Owning a Ural makes you do strange things. Often, you find yourself turning off a perfectly serviceable road that leads somewhere and down a track that doesn’t. Just to see what’s there.
This happened to me yesterday.
I was out for one of those “for the hell of it” rides. Just a head-clearing, bit of space to think sort of ride. And there’s something unstressed and, well, slow about the Ural that makes it perfect for that sort of wool-gathering. Try it on a Fireblade and you’ll end up as jam, but you can get away with a lot on something Russian that moves at the speed of a glacier.
I’d ridden through Carterton. This is a good thing to do. And, as I was rounding a bend I spotted a sign, half-hidden in the hedges, for Shilton. Now, I know that Shilton has a ford. To be fair, this is all I know about Shilton.
Fords, for most motorcyclists, are things of greasy, weedy-bottomed terror. What looks like shallow water and a simple crossing often conceals rocks, ruts and ridges that’ll throw you off like a diesel-spattered high street. On three wheels, though, a ford is an event. And one to be enjoyed.
So I snicked the gearbox into first and let the engine braking take me down the tight, narrow hill that leads to the ford. Actually, that’s a lie. You don’t snick a Ural box. They don’t do snicking. They do ‘throttle off – blip – pause – two – three – four – ker-LUNK”. Imagine Ivan kicking a blast furnace door onto its latch with a size-12 engineer boot. That’s the idea.
I rolled and wound down the hill and found Shilton Ford. And gorgeous it was too. There were even spectators.
One of the lovely thing about a combo is that it makes everyone smile. So, instead of grumpy people annoyed that their weekend pic-nic was being disturbed by noisy motorcycles, they waved. And grinned. There were some children, paddling and scooping around with fishing nets too, just to complete the rural idyll. And to stop me ragging through as fast as I could.
So I waited for the children to hop up onto the bank, and let out the clutch. The water came about 6″ up the wheels, and the combo pushed through without breaking step, cascading water in a glistening, dancing bow-wave. I whooped out loud for the sheer bloody joy of it and gunned the bike up the other side of the ford and up the hill towards the old RAF Broadwell. The people sitting by the ford clapped and waved.
I don’t think much happens in Shilton.
I crested the top of the hill and stopped. The bike was still hissing quietly as water dripped off the mudguards onto the exhaust. I’d planned to go and find the old Operations Block at Broadwell to take some photos. I sat there, happily, enjoying the West Oxfordshire leafyness and enjoying the memory of the ford. And, instead of heading on to Broadwell I did what any self-respecting Uralist would do at this point.
I went straight back and did it again.
So when is a Ural not a Ural? You’ve guessed by now, surely? If not – e-mail me.