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Bike Profile - Posted 23rd March 2009

1974 CZ Model 477 - Part 3
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After buying and then fettling his classic CZ, Jeff Nordstrom attempts an ill-advised journey...

The spring and summer were enjoyable and problem-free for the CZ. I commuted the eight miles to and from work on four or five days a week without incident, aside from the occasional plugged fuel filter due to rust in the tank. I determined that the CZ is as reliable as any other vehicle on the road, and it should be treated as such.

So when my Dad informed me that in three weeks a group would be riding their motorcycles up to the church's annual Men's Retreat, I told him to sign me up. In mentioning that a group would be riding their motorcycles, it was never his intent that I would volunteer to join them. Dad still doesn't consider me a 'motorcycle owner'. The CZ does not get much credit in his book. That being the case, he assumed that I meant I would use his secondary motorcycle, the 883 Sportster.

I informed him that the CZ was my mount of choice. He seemed annoyed, but as good fathers do, he assured me that he would let the rest of the group ride ahead, and he would stay behind to make sure I made it, or to give me a lift the rest of the way when the CZ died.

'CZ is the Ducati of the Iron Curtain' Apparently. 1974 CZ model 477

I, however, was not the least bit worried about the CZ. Sure the commute to work was only eight miles, and the maximum speed limit over those eight miles was only 35mph. But the CZ had been running so well, and I needed to stretch its legs a bit. This would be the perfect opportunity.

The campsite we would be going to was only about 45 miles from my house, accessible by a well maintained two-lane highway, almost to the top of a mountain pass. The speed limit is 60mph most of the way, but the road is not very busy. Traffic would not be a problem. While the Owner's Manual on the CZ states a maximum speed of 100kph (62mph) or 110kph 'if you lean forward', I had not, to my knowledge, topped 55mph, and that was with my chin on the gas cap. I have never been able to top 45mph sitting upright, even going down hill. This likely has something to do with the fact that, at 240lb, I weigh almost as much as the CZ, and therefore am not likely the prototype Model 477 rider on which the performance figures were based.

On my commute home from work the day after I decided to take this trip, I noticed my steed was missing at higher revs. Having experienced this problem in the past, I cleaned and re-set the points, and checked the carb adjustments when I got home.

Over the next couple of days it started developing other problem. It would start fine, but it would die whenever I stopped at a light or intersection. It would start back up immediately, but then die again at the next intersection. I could not figure it out, so I took it into my motorcycle mechanic.

He determined that the ignition switch was bad. He had to order one (not an exact replacement, but my CZ is not a restoration project...) It came in a few days later, and was made to fit into the headlight compartment where the old one was. Wires were hooked up and everything was working again. I picked it up the following Wednesday, a week and a half before the trip.

CZ(s) on

Everything was running perfectly again right up until the departure time. The group was scheduled to leave my house at 4:30 Friday afternoon. At 4:20 Friday afternoon, the CZ sputtered and died on my way home from work, a quarter mile from my house.

As I pushed the CZ around the last corner before my driveway, I was greeted by the concerned stares of the rest of the group; My dad and his 88ci Harley-Davidson Softtail, Jim and his Kawasaki Vulcan 1600, and Ben with his Honda ST 1300. I couldn't help but feel sorry for them, realising that none of them would be able to push their motorcycles up a hill if they had mechanical (or electrical) problems.

I pitied them and their inferior rides.

I took out the headlight to find several wires were melted together, and the flasher unit for my indicators was fried. I practiced my hand signals, removed the flasher, and liberally applied electrical tape to exposed wiring and any other shiny things I happened to find in there. Headlight on, insert key, one stab at the kick-starter, and she fired to life. By 4:45 I was ready to ride.

Although the CZ was superior to the other motorcycles in the group, as a mere 175cc two-stroke, it was not capable of the cruising speeds of the others, especially with some of the inclines we would encounter. Realising that, and seeing that the others were slowly going about the business of preparing to mount their beastly large motorcycles, I told them I was going to get started, and they would probably catch up to me by the top of the first hill a few miles down the road.

I did not see them again until about 10 miles from the campsite.

The CZ ran beautifully; with my chin firmly planted on the gas cap I was able to maintain 55 to 60mph most of the way, with only the steeper slopes causing me to drop down to third gear and run at 45mph. I pulled off at a wide spot in the road to wait for the rest, assuming that one or all of them were broken down. Eventually they caught up to me and we continued the rest of the way as a group. They later concocted some story about getting stuck behind a tractor with a hay baler and a slow moving truck, to explain their inability to catch up to me. Either way, it was a beautiful warm evening ride winding along the river and into the mountains. This was a great way to start the weekend.

Brown and beige. The entire seventies in one colour scheme. 1974 CZ model 477

Upon arrival, we parked four abreast, Kawasaki / Honda / CZ /Harley-Davidson. They are all so proud of their motorcycles, so I felt bad about out-classing the rest of them. I would have parked off by myself, but they found the only level ground in the area, and as I have a centrestand, level ground is the only place I can park.

The next day we loaded up and headed back. After a tour around the lake, I took the lead for the ride home. This time the trip was almost all down hill. With my chin on the gas cap, and a slight decline ahead of me, the CZ attained speeds never before comprehended. I may have reached 65mph, and she still had throttle to spare. Until…

…she quit running altogether.

Note combined kickstart and gearlever... 1974 CZ model 477

We were unable to determine the cause of the problem, but we were only about 15 miles from my house. I gave my dad the keys to my pick-up, so he rode the rest of the way home, and came back to get me. This actually was a nice time as well. I was able to spend a relaxing hour resting in a wide spot next to the river while the warm sun filtered down through the majestic cascade mountain pine trees.

Then we loaded the CZ in the back of my pick-up for the rest of the trip home. Further investigation revealed that I had stuck a piston ring and lost compression. I have since honed out the cylinder and I have a new piston on order. We'll see how that turns out later. But the fact remains that I took the CZ on a journey that I never should have attempted. It got me there, and almost got me home again.

What a ride.


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