After ex­plor­ing MZ’s ori­gins behind the Iron Cur­tain and back in time to DKW, Nigel Shut­tle­worth now tack­les a dis­tinctly sticky sub­ject. Why would you buy and ride a com­mie stinkwheel to­day?

Real Classic - - With lies within - More old bikes on­line: Real-Clas­

After ex­plor­ing MZ’s ori­gins behind the Iron Cur­tain and back in time to DKW, Nigel Shut­tle­worth now tack­les a dis­tinctly sticky sub­ject. Why would you buy and ride a com­mie stink wheel to­day?

So why would you want to buy an MZ in 2017? I’m talk­ing about the Deutsche Demokratis­che Repub­lik two-strokes, not the later MuZ four-strokes, al­though some of those are highly de­sir­able and were made to the same qual­ity stan­dards as any equiv­a­lent make in the day. Old ES and TS mod­els are VMCC el­i­gi­ble, they’re a lot cheaper to buy than a Brit equiv­a­lent such as a Ban­tam, Fanny B, James or any other Vil­liers-en­gined ma­chine, and MZ spares are cheap and plen­ti­ful. Don’t get me wrong, I’d love a Tri­umph Tiger Cub or an Ariel Ar­row (had one back then; in fact I also had a Leader) or a Bantie but I’m a poor pen­sioner so cheap is the first con­sid­er­a­tion.

Brit stuff comes pricey nowa­days, even in bits in boxes. I also like win­ter projects. Noth­ing too se­ri­ous, like a com­plete nut and bolt strip down and cut­ting the wiring loom out, per­haps more of a ‘re­fur­bish­ment’ job. I ac­tu­ally trained and worked as a mo­tor­cy­cle me­chanic for a while in my yoof but I’m old and lazy now. I just like a bit of a hobby to get me from un­der her feet for a few hours ev­ery once in a while.

When Gumtree said there was a 1986 MZ TS125 less than ten miles away, for sale at not a lot of money, I thought it might be in­ter­est­ing to have a look at it. The owner re­moved a tarp from rather a sorry lit­tle lump stand­ing for­lornly by a lamp­post to re­veal a bit of a cu­rate’s egg; good in parts. The most ob­vi­ous prob­lem was a large dent in the tank from when the MZ had been knocked over by a car as it turned around in the nar­row street. The driver left the scene with­out leav­ing a note, of course. The bike’s frame and en­gine had been re­painted sev­eral years ago and would clean up, but the tin­ware and chrome weren’t bril­liant. The owner, a re­search sci­en­tist, told me that the en­gine didn’t work al­though he’d had a new bat­tery and spark plug fit­ted. I later found the in­voice, and he’d paid £189 to a lo­cal work­shop to get it run­ning, and it still wouldn’t go.

We hag­gled and even­tu­ally set­tled on £325, half the ad­ver­tised price. In view of the un­re­solved non-run­ning issues and the dented tank it was prob­a­bly fair to both par­ties. The Chi­nese say ‘if the deal is good for you, and it’s good for me, then it’s a good deal.’ Great philoso­phers, the Chi­nese!

Back in the garage, I be­gan a thor­ough in­spec­tion and com­piled a to-do list. En­gine first. If I couldn’t get it go­ing then there wouldn’t be a lot of point spend­ing money on the tank and paint­work. Plan B would be in­sti­gated: strip it and sell as spares on eBay. The known prob­lem with MZs is that their crank­case seals go hard and leak if left stand­ing for a while, es­pe­cially out in the street. How­ever re­mov­ing the en­gine is only a forty minute job – al­though, as I don’t have a bench, floor level is only suf­fer­able for about ten min­utes at a time. I have to stand up, get my wife to mas­sage my back and moan a lot.

The other ar­eas for at­ten­tion in­cluded the carb, which was full of green snot (mod­ern bio-ethanol fu­els de­grade very rapidly when stood for any­thing over six weeks), and the ig­ni­tion system. I noted all the parts I needed and tele­phoned Phil Speak­man at the MZ Shop. Phil is past pres­i­dent of the MZ Rid­ers’ Club and there is noth­ing he doesn’t know about two-stroke MZs in all their var­i­ous forms. With next-day de­liv­ery, the re­build could start.

Putting it all back to­gether, I no­ticed that the fins around one side of the head/ bar­rel joint were dark­ened with traces of oil. There is no head gas­ket on an MZ, the al­loy head sits straight onto an iron liner. I spent hours with valve grind­ing paste on a sheet of glass with the head in my hand mak­ing cir­cu­lar mo­tions. I in­ter­mit­tently cleaned off the paste and checked the head on an­other sheet of glass against the light, un­til it was dark all the way round whichever way I turned it. Putting the head back on dry, all that’s needed is very care­ful torquing down, do­ing ‘op­po­sites’, to no more than 12lb/ft. The studs are M6 and very, very easy to strip.

Then I set the ig­ni­tion tim­ing. The carb was care­fully re­assem­bled with its cor­rect float height, the throt­tle slide nee­dle on the sec­ond from bot­tom (slightly rich in the mid-range to let ev­ery­thing bed in) and the en­gine was all ready to go back in.

Em­ploy the well-known MZ start­ing rou­tine: four kicks with en­rich­ment lever fully back and ig­ni­tion off to charge the crank­case. Then ig­ni­tion on and she lit up first kick! Well, ‘smoked up’ might be a bet­ter phrase here. Wide grin of self-sat­is­fac­tion.

I could now move on to other de­part­ments, such as the brakes. These were never re­ally very ef­fec­tive on an MZ as the ca­ble dis­ap­pears into the front hub and the lever is too short to give an ef­fec­tive pull. The head­stock and swing­ing arm bear­ings were also on the list, along with the electrics, again never re­ally very good with 6V (sings ‘can­dle in the wind’). I de­cided that now would be a good mo­ment to MoT and tax her be­fore tack­ling the cos­met­ics. Un­for­tu­nately this is when I came across a bit of a prob­lem with the pa­per­work – the en­gine num­ber in the V5 didn’t match the one on the crank­case!

When I’d col­lected the bike I was given two large box files stuffed full of in­voices, past MoTs, sev­eral in­struc­tion books and a lot of other guff. When I started delv­ing I found a few in­voices and a ser­vice book for an­other MZ of the same year but reg­is­tered in Kent, whereas in­voices to other pre­vi­ous own­ers all seemed to in­di­cate Liver­pool as my MZ’s home town (well, the frame that is). That led to an­other thing: fur­ther re­search re­vealed that a pre­vi­ous owner had trans­ferred the reg­is­tra­tion C??? KOP from yet an­other bike some­time in the past. Well, you would do, if you were a Liver­pool sup­porter, wouldn’t you? I even­tu­ally worked out that the Kent-reg­is­tered TS125 had kindly do­nated its en­gine to my MZ frame. With help from the DVLA, quite a lot as it hap­pens, we got it all sorted with a cor­rect V5C, an MoT and tax all in the space of three weeks.

Tank and side­pan­els next. Un­for­tu­nately as the dent was right on a corner of the petrol tank it could not be taken out easily and I be­gan the search for a re­place­ment. Al­though the MZ Shop car­ries al­most all cy­cle parts and en­gine spares, the tin bits are a lot harder to source here in the UK. I did find a tank on the in­ter­net but it was off a field bike in pretty poor con­di­tion and the seller wanted £90 for it. Add the postage and that was a third of what I paid for the whole bike! By this time I had joined the MZ Rid­ers’ Club and, at the monthly meet­ing of the Stafford sec­tion, some­one told me to search on Ger­man eBay. Wilf Green im­ported 14,000 TS125s over the four­teen or so years of pro­duc­tion, and most of them are now in our kitchen uten­sils, so the UK is not the best source of parts. How­ever, Zschopau churned out nearly a quar­ter of a mil­lion of this model, mostly for the home mar­ket, so the ad­vice I re­ceived to look to Ger­many made sense. I found ex­actly what I needed in a clas­si­fied ad; a sec­ond­hand tank in very good con­di­tion at €30. A few ‘my hov­er­craft is full of eels’ mes­sages cour­tesy of Google trans­late (al­though Christoph al­ways replies in per­fect English), and for an ex­tra €11 he DHL’d it next day. Bril­liant! How­ever it was or­ange and I wanted to re­turn the MZ to its orig­i­nal colours which the V5C stated were black and sil­ver. So started one of the most frus­trat­ing weeks I’ve ever spent in the garage. When I was young and do­ing up a bike (mostly be­cause I’d thrown it up the road and spoiled the nice shiny paint­work) Nitro­mors took off the old paint and a cou­ple of cel­lu­lose rat­tle cans put the colour back into its cheeks. Not with to­day’s paint strip­per, oh no!

Un­for­tu­nately our beloved and highly re­spected health and safety (that’s an ironic joke) has forced Nitro­mors (there are other brands avail­able but all are equally as in­ef­fec­tual) to re­move the ac­tive chem­i­cal from the list of in­gre­di­ents and it doesn’t strip paint any more. I fol­lowed the in­struc­tions to the let­ter: apply a good thick coat all over the tank, leave for eight hours, then an­other coat and the paint will drop off be­fore your very eyes. Only it doesn’t. I might as well have gone to the bath­room cabi­net and taken out the tube of KY jelly. It would have had the same ef­fect; make the tank nice and slip­pery but leave the paint un­touched. In the end it took a Black & Decker and a wire brush at 7000rpm. Three days later we had a paint-free tank.

Rat­tle-can paint has also been emas­cu­lated by H&S. It’s no longer petrol-re­sis­tant cel­lu­lose but is acrylic-based and melts at the first sniff of ben­zene. A cou­ple of drips from the Mor­ri­son’s Stan­dard 95 noz­zle and the tank bub­bles and blis­ters – salad dress­ing would do just as well as to­day’s rat­tle cans. So un­for­tu­nately the more ex­pen­sive pro­fes­sional epoxy paint job is the only choice.

Al­though they weren’t too bad cos­met­i­cally, I de­cided to have the two side pan­els painted at the same time to com­plete the re­turn to the orig­i­nal paint scheme, so the paint strip­ping started all over again. A lo­cal car body shop agreed to spray the tank and pan­els for not a lot of money. They sprayed the filler/primer un­der­coat and I col­lected the three items to flat them, then re­turned the tank and two side pan­els to be fin­ished in 2K gloss black. I had to wait a cou­ple of

weeks un­til there was a car job in black go­ing through the paint booth so Paul didn’t have to set up just for my tiny bits of tin. The end re­sult is a lot harder sur­face and deeper fin­ish than the fac­tory would have pro­duced thirty years ago, so it does lose some au­then­tic­ity. But I was never look­ing for a show win­ner, just a win­ter project which would yield a use­able mo­tor­cy­cle at the end. And that’s ex­actly what I’ve achieved.

I’ve done a thou­sand miles since the re­furb and the MZ is run­ning very well. I’ve seen 60mph on the clock, which is at about 5500rpm in top, and it cruises nicely at 50 with very lit­tle vi­bra­tion. At 500 miles I car­ried out some plug chops and dropped the nee­dle one notch which im­me­di­ately im­proved the mid-throt­tle re­sponse and it also now revs out to 6000 in the gears. The four-speed box is a lit­tle agri­cul­tural and needs a firm hand (foot, I should say) to en­sure it goes cleanly through to the next gear, al­though neu­tral is easy to find – for which there’s a nice bright yel­low light in the clock. Oh, and as its the ‘Sports’ model it has a rev counter as well as a speedo.

The brakes are sur­pris­ingly ef­fec­tive and they’ve now passed through two MoTs with­out any bother. The one mat­ter which still col­lects an ‘ad­vi­sory’ ev­ery year is the light­ing; be­ing 6V there’s not enough juice to get it all the way back to the rear light clus­ter. Wink left or right in­di­ca­tor: wink all in­clud­ing the rear and brake lights. Well, at least car driv­ers take no­tice of a small mo­tor­cy­cle wink­ing for Christ­mas. They stay well clear un­til I’ve made what­ever ma­noeu­vre I’ve set my mind on, al­though no one else knows whether I mean turn left, turn right stop or go!

There are other mo­tor­cy­cles in the garage but the MZ is my pre­ferred choice for the two mile nip into town. It’s easy to park, goes around and through traf­fic and, yes, it does ac­tu­ally at­tract quite a lot of in­ter­est. On sev­eral oc­ca­sions I’ve come out of the bank to see old boys mut­ter­ing ‘I ’ad one a them stinkwheels, go on for­ever.’ In to­tal my TS125 stands me in at £605 in­clud­ing the ini­tial pur­chase. It was great fun to do up, even with some frus­tra­tions thrown in from time to time. It starts well (fourth kick) and runs very well.

Two months ago I men­tioned how MZ own­ers used to be the butt of ev­ery­one’s hu­mour. But as an af­ford­able clas­sic, and MZ is no joke.

Right: The rev range is quite lim­ited, from about 4000 to all of 11bhp at 5750rpm. It ticks over nicely at 1500rpm and the gears go in with a nice solid clunk. The en­gine is sur­pris­ingly smooth with lit­tle vi­bra­tion and it’ll buzz along all day at...

Run­ning. Now for a lit­tle hooli­gan­ery

Qual­ity every­where. MZ sin­gles sold well in the UK, mostly be­cause their high qual­ity did not re­flect their low prices

Right: The DDR had ac­cess to baux­ite so a lot of parts were cast al­loy and very good qual­ity. Steel was sourced from the USSR and was rub­bish (prob­a­bly not even that good!). To­day all the al­loy spares are easy to obtain but you can’t get panel work,...

Left: More cast al­loy; the en­tire rear sub­frame is made from it. This is a bit of a weak spot as the rear lights earth back to the bat­tery through the al­loy sub­frame which con­nects to the pressed steel front frame. Where they con­nect, elec­trolytic...

Left: The sus­pen­sion ac­tu­ally works, even when it’s pretty old and the mileage is high. Al­though the springs are ex­posed, the damper rods are not. And this is the sim­plest ad­juster ever Right: There’s more good qual­ity al­loy in the wheels, with both...

Left: The lights – 6V – are a lit­tle mar­ginal by to­day’s stan­dards, so prob­lems earthing them do not help in any way Right: A gath­er­ing of the (MZ) clan. Nigel’s TS125 at the 2016 New Year VMCC gath­er­ing at Leek

MZ kick­start pro­ce­dure is three kicks with the ig­ni­tion off, en­rich­ment lever fully open (it’s not a choke) to charge the crank­case with air/fuel and then ig­ni­tion on. It starts first kick even in the cold­est weather. Nigel has never got used to the...

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