When the conversation turns to German motorcycles, three letters usually spring to mind: BMW. Possibly the most famous acronym in the two-wheeled world, the Bavarian Motor Works has been producing solid, reliable motorcycles for more than 80 years. Not as recognizable in the United States, though, is another German manufacturer that has been producing motorcycles for just as long. Simply known as MZ (Motorradwerk Zschopau), the company traces its roots to the once-glorious DKW Company, which first began producing small two-stroke engines for bicycles in 1920.Chance landed the company behind the Iron Curtain at the end of World War II, and the East German company took the name MZ in 1956; by the time Germany unified in 1989, more than 2 million small two-stroke motorcycles had rolled out of the Zschopau factory. MZ enjoyed substantial racing success both in the dirt and on the racetracks of Europe, and in 1992 the company privatized and began producing motorcycles under the name MuZ (Motorrad und Zweiradwerk) for a short time, before being bought out by Hong Leong Group, a powerful Malaysian conglomerate. Continuing with its range of single-cylinder machines using a Yamaha 660cc engine, MZ started investing heavily in new machinery and tooling to produce a flagship 1-liter motorcycle. Known as the MZ1000S, the first prototypes appeared in 2001; the bike entered full production in early 2004.
There is no denying the bike’s distinct Euro look. The sleek, angular bodywork wraps around a dual bridge, trellis-style, chrome moly frame, and features a unique pair of dual stacked headlights up front. A Marzocchi 43mm inverted fork holds a stylish 17-inch front wheel and features full adjustability for rebound and compression damping, as well as spring preload. The front wheel—as with the rear—was designed exclusively for MZ to be lighter and stronger than a conventional alloy wheel and comes wrapped in a 120/70 ZR 17 Metzeler Sportec M1 tire. A pair of Nissin four-piston calipers, squeezing industry standard 320mm semifloating discs, handle braking duties. A beautifully crafted dual cantilever, aluminum swingarm is attached to the trellis frame in the rear and houses a single multiadjustable Sachs rear shock that features a remote hydraulic preload adjuster and a 5.5-inch rear wheel fitted with a 180/55 ZR 17 Metzeler Sportec M1. There is nothing radical about the rear brake setup—just a good, solid Nissin two-piston caliper married to a 240mm disc.The MZ1000S truly sets itself apart from the rest of the Euro crowd with its powerplant. Featuring a compact, 180-degree inline twin, the 998cc engine has been built with longevity in mind, and in its current state of tune puts out 115 hp at 9,000 rpm. Double overhead camshafts work on four valves per cylinder, and are driven by a hydraulically adjusted cam chain running on the side of the engine. A Sagem fuel injection system feeds into the large cylinders, and burned gas exits through a two-into-two exhaust system, with two catalytic converters in each muffler. This allows the MZ to pass stringent Euro emission laws. With the engine in such a mild state of tune, it is something of a surprise to learn the 6-speed gearbox is a removable cassette-style unit. With a definite sport touring focus, it seems strange that MZ would fit a gearbox more suited to the demands of racing; this poses the possibility that a return to the racetrack might be in the cards for MZ in the near future.
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Hitting the starter button, the engine jumps immediately into a high tickover. The bike doesn’t come with a fast idle lever, so you have to wait either for it to settle down or put up with an alarming clunk as you select first gear. Even with a balancer shaft in place, healthy vibes from the big parallel twin remain, but once the analog tachometer starts to climb over 3,000 rpm these soon smooth out. Power is good and plentiful, with a strong even pull all the way to a 9,500 rpm redline; just don’t twist the throttle too hard at very low revs. Even though the fuel injection is near perfect, and the bike won’t miss a beat, low rpm and large throttle openings equal unwanted vibration. Once underway, ride comfort is excellent. The MZ has a roomy, broad seat, and the clip-on handlebars attach above the triple clamps, so you are not put in a racer’s crouch. This is further complemented by the footpegs, which are not sportbike high, and for fast roadwork, the position is ideal. On the racetrack, the MZ certainly has some limitations if you try too hard, but for the occasional track day jaunt, it performs admirably. Touting solid, stable handling, strong fade-free brakes, and a willing engine that can propel you over 145 mph with ease, the MZ1000S will come to America in limited numbers. Priced at $10,995, it is hard to tell whether dedicated Europhiles will be persuaded away from their V-twins, Boxer twins, or inline triples, but for the limited number of people who opt for the “other” German manufacturer, there will be no disappointments in the quality and charm of this unique machine.