by the Staff of DIRT BIKE
The second most obnoxious cult in our sport is The CZ Riders Of The World. We are not going to tell you what the first most obnoxious cult is; you’ll have to figure that one out yourself. Yes indeedy-do, CZ freaks are hard core people.
In fact, we have one here at the plush DB offices: George. We have a lot of fun with George and go out of our way to make a large number of crude remarks about CZs whenever we can, and he responds accordingly by getting all red in the face and stammering out obscenities. A normal session goes about like so:
“Hey Chet. Take a look at this bogus set of handlebars. They must weigh a ton – probably came off a new CZ.. Haw haw.”
(From the other room … ) “Oh yeh, you ZXS%68*84537)8Yd, 291tC”, laff all you want. If it came from a CZ, it’ll never break like that wimpy trash on your Breako.”
See what we mean? They’re fiercely loyal to the brand and will defend CZ at the drop of PAL.
When you press George, or any other CZ freak, about their undying love for CZs, they’ll invariably boast about the legendary reliability of the bike and attempt to play down the weak points. What about the zit-like shocks, you ask?
‘Well, you’re supposed to put Konis on. Everybody does. Don’t you know any better?”
But they’re so gawdawful heavy, you protest.
“Hey now … take that metal tank off and slip on a plastic thingy and you save ten pounds right away. Kee-rist. You can’t expect the factory to do everything for you.”
But the picky-picky staff of DIRT BIKE has indeed come to expect the factory to do a lot move for you nowadays. After bikes like the dazzling Elsinore and some of the latest raceready Bultacos, the way a CZ is sold to the public is almost unforgivable. Sure, it can be made right. But why should you – the buyer – have to spend so much of your c” money to get all those goodies?
“Just wait till we get the new CZ, warns George. “It’s got all the trick stuff on it. And light? You bet.”
So we waited until we got a phone call from American Jawa. Ring ring ring. “Hullo. Offices of DIRT BIKE. You wanna buy a sub or something?”
“No. Dis be Amerrikan Javva (that’s the way they say it). Ve haff a bike for Doort Bike. Come und pik it cop. Now.”
“Hey,” Chet yells, “wliich one of you guys wants to pick up the CZ? It’s ready.”
We hear a door slam and a wisp of smoke is rising from George’s spinning chair.
Three hours later, he comes in the office with a big grin on his face; 1 ke he’d just made out with the girl with the biggest you-know-whats in town. “It’s here,” he says reverently.
We wandered down to the heat treated DB parking lot and gave it the famed “once-over.” Looked weird. Red frame. Silver gray parts and, what’s this? New shocks! Wonder if they work any better than the old ones? That’s dumb. Of course they have to work better than The old ones – anything worked better than the old ones.
George ran around the truck in little circles pointing to this and that. We had to calm him down till Wednesday..
Ah yes. Wednesday. That’s the day we usually take off every week to go riding. Seeing as George was the most nervous of the group, we let him ride first. The bike fired right up and ran clean. Too clean, in fact. When a two-stroke runsthat clean from ice cold, it’s probably jetted on the rich side. And conversely, when it warms up it’ll probably blubber some.
After about half-tank of break-in gas, George started to push it a bit. We took pictures and observed. Then we took turns riding and made him take pictures and observe.
until the bike had been ridden hard for a month and a half. It was raced several times and at least two tanks of gas were run through it every Wednesday by all the Staff and several other riders. It’s safe to say that at least 20 different people rode that bike and gave us their opinions. And those opinions were remarkably similar.
Everyone agreed about the handling; it’s what you’ve come to expect from
CZ … plus some refinement. The longer wheelbase on this red framer helps, but all the precise steering of the past is still present. The narrow Bamiti front knobby can be placed into exactly the line the rider desires without his even thinking hard about it. And to do
this, the rider will not have to climb all over the gas tank like Bultaco riders must. Just plonk your old buns right down in the saddle and steer it wherever you want. Very little in the way of gymnastics required. Even during hairy-chested broadslides, the rider could more or less relax and play with the throttle for control.
The only time the CZ gives a hint of hopping around is when passing over genuinely serious whoopdies. Then, the rear end will start that old far side-to-side thud-thud-thud bit, and your stomach will get a sinking sensation. Naturally, if you are a longtime CZ rider, you ignore it and merely keep the throttle on, using several lanes of the course at one time. However, if you are like most of us, you’ll just jump off the bike out of stark unadulterated fear.
The only deficiencie, you’ll notice in handling on a normal MX course are when you can’t avoid the bumps and ruts. At this point. vou realise that the suspension – while good – isn’t good enough. Especially noticable are the limited travel shocks. Even though damping was quite was quite good, that rear wheel flat does not have enough up travel. Four inches – tops – in this day of forward mounted shocks and stock bikes with almost five inches of axle movement on the rear end. the CZ simply doesn’t cut it. We had a chance to ride one of the new CZs with a pair of Konis mounted. Even though the
Konis had only 3/4 of an inch more travel than the stock CZ shocks, it made all the difference in the world.
We talked to one of the CZ specialists – Mid Valley CZ – about the rear end, and they told us that the stock shocks were holding up well and many of their team riders were using them.
Additionally, we talked to a rider who had cut the frame on his new CZ and used the stock shock with a heavier spring instead of a Koni. He claimed it retained damping for at least a 30 minute moto. Whatever. At least CZ is giving the rider a decent shock on their latest effort.
However, the story up front is not as nice. Even though no one can scream and yell at the forks, they are still not as sophisticated as lots of other units on the market; compared to Bultaco, or Maleo forks, they’re harsh. More than one simple remedy is available.
Motocross Action, our illegitimate offspring magazine, took the forks apart on their test CZ, did some spring swapping and drilled out the holes in the bottom of the dampers, and claimed it made them the match of anything you can buy.
We didn’t do this to our test machine and can only take their word for it, but they seem like a relatively honest though clumsy – group. It has been common practice for some time for CZ owners to install Ceriam springs instead of the standard fork springs. Having ridden CZs with this change, we can vouch for the worthiness.
All things considered, the CZ is easy to ride quickly, but the bike is considerably down on power compared to the other bikes in its class. We were surprised at the readings we got on our first dyno run; so surprised, in fact, that we yanked the head and checked the timing. It was slightly off, so we retimed the bike to factory specs and tried it again. Not much improvement. The bike would only register 24.5 horsepower at 6500 rpm and then it would sign off like somebody dropped an orange in the inlet tract. Sure, the low end and mid-range were nice, but not nice enough to justify giving away four or five horsepower to damn near everything else in the 250 class.
What this lack of power at the upper end of the rpm range means is this: Unless you pull a fan-tast-tick holeshot on everybody else, you’re going to get your shorts blown off heading into that all-important first turn.
After checking around with all those aforementioned CZ freaks, we find out that the culprit is the exhaust pipe. Mid Valley CZ, always eager to sell you something, says they have a pipe that’ll let the bike breathe on top. Even if you don’t opt for a replacement pipe, most of the savvy shops cut the stock pipe and tuck it in closer to the shock. As it is now, a fall on the left side is going to forniscate the end of the pipe. While you’re cutting the pipe, the experts also tell us to get rid of the CZ muffler and put something else on. Anything else, in fact. Not a bad idea, because the stock setup is offensively loud and is a pathetic excuse for a silencing system. CZ has been stuffing off on the silencer bit for some time now, but there really is no excuse. Look at the new Montesa VR, for example. It’s quieter than most street bikes and puts out a bunch more power than the CZ on top and in the mid-range. And it’ll positively slaughter the CZ in a point to point drag race. Quietly. We hope to get a chance to run some of the accessory pipes on the dyno at a later date to see if they live up to their claims.
Even with the lack of top end power, the CZ rider can turn competitive lap times as long as he keeps stirring the shift lever and operates in the mid-range of the powerband. Heavy flywheels let the rpm build up predictably and the rider em grab a handful without having the bike squirt out from under him in a corner.
It’s not too hard to diddle with the gearbox, either. Once the rider gets used to the characteristic long throw of a CZ, he just doesn’t miss a shift. Much of this is probably because once the shift lever is stabbed at, and goes past the halfway point between gears, it’ll go into the next gear, rather than find a false neutral. You don’t have to put it all the way into the gear – a good intention is usually enough. Ratios are fairly close in the five-speed box, and no awkward gaps are present. As long as you’re in the ballpark on the rpm, you shouldn’t fall off the pipe. In fact, if you do, you should probably take up riding one of those stupid three-wheel things with an automatic tranny.
One word of warning while we’re still mumbling about the gearbox: Keep an eye on it. Used to be you could completely forget about the CZ transmission, as it was the closest thing to bulletproof the industry has ever known. But now we come to find out that the new 250 (the 250 only) has bushings in it instead of bearings. Sacrilege! The people at Jawa say there should be no problem, but if you hear of any, let us know and we’ll let you know. OK? By the way, you can put the bearings back in, if you want to. The bushings are the same size; we suspect they did the change because it’s cheaper to make the bike that way. Such is life.
Some other things haven’t changed, though. Like the hubs and brakes. Excellent, as in the past, but still a bit heavy compared to the exotica being offered the racer nowadays.
One other disappointment was yet to punch the staff of DB in the wazoo: reading the Official Incredibly Accurate and Definitive DIRT BIKE Scale. We expected a very light bike from all the stories we’d been hearing about the new CZs; like maybe 217 of 218. Nope. It weighed 231 pounds with less than a half-tank of gas. Not all that bad, to be sure, but not in the same stomping grounds as the rest of the hot new machinery. Shoot. Next to one of the new Buls, this thing is a refrigerator. Back to the old CZ syndrome: Put on a light tank and light this and light that. Yeh, and lighten your wallet at the same time. Dammit CZ, it’s just not fair, not now. Four years ago, we spent, the money with a smile on our faces. Three years ago, we still spent it, but weren’t happy. Two years ago, we were bitter about it and last year CZs were selling for the price of a Yamaha all over the country. This year, a lot of improvements have been made, but not enough. Already this year, we’ve tested some absolute blowmind bikes right out of the crate and there’s some to come that promise to be better.
This is a spoiled marketplace right now and anything less than a full effort is going to be received exactly that way by the buyers. Yes, the bike handles impeccably. And yes, the power can be brought up to “standard.” But no, it isn’t fair to ask the customer to do it. Not for $1360, it ain’t. For $1095 … maybe.
BITS AND PIECES
The CZ legend of reliability held up just fine for us. Even though the bike had its wheels ridden off during the test, nothing broke. Nothing at all. Not oven a spoke. Parts are horrendously expensive, but they will last far past the run-of-the-mill components most machines utilize.
Still the same old handlebars with the welded-on lever-things.
Superb waterproofing setup and the airbox is big and well protected. Saddle flaps dangle over the air inlet and protect it from airborne mung. Saddle is comfy.
New brake pedal this year – nice and small. You can’t miss it, either.
Tires are Barum – beyond reproach in performance, but wear out quickly. Traction front and rear is definitely superior under all conditions.
Pegs are decent boot-holders, but appear to be on the dangerous side. If one bites a fallen rider, he’ll have stitches to show at the next party.
The kickstarter must be depressed by hand to move it out to the stomping position. And if the bike doesn’t light off, you have to do it again. Still, it can’t flip out while you’re riding. Mixed emotions on that.
General layout and feel of all controls is excellent. The bike feels right. Someone over there knows how to make a bike feel good for all sized riders. Not one rider sniveled about getting used to the machine.
And wonder of wonders … our fork seals did not leak!
All things considered, the 250 CZ we tested would have been The Weapon last year. But this isn’t last year and things have changed so fast that it’s almost dizzying. It can be made right and the thing is ungodly reliable. Maybe that’s worth it to you. If you’re a CZ freak, that is. If you’re not, then you must look elsewhere.