Little motards aren't just for 16 year olds.
Inspired by MO's entertaining and informative "hack" take on the 2002 Daytona 955i, I've decided to share my experiences with another bike that gets forgotten in the shuffle of KawiYamaHonZuki.
No liter bikes here, nosireebob, just little German Motards. The MZ 125-SM to be exact. Sure every one expounds, and rightly so, the virtues of buying a used bike first, but with a little smart shopping dealer leftovers can be just as good a deal. Witness Sean's theft of a D955i. So here's my experience buying my first bike, and riding 3500 miles in my first five months of ownership.
So, I'm not really the sport bike type, and cruisers are all too big and heavy and boring (except in a straight line) for my taste. This pretty much leaves the ever dwindling realm of "standards" which seem to mostly be naked sportbikes now and dual-sports which mostly seem to cost too much new and have rabid owners that don't sell them untill they're loooooooong past thier prime. Sport Tourers, $$$$$ (eek!)... Thus my search begins. Being a cautious 26 year old individual by nature, and knowing how to ride (Hodaka Ace 100 in my teens, and a short stint on an absolutely awfull Puch 250...) but not being a speed freak I figured I'd shoot small. 500cc or less.
The market is full of Ninja 250s, some bad, some ok, some over-priced, hell a new 250 Ninja is pretty cheap, but I'm not looking for a rev-happy sport bike with too-soft suspension and a thousand clones all over the road. The used market for bikes here in Vermont is pretty crummy, and despite checking the classifieds every sunday through the spring of '04 and cruising for road-side bargains I was presented with pre-historic standards in need of restoration, GoldWings with half a billion miles, the odd Harley and lots of 2-stroke dirt bikes. Argh.
In my search for small displacement bikes that were road legal, a Friend who has a '97 Scorpion Tour suggested I check out MZs in general, and the 125s in particular. Well, cycletrader, newspapers, ebay hmm. No-one's selling the things. As it happens there are two MZ dealers in Vermont, both sell the cheap-but-reliable MZ scooters and 4-wheelers as an accessory to thier RV business. One of them had a 2002 125-SM in black.
Well, it's little...in displacement, but full-size in the frame department. It's cute, and it's built German, with a capitol G. The guys at the dealership were willing to deal, they wanted it out, as they had a new shipment of 4-wheelers, still in the crates, waiting to go in the showroom. To my surprise they offered me a test-ride, and immediately knocked the price down to $2800 (from the MSRP of $3295).
I came back the next week with a freshly renewed motorcycle permit (hadn't yet bothered to take the certification test and get the "M" on my licence) and a new helmet (Ok, I actualy went out and bought a new helmet for a test ride. I knew I was in trouble.) They had it polished up and had the tank full. The shiny black paint glistening like obsidian in the early June sun, the stainless pipe and alloy spokes glinting, not like chrome, but like clean water flowing over rocks. Damn, thats a good looking little bike. I think I would have bought it right there, but a test ride was still in the works.
"Oh c'mon!" you'll say, it's a 125! Well, yeah, it is a 125. It also weighs 285Lbs soaking wet, looks like something a european terrorist would ride in a James Bond movie, costs less than a nice riding mower, and has the appeal of dual-sport-ability. Oh yeah, did I mention it has a two-year unlimited milage waranty and is built in Germany? With exactly 23 kilometers on the metric odometer, the little 125 popped into life with a cold-blooded cough and proceeded to wheeze its way to a stable idle. Hmm. But once it warmed up the little engine sounded like a swiss watch. The smooth woosh of timing chain, precise, quiet tick of little valves, and the quiet whiiiir of straight-cut gears. Hey, it's a 125, they need to extract all the power from it they can! It whispered of reliability and a level of engineering finess not commonly found in engines of this small displacement. The exhaust issueing from the stainless, catalytic tail pipe smelled like a dryer vent, warm and pungent. Whew, what a change from the smokey-smelly 2-stroke hell of that old Puch.
No tach, but a full complement of warning lights, and an easy to read, relatively accurate speedometer with slick black-on-white in the day green-and-red-on-black at night lighting. The switch gear is top-notch, and comes straight off the Baghira 660, which costs twice as much. It has large, stable mirrors, a long comfortable seat, a comfortable, upright seating position that's just close enough and just large enough for 5'8" me. I think I might have been drooling a little.
On to the ride. Are "plush", "refined" and "comfortably sporty" words you can use to describe a motorcycle displacing 125cc and costing less than most 2-stroke MX-ers? They are if you're describing the MZ. Rev it up and the little 125 pulls eagerly up to ignition shut-off at 10500 rpm... oops, it IS geared awfully low. Still the little bike hustles up to 65 without complaint. The cable actuated clutch is smooth and positive, the gear-shift is a little notchy but also very positive and short. The suspension is supple, but not squishy, pot-holes dissapear into the Marzocchi forks and Paoli shock without pounding rear or wrists. Well damped, and hard to unsettle, it takes mid corner bumps like a champ and although it dives pretty hard under panic braking I've yet to bottom it, even two-up. I bought it.
It's comfortable, classy looking, and built like a BMW. I rode this little bike for 2000 miles without incident. I used it to pass my motorcycle road-test, reveled in the 90 MPG fuel economy, and got asked every where I stopped "Hey, whats that?" Then came the inevitable: a problem. One morning the starter motor spun, but the engine wasn't turning over... I called the dealer, hey it's a new bike, and under waranty! Turns out the starter uses a one-way bearing and it had failed. The part was over-nighted to the dealer, they fixed it the same day I brought it in, and didn't charge me for the oil change. Thats why I bought a new bike.
After fifteen hundred miles more of drafting trucks and getting up to 80mph on the highway, explaining to everyone I met that "yes, it really is only a 125", and ripping (downhill) after sportbikes on twisty mountain roads, and generally enjoying the crap out of myself I reluctantly put it away for the winter.
Never taxing, despite the need to shift often, containing quality parts, able to crawl and slog off-road well beyond the stock tire's ability, and showing nothing but competance well beyond its price point, I'm commuting and riding for fun again this spring like a grinning fool. With an excellent headlight, killer brakes, and a buttery smooth counter-balanced engine I'm not even sure I feel the need to upgrade to a bigger bike yet. First time riders, and those looking for a cheap second bike take notice. This comfy little MZ is fun, reliable and and a real bargain. Costing just a little more than a good scooter, and offering a real motorcycle experience, this little motard isn't just for European 16 year olds. Good luck finding one used though, if everyone has the same love for their MZs I do, they won't be selling.
|Technical Specifications provided by MZ|
|Engine Type||5-Valve, 4-Stroke, Single, DOHC, Liquid Cooled|
|Displacement||124cc [Their site has an incorrect value - MO]|
|Bore x Stroke||60mm x 44mm|
|Max Power||15 HP @ 9000 RPM|
|Max Torque||8.6 Ft-Lbs @ 8500 RPM|
|Suspension||Front: Marzocchi USD fork, Rear: White Power|
|Brakes||Front: Single Disc, Rear: Hydraulic Single Disc|
|Tires||Front: 110/70-17, Rear: 130/70-17|
|Wheelbase||56.7 in. HR|
|Seat Height||32.7 in. HR|
|Wet Weight||312 lbs.|
|Fuel Capacity||3.3 gal./1.0 gal. reserve|
|Available Colors||Red, Black, Yellow, Silver|