There are very few NSU Quickly's left, they are all over forty years old! Those that made it into the seventies were mostly written off by mad sixteen year olds (thank God - Ed) who were then limited to mopeds. For a short time the only alternative was the Raleigh Wisp and Puch Maxi, until the Japanese came out with FS1E's and SS50's!
There were two basic versions of the NSU Quickly. The better was the dual seat, three speed model that could be persuaded up to 45mph on a good day. The two speed, single seat version, that I own, is good only for 35 to 40mph and has even weirder handling than the three speeder (impossible! - Ed). Readers will be shocked to learn that I use this valuable classic for pottering back and forth to work every day. About three miles each way through such heavy traffic that its lack of top speed doesn't matter. Its 150mpg is much more impressive, the single cylinder stroker motor running efficiently at low revs.
One of the most entertaining aspects of the Quickly was the starting procedure. This consisted of pedalling furiously with the decompressor valve pulled in until the exhaust started banging and the valve could be released. That wasn't the end of the procedure, though, because it needed a bit of pedalling to get the speed up to about 5mph before the bike was willing to work under its own power! It was an interesting way to lose weight.
There was a proper clutch and two speed gearbox selector on the left-hand side of the handlebar, just like a scooter. The large gap between the gears meant it had to be revved furiously in first before being slammed into second with a typical Teutonic lurch. Selection was much better than the three speeder, the latter needing daily adjustment of the cable to avoid having three neutrals and one gear! The scooter type change becomes quite natural after a short time.
Less instinctive was the braking. There were no footpegs, just pedals like a pushbike. The tiny rear drum was operated by moving the pedals backwards. This meant they always had to be positioned perfectly, the only way to get any braking was to stand on one pedal! It was just possible, at low speeds, to lock the back wheel up under such abuse. This was just as well because the front drum looked and worked like it came off a heavyweight butcher's pushbike! It might work well once a week but then chronic fade set in.
The big, narrow wheels always felt precarious even on the smoothest of roads. The bike felt rigid framed, over bumps I wobbled around on the sprung saddle in an approximation of being on a ship's deck in a howling gale. Potholes tried to unwrap the trailing link front forks and knocked me right out of the seat. As I took the same route every day I soon learnt which were the difficult sections and could slow down or ride around the worst bits.
The bike was light and usually wasn't flung too far off line. The huge front wheel liked to stay upright, corners were either taken at 10mph with pushbike type handlebar inputs or by leaning off the bike whilst keeping it as upright as possible. Any attempt at acceleration in bends was met with a total vindictiveness, the bugger would run wide, twitching instinctively for the front of any oncoming cars that happened to be in the immediate vicinity.
This was a strange trait in a bike that by its very nature was aimed at old codgers or first time riders. It took me about six months to become used to it, making allowances for its lack of braking and strange handling. Car drivers were another problem. In their eyes the NSU looked so pathetic that it's proper place was in a museum, or failing that in the gutter. The horn was a pathetic squeak that was dependent on engine revs as there wasn't a battery fitted and the generator used most of its power to fire the engine. The lights were augmented by a couple of pushbike lamps as they dimmed so much at low revs that the first cars would know of my existence was the crunching noise when they hit me.
Even in broad daylight they tried to ignore my existence. Louts in GTi's were the worst. They saw such a lack of machoness in my choice of mount that they assumed they could negate the laws of physics by driving straight over me! I ended up swerving into the gutter too many times to count. About the only thing I found that would shake them was borrowing my son's gear - a fearsome Darth Vader helmet and padded leather jacket that doubled my bulk!
That wasn't the end of my troubles. Riding a bike that was over 40 years old, even one that had been rebuilt a few times, was sure to show up a few signs of age. Like, pulling out the tap one time the whole assembly came away in my hand. The petroil came flowing out; luckily the engine was cold. There was no chance of buying a new tank, so the local back street bodger had to weld in some new metal, drill it to suit a Honda tap.
Lubrication came from mixing oil in with the petrol. Oil was heavier than petrol so it would eventually settle on the bottom of the tank. Before starting, the bike had to be shook furiously for five minutes! Once under motion the vibes provided plenty of agitation but as soon as I parked up the tap had to be switched off. The alternative was a great flood of fuel coming out of the carb!
The crude lubrication system meant that the bike was always pursued by a fog of pollutants. Also, every 500 miles or so it needed a decoke. The top end was torn off (four nuts) and the silencer removed. It was about an hour's work to remove all the carbon on a good day. On a bad day one of the cylinder studs would come loose in the crankcase. Araldite or helicoils were the only way to fix this. Every decoke required a new head gasket. I made these up myself, although occasionally I would end up with a blown gasket and a gasping engine that needed pedal assistance.
On a really bad day, about once a year, the piston rings would go. I had a few spare sets as well as a couple of cylinders and pistons - I'd phoned around some of the more established cycle shops because there was a period when they were selling mopeds as well as pushbikes and it was surprising what old stock they had tucked away. NSU parts are a bit like hens teeth and if something serious, like a crankshaft, were to go I'd be in deep trouble. I'd have to ride the spare bike - a Raleigh Wisp that makes the NSU feel like the height of luxury.
In its favour, the NSU has better mudguards than most modern motorcycles and costs next to nothing to run - it's so frugal that I often run out of fuel and have to resort to the pedals. The gearing tops out at 5mph in pushbike mode, which is as frustrating as it is tiring and I often think it'd be quicker to jump off and run alongside. At least it provides some much needed amusement for the car drivers stuck in huge traffic jams. Readers will wonder why I bother. Basically because it's there and I may as well use the thing. It's just adequate for city commuting (the Wisp certainly ain't) and I rather revel in the complete uniqueness of the Quickly.