Liquid cooled, four stroke, parallel twin
Bore x Stroke
96 X 69 mm
Electronic Fuel Injection
- / electric
117 hp 83.8 kW @ 8000 rpm
98 Nm @ 7000 rpm
6 Speed / chain
Marzocchi Upside-down fork
2x 320mm discs 4 piston calipers
Single 240mm disc 2 piston caliper
10.9 sec / 119.5 mp/h
MCN part 1 -
part 2 -
part 3 -
The 1000S is
like no other sportbike on the road
What comes to mind when you
1960s ISDE-winning off-road
bikes? Cold War-era utilitarian transportation? A quirky line of bikes using
Yamaha-built 660cc singles?
Or maybe you just draw a blank.
Donít feel bad, most people do.
MZ, which got its start as a
motorcycle company under the DkW name in the 1920s, has built more than 2.5
million machines, but never sold more than a few thousand in the United
States in any given year.
Whatever image the MZ brand
brings to mind, the companyís newest bike, the 1000S, is something
completely different. The former East German manufacturer, now owned by an
Asian conglomerate, has built its own interpretation of a liter-class
The 1000S combines top-quality
components from suppliers around the world with an unusual engine of the
companyís own design.
There are plenty of features
youíd expect on a 21st century sportbike. Four-piston calipers clamping twin
discs up front. An upside-down fork that, like the rear shock, is fully
adjustable for preload, plus compression and rebound damping. A
cassette-style six-speed gearbox.
Then thereís the
Stealth-Fighter-inspired bodywork. It may not look like anything else youíve
ever seen, but it wins a lot of compliments.
Any resemblance between the MZ
and other sportbikes ends, however, the second you start the engine. In
motion, the 1000S feels like nothing else on the road, mostly because of its
To say that parallel twins
havenít exactly made a big impact on the sportbike world is an
understatement. In fact, besides Kawasakiís 500 and 250 Ninjas and Suzukiís
GS500, this is itóat least in the U.S. market.
The 999cc MZ engine makes good
power over a broad rpm range, but lacks the top-end hit of most open-class
sportbikes. You can rev it to the 9,500-rpm redline, but itís more fun to
surf the mid-range.
If youíre one of those who think
inline-fours are soulless, this motor makes the kind of linear, non-peaky
power you might prefer. If youíre addicted to the smooth, high-end rush of a
four, though, the MZ will feel slow-revving and a bit rough.
Despite a counterbalancer, the
rigid-mounted engine vibrates the footpegs at all speeds, and the handlebars
buzz as you approach redline.
On the other hand, MZ nailed the
fuel-injection formula. It works perfectly on everything from cold starts to
all-out acceleration. You never even notice it.
The 1000S also has a character of
its own when it comes to handling. Stubby clip-ons provide limited leverage.
But get in the habit of leading with your chinóa slight upper body shift and
a decisive look where you want to goóand the MZ proves to be stable and
confidence-inspiring, nearly perfect on winding two-lanes
The 1000S is not a bike for the
masses, but if the machineís knife-edge styling and the parallel twinís
hammer-of-the-gods sound push the right buttons for you, then you really
have no choice. The MZ 1000S is a class of one
Source by Lance Oliver
MZ. Readers of a certain age will immediately have
images of small, smoky two-strokes, blessed with rather more function than form,
that almost everyone has owned at some point. Thereís a good reason why so many
of us had them, too. They may not have been very pretty, they may not have been
very fast. But they handled well enough, and once you managed to get them wound
up they went OK. And, and this is the important bit, they never, ever, broke
down. They were also stupidly cheap. All of which added up to the perfect
workhorse cum winter hack, especially if you normally relied on Italian or
British engineering (and electrics) for your two wheeled kicks.
But time and technology wait for no man. The fall of the Berlin Wall and the
reunification of Germany saw availability of far more advanced, more developed
and, frankly, sexier products in the East. Add to that an increasingly vocal and
powerful environmental lobby that saw smoky, smelly two strokes as an
abomination needing to be stamped out and the writing was very much on the wall.
MZ had to adapt or, like their four-wheeled equivalent, Trabant, die. Now MZ
started off as an innovative and clever company, and while many saw the influx
of cheap Western goods as a disaster, they saw instead the opportunity presented
by the availability of technically advanced engines and suspension. And they
made the most of it, too, with a series of bikes powered by other peopleís
engines that were still very competitively priced, still bore some distinct
styling cues from the older bikes and were still reliable and well made. But a
company like MZ were never going to be happy using other peopleís engines to get
bikes out of the door, and their shareholders (a novel idea for an Eastern
European company) would always be nervous about being at the mercy of another,
potentially rival, firm. So they decided to build their own bike.
MZ, you may recall, built their reputation on cheap, cheerful workhorses. Their
first post-reunification bikes were based on the ultra-reliable but rather
agricultural Rotax 500, and the resulting Skorpion was really very much of the
same mould. So when their new Malaysian financiers gave them the green light to
go ahead with their own engine design, it was inevitable that they would come up
with something similar.
Except, of course, that they didnít. MZís first new engine for at least thirty
years was going to go into a 1000cc sports bike. Well, why not?
Engineering a four cylinder engine is a major challenge, and inevitably would
result in something a little bland. So the decision was made that the bike would
be a twin. A parallel twin, at that Ė a configuration that is supposed to be an
ideal combination in terms of power delivery and torque. Balance shafts and
accurate engineering took care of the vibration inherent in the design, with
fuel injection and a clever engine management system looking after the power
characteristics. Lots and lots of research determined that there was nothing to
be gained from an alloy frame, so an elegant steel bridge secures the engine to
the alloy swingarm and yokes. Suspension is courtesy of Marzocchi while brakes
come from Nissin and look the same as those fitted to the Honda SP-2. The
fairing, screen, tank and seat unit are the result of many hours in the wind
tunnel to give optimum cooling and protection. At least that is what we were
told when we were given a presentation on the bike at the Millbrook Proving
We were fortunate enough to collect a demonstrator the Wednesday before, so by
the time we go to Millbrook we had already had the chance to rack up a few
hundred miles and get a good impression of what the bike is really like. And
now, after having it for a week and nearly 1200 miles, I think Iím pretty sure I
know where I stand. But before delivering a verdict, letís have a look at the
bike in the flesh.
The MZ 1000S is a big bike. Similar in size to a VFR, Iíd say, so rather larger
than a Ducati 1000DS, itís most obvious comparison. More on that later. Styling
is distinctive and clearly driven by function rather than form. But thatís not a
criticism Ė the MZ 1000S is a good looking bike, even in silver, never one of my
favourite colours. There are myriad neat detailing touches, like the small lip
around the fairing cutouts that massively increase the throughput of cooling air
passing the radiator, yet it manages to avoid being bitty or fussy. The
headlight array is a clever design, managing to be both efficient and good
looking, the rear light being similarly unique and perfectly adequate. And yet
traces of the Eastern Bloc remain, with a massive, apparently handmade hanger
for the number plate. Great for hooking your cargo net to, mind you, and not
really a detraction from the bike itself. Talking of cargo nets, the 1000S has
pop out hooks below the pillion seat to make securing luggage far easier. Very
An interesting quirk is the positioning of the silencers, which at first glance
look as though they have been incorrectly fitted. The left silencer attaches
outside the pillion footrest while the right goes inside. The result is a
slightly lop-sided rear end but itís just a result of the asymmetric frame that
allowed the rear shock to sit next to the battery for mass centralisation. Plus,
of course, the fact that the chain is on the right instead of the left as we
have come to expect. In fact, the only criticism I can find of the bike before I
ride it is the instrumentation, which looks as though the speedo could be a
little hard to read in the heat of the moment.
On to riding, then. The first thing I noticed was the way that everything fitted
me perfectly. And I do mean perfectly. Somebody has clearly spent a great deal
of time and effort on the ergonomics. The MZ 1000S is a supremely comfortable
motorbike. Pulling away reveals that the engine is reasonably smooth for a
parallel twin but that it doesnít really work properly until 3000rpm. Below that
threshold there is rather a lot of transmission snatch and juddering as the
firing pulses try to tie everything in knots. The clutch, though, is light and
easy to use while the gearbox, which started off very notchy, got progressively
lighter and more accurate as the miles increased. The brakes are absolutely
fantastic, offering bags of feel and the sort of retardation that an earlier MZ
rider would only have achieved by running into an unlit skip. In town, the MZ is
nimble, narrow and comfortable to move through traffic. The mirrors, which blur
at low revs, clear and stay clear above 3000rpm and afford an excellent view.
They are also still narrow enough to allow proper filtering and can be pulled
back flat for those narrow gaps. The horn is excellent, too, so the MZ 1000S
makes a pretty decent town bike.
But you donít buy a sports bike, or even a sports tourer, for town work. Out of
town on the open roads, the MZ is a revelation. The fully adjustable suspension
is very well controlled, straight out of the box without any fiddling, resulting
in a bike that handles bumps very well, even cranked over and under power, while
remaining comfortable. Again I am reminded forcefully of the Ducati 1000DS. Like
the Ducati, the MZ responds equally well to the tucked in and tidy or the
hanging off like a gibbon approach to cornering, though turn-in feels rather
sharper on the MZ, allowing a more aggressive approach. In fact, as we got
better acquainted, it became apparent that this new MZ gets better the harder it
gets ridden. Clutchless gearchanges, which seemed out of the question while
touring around, become perfectly reasonable when pressing on, and the free
revving engine makes overtakes a doddle. The MZ 1000S seems to be most at home
on fast A-roads, ideally with lots of roundabouts. Which explains why I was
grinning so widely after getting home from Millbrook. And from todayís photo
shoot in Sussex. The handling circuit at Millbrook, while subject to a rather
low speed limit, allowed us to get the most from the handling (hence the name, I
suppose) in a controlled environment. Weird riding on something that looks
exactly like a road but isnít one Ė same signs, road markings and so on but
nothing coming the other way and marshals on hand for when it all goes wrong.
Brilliant place for taking photos, too. The speed bowl showed that 100mph is
totally effortless on the MZ, but that came as no surprise. In fact I suspect
that slightly lower gearing might make the already responsive MZ even better, as
well as losing the low rpm judder (or at least making it easier to ride
through). The engine is revving so slowly at 100mph that you are never going to
get to full power in top unless youíre on the Autobahn. And even then youíre
going to need a big run-up. However, ignoring of of that, there are very few
ways I can think of to cover ground quicker or in a more relaxed way than the MZ
1000S. Although the term 'deceptively quick' is something of a cliche, it's an
While weíre on the engine and transmission, itís worth pointing out that the MZ
1000S makes a decent amount of power. A very decent amount indeed Ė the 115bhp
quoted feels about right and comes in smoothly and progressively though there is
a delightful kick towards the naughty end of the rev counter. Despite being
happy to rev, the MZ sips fuel like a very frugal thing, doing a comfortable 200
miles a tank though the reserve light comes on with over 6 Litres
left to go.
Probably not a bad thing, though, because the MZ is not a light motorcycle and I
wouldnít fancy pushing it a long way, even with an empty tank. The gearbox came
in for a bit of criticism at first as it is rather, um, positive in action and
can be a little hard on the toes. But as we put on more miles the gearbox got
better and easier to use, while the occasional touch transmission snatch seemed
to become less frequent, too.
In this job, as you can imagine, I get to ride quite a few different things. The
MZ gets the award for the most attention any bike has got when Iíve parked it
up. Because wherever we went, people wanted to look at it and ask about it. Itís
a unique looking bike, a unique sounding bike (thanks to some nifty exhaust
plumbing and careful work on the firing order) and I suspect will remain
reasonably exclusive. MZ offer as wide a range of colours as you can think of as
standard, and will do any colour you wish for a small extra charge, which will
add to the unique appeal of the bike. There is also a vast range of accessories
either already available or on the way, including touring gearing, a taller
screen, fitted hard or soft luggage, heated grips, a GPS installation and so on.
In fact, talking of awards, last year the Ducati 1000DS won our inaugural Bike
of the Year award. The MZ 1000S is certainly a contender for this yearís award,
doing everything the Ducati does at least as well and some things notably
better. It really is a very, very good motorbike.
But thatís partly the problem. Because those of us who remember MZ remember them
as cheap bikes, while those who donít remember them from before donít associate
this seemingly new brand with anything at all. And the MZ 1000S is not a cheap
motorbike. At just under £7000, itís priced near the top of itís market segment.
It is, in all probability, the best bike in that segment. And it is, almost
certainly, worth every penny of that price. But itís up against some serious and
well established competition. Are you brave or different enoughto run against
I hope it is the sales success it deserves to be, because there is no doubt in
my mind that this is by far the best, most enjoyable sports bike (as opposed to
race replica) that I have ridden this year.