The history of Ural motorcycles begins in 1939 at the beginning of the Second World War. Sensing a German assault, Stalin ordered his armies to prepare for war, including exploiting all technological means possible. The Soviet ministry of defense organized high-level tests of all motorcycles of the time to see which suited the Soviet Union’s needs best.
According to conventional history, the rugged German BMW R71 won the competition and the Red Army secretly bought five of these bikes from a dealer in Sweden and brought them to Soviet territory amid the tightest security.
Soviet engineers in Moscow took these five German bikes apart and studied them. They examined them in the finest detail and made molds and equipment to manufacture their own engines and gearboxes in Moscow itself. Each part of the motorcycles was brought in line with Soviet standards and design philosophy.
At the beginning of 1941, the first Ural M72’s were shown to Stalin who immediately approved the production of these motorcycles for war. One of the original five BMW R71s still exists and is on display at the Ural factory’s museum in Irbit.
During the war, the Moscow factory produced hundreds of M72s but was soon within the range of German bombers. Soviet leaders quickly resolved to move the factory farther east to the safety of the Ural Mountains, rich in resources with which to build the bikes. They chose the little town of Irbit, in the foothills of the Urals beside the Siberian steppe.
On the 25th of October 1942, the first Urals were sent west to fight. During the war, 9799 M72s were sent to the front. It is thanks to their shining record in the war that these motorcycles acquired a worldwide reputation and were exported as early as 1953. Ural’s are still manufactured in Irbit, by hand to this day.