JAWA 350 RETRO

More about the man­ner of go­ing than the go­ing it­self. Frank West­worth has been rid­ing along mem­ory lane with a rein­car­na­tion of an old friend…

Real Classic - - Contents - Pho­tos by Frank West­worth

More about the man­ner of go­ing than the go­ing it­self. Frank West­worth has been rid­ing along mem­ory lane with a rein­car­na­tion of an old friend…

The doorbell of my par­ents’ house in Taun­ton chimed. I an­swered it, sure it was for me. It was for me. I can read the fu­ture. ‘Hi Frank,’ a po­lice­man in uni­form, com­plete with sergeant’s stripes on his sleeves was stand­ing there, grin­ning. He’d been in my class at school. I sug­gested that he’d done well, at­tain­ing the three stripes of su­pe­ri­or­ity so soon – it was only five years or so since we’d all left that ed­u­ca­tional es­tab­lish­ment. He grinned more, and we chat­ted with an­i­ma­tion for a while.

‘We’ve found your bike,’ he re­vealed at last. I grinned back, and won­dered whether he’d give me a lift in his panda car so that I could col­lect it. He shook his head, the smile fad­ing. He shrugged.

‘It was dumped in the canal.’

I stared. Not a lit­tle be­wil­dered. ‘Doubt it’ll run,’ he added, and I just nod­ded. Mov­ing back­wards in time only a lit­tle, I can re­veal that the pre­vi­ous day I’d rid­den my bike down from North Wales, where I was res­i­dent at the time, to visit my par­ents, as a chap should. It had been a spec­tac­u­larly dull trip, barely bear­able un­til I rolled along the nearly new M5 south of Bris­tol, rapidly gave it up as a bad idea, and saved my san­ity by pro­ceed­ing along the al­most empty A38, bless­ing the fact that all the through-traf­fic had mi­grated to the mo­tor­way.

Ar­rived at the fam­ily house, did the friendly son rou­tine, popped out for a brief evening with a long-time pal and rat­tled back nice and early so I could catch my dad as he re­turned from his evening shift. He ar­rived home – aboard his Honda scooter-thing – and looked sur­prised to see me. ‘Where’s the bike?’ he won­dered.

We sham­bled out to ad­mire and in­deed in­spect the drive­way, where it had been. And where it wasn’t. My dad called upon the con­stab­u­lary, with the re­sult you al­ready know. Some­one had lifted it, de­spite the steer­ing lock, and had plainly rid­den it as far as the canal, where they’d parked it. I could un­der­stand that, and re­marked in one of my very ear­li­est ex­cur­sions into the world of print that if I ever met the crook I’d stand him a pint. The bike? A 350 Jawa. Nearly new. This was the roast­ing sum­mer of 1976. With parental as­sis­tance I rode home a few days later aboard a near-new Tri­umph 750 Bon­neville, which was at least ca­pa­ble of mo­tor­way cruis­ing…

Imag­ine, if you can, my sur­prise and de­light when I ob­served that North Corn­wall

Mo­tor­cy­cles – based in sunny Bude – had a 350 Jawa in stock! I was gen­uinely amazed – even more amazed when I un­der­stood that this was no seven­ties relic. No, this was an al­most new one, al­though to be hon­est it re­sem­bled my old one to an al­most un­com­fort­able de­gree. Of course I was in­trigued. Of course I in­stantly asked to bor­row it, and of course Steve at NCMC agreed. I was aware that David An­gel’s F2 Mo­tor­cy­cles im­ported these ma­chines, and in­deed he and I had ac­tu­ally talked vaguely about my bor­row­ing one, but he’s a long way away from RCHQ Bude … un­like NCMC and their in­trigu­ing ex­am­ple.

And un­like most ‘retro’ ma­chines, this is ac­tu­ally ex­tremely close to the ear­lier Jawa twins. Un­can­nily so, in fact. I walked around it, tak­ing in the mod­ern ver­sion while my mem­ory au­to­mat­i­cally com­pared it with the ma­chine from the re­mote past. They are very close, much closer than, say, a mod­ern RE Bul­let in retro guise is to a 1970s sur­vivor of that ilk. Ev­ery com­po­nent is prob­a­bly dif­fer­ent, but the core of the ma­chine is still the 343cc twin-cylin­der 2-stroke en­gine. It still drives its 4-speed gear­box by chain, and the gear­box also sup­plies power to the rear wheel by an­other sim­ple chain – but a fully en­closed and lu­bri­cated chain, which should last for a very long time, given the en­gine’s smooth power de­liv­ery.

The most ob­vi­ous changes be­tween my 1975 ma­chine and the 2014 model seen here lie in the im­por­tant start­ing and stop­ping de­part­ments. Whereas my old ma­chine re­quired the op­er­a­tion of the slightly un­usual kick­start lever – more on that later – the new one has an elec­tric start. And very ef­fec­tive it is too. Whereas the old Jawa had a to­tally un­re­mark­able 2ls drum to han­dle the stop­ping, which it did only grudg­ingly, the mod­ern ma­chine boasts a sin­gle disc, which boded well for my ride, I de­cided.

Steve from NCMC con­fessed that he knew lit­tle about the bike, but showed me where the mix­ture en­rich­ment de­vice lives (at the side of the sin­gle carb – a sim­ple flick-up lever), as well as apol­o­gis­ing for the en­tirely bizarre mir­rors. Which are pre­sum­ably a pre­vi­ous owner’s idea of the high style, be­cause Jawa fit their bikes with en­tirely con­ven­tional round mir­rors on sen­si­bly long stalks! Not to worry.

Start­ing is sim­ple. En­rich the mix­ture (lift the lit­tle lever), prod the but­ton and mar­vel at the un­mis­take­able clas­sic ca­dence of a 2-stroke twin bur­bling away. We all know what the ex­hausts sound like, of course, but a mi­nor de­light is the al­most to­tal ab­sence of me­chan­i­cal noise from the en­gine. Pull on gloves, fol­low the in­struc­tion to shut off the ‘choke’ as soon as I’m ready to ride off – be­cause it’s not easy to do this from the sad­dle while rid­ing along – and ob­serve with a lit­tle re­lief that the en­gine slows down and set­tles at once to a de­lighted pop­pop-pop­ping, just like stro­kers did be­fore the fiendish Ori­en­tals started ex­tract­ing in­sane lev­els of power from them. Pop-pop-pop it went. I smiled.

Clutch time.

Do you know about Jawa (and CZ) clutches? They are fascinatin­g de­vices – at least their re­lease mech­a­nisms are. You can see the lever

on the left-hand han­dle­bar? Great. That does ex­actly what you ex­pect it do; the clutch is a con­ven­tional multi-plate de­sign and per­forms as you’d ex­pect it to. Ex­cept…

The very first Jawa I rode was back in the mid-1970s, and was a 2-stroke 250 sin­gle of enor­mous charm and re­silience. It was also free, which was part of that charm. The first time I rode it, af­ter get­ting it run­ning, a sim­ple process in­volv­ing clean­ing the points and cooking a spark plug, as I recall, and a cer­tain amount of run­ning and bump­ing (I was a lot younger then) be­cause it boasted nei­ther an elec­tric hoof nor a lever for con­ven­tional kick, I bur­bled along in a se­ries of wild and tune­ful swoops be­cause the clutch was slip­ping like a well-oiled eel and headed for the doughty Ted Wil­liams, bike shop pro­pri­etor in Wrex­ham, where I lived at the time. I ar­rived, puff­ing, pant­ing, a tad ter­ri­fied, and begged him to take a look at the clutch. Prefer­ably a free look if at all pos­si­ble.

I de­scribed the symp­toms. He stared at me pity­ingly. Nod­ded. Re­marked that I’d plainly never en­coun­tered such a fine eastern Euro­pean mar­vel be­fore. I agreed that I had not, but I had briefly owned a 250 Puch split-sin­gle so was no green onion, me. He just laughed. And smoked.

He did both of these things with the ease of long habit, down there in that long-gone Cam­brian Yard hide­away. Then he walked to the Jawa, ap­plied his right foot to the gear lever, twitched an an­kle and flicked the lever up­right. ‘Kick­start,’ he said, gen­tly. He op­er­ated it. The en­gine started. He flicked the lever back to its hor­i­zon­tal po­si­tion. ‘Gear­lever,’ he said, gen­tly. I was amazed. Youth­ful in­no­cence takes many forms.

Grasp­ing my ten­u­ous grip on re­al­ity with grit­ted teeth, I en­quired about the slip­ping clutch. Ted sat on the bike, tick­ing over like a 2-stroke metronome, and folded his arms. Then he put it into gear. I stepped back. The Jawa stayed where it was. Ted pointed at his foot, rest­ing on the gear lever, and raised his foot slightly. The bike pulled away. I was more amazed. Life is like that when you’re young.

The mod­ern Jawa re­tains both of these ap­par­ently point­less but plainly pop­u­lar fea­tures. I had of course for­got­ten about them and have plainly got back into that old bad habit of rest­ing a toe on the gear lever while rid­ing – which makes the clutch slip, pro­duc­ing progress in a se­ries of in­sane but en­ter­tain­ing swoops. By the time I re­mem­bered my long-ago les­son from Ted Wil­liams I was head­ing south on the At­lantic High­way. And I was en­joy­ing my­self.

The en­gine is ex­actly as my mem­ory re­mem­bers my own 350 Jawa, back be­fore it was a retro. It pulls re­ally well. It is re­mark­ably smooth. The virtues it pos­sessed back then it still re­tains. This is not a bit like a Japanese sport­ing stro­ker – the en­gine pulls from noth­ing and sim­ply four-strokes once it’s reached what­ever it con­sid­ers to be peak revs. It is … time­less, some­how. This is not ac­tu­ally a retro

– it is a relic. And that is not said un­kindly. This is – apart from the elec­tric hoof, sundry odd­i­ties which I’ll get to in a minute and the disc brake – func­tion­ally al­most ex­actly as it was in the 1970s. It is im­mensely like­able, too.

The un­usual gearchange mech­a­nism – where the lever also op­er­ates the clutch – means that you never need to use the han­dle­bar lever to shift ra­tios when on the move. I am as­sured that ex­pe­ri­enced rid­ers can pull away us­ing the gear lever as a foot clutch, al­though I doubt that cable snap­page is suf­fi­ciently com­mon for that to be a sell­ing point.

And there are just four gears. They’re wellspaced, and the en­gine needs no more of them, given its wide spread of both torque and power. En­gage­ment is bru­tal – but you are left

in no doubt that ra­tios have changed, and I am again as­sured that with prac­tice comes per­fec­tion. What is also a lit­tle re­mark­able is that there ap­pear to be two neu­trals, one in the usual place be­tween first and second gears, the other be­tween third and top. I was chat­ting ether­i­cally with David An­gel of F2 Mo­tor­cy­cles and im­porter of these re­mark­able ma­chines, and he sug­gested that the neu­tral be­tween third and top gears is to en­able the en­gine to idle when on a long de­scent, where as the throt­tle is closed, thus lim­it­ing the oil feed from the pump, dam­age could re­sult from load­ing said en­gine while not oil­ing it prop­erly. Which makes per­fect sense, so long as you un­der­stand the en­gi­neers’ think­ing. Again, fa­mil­iar­ity breeds con­tent.

I men­tioned sundry odd­i­ties a lit­tle ear­lier. The tra­di­tional – and in­deed hand­some – ana­logue clocks of the older ma­chines have been re­placed by a se­ri­ously strange dig­i­tal dash. I have no idea why. The speedo worked per­fectly, but the tacho (a sort-of bar chart) didn’t, not that a tacho is im­por­tant on a ma­chine like this. And this par­tic­u­lar ex­am­ple was sport­ing a very silly set of mir­rors. They flapped around in a pleas­antly en­ter­tain­ing way, but

were no use at all for that look­ing be­hind thing, where mir­rors are so of­ten help­ful.

Com­fort is ex­cel­lent. The rider’s pos­ture is ex­actly as you would ex­pect from a mo­tor­cy­cle in­tended for daily use, year in, year out, what­ever the weather, day or night. Al­though the quoted seat height is a lofty 34 inches, the ma­chine is light and very nar­row as well as boast­ing al­most no bulk at all, so it feels lower than it is. Re­mem­ber at this point that Jawa / CZ were long-time builders of great off-road mo­tor­cy­cles, and they have plainly not for­got­ten how to do this. So you also get su­perb steer­ing – re­ally, that’s not be­ing flip­pant at all – very good brak­ing at both ends, and you get that rar­ity, a fully en­closed, and in­deed lu­bri­cated, rear chain. The Jawa is truly a fine ex­am­ple of the way most mo­tor­cy­cles were back when they were de­signed, in­tended and in­deed built for longterm all-weather trans­port.

Con­clu­sions? At the end of my time with the bike I was thor­oughly en­joy­ing my­self – the rid­ing ex­pe­ri­ence is de­cently unique. Al­though no modernist is go­ing to feel a crazed adren­a­line thrill at the thought of 23bhp @ 5250rpm, re­mem­ber that this is as much as a de­cent clas­sic ohv 500 sin­gle, and matches re­ally well with the 32NM @ 4750rpm – torque spread and power ‘band’ over­lap ex­cel­lently,

pro­vid­ing a very ‘clas­sic’ en­gine feel, with steady per­for­mance de­liv­ery from very low revs. Ex­cept that this is a 2-stroke twin, not, for ex­am­ple, an RE Bul­let.

And yes, that is in­deed a car­bu­ret­tor, not a fuel in­jec­tion sys­tem. And yes, those are re­mov­able baf­fles in the ex­hausts, so you can clean them, just as Vil­liers pi­lots did all those years ago. Al­though mod­ern 2-stroke oils are pretty good, very low ash, and so long as you let the au­tol­ube de­vice get on with it, I’d doubt that the ex­hausts coke up much – if at all. There was no smoke from the ex­hausts, ei­ther.

Al­though I ex­pected noth­ing more than a fun trip down mem­ory lane, I found my­self amused and en­ter­tained by this, the Jawa 350 Retro. It de­mands to be un­der­stood – you’ll not enjoy rid­ing it un­less you’re pre­pared to learn how and why it does what it does – but like al­most all 2-stroke twins, it is in fact a real charmer. Clas­sic, al­most…

sight on Two-stroketwin­s were on­cea­com­mon UK roads.Verysim­ple,ro­bust de­sign. Ex­cel­lent cast­ing qual­ity, too An en­gine to ap­peal to any­one in­ter­ested in me­chan­i­cal longevity and great sim­plic­ity De­fine it as you will, the Jawa 350 has a style all its own

En­gine lu­bri­ca­tion is au­to­matic. The oil lives in its own tank, and a pump de­liv­ers it

As with most stro­ker twins, they’re re­ally two sin­gles on a com­mon crank­case. Two bar­rels, two heads – and in this case a starter mo­tor too

Mul­ti­pur­pose. The gear lever is also the kick­start lever. Or is it the other way around?

Han­dle­bar fur­ni­ture adds a pe­cu­liar at­tempt at moder­nity. The switchgear works fine, but the dig­i­tal dash is well out of place on such an au­then­tic ma­chine

De­cently ef­fec­tive front end in­cludes a long-travel fork and a disc brake, which is graced with ABS, too

The carb (!) is a sim­ple de­sign, com­plete with a small black plas­tic lever to lift for cold starts. As soon as the en­gine’s run­ning it can be flicked off, which is just as well, as it’s awk­ward to reach from the sad­dle

Thanks to Steve at North Corn­wall Mo­tor­cy­cles for an in­ter­est­ing day out! Find them at ncmc. co.uk, 01288 355162 or info@ncmc.co.uk Signs of its time.Aful­lyen­closedand lubed rear chain, and­when did youlast­see asi­lencer with abaf­flere­mov­able for clean­ing,rather thanfor more noise?

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