Saturday, May 31, 2014

My Czech Friend, A Jawa 350 Hack


Years ago when I was a youngster riding exotic Italian motorcycles in England there were quite a few cheap East European imports, MZ two strokes from East Germany and Jawa motorcycles from Czechoslovakia. The Berlin Wall came down and all the economic advantages of Communist imports evaporated with the countries they came from. Except...MZ came back as a German brand with modern machines and were even imported briefly to he US. Jawa on the other hand is still going strong with a niche market in England, much the way the Indian brand Royal Enfield is creating its own niche in the First World. Of course a two stroke 350cc twin is not going to set the US on fire  but when I saw this picture on Real Classics I was reminded once again how nostalgic I am getting about motorcycles in my old age. A Jawa 350 is good for 80 miles per hour flat out, but with a sidecar, I wonder if it will cruise at 60? Cheyenne and I aren't lightweights either...

Classic Motorcycle News
If you desire three wheels on your wagon and are seeking traditional style, then F2 Motorcycles have just the job: their new Jawa Retro Sidecar Combination. This uses the current Jawa 350 Retro two-stroke motorcycle matched with a purpose-designed all-steel sidecar. The sidecar is mounted high and with very little axle lead, a set-up much loved back in the golden days of the sidecar. Back then bikes were relatively slow, so lightweight, low speed steering was more important than high speed straight line stability. Modern sidecars tend to be mounted lower and much further forward, but F2 wanted to recreate the feel as well as the look of yesteryear's outfits.

The outfit as pictured costs  6200 pounds in England, almost ten grand in the US, though I have noticed over the years that prices tend to be equal in each market so I'd like to think that in the US if this delight ever came here -not likely!- it might cost $6200. That would be interesting... And if you are in the tiny minority that might agree check this page out: Jawa UK

My buddy Jiri, he who keeps my two wheelers  running at his shop on Stock Island grew up near Brno in Czechoslovakia under Soviet rule and he longed for the bikes I was able to see and ride in the West. Nowadays he likes to ride on the track at Homestead  and elsewhere and his engine of choice is a four cylinder Japanese classic style. He is not fond of two strokes, so while he thinks my preference for the twin cylinder Bonneville is eccentric, my desire for a two stroke Vespa fills him with horror. I call it my Trabant, the infamous two stroke East German car, the greatest wheels a Communist citizen could aspire to in the years before 1989. 

So, yes, my desire for Jawa 350 Retro is  nothing more than a fantasy. but for those too young to remember two stroke touring bikes, simplicity was their virtue, and the older I get the more simplicity seems desirable. Hence my desire for my two stroke Vespa, which I hope will become real in a  few short weeks.