In 2014, a two year journey on “a bitch of old Ural 650 motorcycles” with sidecars was started by a group of artists stitched together from all over the world. They began their journey from Halle Saale (East Germany) with the aim of reaching New York in 2016. Their journey was split into three stages. STAGE 1 was Europe, Russia, Kazakhstan, Mongolia and Siberia. STAGE 2 was Far East Russia including the Old Road of Bones and ending up in Magadan. You might remember Magadan as the place where Ewan McGregor began incessantly whining and complaining in the Long Way Round. It was no match for our merry band of heroes.
It’s time for STAGE 3 – Traveling from Magadan on the Kolyma Challenge. 5 friends traveled 600 km, riding their floating Urals, literally on top of the Kolyma River in rural Russia. This is their story.
Last we checked in with our heroes, they and and their bitch of Ural sidecars were in North America. They were testing out their amphibious Urals. That’s right. They built platoon-like platforms to ride their Urals across rivers. How else would you get over large bodies of water on three wheels? This month, we got back in touch with Suzy, about this magnificent world-tour that began in 2014 and continues to this day.
YouMotorcycle: How did the amphibious Ural project go?
Suzy: Great! We got to test out the technicalities on the Fraser River. Our test drive did not last longer than 3 kilometers against the current before we had to get pulled out to shore by a neighbor’s Zodiac. Other than the fact that the engine was overheating the pontoons worked perfectly – our steering system was perfect – and the sense of driving a Ural on water was beyond awkward 🙂
A couple of weeks later we had our Russian visas ready and our bags jam packed with 250 kg of pontoons, custom made chains, sprockets and small propellers. Bonus: each of us was allowed to take a pair of underwear and socks!
YouMotorcycle: I can only imagine the shipping costs. Air Canada must have loved you.
Suzy: You know it. We headed out of Vancouver towards our first destination by air: Guangzhou Baiyun to Beijing (China). From there we took another flight to Vladivostok where we picked up another 3 pairs of pontoons (an addition of 100 kg to our luggage). From Vladivostok we flew out to Khabarovsk and another flight to Magadan. By the time we arrived in Magadan we all had x3 bigger biceps from carrying around all the puzzle pieces for our float…
YouMotorcycle: How did you feel about air travel after all of that?
Suzy: We all swore we’d never step in an airport again! But we reached Magadan and were eager to get things rolling. We finally got to meet our 4 “new” doppelgaenger Urals along with old friends at the local biker’s club. We also got to meet up with some good friends from Germany: Martin Henz – an electrical engineer from Bavaria who had replaced his BMW in Mongolia for a horse and then his horse for a Ural.
Suzy: We traveled a bit together up to Yaktusk last year and he wanted to join us for the Kolyma Challenge. This was really cool – his help with building the float, fixing the bikes and navigation was a great support! Then we also had A LOT of help from our good friend and publisher Tom Van Endert (aka the Ural Pope – he wrote the book “With Hammer and Key” which is all about Urals). So he had a nice holiday in Magadan by spending 20 hrs a day welding and getting the props in order…