First Impression: MuZ Skorpion Tour

Singled Out


Motorrad und Zweiradwerk, known as MuZ or just MZ, produces unique motorcycles. "Simply great motorcycles," if you read their hype.

The company has based its recent history upon a variety of single-cylinder machinery -- from sidecar rigs to sportbikes and dualsports, MZ has bet the Zschopau factory on the appeal of thumpers.

In fact, the choice of a single-cylinder powerplant for the Skorpian Tour represents commitment to a design philosophy of simplicity and light weight. Weight saving measures are evidenced throughout: single front disc brake, small rear disc brake, no cumbersome fairings or excess bracketry, and a single round headlight to guide your way. At 416 pounds "ready to ride," as is claimed in the owner's manual, the Skorpion Tour is a lithe, nimble machine.

The entire Skorpion line shares the same frame, a stunningly simple tubular deltabox piece that was penned by London design house Seymour Powell. The award-winning steel tube design is braced near the steering head, and mates to a bolt-on plate that connects the motor, frame and swingarm pivot. The motor, incidentally, is a stressed member of the chassis.

The engine -- outsourced from Yamaha -- may be stressed structurally, but with a claimed 48 horsepower at 5250 RPM it's definitely not stressed in the horsepower department. The carburetion on our test bike seemed off at lower revs, but cleared up once the tach passed 4000; unfortunately, by the time you reach this point you've already stumbled through the bottom and mid-range of the power band. After all, the motor only winds out to 6800 RPM. Although the engine spins up freely, it does not make much power near redline or beyond. Uncorking the exhaust and rejetting the carburetor would no doubt improve the throttle response of the bike, as well as provide more power. Racers using the related Yamaha SRX 600 motor claim they can coax almost 70 hp out of their mills; similar tuning tricks could be applied to the MZ's 660cc mill with equally good results.

While power wheelies may not be reality, the Skorpion's low weight and agile handling can provide plenty of excitement when the going gets twisty. Our test mount came shod with Pirelli Dragons, 110/70/ZR17 front and 150/60/ZR17 rear, which impressed us with their level of stick and durability underneath the Skorpion. The front suspension is non-adjustable but proved to be remarkably stable and compliant. It was plush enough to travel with, yet firm enough to complement the handling. The rear shock has four spring preload possibilities: we stayed on the second softest setting, which provided good balance with the front set-up. MZ recommends positions one through three as standard, and two through four for heavy riders and/or passengers.

 The Skorpion's whoa-power comes from a gigantic 316mm front rotor coupled with a Grimeca four piston caliper and master cylinder. The front brakes had very good initial bite, and if pulled hard with two fingers, result in an occasional stoppie. Out back you'll find a race-inspired miniature two-piston Grimeca caliper squeezing a 240mm rotor. Both calipers are adorned with premium steel-braided lines, offering better feel and performance than standard rubber units.

The ergonomics of the Skorpion can be easily altered to better suit your size or riding style. The clip-on handlebars are adjustable in three planes, and can be moved to a variety of positions. Whether you are sport riding, commuting, or touring there is an excellent chance you can find a setting that'll be right for you. The footpegs are also adjustable, although moving them will require a different shift linkage rod, obtainable from the dealer. The seat is fairly comfortable, but its squarish shape continues a bit too far forward, feeling too wide near the tank. For a single cylinder bike thumping along the freeway, MZ did a good job controlling vibrations, as little is felt through the bars, and only slight vibration through the footpegs, allowing a rider to continue for several hundred miles without being disturbed by numbness.

The Skorpion's simple approach yields a complete package that was enjoyable to ride. The lack of power (our test bike's poor carburetion certainly not helping) can be remedied to a point of satisfaction, and to a point that would surprise some sportbike owners in the canyons. The MZ's attention to smaller details make it a great choice for those seeking an alternative mount, or for newer riders looking for a bike they can handle that retains a high fun factor.

Overall, the Skorpion Tour is an enjoyable, competent machine whose simple approach often yields smiling results. For as many good points as our bike had, it could be a very strong competitor to motorcycles like the GS500, EX500 and Seca II. Unfortunately it's priced into a much higher realm with its $6,895 MSRP. Can an almost-exotic bike persuade buyers to spend the same amount of money as they would for a four cylinder 600cc supersport machine? We fear the Skorpion faces a fate akin to the Honda Hawk GT -- a bike that sold poorly until Honda dealers discounted its price, finally creating a cult-like following. The Skorpion Tour will be lucky if it gets such a chance, but we bet MZ could stir up interest if they offered pricing closer to the Tour's Japanese competition.

Specifications
Manufacturer: Motorrad und Zweiradwerk
Model: Skorpion Tour
Price: $6,895
Engine: liquid-cooled, SOHC, 5-valve
Bore x Stroke: 100mm x 84mm
Displacement: 660cc
Carburetion: N/A
Transmission: 5-speed
Wheelbase: 55.9 in.
Seat height: 30.3 in.
Fuel capacity: 5.52 gallons (including 0.92 gallon reserve)
Claimed dry weight: 416 lbs.

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