Rally Indochina has one of the largest fleets of vintage Soviet motorcycles this side of the former Iron Curtain, including vintage 650cc Ural motorcycles, with and without sidecars, and dozens of modified 125cc Minsk motorcycles.
These bikes have a classic vintage look, lots of character and enough power to get you over the highest mountain passes. Both bikes are ideally suited to the road conditions in the northern mountains of Vietnam!
What exactly is a Ural?
The 650cc Ural first went into production in the Soviet Union during World War II, and was based on the German-made BMW R71 sidecar. Although initially built in Moscow, production was soon moved to a former brewery in Irbitz in order to avoid the Blitzkreig. The first M72 Urals went into service in October 1942, and almost 10,000 of the motorcycles saw action along the Eastern Front.
By 1950, the factory had made over 30,000 Urals and it began to focus on making motorcycles for the civilian market and exports. The original M72s were phased out for new improved models, and in 1957 the M72 production lines were sold to China.
Vietnam began to import large numbers of M67 Urals for use by the police and military in the late 1970s, when the Soviet Union was Vietnam’s largest trading partner. Over the past decade, the police bikes fell into disrepair and many ended up in the hands of collectors. Fortunately for us, organiser Explore Indochina snapped up some of these Urals and set about restoring them.
The Ural factory is now in private hands and is probably the only manufacturer of production sidecars still operating anywhere in the world. These iconic bikes are now gathering a strong following in the US, UK, NZ and Australia among fans of vintage bikes and outfits.
And what is a Minsk?
The 125cc Minsk is a direct descendent of the classic German-made DKW RT 125. At the end of World War II, the Allies took the plans for the RT 125 from the Germans as war reparations, and these plans were used as the basis for the British-made BSA Bantams, the Harley-Davidson Hummer, East German MZs and the Minsk M1A.
In 1951, the Soviets moved the M1A factory from Moscow to the newly built Motovelo plant in Minsk, Belarus. The original design of the M1A was updated in 1973 with the introduction of the MMVZ-3.111 model, and the factory was privatised in 2007.
The Minsk motorcycle was an incredibly popular bike in Vietnam, where it was imported as agricultural equipment. While it’s now rare to see them in the mountains, the two-stroke bike continues to enjoy cult status among young Vietnamese who are once again using the bikes to explore the country’s difficult terrain.
Our team of mechanics have perfected the Minsk over the years, making the seats more comfortable, improving the suspension, installing a four-stroke motor, more reliable electrics, push-button ignition, and disc brakes on the front. These little bikes can get over anything the northern mountains at us!