|08-01-2014, 03:32 AM||#1|
Joined: Jan 2011
Old MZ from Magadan to London via Zschopau
With all the great bikes and gear available it’s easy enough to think that you that you can’t do a trip without the latest and greatest. I’m not against such things, and many times I have wished I had such bike and gear, but let’s not forget that before the “adventure” bike was around people just rode bikes.
Anyway it almost a year since I did this trip so I’m a bit lazy in getting around to writing it up , but thought some might be interest.
So the plan was to take a 30 year old East German motorcycle, a ETZ250, ride it across Russia to its birth place in Zschopau in the former East Germany, attend the MZ “Emmenrausch” in Germany then continue onto London.
I’d had the bike for 6 years and I was impressed by simplicity, ease of maintenance and quality. I always told people it was the type of bike I’d trust to ride around the world. The first MZ to have 12 volt electrics, a disc front brake and an oil tank rather then premix. Enclosed chain was another bonus. There were some negatives, being a two stroke it was quite thirsty and of course that need for two stroke oil.
As cheap insurance I replaced the wheel and steering head bearings, greased up the swingarm bolt and rebuilt the engine as I wasn’t the first owner so couldn’t vouch for its previous treatment. Basically new piston, new bearings, a recon crank and a couple of gears replaced. All this probably cost less then a major service on a Ducati.
I also built up some soft pannier frames, a frame to carry extra 15 litres of fuel needed to cover the longest sketch between fuel stops in Siberia of about 420 kms. A headlight protector (lights are your life in Russia!) and an instrument protector and gauge carrier for a voltmeter and cylinder head temp gauge (Russian mud bakes light pottery on an air-cooled cylinder)
Went back to standard springing front and bike, so the bike was largely standard apart from earlier upgrades of a wider front rim for better tyre selection and a mikuni carb to place the well worn original BVF. Points ignition remained as its simple, reliable and easily repairable. Took a good selection of well thought out spares as I only hand one month to get to London so I didn’t have time to wait for any spares. Obviously I was going to open the engine on the trip, just took things like spare electricals, and things that might get broken in a crash like levers, gear shifter, indicator and brake lenses. Only got time to run the bike for a couple of hundred kms after the rebuild so running in was going to happen on the Road of Bones. “Adventure” tyres for the wheel/rim sizes were not really available, found some Kendo tyres that were basically 1970’s universal trials type. Didn’t have a clue how they would wear so took four spares tyres! Better to be looking at them rather then looking for them! In the end I didn’t change tyres and the original set lasted the 14,500 Km to London.
Squeezed the bike, just, into a frame I got from Canberra Motorcycles that a motorcrosser came in. I guess when you have to, its amazing what you can squeeze in
Shipped the bike to Vladisvostok. Had the bike cleared through customs by Yuri in about half a day. This guy works wonders! Yuri arranged further shipping to Magadan. Must have spent about 10 days in Vladivostok. Had some great weather and some bad weather but had an absolute ball there, great city and people, and met up with Bruce Smart from Teapotone, on his round the world trip for charity. Bike got to Magadan, had to wait 7 days to have it unloaded from the ship as there was only one crane working at the port. Magadan was a nice city but wished I had spent more of my waiting time at Vladisvostok.
Finally got the bike, put everything together and fitted all the gear. Would liked to have taken more photos around Magadan but had to get going. Hand pump for the tyres fell apart on the first day on the road. Worst roads of the trip and no major towns until Yakutsk and no way of pumping up tyres. Amazing no puncture here or on the whole trip.
Doing the old “Summer Route” part of the Road of Bones was not an option, by myself, not so suitable bike, limited time and lots of rain meant that was out. I spoke to some Kiwi’s in Vladisvostok who said there was no way they could have got across some the rivers with a support truck. The Road of Bones had been closed in section for about 6 days before I started due to rain. Weather report was good for the next few days so I was on a rush to get to Yakutsk before the next planned rain. I was quite lucky on my travels across Russia as floods both preceded and followed my travels across Russia.
So what did I find out? Siberia was warm, humid and full of mosquitoes. Mosquitoes really stopped my desire for taking photos. When dry the roads were a dust bowls where trucking traffic could leave you blind in a cloud of dust, and if wet stuck to everything and could make the road boggy or as slippery as ice. Tyre treats quickly filled with mud. The springing setup on the bike was soft, thinking that mud would be my greatest enemy and soft springing would make slippery conditions easier. If I was doing it again I would probably go a bit harder in suspension especially as I had a fair load on the bike. So I bottomed quiet often, had the front end at 90 degrees to the direction of travel countless times when breaking to avoid some obstacle but seemed to escape disaster except for a few times. I always remember the relief when the bike would instantly kickstart in the morning each day after a previous days hard riding.
The Road of Bones was the highlight. Lots of work going on the road and it seems to be improving all the time. Still I had days when exceeding 50 km/hr was a highlight. Only a few rivers crossings where bridge work was taking place, but an exciting trip through the mountain region where there was a ton of road works.
Bike did bottom a lot and countless time I had the front end locked up and the almost at 90 degrees to the bike but brakes off and the front wheel back in line and disaster averted. This was in the course of trying to miss or lessen the affect of pot holes and boulders. If fact I was lucky at times that the lower speed required with the little MZ gave me time to take avoidance actions against some major “holes” that had I been faster would have surely been trip enders. Almost may it to to Yakutsk without rain, but stopped in the afternoon soon after meeting Chris and . Hairy traffic and slippery conditions didn’t seem a good combination so I set camp for the night early. Next day saw the worst conditions of the trip, 1st gear work in the mud. Got into Yakutsk just before midday , so 4 days from Magadan to Yakutsk, not a bad effort on any bike. It was unusual for me to be stopping before late evening. Rode down to the waterfront , spread out my gear to dry. Lots of well wishers , one guy even gave me 1000 roubles for my trip. Got invited to clean up /shower and as a result stayed for two days as a guest. Gotta love these Russians. Saw the sites, the ice carving in the hill tunnel within the permafrost etc .
Hard slog from here. Riding down from Yakutsk to join the main highway was interesting, mostly dirt but then in the middle of nowhere and for no reason at all there would be a few kilometres of pristine tarmac.
My camping setup worked well. Taking Mondo Enduro as an example I used a tarp, inflatable mattress and mosquito net that worked. Lighter and small then a tent to pack, it could cover all my gear the inflatable mattress (versus self inflating) was lighter and also meant I could sleep in mud and be dry, this was done a number of times. It was a case of finding somewhere not in obvious view of the road, put up the tarp and setup then spray under tarp with mosquito repellent (believe me I hate mosquitoes) then settle for the night. Luckily the mosquitoes didn’t much noise or kept away when they knew they could get to me and didn’t seem to attempt to get under the mosquito net. The MSR internal petrol stove took care of dinner/breakfast. A side benefit of the tarp is you had fair visibility around you if you were the nervous type and could be setup to shelter from prevailing winds. I used this setup across Europe as well. I guess there were only 3 night when I didn’t camp out in Russia.
Only had three crashes the whole trip, one the first day in mud where I was having a great time in the slippery conditions but then came to a very damp patch so slippery that I could neither accelerate or brake which unfortunately coincided with two mounds at 45 degrees to the road left by nearby road graders. A minor spill and only a cracked right mirror. The next crash was just a slow speed tumble in the very muddy conditions on day 4.
The third was the most severe, came over a hill doing 80 km/h to find a line up of traffic at the bottom doing 0 km/h. Wet road, recently laid wet tar and knobby tires gave ice like conditions. A touch of the front brake and the bike was down instantly. I was first leading the bike sliding down the road, then the bike passed me (that MZ race heritage showing here). Sparks were coming off the peg and handle bar end weight. I had 15 litres of fuel on the back in plastic containers so I was praying that the bike did not catch fire. Bike and rider come to a stop and bike is happily idling away on it side. I pick it up, the left peg a little bent, the clutch lever pivot broken but still usable and now a cracked left mirror to match the right. Instrument and headlight crash bars did there trip and soft panniers obviously helped limit damage and so all was good to continue. Tough little bikes these MZ. I berated myself for my lack of attention. This was one of the key points for Russia, pay attention to the road or you will be punished.
Later in the trip it was nice treat to stop riding after only about 12 hours in the saddle at Lake Baikal. First sight of lake through the trees and found a great camping stop, corner shop nearby and lake frontage with no cost. Bought a few bears and enjoyed the great afternoon by the lake in perfect weather, Even took a swim in the morning to add that extras 10 years to my life, or so the legend goes. My last dip in Lake Baikal was 20 years earlier!
Stopped at the Ural Museum in Irbit next to the factory, Got treated like royalty by the Museum director and he provided me a personal translator. Alexander had the Guinness book of records for riding wan outfit with the sidecar in the air, I believe he held a 8, 12 and 24 hour record. He was also 1984 Soviet Motoross Sidecar Champion. He is a legend and had a great photo with him on his championship winning machine. I would have liked to have stayed the night in Irbit as it was a lovely Saturday afternoon and the whole city was out and enjoying the day.
The rest was really a push onwards. Camping all the way. Bypassed Moscow and continued to the Latvian border as time was short.
Exiting Russia and entering Latvia was a smooth process. Passed the line-up of truck and went straight to the front. Had to admit that a feeling of relief came over me when I hit the Latvian roads. The roads were great and the traffic was not crazy like Russia and some beautiful countryside. I was having soem difficulty finding somewhere to camp as it such a compact country that all the farms had farmhouses within site. I finally found a beautiful lake too camp by and gave myself a treat and didn’t clear camp til 10:00am.
Continued through Lithuania and Poland , once again camping all the way. As a treat i had two days of rest and recreation in Prague. I had missd Prague on my previous European motorcycle trip 20 years before and always regretted it. I wasn’t missing it this time. A hotel right in the centre of the old aprt of town and the first full wash and cleanup since my swim lake Baikal.
Onwards to Zschopau in former East Germany where my MZ was made. A wet day but a warm welcome at the MZ Museum at Waldrick Castle. An interview with the local paper was arranged by the museum staff who were impressed by my trip and visit to Zschopau. A chance meeting Reiner Prass, former MZ GP rider from the sixties and an invitation accepted to stay with Reiner and his lovely wife Monika. Doesn’t get much better then this for a MZ fan! Reiner gave me a tour of the town and former MZ factory sites and a tour of the nearby Augustine Motorcycle Museum.
Onwards to Neckarsulm to the fantastic NSU museum, a night in a hotel and the push towards the MZ “ Emmenrausch” rally at Kelbra via Suhl and a visit to the Simpson motorcycle museum which also had some fantastic machines. Three days at the rally and managed to take out the “Longest Distance Travelled” award at 13,319 km. Had an absolute ball and made some great friends.
From there a quick run to the channel tunnel and to London. One month from Magadan to London. The channel tunnel train system works well. In London managed to get a photo in front of 10 Downing Street (London residence of the UK Prime Minister) with my Kangaroo mascot who sat on the front on my bike for the trip.
Trip ends there and bike sent back to Australia. Not a lot of detail as there is a lot I have forgotten but gives you an idea of the trip. Regrets - only wish I had more time for the trip and to continue on around the world like some of the real travellers in these forums.
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