Bookworm: Lockdown library

This month, our resident bookworm, Oli, has been swatting up on MZs and XS650s.


By Mick Walker

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WRITING ABOUT A motorcycle that has a wide reach, while at the same time has a passionate and dedicated following, is a minefield for the author. It’s even trickier when most of the information available is in a foreign language and shrouded in a fog of 1960s and 70s propaganda and state secrecy.

Mick Walker’s book on the MZ makes a fair fist of telling the story of the East German brand in an entertaining and informative fashion.

At 140 pages it’s not a massive tome, but still manages to cover the whole story and remain readable, eschewing minute technical detail for a broad-brush approach.

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We get a decent outline of the MZ company’s origins as DKW and their vastly important advance of two-stroke technology.

There’s a brief dabbling in the politics involved in the re-establishment of MZ at Zschopau in Saxony.

It does rather gloss over the life of Hermann Weber, who designed the DKW RT125 that ultimately resulted in the success of so many postwar manufacturers, from BSA to Yamaha.

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Weber’s death in a postwar Soviet labour camp in 1948 is dealt with in a sad, single, sentence.

MZ’s establishment and the development of the best two-strokes in the world at the time gets substantial coverage and the photographs used are rarely seen and clearly reproduced and if anyone has a BK350 horizontally opposed twin featured in the second chapter, I’d love a go on it.

The chapters on the road bikes are interesting and packed with info, and there are bikes that will have passed by most of those with a casual interest, such as MZ’s efforts to build a Wankel engined roadster in the mid 1960s.

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There’s lots of coverage of MZ’s competition efforts at ISDT and road racing, with Walter Kaaden and Ernst Degner to the fore.

Simson, MZ’s sister factory, gets a good look in too. While in the UK they are probably best known for their late 1970s “sports” mopeds, this mentions more exotic offerings like their 1957, DOHC RS250, six-speed racing single.

Written in 2005, the book covers the post-DDR collapse and subsequent rebirth of the company as MuZ in 1993 and their later four-stroke singles.

There’s a lot of interesting stuff in there, and with little other information available about MZ, Walker makes a good job of it. Well worth a read.

■ Redline Publishing ■ £21.95
■ ISBN: 0 9544357 4 5

Read more Reviews, Letters, Opinion, News and Features online at and in the August 2020 issue of Classic Bike Guide – on sale now!

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