ is the Ukrainian factory near the Dnepr River translates to Kiev Motor Works. IMZ is the Russian factory in the Ural Mountains and means Irbit Motor Works. So...

Dnepr = KMZ = Kiev = Ukraine   

Ural = IMZ = Irbit = Russia     

And a few other definitions...

RPOC- (Russian Piece O' Crap) is a term of endearment applied frequntly to all Soviet bikes regardless of make or model.

Foilhead- is a RPOC rider/driver.

Solo- a motorcycle without a sidecar

Hack- is any sidecar. Most all of the KMZ and IMZ production was motorcycles with a hack included. You'll see like 20 bikes with a hack for every one Ruskie solo.

Flying the chair- is a manouver where the sidecar wheel is lifted from the driving surface, often unententionally on a hard right-hander.

Monkey- is a sidecar passenger.

SV- sidevalve. This is the older model engine with valves built into the head, parallel to the cylinder bore. 750cc only.

OHV- overhead valve. The newer motor easily identified by the two parallel steel sleeves visible on the top of the cylinder heads. Available from KMZ only in 650cc. Available from IMZ in 650cc until about 2002 when the 750cc engine was introduced.

Swingarm- a Russian improvement in rear suspension with shocks.

Plunger- the original rear suspension design

Leading link forks- a front suspension improvement specifically for sidecar operation. Think of it as power steering for a hack rig. The newer leading link (LL) is not generally suitable for solo use. 

Top speed and reliability...

If you are looking for a "gas-n-go", high-speed autobahn sort of Japanese bike, you've come to the wrong place. If you are shopping for a backroads, eye catching cruiser, you are getting warmer. One must remember, especially on the older models, the technology is 70 years old and the metallurgy is Russian. They can be made into reasonably reliable daily drivers with some work, however. Requisite for long life, is a proper break-in with frequent oil changes and speed variations with no overloading.

The newer Urals are approaching the "gas-n-go" stage with minor scheduled maintenance and tinkering like setting valves and balancing carburetors. Don't let that scare you, though, it's not as hard as it sounds. These are seriously robust machines with maintenance akin to keeping a lawnmower or tractor running. There are very few instances that require whole engine or gearbox replacement. Most things can be repaired by a person with moderate mechanical skills and some horse sense. Repairs are generally straight forward with no hidden suprises.

The top speed for an old sidevalve powered rig is about 60-65 mph. The cruising speed is about 50 mph. Add about 10-15 mph for the newer overhead valve models.

Where and what to buy...

I'll give you the low-down as I know it regarding most of the stateside Russian bike suppliers, both Ural and Dnepr. There's a lot of variance on these bikes that appear mostly the same to the sane person on the outside looking in. So I'll try to break it down a little for you:

1.) New Ural-most reliable, closest thing to American expectation of craftmanship and 2 year warranty. Their sidecar's storage area opens like a trunk which I wish I had. The max MSRP on the premium bike is only $10,500. http://www.imz-ural.com/

2.) New Dnepr-the ONLY Dnepr importer with DOT/EPA approved rigs, Lloyd from RAMCO in Washington. Only Dneprs have automatic clutches and generally stronger (heavier) frames. Ready to ride, 6 month warranty (I think). http://www.dnepr.ru/

3.) Ric with Arbalet and Greg of Scooterbob's import and fix up classic stuff. Basically M-72's, K-750's, and military quality (best QA/QC) 2WD bikes. Ready to ride, 30 day warranty. http://www.arbalet.net/ AND http://www.scooterbob.com/

4.) The kit bike guy in Ohio, Yuri (and the other guy in Florida, as well as most Chang-Jiangs). Think two jigsaw puzzles in one Ziploc baggie at a garage sale with no boxtop showing big picture. I've heard everything from "gas and go" to complete basket cases that require thousands of dollars extra to get them running. Just because it comes in one pretty chromed piece doesn't mean all those pieces work together. DO NOT GO THIS ROUTE unless you have money, time, experience, patience, tools, know-how, other reliable transportation, and an understanding wife. No warranty, batteries not included. eBay.

A little bit about "kit" bikes...

Here is my canned answers to FAQ's. The biggest problem with kit Dneprs seems to be tight piston/cylinder or out of round cylinders causing overheating. They can be made reliable with time and money. So, kits should be discounted accordingly. For the amount charged by the kit suppliers, you should get a rideable bike, not a bent-n-dent, factory seconds outlet rig.

Additionally, KMZ/Dnepr never produced a factory OHV motor larger than 650cc for public distribution. I believe some only some police models were made with an 800cc OHV motor. So, don't believe the hype about the 800cc motors which are actually closer to 765cc. This was some aftermarket thing someone probably did in their backyard machineshop in the Ukraine.

The BMW R-71.

Note the lack of re-inforcement where the frame meets the plunger (shock) at the rear of the frame.

  Dnifferences in models.

You cannot explain the primary models without giving a history lesson, too. The first of the Russian sidecar combos was the M-72. It was an exact copy of the 1938 BMW R-71 (not the BMW R-75 as some sources say) except for a larger gas tank and weaker metalurgy. There is some discussion as to whether the Russians reverse engineered the M-72 from five pre-war BMW R-71's they smuggled through Sweden, or if they were granted rights to make the motorcycles in the Russo-German Von Ribbenthrop Pact or some combination of the two. Anyhow, the M-72 motorcycle was never produced in any great numbers during the war and chances of finding one of the original 10,000 or so war bikes is very slim.

The Chinese still produce this motorcycle even today, some say with some of the original BMW factory tooling that the Russians "liberated" after WWII. At any rate, the BMW R-71, the Russian M-72, and the CJ-750 are all essentially the same motorcycle in various states of quality. It would be my estimation that this is the longest production run of any vehicle in the world.

The next generation was the K-750. It was essentially the same bike with a swingarm frame instead of the plunger frame and a few motor improvements to cope with the rugged Russian terrain. It had a 2 wheel drive brother, the MW-750 and MW-750M. One had a full time 2WD and the other had a locking differential that the driver would manually put the sidcar wheel into plat when the going got nasty.

After this KMZ and IMZ would start their departure from each other in design and production of OHV motors and the frames that carried them.


Is it a Dnepr or a Ural???

The easiest and fastest way to tell if the bike you saw, drove, bought, stole, or wrecked was a Dnepr or a Ural is to check out the rear swingarm. That is the bar that the rear axle goes through and has a shock mounted on it somewhere. If this bar is on the inside of the frame, it is a Dnepr. If it is on the outside of the frame it is a Ural. Or at least that is how the bike started out life. Everything else, to include motors, transmissions, forks, rims and even sidecars can be swapped with minimal effort and a little determination.

The Dnepr auto-clutching gearbox...

One of the best features, aside from the highly regarded durability of the Dnepr transmission, is that it has an auto-clutching mechanism. Think of it as "when you step on the shifter, it automatically "pulls" the clutch lever for you." This is not what really happens but it is close enough. That means smoother shifting and no more missed shifts!

To check your bike (this could potentially be found on any used bike with a reverse, even a Ural, although no Ural ever came from the factory with this feature), step on the shifter pedal, front or back. You should see a small 1/2" diameter rod poke out of the left rear of the transmission case near a slave clutch lever where the lower end of your clutch cable attaches. This rod should contact an adjustment bolt on the slave lever, thereby disengaging the clutch. Proper adjustment is about 1/16"-1/8" gap. Additionally, you should feel the handlebar clutch lever go slack.

Dnepr and Ural two wheel drive (2WD) models...

Both KMZ and IMZ have make sidecars models with a power driven sidecar wheel for those who need a little extra pull for those off-road snowy/muddy/sandy/hilly excursions. The current 2WD model for Dnepr is the MT-16 and the Ural makes the Patrol and Gear-Up in 2WD. The differences are that the Dnepr has a full time 2WD and the Ural has an "on demand" locking differential.

PLUSES- the Dnepr is a streetable full-time 2WD which aids in turning and traction on slippery but still tractible surfaces. The Ural has a selectable 2WD system that applies positive traction in severe circumstances.

MINUSES- the Dnepr distributes power to the slipping wheel (The Dnepr site says this is not the case but most others say it's true). That's why it should be better for normal daily usage on hard surfaces where you know if you lose traction momentarily, you will get it back. The Ural is completely unstreetable when 2WD is engaged. The Ural system locks the wheels together with an equal pull that results essentially in a straight line 2WD operation. Expect reduced speeds and gas milage on both.

There are other models by both manufacturers. The out of production Ural Sportsman has a full-time 2WD. Additionally, Dnepr made the MB-750, MB-750M, and the MB-650 (somtimes translated as MV or MW depending on country) military versions and the MT-12 civilian models with both types of 2WD systems, varying by model. A shift linkage on the final drive hub is a dead give away that it is a selectable locking differential.

Even most of the old pros that own the current Ural 2WD say that the full-time 2WD would be most useful. The reason is that usually the main rear drive wheel is enough and most rarely get to lock in the sidecar wheel. However, the full-time 2WD is always in play and useless only when you really get stuck and it starts to slip. Think of it as the FT2WD keeps you from getting stuck and the locking diff 2WD gets you out of being stuck.



An M-72.

Note the re-inforcement of the plunger frame and larger gastank.