Ollie glances back­wards through the smoky haze of his­tory to recall his MZ years…

Real Classic - - Contents -

Ollie glances back­wards through the smoky haze of his­tory to recall his MZ years…

Most peo­ple can re­mem­ber their first bike, of­ten with con­sid­er­able af­fec­tion. Mine was an MZ TS150 Eagle, which was the posh one in lus­trous black with the rev counter and the chrome tank pan­els. It cost me £349.99 and I loved it. It took me every­where, and I mean every­where. I went from Land’s End to John O’Groats on it and won a long-dis­tance award for rid­ing from Ex­eter to a rally in Bux­ton. In Fe­bru­ary. It only ever broke down af­ter I’d tried to do any work on it. And then I stuffed it into a grass verge in a burst of spir­ited en­thu­si­asm one night, and that was that.

Years passed. And then I ac­quired my second MZ for a ten­ner. This was a 1973 ES250/2 Tro­phy, one of those cu­ri­ous beasts with lead­ing link forks and a vast front mud­guard. It had been sprayed matt black and came with three tea chests full of spares and three spare wheels. I stashed the tea chests and wheels in my shower and looked for­ward to a jolly sum­mer of blue smoke and belt­ing around on my bar­gain buy.

Like my TS150, much of the bike ap­peared to have been carved from chunks of solid alu­minium, pos­si­bly with a chisel. I did won­der for years where the East Ger­mans got all this alu­minium from, and be­ing one brought up on Fritz-bash­ing copies of the Vic­tor and Bat­tle Pic­ture Li­brary, I’d as­sumed it was all a lot of melted down post-war scrap. I’ve sub­se­quently dis­cov­ered that most of it would have come from the Hun­gar­ian and Ro­ma­nian bauxite mines and DDR smelters. They had lots of the stuff. Stylis­ti­cally, the ES250/2 is ac­tu­ally pret­tier than the later mod­els. If you ig­nore the front end, that is.

Re­gret­tably, un­like my first MZ, this one was abysmal. It would take ages to thrash it into life, prob­a­bly be­cause of worn out crank seals, but to be hon­est the prob­lem could have been any­thing from the rat’s nest of wiring to the spark plug I couldn’t get out. It was a chal­lenge to get it to run for more than five min­utes, and of­ten it would conk out with­out warn­ing and more thrash­ing away would be needed be­fore it splut­tered into life again.

It was, I felt, ap­palling to ride, with its mud­guard and front-end lurch­ing about, and I could never quite get to grips with the fixed head­light, which made for a dis­con­cert­ing rid­ing ex­pe­ri­ence. As did the han­dle­bars be­ing mounted on the steer­ing stem, rather than be­ing fit­ted to a top yoke. As I steered, the head­light pointed res­o­lutely straight ahead, while the huge front mud­guard pointed in the di­rec­tion you were go­ing. This would have made rid­ing it at night on a twisty road a chal­lenge, with the 6V head­light bulb adding to the ex­cite­ment, had I felt in­clined to ride at night… which I didn’t. I sup­pose that had I been able to get it to it run a lit­tle bet­ter I’d have got into the groove of the thing, and such foibles would have just be­come part of the rid­ing ex­pe­ri­ence.

Given that the thing cost me a ten­ner, I shouldn’t re­ally moan and I sup­pose it’s pos­si­ble that the bushes on the Ear­les forks might have ben­e­fit­ted from a drop of oil and wouldn’t have caused things to lurch around quite so much. (Not grease. They were de­signed to use oil be­cause East Ger­man grease wasn’t very good, al­legedly. I sus­pect that on­go­ing main­te­nance wasn’t top of the list of pre­vi­ous own­ers’ tasks. It cer­tainly wasn’t on mine.)

Af­ter few months of un­en­thu­si­as­tic own­er­ship, I popped a small ad in the lo­cal pa­per (re­mem­ber those?) to sell it, say­ing ‘offers in­vited’ and a very strange man with a foot-long white beard and ap­palling body odour turned up on my doorstep. He brought with him with his very large twin sons, nei­ther of whom ap­peared to have a chin.

He went into parox­ysms of de­light over the MZ and of­fered me £50 for

it. Then I told him I would throw in the spares and he got even more ex­citable and of­fered me £100. ‘So, you, er, like MZs, do you?’ I asked.

‘Yes. I’ve got nine,’ he said. And he and sons took it all away. This was a re­lief as I hadn’t been able to use my shower for some time, and I was be­gin­ning to get a lit­tle noi­some my­self.

The ES250 ex­pe­ri­ence rather spoiled MZs for me. For ages I’d been smug in the knowl­edge that the MZ brand, to which I had been such en­thu­si­as­tic fan, had com­bined qual­ity Ger­man en­gi­neer­ing with a rugged so­cial­ist work ethic and that my TS150 had as a re­sult been su­pe­rior in al­most ev­ery way to its peers, from wher­ever they came. Apart, pos­si­bly from the tyres, which seemed to be made of some kind of leather. Now my con­fi­dence had been shat­tered by the knowl­edge that they made some ter­ri­ble mo­tor­cy­cles too.

I’ve since made the ac­quain­tance of sev­eral ES250s and their own­ers and been as­sured that they’re an en­gi­neer­ing mar­vel. The han­dling re­mains a chal­lenge and is best de­scribed as ‘in­ter­est­ing’. The rid­ing po­si­tion is un­usual be­cause the foot­pegs are a long way for­ward, which is not un­com­fort­able, and you can barely feel the en­gine thanks to the rub­ber mount­ings. The front brake isn’t great, as MZ never re­ally got the hang of brak­ing un­til they dis­cov­ered discs. You can fid­dle with the drums to make them bet­ter, or just try not to get into sit­u­a­tions that test the lim­its of re­tar­da­tion. So it’s per­haps just as well that the eengine isn’t ex­actly burst­ing with power.

I don’t think I’ll be des­per­ate for an­other go on an ES250 at any point soon. But if any­one has a TS150, I wouldn’t ob­ject to find­ing out wwhether they’re as good as my fuzzy, ring-a-ding mem­o­ries sug­gest…

Clas­sic lines!

Open face? Check. Patina? Check. Peo­ple look­ing at some­thing else? Check

It’s abeau­ti­ful thing. Andthe ‘forks’are things of beauty, no ques­tion

The mighty pow­er­plant, hewn from solid al­loy Sur­pris­ing­ly­comfort­able,asithap­pens

OK, so the left side is a lit­tle messy. But aren’t they al­ways?

Hid­ing car­bu­ret­tor Tech­nik from western spies,pre­sum­ably

The head­light en­clo­sure was also used for a wide screen DDR TV. Hon­est

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from UK

© PressReader. All rights reserved.