Jon Taylor, the local importer of Ural sidecars, drops us a line to share why US adventurer Mr Cob has chosen to ride the bike that recently appeared in the KFC advert (filmed in Kentucky) across outback Australia.
Tell us about Ural of Oz bikes in Australia?
In 2007, Vicki and I decided to import the iconic Russian Ural sidecar bikes. We had tested these outfits overseas and found them to offer a lot of the old fashioned thrill of motorcycling. They were simple to look after and ride, fun for the journey, rather than their speed or the prestige of ownership. We needed a business name, and since the business was about bringing Ural to Australia, someone suggested Ural of Oz, as a play on the Wizard of Oz I guess!
We use the name for that part of our business that promotes the sidecar riding, by teaching riders how to safely adapt to what is initially a very different way of riding a motorcycle.
Who is Mr Cob?
In the USA, there is a strong following for the riding of motorcycles to find adventure. It is about following the road to see where it goes and the experience of meeting people, seeing sights and the challenges you take in getting there. Dave Hooker is passionate about this kind of travel, and he writes on several internet forums about his activities. He has chosen the Ural sidecar as his motorcycle and writes under the Cob pseudonym, which is short for ‘Crazy ol’ bastard’. His constant praise for his motorcycle and the detailed explanations about its design and maintenance are well known, even outside of USA.
Your national TV ad for the sidecars has happily coincided with Mr Cob’s visit to Oz?
It is coincidental that Mr Cob has arrived here to take a month long tour in Oz, right after a Ural appeared in a KFC ad filmed here in our Kentucky village. That glimpse of a sidecar with family aboard has had a great response nationwide for us, and it is great that Mr Cob is using that particular bike for his ride.
What is Mr Cob doing in Australia?
Mr Cob has been given a plane ticket to Australia by a fellow adventure rider, Jock Adams, who is a resident of Bundaberg area but who did his secondary education at The Armidale School. The two men met on the ‘ADVrider’ forum and have been discussing their real life adventures in their home countries at great length. We were approached to provide a Ural outfit, so Dave could really feel at home in our outback, so this ‘Aussie Rideabout’ has evolved as Mr Cob’s next big adventure.
So far they have ridden from Armidale south through Sydney, before taking up an invitation to visit with the Russian Embassy in Canberra, who have been avid supporters of the Ural motorcycles coming to Australia. By the time you read this, Jock and Mr Cob will have crossed more than a few sandhills, as they travel through Cameron’s Corner to Alice Springs and on to Cape York in a short space of time.
How can our readers follow the ride?
There are posts on Facebook and links on the imz-ural.com.au web site.
Describe the bike he is riding?
The now famous white Ural is a ‘Tourist’ model, well suited to traveling outback with its spare wheel, jerrycans for extra fuel, comfy bench seat and spacious luggage capacity. The Urals have retained the nostalgic sidecar looks and design simplicity over 70 years, but are now fitted with modern reliable components. Their stability in sand and bull dust is important for this ride.
Why does Mr Cob choose to ride a Ural bike?
Mr Cob says he has chosen the Ural after many years adventure riding on a whole range of motorcycles. He speaks of the sturdy simplicity of this vehicle, its carrying capacity, and even his wife’s approval. Dave was always getting tickets for speeding, and his wife likes the fact he can no longer travel at law breaking top speeds on his Ural. Dave says he gets to notice the passing scenery now and has seen things along his ride to work that he had not noticed in 10 years on his speeding BMW!
Once the basics of sidecar riding were learned, there was a whole new set of riding skills to use and develop, given the third wheel and greater stability. At the same time, the thrill of fresh air travel that motorcyclists enjoy is as real as ever.
Finally, how many bikes have you imported, and how wide is your market?
We passed the 200 mark last year, and in the last 4 years we have sold bikes to Exeter in WA, Tiwi Islands in NT, Cygnet in Tasmania, Ballina in NSW and anywhere in between. We are just taking over the New Zealand market for them as well and have supplied parts to Asia. Prime Minister Gusmao in East Timor ordered parts for his Ural from us.
Most of our customers are in the 45 to 70 age bracket, but we have several over 80 years old, and are starting to get younger riders with the advent of new brighter colours for the bikes and a perception that it’s cool to ride a sidecar.
This story was published in issue 64 of the New England Focus