Unashamedly I ride an MZ — an ETZ 250. I bought it as a stopgap while searching for a 350 Morini and I wasn't prepared to get deeply involved — the MZ was simply a hack.
As a secondhand bike it was the perfect buy. Standing in the November sunshine with its nipple red paint and huge gleaming silencer there wasn't a mark on it. I knew the innards would be good too, carefully run in and never thrashed. It had to make sense so I bought it.
But I certainly was not prepared to let this bike convert me to two strokes. I can't make any kind of sensible case against them, it's just that I like to listen to the throb and beat of a good four stroke, preferably a big single or a vee twin. Compared with those, I've always thought of a two stroke as a terrible load of mechanical diarrhoea.
Also, I want a bike you can do things for, like cooking its chain every 500 miles in velvety molten graphite (and the kitchen stove — Ed) or adjusting its tappets. The MZ's chain is protected like a dog's dink and apart from points nothing needs adjusting. This makes a two stroke something of a mechanical eunuch. Sure, there are many advantages in owning an undemanding machine, but if you have time for maintenance I think it is useful in strengthening the bond between rider and bike.
I hadn't researched MZe at all, I just had a vague impression that people complained that they had gripless tyres. The MZ came with brand new Pneumats. Being both lazy and thrifty I left them on, taking extra care on shiny surfaces. That was a mistake, I wasn't getting to know the bike. Adverse publicity and adverse camber had me riding around like an old tart on a penny farthing. Next to a good rich beat from the exhaust, I want a bike you can lay over, but travelling about on iced pigshit, even correctly inflated, does not encourage this.
I could have been wrong, I heard later that only the early Pneumats were really frightening, and I managed to wear out the rear tyre in 7000 miles so it couldn't have been all that unyielding. An Avon on the back much improved my confidence.
Grudgingly, because I was still fretting for an Italian thoroughbred, I began to enjoy the ETZ. l whacked it around for 14 hours one day, screeching along Cotswold straights, then twisting around the dream roads of the Welsh mountains. Back home. as I picked pheasant feathers out of the front wheel spokes and pushed the corpse of a poor little bat out of the cylinder finning, it occurred to me that I hadn't an ache or stiffness anywhere, and with 425 miles on the clock for the day's run that was quite something. So much for fairly gentle touring. Once. on a shorter run, fifty miles went into the hour without straining anything or frightening myself, and that is good enough for me.
I came across a Morini at last and the owner let me ride it over the weekend. And I did like the Morini. What a bike, I thought, I could worship this. But at the end of an hour I ached fit to scream, and sadly I had to say that the bike was fine but I was the wrong shape or something.
Riding home on the MZ my limbs and back regained their normal sexy suppleness. It seemed crazy that I had to forgive this bike for being an MZ. It had never failed to start easily nor let me down at all, apart from that metal plug cap which really should be slung out anyway. it's so damned ugly. If anything went wrong it wouldn't cost a bomb to put right and after 4 years use it was still so unworn I even skipped an MOT.
It only really scared me once and that was my fault. Impressed by bike theft statistics, I decided to use the steering lock. I clean forgot I'd done this. As my initial take off was to the right, nothing seemed amiss. Then it rapidly became a case of help... aeaargh! Never make this mistake, it’s most unpleasant, I can assure you.
I'm not bothered about street cred or posing capability, but it seems most people feel the MZ is not blessed with an endearing appearance. So saying, one doesn’t have to leave it at that. I kept it clean and tidy, a dirty MZ looks very uninviting, and there’s some truth in the old adage that dirt hides defects and a clean bike is a safer one. Beyond that. I took a long hard look at the ETZ and decided to make some improvements. l polished up the casings such as the cylinder fins, which had a very rough finish, removed the grotty paint on the forks and polished that up as well, and did the same to the levers.
Apart from cosmetics I've only changed one thing — the horn button. This was inspired by coming around what should have been a perfectly safe corner to find some nerd in a Merc towing a caravan trying for an impossible U—turn. Shit, I cried. True, blowing the horn in these circumstances would not have helped very much, apart from adding to the initial expression of my feelings.
As I braked, I aimed at the centre of the caravan, feeling fairly sure that I would make a tremendous mess of it whilst not hurting myself too much. But I was amazed at the way the MZ went from 70 to 0mph in an incredibly short distance This enabled me to select my words of reproach with great care as l swung round the front of the Merc, seeing behind the wheel not a frightened girl, as you might expect, but a full grown man with a sulky look on his face.
I always analyse my near misses, learning from them, This is probably why I am well on the way to dying of a dull old age. I recalled that I had jabbed at the horn button and missed, so I amused myself making up a separate switch based on a car flasher switch (80p from all good car shops) and a pair of Fiamms (£3 from all good breakers).
I made a fair bit of progress learning to live with an ETZ 250, but could I be reconciled to a two stroke? Certainly I’ve had them before, from spluttering little Villiers to the now legendary Scott. One advance is Champion G type spark plugs which cost so much that you can only buy them direct, but they last much longer and solve the oiling up problems on some two strokes. If your engine doesn’t work with a G type plug throw it away but keep the spark plug as it's probably worth more!
I never found a G type necessary on the MZ. though. Mine smokes briefly after standing for a week or two, though that seldom happens, or trickling along in heavy traffic, but that is quickly burnt off and I’ve never had a fouled up plug. I can't even complain about the noise I'm not conscious of spluttering and normal running produces a steady drone, not at all unpleasant, whilst acceleration gives a good mean snarl that goes nicely with the kick it gives.
To sum up, I have to praise its comfort, reliability and a lot of very enjoyable riding. I’m not in the big bike league, that’s obvious, though if I wanted a bit more poke there's always the 300. It’s too easy for a good thing to come and go without being recognised for what it's truly worth. but I hope the ETZ is around for a good long while yet.