Ural Motorcycles: The most improbable motorbike company anywhere

8 Oct

Ural Motorcycles Expands U.S. dealer efforts, marketing push

Earlier this year I had a chance to head up to Redmond, Wash., to visit with the bootstraps brains behind Ural Motorcycles and take a ride on one of the sidecar bikes. The married Russian expats who run the company — Ilya Khait and Madina Merzhoeva — are a grassroots management team who handle everything from homologation concerns to keeping operations running smoothly back at the motorcycle plant in Irbit, Siberia. They have what can only be described as the most unbelievable operation in the motorcycle business.

Ural MotorcyclesHere’s the story I wrote for Dealernews about the company. They may have one of the best stories I’ve ever had the pleasure of telling. Really, just the logistics of building bikes in Russia and shipping them over here for distribution in the United States are mind-boggling. Here’s a detail I wasn’t able to fit into the story: After being asked why they have to ship all the bikes west, out of Russia and through Germany to the U.S. East Coast and then delivered to Washington state, when it seems it’s a much shorter route to go East, to America’s West Coast and Ural’s HQ, Ilya said, “Shipments have a way of disappearing when they head in that direction.”

Some other tidbits that didn’t make it: The massive production facility that’s been building Ural motorcycles since the 1940s is spread across nearly 450 acres. It had its own steam generating plant. The total square footage of the manufacturing buildings was about 1.3 million sq. ft., including a 360,000 sq. ft. building that once housed, welding, painting and main assembly. At the height of production in the 1980s, Ural was one of the largest motorcycle manufacturers in Europe and in 1993 it pumped out 132,000 motorcycles. Now? Not so much. After the collapse of the Soviet Union released that captive audience, those number dropped drastically. As mentioned in the story, Ural consolidated all of its operations in one 220,000. sq. ft. building and only uses a small sliver of that space.

I actually met Madina years ago, shortly after she and Ilya took over operations from the previous importer and distributor. It’s been pretty neat watching them build the company, improve the bikes and continually push the motorcycles further into the U.S. powersports market. Check out their full story at Dealernews.com.

 

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3 Responses to “Ural Motorcycles: The most improbable motorbike company anywhere”

  1. apacketofchipsontheceiling October 14, 2012 at 3:43 am #

    They sound like a wonderfully functional company and they look like seriously functional bikes.

  2. nobodywalksinlongbeach October 24, 2012 at 5:31 pm #

    They are seriously functional. And great fun. Thanks for checking out my post. I love the motorcycle industry for introducing me to people like these.

  3. MotorBike Transport June 2, 2013 at 12:18 pm #

    The massive manufacturing service that is been building Ural motorbikes since the Forties is propagate across nearly 450 miles. It had its own vapor producing place.
    Motorbike Transport

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