Here are some photos of these retro motorcycles. The Ural are newly manufactured in Russia, using largely Western components, while the CJ-750 (Chang Jiang) are the original version and are still widely available in China.|
These motorcycles have an interesting history, beginning before World War II. When Russia realised in the late 1930s that a war with Germany was inevitable, they recognised their great need for motorcyles to cross so much of their Eastern territory. At the time, Russia had no adequate motorcyles for such use.
Russia was already on poor terms with Germany and would be unable to import the vehicles they needed. So the Russians sent envoys to Germany from other European countries, and bought several of the best models from the BMW company. These were then sent secretly to Russia.
The Russians reverse-engineered the motorcycles, down to the last small part, and began full-scale production of several models. At a later date, Russia sold to China the plans and manufacturing facilities for one of these models, and this became the renowned CJ-750 which was manufactured in China in huge numbers. They were used by the military for quite some years until they became outdated, but by then there were zillions all over the country and they developed a following.
These are still widely available today, for as little as 800 RMB ($110.00) for an unmaintained original model, or as much as 8,000 RMB ($1,100) for a refurbished one. By contrast, the new Urals exported from Russia sell for about US$25,000 in The USA and Canada. Most of the components are purchased from the West - brakes, lights, suspension, etc., and then assembled on a Russian-built frame.
At least one company in Beijing is refurbishing and/or remanufacturing these CJ models, and also making some new ones. They're attractive for the retro (old-style) appearance and for the sidecar - which is a real novelty. They aren't particularly powerful or fast, but they are very enjoyable transportation.
I much prefer the original ones because of the appeal. It is so cool to see these cycles with the sidecar, and it would be so much fun to tour the countryside with one (and a trusting friend to ride in the car). A friend's father had one, and she told me he took her for a ride down a country road somewhere and rolled it into a ride paddy.
Here's the link for the new Russian ones.