MZ ES250

Real Classic - - Contents - Pho­tos by Henry Greg­son, RC RChive

The stal­wart two-stroke stinkwheel has con­verted an­other rider to the de­lights of old bikes. Henry Greg­son re­ports on this way to en­joy clas­sic bik­ing on a bud­get

The stal­wart two-stroke stinkwheel has con­verted an­other rider to the de­lights of old bikes. Henry Greg­son re­ports on this way to en­joy clas­sic bik­ing on a bud­get

How many times has some­one told you that they would love to own a clas­sic bike but they couldn’t af­ford one? With the cost of pur­chas­ing an old Bri­tish bike con­stantly climb­ing, ex­otic Ital­ian clas­sics fetch­ing eye-wa­ter­ing fig­ures, and Ja­panese bikes rapidly ap­pre­ci­at­ing in value, it’s not hard to un­der­stand this view, es­pe­cially as for the new owner the costs may in­clude rid­ing cloth­ing and hel­met as well as the bike it­self. How­ever, it doesn’t have to be like that. Clas­sic bik­ing can be done on a very nable bud­get if hori­zons are broad­ened e and am­bi­tions are ad­justed. e fea­tured bike is a 1973 250cc MZ ES hy De Lux and was pur­chased for only 0 as a non-run­ner. There was no spark ing at the plug and none of the lights ed, so it was ob­vi­ous that the electrics in need of some at­ten­tion. A new ry and a splash of pre-mix was all it took t the ma­chine run­ning and most of the s work­ing again. The lights which still n’t work­ing were sorted by the pur­chase w bulbs, so on the elec­tri­cal front this nly the in­di­ca­tors re­quir­ing at­ten­tion. oser in­spec­tion of the wiring har­ness ed that many ad­di­tions had been made e orig­i­nal loom, with up to four dif­fer­ent urs be­ing used in just one ca­ble run! The on’ in­di­ca­tor bulbs had been re­placed LEDs but there was no ev­i­dence of a er unit in the sys­tem. On top of that, me of the ‘new’ wiring wasn’t con­nected ny­thing at ei­ther end. Most strange. , I sup­pose that these things are to be ected af­ter 44 years of other peo­ple’s ging… morn­ing’s work saw the add-on wiring ked and the sur­plus ripped out, a flasher and new bulbs in­stalled, new brake gs and a rear tyre fit­ted. Then with a quick and tyre pres­sure check the MZ was y for its MoT. To­tal cost? Less than £1150.

It has to be ac­knowl­edged that MZs are not high on most peo­ple’s list of de­sir­able clas­sic bikes, but just con­sider what you are get­ting for such a rel­a­tively low out­lay. Of­ten un­fairly re­garded as prim­i­tive ma­chines, usu­ally be­cause of their low price, it can be ar­gued that MZ cre­ated the racing two-stroke en­gine de­sign which most other man­u­fac­tur­ers copied. As the his­tory of the mar­que fea­tured in RC154-156 has shown, MZ has an en­vi­able com­pe­ti­tion record.

This ES has some sur­pris­ing re­fine­ments, all as stan­dard fit­ments; al­loy rims, in­di­ca­tors and a front brake that has all its work­ing parts en­closed in the hub. Yes, you did read that right. The ca­ble feeds into the brake plate and the en­tire brake op­er­at­ing mech­a­nism is en­closed in­side the hub. It’s re­ally neat and tidy. Makes you won­der why more man­u­fac­tur­ers didn’t do the same thing. Al­though the rear brake has a more con­ven­tional set-up, with the brake arm be­ing ex­ter­nally po­si­tioned, the brake light switch is po­si­tioned within in the hub work­ing from the brake cam, and the rear wheel is to­tally QD. The wheel’s de­sign may have been in­spired by the works ISDT bikes; it’s cer­tainly sim­ple in op­er­a­tion and very ef­fec­tive. The rear chain is to­tally en­closed and is there­fore not sub­jected to the rigours of road grit and rain.

Pretty it might not be, but this bike was de­signed to be bul­let­proof and to pro­vide re­li­able, cheap, every­day trans­port. As an his­toric ve­hi­cle, there is no road fund li­cence to pur­chase. The cur­rent owner al­ready has a bike so the MZ was added to his ex­ist­ing in­sur­ance pol­icy, which cost him around £30. A bar­gain all round!

Even if you’re new to clas­sic mo­tor­cy­cling and need to pur­chase pro­tec­tive cloth­ing, the ne­ces­si­ties can be snapped up in the sales and es­pe­cially at shows and jum­bles for rea­son­able prices. If my maths is cor­rect, this means the cost of the MZ, plus cloth­ing, in­sur­ance and an MoT, is less than £1500. Let me check that again! Yes, less than £1500 to get on the road with a per­fectly us­able clas­sic mo­tor­cy­cle, one which would be a bit of a con­ver­sa­tion piece at the lo­cal bike meets. To put that in per­spec­tive, a friend re­cently sold a clas­sic racing bi­cy­cle for £2000. Now which would you rather have?

You may sneer at the idea of an MZ, but are the de­risory com­ments thrown at the brand jus­ti­fied? The cur­rent owner shared his thoughts with me about his ES, which is his first clas­sic bike. He reck­ons that al­though the MZ was orig­i­nally built a ride-to-work trans­port, com­mut­ing nowa­days is prob­a­bly no longer its ideal role. It doesn’t fail badly in this, it’s just that the brakes are not up to mod­ern traf­fic con­di­tions in town. Hav­ing to mix two-stroke oil into the petrol every time the tank is topped up can be con­sid­ered a bit of a fag as well, so for com­mut­ing there are much bet­ter op­tions avail­able.

But as a bud­get clas­sic… well, that’s a whole dif­fer­ent ball game! The MZ re­ally does fit this role pretty much per­fectly. It’s pow­ered by a 250cc sin­gle cylin­der two-stroke en­gine and has a four-speed gear­box. Sus­pen­sion

is by Ear­les-type forks at the front and by a con­ven­tional swing­ing arm at the rear with ad­justable damper units. Electrics are 6V and the ig­ni­tion switch is com­bined with the light­ing one, sit­u­ated in the head­lamp and us­ing the bike’s ig­ni­tion key as the mas­ter for both func­tions.

The han­dle­bars are cov­ered by a small mould­ing, which means that the elec­tri­cal wiring is neatly hid­den mak­ing the area ap­pear very tidy, par­tic­u­larly as the speedome­ter is also built into the head­light. Wiring for the bar-end in­di­ca­tors is routed in­side the han­dle­bars, just be­fore the han­dle­bar cover ends. Mud­guards are deeply valanced, pro­vid­ing ex­cel­lent weather pro­tec­tion, and the bat­tery is hid­den un­der an eas­ily ac­ces­si­ble plas­tic side cover on the left of the ma­chine.

The MZ’s per­for­mance, while not quite up to Ja­panese 250 stan­dards, is quite ac­cept­able and the bike is sur­pris­ingly lively. The owner says the en­gine is rea­son­ably smooth, not too revvy, and pulls cleanly through the gears. The gear­box works as it should with no crunches or false neu­trals. The ES han­dles well, and is sur­pris­ingly com­fort­able to ride. Of course, as an added bonus, run­ning costs are min­i­mal too. The only thing which isn’t quite up to scratch is the brak­ing. Given that the shoes are new they may bed in and im­prove. The owner even thinks that the MZ looks lovely too… they do say that beauty is in the eye of the be­holder!

The MZ’s rugged fin­ish and lack of chrome, al­lied to the bul­let­proof en­gi­neer­ing and easy start­ing, make this the ideal bike for win­ter rid­ing. Salt? Pah, no prob­lem. A quick wash and the MZ is sorted. Leave it out in the rain? If you must. If you want to keep your best bike look­ing im­mac­u­late and still ride a clas­sic through the win­ter, what could be bet­ter? Ugly duck­ling it may be, but at less than £1500 on the road, this MZ shows that the days of the af­ford­able old bike haven’t yet quite passed into his­tory…

As there are no tele fork legs, there’s no top yoke, so the rider’s view is as un­fa­mil­iar as the front sus­pen­sion it­self. Ev­ery­thing is very neat, very tidy and well en­gi­neered – the choke lever is a sim­ple de­light in al­loy. The switch at the front con­trols ig­ni­tion and lights, and as was the Euro­pean way back then, the switch knob is also the key and is re­mov­able

In fact, the front brake ca­ble dis­ap­pears into the drum it­self. You can see the op­er­at­ing mech­a­nism all neat, dry and snug in­side, away from the el­e­ments

A closer look at the front end shows how the forks work, with a pair of sus­pen­sion units work­ing be­tween the wheel spin­dle and a se­ri­ously sub­stan­tial cast­ing. Also ob­serve the oil drips on the front of the crank­case (from the ex­haust pipe / head joint) and the front brake ca­ble, which ap­pears to go nowhere…

Qual­ity is ev­ery­where in these ma­chines, from the high fin­ish of the al­loy cast­ings to the ex­cel­lence of the en­gi­neer­ing ev­ery­where. It just looks a lit­tle strange – can you work out how the en­gine is mounted into the frame?

Left: This truly is an all­weather every­day rid­ing ma­chine; with very lit­tle chrome plate to suf­fer in the salty winters of east­ern Europe. Gen­er­ous finning en­sures that over-heat­ing is never a prob­lem, and the footrests are well po­si­tioned for com­fort and con­trol

Right: MZ’s Ear­les fork front ends look a lit­tle strange to mod­ern eyes, but in fact they work very well. Steer­ing is ac­cu­rate and sus­pen­sion sup­ple

Al­though some may crit­i­cise the MZ’s styling as be­ing a lit­tle strange, it was no more so than a lot of other Euro­pean mo­tor­cy­cles of its day. MZ sim­ply took longer to change to a more mod­ern ap­pear­ance than most of the ri­vals

Left: In­side the head­light hous­ing: sort­ing the el­derly wiring As we’ve said be­fore,be­fore East­ern bloc twot­wostrokes are def­i­nitely de­vel­op­ing a cult fol­low­ing, so you won’t find many for sale on eBay these days. Try the MZ Rid­ers’ Club (mzrid­er­sclub.com), or Clas­sic Su­per Bikes have this 1973 ES 250/2 Tro­phy up for grabs at £2500. It’s in ‘ex­cel­lent work­ing or­der’ and it’s un­usual to find one which is this ‘orig­i­nal and un­mo­lested.’ 01252 625444

Al­though the op­er­at­ing lever of the rear brake is out­side the drum in the con­ven­tional way, the brake light switch is tucked away within

Above: All the clever en­gi­neer­ing and thought­ful de­sign brought its own re­wards – as seen here

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