The history of sidecar motorcycles began during World War II when the Russian government appropriated German BMW R71 motorcycle technology. In 1939, sensing a German assault, Stalin ordered his armies to prepare for war—this included 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 sidecar history, the rugged German BMW R71 won this competition and the Red Army secretly bought five of these sidecar motorcycle bikes from a dealer in Sweden. They then smuggled the sidecar motorcycles into Soviet territory under tight security.
Next Soviet engineers in Moscow took the sidecar motorcycles apart, examining them in the finest detail and making molds and equipment to manufacture their own engines and gearboxes. Each part of the new sidecar motorcycles was created with Soviet standards and design philosophy in mind.
At the beginning of 1941, Stalin was shown the first Ural M72s 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.
Throughout the rest of the war, the Moscow factory produced hundreds of these M72s…but the factory was soon within the range of German bombers. To escape this threat, Soviet leaders quickly resolved to move the sidecar motorcycle 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 Ural motorcycles 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 sidecar motorcycles acquired worldwide acclaim and began being exported as early as 1953. Ural motorcycles are still manufactured in Irbit, by hand, to this day.