Sunday, 4 June 2017

Hacking: MZ Simson 50

I was in need of cheap transport, a sorry situation which led to the purchase of an MZ Simson 50. It was cheap, running, taxed, tested and only a mentally deficient thief would steal it. The only dark cloud on the horizon was the amount of bodging required to get the bike through the next MOT.

I began to understand why people describe Commie bikes as agricultural — they are probably built as a sideline in a tractor factory. The MZ handled with all the precision of a pram and the braking varied between awful and terrifying. A mate rode it around the block and came back shaking like he had Parkinson's disease. I came close to having Transit inscribed across the front of my helmet.

I began to wonder exactly what the previous owner had meant when he said he'd rebuilt the bike as it began to misbehave in a spectacular manner. It refused to start. I kicked and kicked until eventually there was an earth shattering bang and the end of the exhaust, containing the baffles, flew off down the road, coming to rest 30 yards away.

The cause of this. an incorrectly gapped spark plug, head not torqued down, exhaust clamp not tightened, carb leaking fuel... fuel went into the engine every kick, once in a while partial detonation caused an army field gun impersonation with the baffles flying off like a shell. After dealing with these bodges it began to run quite well.

MOT time loomed. l fitted a new horn and rear light. I removed the forks, tipped out the water and fitted gaiters to hide the pitted stanchions. l bodged on a new battery and brackets were made to firmly fix the seat and exhaust. An MZ 50 is a strange machine, it has no head gasket and no oil in the forks — they are packed with grease. It failed the MOT on one loose spoke and excess travel in the rear brake pedal but he missed the knackered steering head bearings, play in the rear wheel bearings and burnt out rear light bulb. l tightened the spoke and adjusted the brake and had my certificate.

There are advantages in owning an MZ 50, mainly cheapness. A fifty is cheap to insure and tax, you can travel many miles on a tankful of petrol (exact mpg I don't know as the speedo didn't work). The electrics even stayed dry and worked in the British monsoon season, even the tyres (Michelin rear and Cheng Shin front) were alright, wet or dry.

The 50 must be the worst in the MZ range It has the acceleration of an aged and arthritic sloth. not helped by having only three gears and the top speed of a powered wheelchair. It was so boring to ride on a straight road that I started to count sheep and Volvos, whilst people drove past screaming, "Get that bloody thing out of the way." My MZ did once manage a steep hill, two up, although we were overtaken by an electric milk float and a funeral procession.

When two star petrol disappeared from the forecourts due to tax changes, I mixed half a gallon of unleaded and half a gallon of four star with two stroke oil. It ran just as well, if not better than on two star. The thing was quite reliable and usually started first kick. It let me down only twice, once outside a bike workshop and the second half a mile from home when the spark plug conked out.

As they say. all good things must come to an end. This included my MZ. Leaving my flat to visit my parents, there was a sharp crack. The engine was still running and nothing was obviously wrong, so I continued on my 25 mile round trip. Next day I investigated. I removed the rear wheel and pieces of shattered bearing fell on to the pavement. Also, one brake shoe had snapped — the noise I had heard.

This, however, was not the worst of it, the engine was smoking like crazy and an ominous rattle could clearly be heard above the exhaust noise. The top end was stripped down in minutes to reveal a knackered bore and rings. The piston could be dropped into the bore with the rings barely touching the sides. It was amazing that it had kept going for so long. The cost of repair was more than the bike was worth. I advertised it as being broken for spares, sold what I could and dumped the rest in a skip.

The MZ was the first two stroke l have owned and it will be the last. That awful exhaust note sounds like a cat farting in a tin can. Give me a four stroke any day. Rest in pieces MUT325W.

Simon Morris

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