Short Take: MZ 1000SF

Does the world need another factory streetfighter? Apparently, MZ thinks it does.

story by Gabe Ets-Hokin, Photograph by Gabe Ets-Hokin and John Casimir, Created Jul. 26, 2005
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A quick glimpse of the new MZ 1000SF might incline you to agree.

When MZ's regional sales representative offered me the keys to the blazing orange bike, I immediately snapped them up, but not before I got him to agree to snap some pictures so I might share my brief, 10-mile riding impression with you, the MO readership.

For those of you unfamiliar with the brand, MZ started back in 1922 as DKW. Shortly thereafter, DKW, which manufactured cars as well as motorcycles, was absorbed by Auto-Union, and was represented by one of the four rings of the present-day Audi logo. After WWII, it was reorganized as the state-run Zschopau Motorcycle Factory (Motorradwerks Zschopau), or MZ. Over two million clunky two-stroke motorcycles were cranked out over the decades, until MZ was reorganized and changed hands in 1992.

Haven't heard of MZ? Well, they haven't heard of you, either!With new ownership came plenty of money to design new products, especially after Malaysian finance giant Hong Leong purchased the company in 1996. Work began designing a modern 1000cc powerplant, and a mere nine years later the 1000S sport model arrived in the USA.

The world wasn't really crying out for a liter-sized parallel twin, but somebody thought it was a good idea. The resulting 999cc unit truly is a modern unit, with excellent counterbalancing, cassette-type gearbox, wide, flat torque curve, and over 115 HP at the rear wheel in the latest magazine tests.

I had ridden the fully-faired 1000S previously and was impressed with how smooth and quiet the motor was, along with wind protection so good it felt like the bike was going much slower than it actually was. It also felt very long and heavy, even for a GT-type open class sportbike.

The centerpiece of this bike is a modern, unique, two-cylinder 1000cc parallel twin. The 'Super Fighter', as MZ Deutschland calls it, looks a little smaller than the 1000S, but not much. It is however, a dramatic presentation with the large, bulbous tank, bright orange paint, and stark, industrial shapes in the frame and motor. The jangling elements are offset by the swank-looking gold suspension bits and pro taper-styled superbike bar.

Swinging a leg over it puts your ass on a high but broad and comfortable seat. Switching on the ignition produces the mandatory speedometer and tach needle dance, and a touch of the starter button produces a flat, throaty idle that's not quite a V-twin, not quite an inline-four. Think EX500 that's been bitten by a radioactive spider.

It snaps easily into gear, and the clutch is smooth and nice. The bike roars down the street with a very unique feel: it doesn't have the immediate snap of the big V-twin, but you don't have to give it as much gas as a large inline-four, either. This might be how a (weak) gas-turbine engine would feel, as the powerband is remarkably flat.

This is the EX500 after being bitten by a radioactive spider.Until you hit 6,000 RPM, that is. Hopefully you're on the freeway by then, because the bike snaps forward with strong acceleration. The vestigial nose fairing does nothing to slow the air blasting your chest, since the wide bars put your arms in the air, making you a perfect sail. However, this motor makes a lot of power, deceptively: it doesn't feel like 115HP, until you look at the optimistic speedometer and see you are blasting a man-shaped hole through the air at 80 or 90 mph.

The wind blast was so severe that the front end felt a bit unsteady because of steering inputs through my shoulders and chest. But the long, heavy chassis still made the bike feel as steady as any streetfighter has a right to feel at triple-digit speeds. And that wide gold handlebar made lane changing a quick and dirty affair. When it came time to slow for corners or slow-poke drivers, the dual four-piston Nissan calipers rewarded a two-finger squeeze with good feel and bite.

MZ cares enough about you to splurge on steel-braided brake lines.Suspension quality is top-notch, although it still felt a little jouncy and could've used a bit of dialing in. Fortunately, the fully adjustable Marzocchi fork and Sachs rear shock allow plenty of fine-tuning.

Overall, the bike felt like a big, heavy street-fighter with tons of character and reasonably light handling. Build quality is equal to any European company, with no paint flaws, mismatched parts or glaring  production problems. MZ's standard two year, unlimited mileage warranty should banish any fears of the relatively small company having reliability issues.

A ten-mile blast around San Francisco's busy freeways is hardly a comprehensive test, but the 1000SF feels like a real contender in the big streetfighter category, and should be a charismatic and unique choice for the rider who might have had a big Norton or Laverda in the 70's, or someone who wants a European bike that's just that much different from the rest.

The 1000SF will be in MZ dealers soon at an MSRP of $10,995. Available colors are orange and er... well orange.

It's not the fastest bike for the money, but it looks wicked good in orange, don't you think?

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