Jon Taylor has a passion for motorcycles. As a past competitor in off-road endurance racing, Jon was quite successful, but his love of motorcycling led him to experience other aspects of this popular pastime. We chat to Jon about his future on three wheels.
Last year Jon began the intergenerational farm handover process to his son, Michael, by stepping out of the day to day management process on the farm. In the meantime, Jon has started a new business using his motorcycle interests and business knowledge. This has not kept him off the street, but rather it keeps him on the streets! We asked Jon about the Ural of Oz business.
> What is Ural of Oz?
Ural of Oz is a business we set up to import and distribute Russian sidecars and to provide sidecar rider training and tour opportunities to interested persons. Many people have learned to ride motorcycles at some time in their life, but few have experienced driving or riding in sidecars.
Sidecars originated in the early 1900s, from a need to increase the carrying capacity and comfort of motorcycles. Initially trailers were tried behind bikes, and the passenger sat in a wicker chair. You can imagine the issues with unsealed roads and poor brakes. Not only did the passenger get a liberal dose of mud from the back wheel, but busters were common. Moving the passenger alongside improved stability and the status of the beloved partner!
Sidecars have nearly disappeared from our roads with the advent of smaller cars available at a similar price, but they are still quite common in other countries for their maneuverability and fuel economy. They are, however, still readily recognised and many of the over 50s fondly recall adventures involving sidecar travel.
Sidecars are not difficult to ride, but they are quite different to a solo motorcycle. The bike does not lean around corners and steering becomes direct – an experience noticed by many farmers who have changed from farm bikes to quad bikes for the same reason.
Learning this new skill needs to be practiced in a safe environment, and I have the possibility of providing this opportunity on our farm.
Our farm environment has been made attractive for visitors with the extensive tree planting here over the last 25 years. The park like surroundings combine with my sidecar riding experience, enabling me to coach new sidecar riders to a suitable standard around the farm roads before they venture onto the public road system. It creates an adventure experience with a nostalgic quality.
As well as training sidecar riders, Ural of Oz provides a unique opportunity for visitors via coffee stop tours – travelling the roads of New England by sidecar as a chauffeured passenger or riding a hired sidecar outfit and being guided through the best scenic byways and local villages.
What attracts people to use your sidecars?
Motorcycle riding gives a feeling of freedom and an affinity with your surroundings that attracts many people. It is the fresh air, the wind in your face, the maneuverability, the feeling of the machine becoming an extension of your body and the closeness to your surroundings that are enjoyable. With a sidecar, this experience is still there, but there is added stability and your passenger experiences greater comfort, protection and better views of the road ahead. There is good carrying capacity for luggage, fuel, food, camping gear, or whatever you may want to carry.
As well as avoiding the slip-over thing, sidecars generally travel more slowly, which adds to their safety. The greatest attraction probably is the nostalgic trip of sidecar riding in a classic design outfit. Wherever these 65 year old designed sidecars go, people stop us to admire and ask about the Ural outfit. Where did you get it? How old is it? What is it like? And so on. We call it the ‘Ural delay factor’! Sidecar riding enhances one’s individuality, and that is a trait common to most motorcycle riders.
> Tell us about the motorcycle?
The Ural motorcycles are made in a 65 year old Russian factory next to the Ural Mountains – from where they derive their name. In 1940 the Russians copied the German wartime BMW outfits, which were a military purpose, 2WD outfit with machine gun mounts. Since then, 3.2 million Ural motorcycles have been built, and they are a household name in the Eastern block countries – like Harley Davidson is to the USA.
After the breakup of Russia, the factory had little State demand for yearly production, and it was bought by an enterprising group who modernised the bike while conserving the classic design. They did this to bring it to the modern markets in the USA, EEC, Canada, Japan, etc. The result is a sturdy, reliable machine which is popular as a sentimental mode of transport … a modern vintage bike, if you like. Gone are the machine gun mounts, but it now has many state of the art components, such as Brembo disc brakes, electric start and reverse gear.
> What’s touring the back roads like?
Riding on the less used roads is always an adventure. Maybe you will find a goanna crossing the road, a chatty farmer walking his sheep along the road to another paddock, or a creek crossing, where you may get your boots wet. These are things we don’t encounter on the highway.
More importantly, most visitors sail through New England on our highways, which leaves them removed from the countryside. We follow small roads, such as down the railway line from Kentucky, through Limbri to Tamworth, or the road from Uralla through Retreat to Kingstown, where the mountains, rivers and vegetation are spectacular and every twist in the road brings a surprise.
This touring experience is a thrill for overseas and city visitors alike. We get to know where a friendly coffee can be had, or a good picnic stop with a view, and our customers enjoy the relaxed informality away from their hectic lifestyles.
> How do you arrange delivery of your Ural sidecars from Russia ?
To get the bikes into Australia, we had to become importers and licensed distributors. The motor industry is well regulated and the first thing was to get the bikes through ADR compliance. This is a costly and time consuming process, to ensure the vehicles meet Australian road registerable vehicle requirements.
After that was completed, bikes were ordered in 40 Ft. container loads from Russia. They arrive in Sydney about 10 weeks from order and we have them moved to our farm storage. The bikes arrive in crates and have to be assembled, mostly fitting sidecar to bike, and this is often done locally.
Distribution to dealerships is being organised across Australia – that gets the bikes out to the customers. Supermoto in Armidale have assisted us with this from the beginning .
> Thank you Jon.