Motorcycle Reviews

2005 MZ 1000S Road Test

Written by  March 31, 2005

When Curtis Fisher of MidAmerica PowerSports Plus in Independence, Missouri asked if we'd like to road test their new 2005 MZ 1000S we jumped at the chance. I mean, how often does a dealer hand you the keys to a new bike and ask you to take it out for a week, run it through its paces, then bring it back and tell them what you think?

Sport or Touring?

If you're unfamiliar with MZ you're probably not alone. Although its German heritage dates back to the early 1900s, MZ is relatively new to the United States, with the first MZ 1000S being introduced late in 2004. Conceived in the award winning Naumann Design Studio, this unique bike, with its Stealth Fighter look and sexy European flair, fits into a category of sport touring that no other manufacturer has dared to enter. Typically, sport touring bikes are valued for their contrasts to pure sport bikes in terms of comfort, two-up riding, wind protection, and luggage capacity.

Rarely are sport touring bikes rated on the sport criteria but are routinely issued a pass when it comes to performance, suspension, handling, and other attributes by which pure sporting machines are strictly graded. Thus, MZ 1000S boldly ventures into the sporting category by exceeding most criteria for which far more powerful bikes are known. On the touring side of the equation, the MZ meets all the typical weekender requirements. The 1000S is more sport than tour but is able to bridge the gap with few compromises that would concern the discerning rider.

The chart shows a quick look at how the 1000S rates for both the Sport and Touring criteria we used for this test. With the exception of horsepower, the 1000S comes close to perfect on the sport side. The windshield lifts the air over your helmet cleanly so there is little wind buffeting at high speed. When tucked in through the corners the feel of the controls is superior. Handling, suspension, and braking are all excellent. The large tachometer is easy to read at a glance and the shifting is positive throughout the abundant power band. For long touring the lack of detachable hard bags, the less-than-upright riding stance, the vibration in the mirrors, and the speedometer error bring down the Touring scores, although at a 96% and 88% relative satisfaction index the MZ is still impressive.

MZ History

Beginning in 1906, Motorradwerk Zschopau-MZ has had a long history of contributions to motorcycling and at the end of the 1920's, under the brand DKW was the world’s largest motorcycle producer. The factory led the way in the 175cc and 250cc classes and enjoyed a hard-fought rivalry with another little start-up brand that went by the name of Bavarian Motor Werks—or BMW for short. World War II saw the factory dedicated to machinery for the Third Reich, and it wasn't until 1949 that the factory (then in Communist East Germany) turned out the IFA-DKW RT 125 and returned to the racing podium. In 1953, the Company reorganized under the German Democratic Republic (GDR) political system as VEB Motorradwerk Zschopau, or MZ for short.

Two names famous in motorcycle engineering are MZ's Walter Kaaden and fellow engineer and racer, Ernst Degner. Together they changed the face of competition forever. Kaaden developed the modern day expansion chamber for two strokes and made them competitive winners against the four-stroke designs of the day. Degner brought this body of knowledge to Suzuki when he defected from East Germany to Japan in 1960. Suzuki won its first World Championship in 1961 and in the years following Yamaha won, both borrowing heavily from technology hewn by Kaaden.

Throughout the 60s MZ continued to ship record numbers of two-stroke singles throughout East Germany and Soviet Block countries, as well as to evolving and Third World nations. They also managed to rack up a series of victories at the International Six-Day Trials. In total, MZ brought home 13 World Championships in the postwar era. In 1974, after manufacturing more than one million postwar motorcycles, MZ entered the US market. In the mid 80s German reunification spelled the end for MZ’s government funding when the GDR economy collapsed. MuZ was the name chosen by the Company when resurrected by the Malaysian group Hong Leong in 1996. The first successes were the Yamaha 660-powered Baghira and Scorpion. In 1999, the Company regained its original marque of MZ as well as a twenty million dollar investment for the new 1000S, funded by the parent company. The award winning 1000S became available in Europe in 2003 and then arrived on US shores in late 2004. MZ has placed a sizable investment in the US market and the new 1000S is the foundation of their future in the western hemisphere.

Styling Perspectives

In 2003, Peter Naumann, the designer of the striking 1000S, was awarded the prestigious International Forum Design (iF) Silver Award for the project. The iF Awards are coveted by world leaders in product design and reflect a manufacturer's commitment to innovation and willingness to take on competitors. MZ has certainly stepped forward with a bold, angular, and highly functional design poised with an aggressive mantis-like nuance: slightly sinister yet curiously inviting. At rest, projector beam headlights create the impression that there exists a soul within whose possibilities beckon.

Studies exist that attempt to quantify beauty; indeed, many industries believe they have narrowed it down to a finite set of rules. Product styling is always a subjective exercise, and after gazing at the MZ for a protracted period (an easy thing to do), the profile reveals a Fibonacci-like spiral overlaid from the handlebars to the notched tail that reveals the perfect blend of beauty with symmetry and artistic flair with genius. When we interpret beauty, shapes like the 1000S are as organic as a conch shell lying on the beach or as complex as a print from M.C. Escher, where the more you look the more you discover in the design.

Engine Tech

When grading on pure sport bike attributes, the 1000S motor is an example of how the world's finest motorcycles are about the total package not just high horsepower at the crankshaft. The MZ 1000S is powered by a liquid-cooled, four-stroke, parallel twin 998cc engine that was designed in-house. This engine is truly unique in its design and execution. The twin cylinder power plant is narrow and the over-square cylinders are canted forward 40°. The valve train is a chain driven DOHC, with a four-valve-per-cylinder set-up with 40mm intakes and 32mm exhaust. The tail mounted Sagem ECU controls the injectors for the dual 52mm throttle bodies and supplies highly predictable throttle response. MZ engineers started their design from a clean slate in a Computer Aided Design and modeling environment with numbers run on strength and performance before a case was cast or machined. The engineering goals were to make the motor an integral part of the handling and balance of the machine not just a power plant with huge horsepower numbers. Ease of maintenance was also important and that theme dominates the design of this motor as well as the whole bike. The cases split horizontally, the transmission is a cassette type, the clutch is on the left-hand side of the motor, and the alternator is on the right side with the drive.

By traditional sport bike design standards everything seems backwards. However, after looking closely at how both short and long-term maintenance labor is reduced you can't help but marvel at the forethought and simplicity that has gone into the 1000S engine design.

As the above photo reveals, the compact engine has a counterbalancer to dampen out the 180° crankshaft. The cassette transmission can be easily serviced by removing six bolts and pulling it from the engine cases as a complete unit. The alternator runs in the engine oil and the flywheel is attached to the right-hand side of the crankshaft. The starter sits above the free gear wheel and engages through the alternator gear. All ancillary and main gear teeth are straight cut to decrease friction and the telltale whirring can be heard when the engine is at idle.

The twin cylinder design contributes to the high amount of torque in the low to mid range. Maximum torque of 58 ft/lbs measured at the rear wheel at 7000 RPM, and when accelerating on through the power band never dropped with a sharp dive as redline approached.

Transmission and Clutch

The cassette design harks back to MZ's history of innovative racing design. Those who choose to race these bikes will enjoy some of the same benefits many MotoGP bikes have when it comes to track changes. On the practical side, any labor will be much less should a gear ever need to be replaced (which judging by the overall quality of the MZ, is not likely). I also noticed that the transmission was very tight and shifted extremely positive in the taller gears. The lower gears did shift a bit harder than I expected but is most likely due to the low miles on this bike, and after break-in should loosen up. The hydraulic clutch system works great and I was impressed by the clutch pull. It worked without incident and was very easy to use in traffic. The clutch uses a reinforced inner braided line to reduce fade and expansion.

Suspension

The front forks are 43mm fully adjustable and inverted Marzocchi (Mar-Zo-kee), which are at the high end of suspension systems for today's high performance sport bikes. The front forks handled bumps, potholes, and tight corners very well. At the rear of the machine Finite Element Method (FEM) Simulation techniques were employed to test the stress characteristics of the massive aluminum alloy swingarm. It is tied to a single, fully adjustable, Sachs rear shock, offset to the left of the machine with a large knob for a 25 click preload adjustment, and an easy-to-find knurled ring at the connection point is for rebound dampening. Finding the ultimate setting for my ride was a breeze.

Both of these systems worked extremely well during normal and aggressive riding, and the suspension handles anything you throw at it and maintains its superior dampening characteristics over ripples.

Braking

The wheels are a patented split design for low rotating mass, and the large 320mm Nissin front rotors with four-piston Nissin calipers perform extremely well. The gold finish on the calipers and disc adds a nice touch, and the front and rear brake lines are metal reinforced to reduce brake fade and expansion. I was equally impressed when panic braking at 60 mph and was able to stop quite efficiently without locking the front wheel. The rear single-pot Nissin system offered excellent feedback when diving into a corner and was steady under trail braking throughout the apex. In fact, the feedback of the braking system was substantial as the ride continued.

Instrumentation & Controls

The instrument panel is easy to read and the clock is a useful tool, especially when you've told your significant other what time you will be home. The digital readout is great and offers several modes and functions. For those of you who have a problem setting the time on your microwave, the clock instructions in the user manual will walk you through it without fail. The temperature gauge is an easy-to-read bar where 2-6 bars indicate the proper operating range. There is a group of lights for systems self- test and ECU fault indication. The trip odometer is reset easily.

One drawback I noticed was the lack of a fuel gauge. There is a warning light but no actual gauge, which is what I prefer. I also noticed a discrepancy in the speedometer. The turn signals and high beam work well with the passing high beam indicator on the left control box. One other item worth mentioning is that the front brake master cylinder is located at the five o’clock position on the tachometer side, which might be in the line of sight for some riders.

Handling

Throughout my test, the actual road temperature was around 40 degrees Fahrenheit and the Metzler Sportec M-1 tires reacted extremely well. The twin spar parallel design of the frame is as attractive as it is strong. The 4130 Chrome-moly perimeter tubes encompass the engine head and the look is distinctive and bold. The steering geometry at 24.5-degrees of fork angle with a 98mm trail offers a light feel, and the 1000S always felt as though it was on a rail as I snaked through the twisties around Lake Jacomo. The handling was phenomenal and I never felt like it wanted to fall into a turn or go anywhere other than where I pointed it.

Functional Styling

I was very impressed by this bike and its styling is exceptional. Because of the rich paint job it's hard to tell the gas tank is actually made of plastic, so there are no rust issues. By removing two screws, the tank can be rotated upwards like a hood on a car to access the air cleaner, battery, and other vital engine components. The engine will run in this position enabling tuning without an auxiliary gas tank. My legs fit tightly in the sliced recesses on each side of the tank, which enabled me to hug the bike firmly through the turns. The projector headlights look and work great. The running lights are also a terrific idea and I like that you can have one headlight on or both, if you prefer. The tail section is clean and has a distinctive bird tail design with a taillight that reflects the body. The body is European race inspired with quick release Deutz fasteners securing the side panels. With a ground seat height of 32.5 inches I was able to touch flatfooted, but this might pose a problem for shorter folks. Positioned just above the tire, the rear fender controls debris and has a clean integrated look with the rear shock and swingarm.

Riding Impression

After starting the bike the first time I was immediately impressed by how quickly the engine achieved normal operating temperature. This is great when you don’t have a lot of time for warm-up. My test rides revealed that any engine vibration is dampened effectively due to a counterbalance shaft located in front of the crankshaft. The engine comes alive from 4000 rpm all the way to the 9400-rpm redline. Below 3000 RPM the engine is crisp but a bit jerky. I expected the engine to be sluggish at the bottom-end but it was barely noticeable. I really enjoyed the torque from 1500 to 4000 RPM, which allows you to raise the front wheel easily off the ground.

Overall, the engine seems to be the right combination for this twin set-up. With less horsepower than the typical liter bike (97 True HP™ at the rear wheel*) the parallel twin is narrow, with less rotating mass than the typical in-line four, resulting in reduced gyroscopic effects when leaning into a curve at high revs. The cylinders are canted 40° forward to provide a higher front wheel bias translating a solid feel through the handlebars under hard braking at high revs. Power transitions at the apex are predictable with the steering response light yet firm. Simply put, the design of the motor contributes positively to the handling while the lower HP doesn’t detract from the capabilities of the machine. Due to inclement weather I was unable to make it to the drag strip to get an accurate ¼ mile time; however, the specifications show that this bike is capable of hitting 146 mph at redline. I have taken this engine to the rev limiter and the motor pulled hard all the way to redline.

Cruising in fifth and sixth gears would normally be a detriment but that was not the case with this bike. I used all six gears and was impressed with the power that sixth gear provided. The bike is well built, handles beautifully, and is extremely well balanced. Being able to throw the bike into corners and lean at angles like a professional road racer, pound for pound you are getting the best suspension and riding position you can expect from a company that pays attention to creating a well-rounded product. The handlebar position is 3.1 inches above the fuel tank. The handlebars are adjustable by rotating a few degrees inwards. I was very comfortable riding this bike for several hours at a time and didn't feel like I was reaching over the tank. I enjoyed the comfortable seat, and although the windshield is shorter than on most Japanese models it offered great wind resistance when the occasional semi-trailer passed me by on the two-lane roads. The rider’s foot pegs have rubber tops, which helps reduce vibration and are positioned in a comfortable place.

The oval brushed aluminum mufflers give a distinctive sound that only comes from a twin cylinder motor. The engine torque and power is very good and begs to be powered out of the turns.

Touring Impressions

The 1000S will ride for about 170 miles at a steady 70-75 mph before the reserve light comes on. For a Sport/Touring bike that falls on the sport side the ergonomics of the bike are exceptional for long distances. The position of the handlebars in relation to the foot pegs is quite comfortable. Those riders over six feet tall will find the plastic tank sliced so the knees tuck in perfectly. Your body is leaned over a bit more than the BMW 1150RS or the Triumph Sprint ST, but there aren’t any significant stresses that show up in the lower back of a reasonably limber 35-50 year old rider.

The windscreen directs the air completely over the top of your helmet and the front end slices through it like a knife. Hundreds of hours of wind tunnel testing went into designing the front end on this bike. Like the Stealth Fighter, the MZ 1000S is at the intersection where form meets functionality. The style of this bike is a carefully engineered exercise in aerodynamics and the properties of laminar flow.

Under braking there is no excessive strain on your wrists, and getting off the bike after a full tank’s worth of highway is surprisingly easy on the knees. Although hard luggage is not available at this time a soft luggage kit is available for the 1000S, and the attachment points are conveniently accessible in the spacious storage area under the passenger seat. While the 'S’ designation is indicative of a Sport Touring bike the MZ in its current form is well suited to weekend and longer trips, but those transcontinental rides may have to wait for the 'ST’ Touring model to follow.