Wednesday, 6 July 2011

A Different Kind of Triple

You could say that I like the MZ Skorpion. I have owned three of them, one each of Traveller, Sport and Tour. All I need is a Sport Cup for the full set, or possibly one of the early Rotax-engined ones just to be a bit different. 


I bought my first one in 2002, a 1998 Traveller. It was a ‘cosmetically-challenged’ training-school machine in white with about 21k miles on the clock. It was a bit rough, although everything actually worked, and it was to get even worse as I pressed it into service as my daily hack. Used in all weathers it also lived outdoors for the next four years or so. In this trim I covered another 25k miles or so, using it for everything from my commute to work to rallies, as well as a couple of trips abroad. 

After all this abuse, on which the bike seemed to thrive, it got moved indoors into my new shed-cum-workshop. After I threw it down the road one sunny afternoon it got treated to some new bodywork and a new paint-job, it got a load of new bits fitted, and was generally tidied up. It looked great. As a consequence of all this coddling its engine decided to self-destruct on about 47k miles due to an oil starvation problem (and not because I forgot to put any in, as some folk would have you believe). 

 
An engine rebuild was on the cards until I managed to pick up a Sport on eBay for less than the cost of actually doing the work. The old bike now seemed destined to be broken for parts. When a low mileage Tour was also acquired, its days were finally numbered. 

I now had two running bikes and enough parts to, hopefully, keep them both on the road for a good few years to come. 

What is their attraction? Well, the build quality when new was excellent, with a stainless exhaust and braided hoses. There is a fair degree of adjustment available on both the footrests and handlebars (at least until the final variants with a single tubular handlebar), enough to accommodate most riders, I’d say. It's relatively light, nimble and quite nippy and, if you can live with the bane of all big singles, the vibration, it’s a very pleasant and easy bike to ride. Now, don’t get me wrong, I have no great problem with the vibration, and it’s certainly not as intrusive as on a number of other bikes I’ve owned, but it does get mentioned a lot. However, there's no getting past that it’s a big single. If you can’t live with the vibration then I’d recommend that you look elsewhere for your wheels. 
So, what are they like to ride? Well, they all behave much the same way. It is, after all, the same engine/frame combination with mostly only cosmetic differences. They accelerate fast enough, although the handling and suspension is a little more modest than to be found on modern machines, with the standard brakes (single disc front and rear) being more than adequate for the job asked of them. Top speed is equally modest, topping out at just over 100mph. Where it works best is on twisty A-roads where you can really throw it around, rather than trying to set new records for losing your license on flat, straight motorways, where iIt will sit quite happily at 70-80 mph seemingly all day should you wish to use it for touring, and return very favourable fuel consumption figures of around 50 mpg at those speeds. 

Having ridden all three variants I personally feel that the Traveller is the best all-round package if you're only going to have the one bike. With its fairing offering reasonable protection from both wind and weather, the standard Hepco & Becker 30 litre hard panniers offer a good carrying capacity which can be increased with larger 40 litre panniers and the addition of a top-box and/or tankbag. 


The Tour, by comparison, offers no such comfort, lacking both fairing and hard luggage. Without the fairing it does seem to be a much smaller bike, and riding it above 60 mph becomes a bit uncomfortable, as with most other ‘naked’ bikes on the market. It all depends on whether an un-faired machine is what you’re after. Most Tour owners usually fit some sort of screen to improve the bike’s usability, and some sort of luggage allows it to pressed into service for actually touring. 


The Sport is the biggest enigma. It is without doubt, well to these old eyes at least, the best looking of the three, and a bike for which the designers Seymourpowell Ltd won the 1994 Minerva Design Award. Its looks compare favourably with anything put out by other manufacturer,s and when parked up it does seem to attract a lot of attention. Well, until folks see the badge on the tank and start mumbling about two-strokes and oily rubbish etc. All quite sad really.

The Sport is stylish and sporty in appearance, yet it’s just not that fast. This is, you’ll admit, a bit of a drawback in a sports bike. Oh, it’s fast enough to break the national speed limit, but a comparison with any other run-of-the-mill middle-weight will show up the inadequacies in its performance. This is probably why Sports come up for sale quite regularly with relatively low mileages on them. People buy them on price and looks, and sell them when their expectations aren’t met with any actual performance. Shame really, as the more aggressive riding position and stiffer suspension mean that it is actually a very capable machine on fast, twisty roads. I find myself throwing mine around a lot and riding like a hooligan when the occasion arises. It makes a pleasant change from my other bikes and I can just about see the attraction in sports bikes in general.

In conclusion, I would recommend that you find yourself a nicely run-in Skorpion, buy it, and then look after it. It is a rewarding machine to own and is capable of doing most things well. There is also a certain attraction in having something so unusual, and should you take the tank badges off I guarantee that virtually no one will know what it is you are on.

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