MZ Motorrad- und ZweiradwerkI still vividly remember seeing the news that the Berlin Wall was being torn down. That was how we used to get breaking east german motorcycle, before the internet. Soon, crowds attacked the wall with sledge hammers, desperate to make this new openness a permanent state. I grew up in Europe east german motorcycle byI was again living in my native Canada. The scenes of the wall being torn down were emotional; for those of us who came of age during the Cold War, nothing has been the same.
Behind the former Iron Curtain in search of lousy Commie motorcycles
I still vividly remember seeing the news that the Berlin Wall was being torn down. That was how we used to get breaking news, before the internet.
Soon, crowds attacked the wall with sledge hammers, desperate to make this new openness a permanent state. I grew up in Europe although by , I was again living in my native Canada.
The scenes of the wall being torn down were emotional; for those of us who came of age during the Cold War, nothing has been the same. After the fall of the Berlin Wall in , there was a "flourishing" of graffiti in the former Communist zone. Photo by Mark Gardiner. I hoped it would occur to someone to preserve the terrible cars and motorcycles of the Deutsche Democratischer Republic DDR , what we called East Germany.
I knew that when those soon-to-be-ex-Communists realized just how backward their vehicles were, said vehicles would be abandoned en masse. And given the water-soluble properties of East Bloc metallurgy — at least, the metals available for civilian production — those Trabants and MZs would dissolve of their own accord.
MZ made this cc two-stroke boxer twin between Seventeen horsepower gave it a top speed of around 70 mph. Recently, I had to dig through the junkyard of my memories and cobble together a working version my old self — Mark the advertising guru — when I was asked to address a business group in Berlin. The organizers booked me into the Adlon Kempinski Hotel, strategically located between the U.
Gorbachev, tear down this wall. Yes, there is one! But I was chuffed to find an entire museum with well over bikes from the Communist period. In the mids, IWL made the gorgeous Pitty scooter, with a cc two-stoke motor. The IWL Troll couldn't live up to the style of the Pitty, but at least it got a more powerful cc motor.
Almost 60, Trolls were manufactured. Displays are presented in both German and English, but the English translations are courtesy of Google — and not the recent, good Google Translate but the crappy one from a few years back.
At the best of times, technical subjects like motorcycles are tough assignments for machine translation. I found myself translating the translations. As a former and crap road racer, I was drawn to the race bikes. From on, Walter Kaaden — the inventor of the modern expansion chamber — ran the MZ race shop in Zschopau. But there was still national championship in the DDR, and the Russians ran an all-Communist international championship.
The little museum has some really fascinating home-brewed East German race bikes in the collection, which were built with limited resources — but no lack of imagination, or engineering and fabrication skill.
Featured in the entrance to the museum is a Simson AWO from the late s, which was modified for road racing in the old East German national series.
The staircase leads down to three much larger rooms in the basement, which hold a total of about motorcycles. But it features some really sophisticated modification, in the form of a dummy cylinder that improves the efficiency of the simple piston-port two-stroke motor. I was most impressed, however, by a cc road racer that I believe began life as a clone of a DKW RT, but which got a dummy cylinder grafted onto the bottom of the crankcase.
The pumping effect of the dummy cylinder served to dramatically improve the scavenging efficiency of what, otherwise, was a crude piston-port two-stroke. Well, that was a separate issue…. I noticed one s-era off-road bike that had a naugahyde shroud or skirt hanging beneath the saddle, that obviously served to protect the air cleaner and other components from mud and the elements.
That seemed like a simple and effective idea to me. The sign reads "Barn Finds," and this display illustrates the fate of almost all the hundreds of thousands of motorcycles made in the Communist Era. Luckily, someone thought to preserve the bikes in this very unique museum.
Notwithstanding both official and unofficial support for competition, the bulk of the collection reflects the utilitarian focus of industry in the Communist period. The emphasis was on something comrade worker could use to get from her cold-water flat to the state-run chicken-slaughtering plant, splashing along roads that were always wet because under Communism, the weather was always cold and grey. Although it uses a steel tube frame instead of a pressed frame, this moped is the East German take on the ubiquitous NSU Quickly.
And designers still managed to create some really elegant little mopeds and scooters, mashing up organic Art Deco shapes with streamlined Futurism. Even the plainest, slab-sided scooters had the vaguely heroic simplicity of Russian Constructivist propaganda posters.
As comically terrible as Trabant automobiles were, workers spent years on a waiting list to get one. So, if you were going to travel with the wife and a kid or two, the more available option was a sidecar. But, neither were the cars. I imagine that western diplomats visited and were escorted by motorcycles that, seen from the inside of a limo, looked more or less like the ones used for that purpose in London or Paris. But under the fairing it was just another two-stroke smudgepot.
But the Simson motorcycle brand and factory survived the transition to state-run industry. Detail of a s Simson. The collection includes a few of the Simson models built for export to the west. By the mids, it was harder and harder for Eastern European governments to prevent citizens from realizing that people in the west had access to far more and better consumer goods.
A huge network of civilian informers fed the STASI secret police the names of anyone who seemed unsatisfied with life under Communism. They continued to make that motorcycle after the war until BMW successfully sued them for trademark violation.
After , the decades-old design continued to be sold as an EMW, which stands for "Eisenacher Motorenwerk. So, as a tiny part of a sweeping and vainglorious attempt to save the Communist system, they created their own race replica sport bikes. Which were pretty much the same crappy old two-strokes, now available with brightly painted fairings. Late in the Communist era, MZ repackaged their trusty some would say, sorely outdated single into this copy of the race-reps that were taking over the capitalist biking world.
Mostly though, to the bitter end, they produced hundreds of thousands of MZ Trophy cc singles. It was fast enough, could be stamped out easily enough, and with about six moving parts it was simple enough to keep running in an environment where there were shortages of absolutely everything. I admit to having a forbidden love affair with the Trophy — which was also used by some hard-nosed motorcycle couriers in the west.
I imagined them, though. Even the most prosaic scooter must have given its rider at least a momentary sense of freedom. This is the archetypal East German motorcycle: That evening, I asked the concierge at the hotel to tell me where I could go to get away from the oligarchs, diplomats, and tourists.
I wanted to find some real Berliners. The concierge circled a street on the map and told me how to get to the U-bahn. It was hot, stuffy, and crowded on the subway as I counted stops. I got off at a chaotic intersection and walked along a crowded sidewalk past a grocery store. A girl of about six slalomed between pedestrians on a bicycle, chasing her older brother. A string of lights and hum of conversation beckoned me through a gate into the center of a block, where I found the perfect beer garden, the perfect beer, and the perfect bratwurst.
As dusk turned to night, I joined perhaps 2, people sitting at hundreds of picnic tables. But those people all seemed so healthy, and well adjusted, and simply happy. I walked on, a few blocks in darkness now, back to the nearest U-bahn station.
I turned and sure enough caught sight of a battered MZ Trophy — outfitted with bark busters for traffic, baby — trailing a blue haze of oil smoke as he turned a corner and disappeared. Common Tread is about two things; motorcycles and the riders who love them. Shop Parts For Your Ride. Helmets Shop Helmets Shop All. Shop Tires Shop All. Shop All Brands Shop All. Navigation Search Phone Cart.
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