You may not realize it but MZ has been around for a very long time. In fact, the German company has been around since the beginning of the motorcycle itself, first as an engine supplier beginning in 1907. Then known as DKW (Dampf-Kraft-Wagen), the company began producing complete motorcycles in 1925. DKW annually produced 60,000 of its 2-stroke powered motorbikes between 1925 and 1930, becoming one of the first manufacturers to build motorcycles on a truly mass-production level and growing to be what the company claims was the world's largest motorcycle manufacturer at the time.
DKW enjoyed amazing success in competition right out of the gate, winning 45 championships in all forms of racing, including Grand Prix from 1922 through 1936. Three decades after the company's inception, the name was changed to Motorradwerk Zschopau or, more simply, MZ. Racers like Ewald Kluge, Horst Fugner, Alan Shepard, Dieter Braun and Mike Hailwood were just some of the riders who enjoyed victory aboard the German-made machines.
Following the collapse of the Berlin Wall and the reunification of Germany, MZ looked beyond the European Bloc and outward at the world market for the next half-century. Then, in 1996, the Malaysian company Hong Leong Industries stepped in to provide an injection of capital that helped propel MZ to new levels of success on the sales floor, beginning with the single-cylinder, 660cc Yamaha-powered Skorpion. Small-displacement bikes have been the staple of this proud company from the start, but in response to the changing demands of consumers around the world, MZ designed and built its first large-displacement motorcycle, the MZ 1000S.
The 1000S is built around a 998cc inline-Twin powerplant wrapped in a double-tube trellis chrome-moly frame and clothed in slippery bodywork designed by the same engineer that penned the F-117 Stealth Fighter.
On the race track the motor of MZ 1000S felt even better than it did on the street. The seamless powerband made it easy to pour on the power on corner exits.
Although the bike has been available in Europe for some time, the big MZ is just now arriving on these shores. MCUSA was offered an opportunity to sample the latest version during the 2005 MZ1000S's introduction at Firebird International Raceway in Phoenix, Arizona.
At first glance the bike is a beautiful piece of machinery. It exudes German craftsmanship from its aerodynamic front cowling with its quartet of projector beam headlight tucked neatly within, to its bulbous tank and angular tail section, all the way down to the powder-coated frame and trick 3-spoke wheels. Its spacious ergonomics tip its hand that it has a mild sporting bent, although it feels a bit on the portly side with a claimed weight of over 500 lbs.
During the technical briefing conducted by MZ North America Manager John Stoddart, we were informed that the 1000S is designed to be a sport-touring motorcycle "with an emphasis on sport." An interesting look back at MZ history followed, and our interest in the new model was piqued.
Although the bike's press launch was held at a race track, the bike came equipped with its OEM-spec sport-touring compound tires, so there would be no lap records broken on this day. With that pressure off, the short and curvy F.I.R. road course proved to be a nice venue in which to divine the bike's strong points and shortcomings.
On the track, the softly suspended 1000S offered a smooth ride. The inline-Twin motor doles out its power in a linear fashion with no apparent surge of power anywhere in the rev range. If the revs are kept above 6000 rpm, the bike accelerates just fine for a sport-tourer. Its 6-speed transmission is precise, although it engages with a clunk in the lower gears.
The black version of the 1000S has a very stealthy look to it. I personally liked this scheme the best because it gave the bike a bit more of an aggressive look than the silver model.
Slowing down was effortless thanks to the 320mm front rotors and 4-piston Nissin calipers out front; a twin-piston caliper on the rear clamps on a 243mm disc. The front brakes do an excellent job of slowing the massive machine down from triple-digit speeds. Initial bite is soft, which is good because the spongy fork would have suffered because of it.
Sorting out the soft suspension for the track turned out to be an exercise in futility. The fully adjustable 43mm Marzocchi fork seemed underdamped and undersprung for track work, no matter the attempted adjustments. Even when I sampled the test unit that was dialed in for Sport Rider
magazine's rep, I found it was too soft to encourage anything much over a spirited pace. Its front end felt vague, perhaps due to a lack of compression damping, so I never really felt confident pushing it hard on the track. Then again, as we were reminded, this bike was meant to pull duty on the street as a touring mount, not a track bike.
Despite all this complaining, I had a great time riding the 1000S. It was very stable and, more importantly, comfortable, even after hours of track riding. Swapping the bike from side to side in the quick transitions was about the only place I could really feel the mass of the bike resisting, but it's nothing to really whine about. The pegs are high enough to keep from being ground off, and the relatively high bars kept my troublesome lower back from aching. Wind protection is excellent at full tuck, and all the gauges and controls were right where I expected them to be (unlike that other German manufacturer's bikes).
Arizona Highway 88 curves its way through the Sonoran Desert. The MZ 1000S proved it is a capable sporting machine while gobbling up miles of the 88 during our test ride.
Upon reflection, it was clear to me that this bike was capable of doing anything the average human would ever expect out it on the track. But it is clearly not a pure sportbike. Now all I needed to know was how it worked on the street.
MZ says the 1000S to be a touring machine with a sporting influence, so I decided to put the claims to the test by spending an extra day in Phoenix to put a few hundred street miles on the big Twin, hoping to answer some of the questions that were lingering in my mind after the track day.
My test unit came equipped with MZs expandable soft luggage, which although a little bit on the smallish side, provides ample storage space for all our various sundry items on this trip. Larry Williams from Moto-Euro
magazine were gracious enough to equip my passenger/photographer/sister Andrea and myself with some cool-weather riding gear so that we didn't freeze our tails off in mountains outside of the Valley of the Sun. With our bags packed full of cameras, jacket liners, energy bars and water bottles it was time to head out.
The day trip would take us out the curvy Hwy 88 past the Lost Dutchman Mountains
and beyond to the popular sport-riding destination of Canyon Lake and Tortilla Flats. The first leg of the journey was an hour or so of two-up riding on the 360 freeway heading east away from the hustle and bustle of metropolitan Phoenix and out towards the savage lands of the Sonoran Desert.
The bike soaked up freeway road imperfections like a trooper, providing a very comfortable ride over the normally bumpy stretch of asphalt and concrete. Just as I thought, the Marzocchi fork and Sachs shock redeemed themselves during this touring segment. There was minimal buzz in the bars until the speedo reached 80-plus mph, which is really good news for people planning on spending significant time traveling from point to point on the MZ. Little or no vibes reach the bars below 80 mph.
The silver version of the 1000S really does looks good with the sun shining on it though. Notice here the right-side drive and the sweet cast aluminum wheels which are just a couple points of interest that separate this bike from the competition.
The mirrors are all but worthless, though. They offer a completely unobstructed view of traffic behind, but they must be soaking up all the vibes the big 96mm pistons produce because they never stop being blurry.
Once in the Superstition Mountain canyon, the 1000S performed sporting duty with authority. It held a line without wavering, was fairly easy to muscle from side to side, and offered enough of its linear power to keep me grinning. The bike's extra mass was not quite as noticeable on the street as it was on the track., and it felt reminiscent of Suzuki's TL1000R but with less torque.
My major complaint that appeared during the street ride was some serious driveline lash at lower speeds. The 1000S first exhibited this problem when we were caught behind a line of slow traffic with nothing but blind corners for miles ahead. It was only in this situation that the bike revealed this nasty habit. It chugged annoyingly at low rpm in first gear, prompting my passenger to ask if something was wrong with the bike.
A call to MCUSA contributor Neale Bayly, who happens to have a long-term MZ1000S in his possession, confirmed this was not an isolated case. His solution was to fit a larger rear sprocket of his MZ test mule to provide a less lurchy ride and a little extra low-end grunt that the stock bike is missing. Read Neale's 2004 MZ 1000S First Ride for another perspective, if you so feel the urge.
The 2005 MZ 1000S gets some well deserved rest after a full day of Sport-Touring duty. The picturesque Lost Dutchman State Park provides the amazing backdrop.
Overall, I found the look of the MZ a little on the vanilla side of appealing. It just seemed to be missing the verve necessary to make it truly stand out in a sea of cafe'-style bikes. If it was stripped of all the front bodywork and equipped with a wicked looking front headlight and a set of Renthal bars and aimed directly at the street-fighter segment, then these styling issues wouldn't be such a point of dissention for me. MZ revealed just such a machine at the 2004 Intermot show, so we're expecting it to be the next version of this bike to hit our shores.
So the question is: What is the MZ 1000S? The answer is simple. It is an alternative to the cookie-cutter sport-touring bikes we see all the time. It is different and it's not ashamed to admit it. Its parallel-Twin motor offers a seamless spread of useable power and its ergos are all-day comfortable. And its tubular frame is as unique as the stealth fighter-inspired bodywork, so it will never be confused with any other bike.
If we had a 1000S of our own, we'd put a larger rear sprocket on to alleviate its low-speed driveline lash and figure out how to improve on the buzzy mirrors. After that, some suspension tuning would be in order. Once these minor changes were completed, this bike would be much better.
As it is in stock trim, the MZ1000S is a capable sport-touring machine. If you are in the market for an S-T and are not the type of person who is real happy when you roll up to your favorite riding spot only to see 4 or 5 bikes that match your own parked out front, then you should take a look at the 1000S. Its user-friendly power, comfortable riding position, unique look, competitive $10,995 price tag, and 2-year warrantee make the MZ 1000S a bike worthy of consideration.
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