“Irbitski Mototsikletny Zavod”, the den of the Ural sidecars
After riding 2,500 kilometres towards East, we reached Irbit, place where our sidecars were made. The following day of our arrival in this city of 40,000 inhabitants located nearby the plains of Siberia, it was time to discover the den of the Ural sidecars.
We had an appointment at 10am, but without any news since a fefw days from Marina, our contact in the Ural manufacture, we were a bit worried. We crossed the city to reach the Ural manufacture. Just arrived on the parking and turned off our engines, Marina arrived with the Security Manager.
Only a sticker on a window of the building showed the name of the brand. The heavy blue metallic gates opened. Here, no sliding doors or patio doors. The reception area was not welcoming and gave the tone. The manufacture is not a place to promote the brand, no showroom or fancy marketing office, we were in a rustic atmosphere. The main entry is used every day by the manufacture employees. The hall was dark and there was only a security guard to welcome. His job was to ensure the good working of the metal detector gates. On the opposite side of the gates, a door going outside. We crossed the main courtyard. In the middle of this wide place, a platform with a M-72 motorbike lifted at 3m, the model of the beginning of the IMZ manufacture: Irbitski Mototsikletny Zavod (meaning the motorbike manufacture of Irbit). No doubt anymore, we were in the den!
We followed Marina and went to the assembly workshop. Once the main gate opened, the alarm rang meaning our arrival inside the building.
In front of us, a main alley with many shelves on each side. There were all the parts of our sidecars, ready to be assembled on the next frame available. The Ali Baba’s cave!
To finalise the assembly, the technicians do a full set of tests. The one for checking the breaks stayed in our memories. Going from the end of the main alley, the driver was going as fast as he could on a straight line of 50m and braked hardly leaving a trace of tyre rubber on the ground.
Once we explored the workshop, we asked Marina for doing some mechanics on our sidecars. We wanted to change our clutch starting to be tired after 8 months of travel. She suggested to us to park the sidecars in the main courtyard of the manufacture. After going around all the shutdown buildings, the witnesses of the glorious time of the manufacture, Emilie and Julien arrived by a gate and parked in the middle of the main courtyard.
We visited the offices of the engineers. By going outside of the building, the lunch break started and the workers of the manufacture went around our sidecars. Artem, a Russian traveler, joined us. He wanted to go to the most Eastern part of Russia with his Ural sidecar. We had a chat, in English, about our trips.
Enjoying our soup, we received a Whatsapp message from Marina. She told us the technicians will take care of the clutches of our sidecars. We will be able to collect them at 4pm. We were surprised by this message and a bit worried. It can be strange, but we were worried to let our sidecars in the hands of other guys, even if they were the Ural experts. Indeed, we got used to do everything by ourselves from the beginning of the trip.
To wait patiently, we decided to go to the motorbike museum, next door. But it was closed, like every Monday. We will go the following day. We had the feeling to be orphans, without our “babies”. At 2:30pm, while doing some shopping, Marina asked us to come back, to give the keys of the petrol tanks of our sidecars. As we were close-by, we arrived in the workshop just 5 minutes later. Our sidecars were there, surrounded by the technicians and engineers working on them. They were changing the clutches and the rocker arms. It was 6pm when we left the manufacture. The sidecars should be ready for the next day at 1pm.
At noon, Marina sent us a Whatsapp message to let us know our sidecars were ready. We stopped by a supermarket to get some chocolates for the manufacture workers and a bouquet of flowers for Marina. We withdrew a bundle of bills, quite small compared to the service given, to pay our debts for the repair. At the workshop, everyone was happy to get chocolates. A woman in charge of bringing the parts from the painting area to the assembly line, arrived discreetly, winked and took a batch of chocolates. We chatted with the engineer, the test driver and the workshop manager and thanked them for their work. A R&D engineer, being also pilot for the brand, invited us to follow him to his office. He showed us the itinerary to reach Aktau in Kazakhstan.
We left the manufacture at around 3pm and enjoyed the end of the afternoon to visit the motorbike museum. The atmosphere was like in the old time. The museum was full of Ural sidecars showing their evolution. Some foreign models including BMW sidecars and impressive sportive ones.
With this nostalgic atmosphere showing the glorious period of Ural, we ended our visit of Irbit.
The Orthodox mass of Cathedral of the Dormition in Iaroslavl
By exploring Russia, from a city to another one, we noticed how much the religious heritage was important. Churches were everywhere – old or modern, wooden or white. The majority of churches were Orthodox. This is the main religion of the country (70-80% of the population).
Along the Volga river, we enjoyed the beauty of the Cathedral of the Dormition. Its name come from the feast of the Dormition of Our Most Holy Lady, celebrated on the 15th of August, named Assumption for the catholic people. The cathedral has been built in 1215 at the confluence of both rivers surrounding the city, the Kotorosl and the Volga. The history of the building is linked to the relationship between the Orthodox churches and the Russian history. With the fall of the Tsar, the Soviet revolution brought the atheism in the country, persecuting the believers and sacking the religious buildings. The Cathedral of the Dormition has not been saved and has been destroyed in 1937.
After the fall of the USSR in 1991, the Orthodox churches rose. A new and bigger Cathedral of the Dormition has been built in 2004. Indeed, when we discovered it, between the trees and isolated at an extremity of the park of Strelka, we were impressed by its majesty. In the middle of the square, the white walls with an impressive golden dome invited us to explore more.
We went up the stairs to enter inside. To respect the traditions, we removed our caps and the girls covered their hairs with a scarf.
Surprisingly, the cathedral was bright inside. Many religious icons decorated the walls. Painted on wood, their gilts enlightened the white walls.
In the middle of the Cathedral, like in any Russian churches, there was the sanctuary whose the entrance was forbidden by an iconostasis. This is an important symbol of Orthodox churches. It’s made of several layers with icons placed on top of each other, in the middle there are two holy gates.
While watching all the details of the decoration in the main nave, we were surprised to see the bishop followed by the other members of the clergy.
Reunited in the middle of the cathedral, in a space without a bench or a chair, we attended the beginning of the Mass with believers standing up.
Like the Catholicism and the Protestantism, the Orthodox religion is coming from the Bible. But here the service is very different and named the Divine Liturgy. First, the mystical atmosphere was intense with the solemnity of the priest and the lighting effects of the candles, the icons and the smoke escaping from the incense. In addition, the texts were sung, not only the hymns but also the prayers and the readings of the Bible. Songs were therefore omnipresent, which made this moment impressive and dynamic. During the service, and after some research on internet, we attended the blessing of the opening, the proclamation of the epiclesis when the doors of the sanctuaries opened, and then the communion. At this specific moment, we were surprised to see all the believers getting closer to the middle of the building. Embarrassed, we preferred to go back to the entrance of the Cathedral, we attended the bishop’s procession around the believers, carrying the chalice and the paten followed by the priests and deacons, one of them was filling the Cathedral with smoke by balancing his censer and thus blessing the assembly.
Once the procession was over, we tried, as discreetly as possible, to return outside. Unfortunately the imposing entrance gates of the building did not facilitate our task.
Skateboarding session on the straight roads of taiga
The road trip started without them. South America has been crossed without skateboards. Quickly, we missed it. Riding was the leitmotiv of this trip; taking his board on his motorbike and during some skateboarding session, to touch the asphalt with the finger was the logic extension of this trip.
The sweet smell of adventure with the good perfume of asphalt. A picture smelling like the rebel spirit of an American road-trip movie. But this time, the playground was in Russia.
The first spot was a few kilometers from Leninskoye, a small town lost in the middle of the taiga. At the end of the afternoon marked by a quick mechanic session, we had to change our mind. Nothing is better that an improvised skateboarding session at sunset for that… It was between the motel and the Lukoil petrol station that, with Julien, we went looking for the closest downhill with the skateboards under our feet. Due to the trip, it was not with my usual Vans shoes but with runners bought in Chile that I started to push. Followed by a gain of speed, before to carve and execute the first turn. As I did not go to the barbershop, it is with the hair blew by the wind squatting on the board, that I grazed the macadam for expressing my love to it. The feelings were back, a magic moment! From down to uphill, it was time to go back. In front of us, the beam of the drivers lighted us up before to disappear at the next bend. Once we were back at the petrol station, it was time to restart again until we were full of adrenaline at dusk.
A bit before Yekaterinburg, a break in the middle of the taiga was the perfect opportunity to take out our skateboards. We used a straight road with a smooth and long downhill between the pine trees. We have definitely transformed this great and surrealist landscape as a great playground with our different vehicles. Its asphalt was not a great quality, but as said Paul Verlaine: “destroyed asphalt, here is my road – with the heaven at the end.”