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Classic Motorcycle Review - Posted 16th May 2008

1972 CZ Jawa 175

As a child, Jeff Nordstrom’s first encounter with an old bike involved his dad’s CZ-JAWA. That probably explains quite a bit...

The CZ-JAWA 175 was actually my dad’s motorcycle before it was mine. When I was but a lad of two or three, my father came into ownership of this magnificent machine. It had been converted from its original configuration by a couple of brothers who attempted to make a trials bike out of it. Although I am no expert on trials bikes, a 450lb 175cc two-stroke water buffalo does not say ‘I am a nimble and delicate fawn, built for balance and agility.’ The brothers bought it new, removed the oil mixer (to narrow the frame), and added a beastly wide handle bar to aid in low speed balance and maneuverability.

This is a '78, not a '72. Sorry. 1978 CZ 175

On further reflection, it could be the ‘low speed’ factor that drew their attention to this machine. An accidental slip of the throttle would by no means result in the back tyre breaking loose, on dirt, loose gravel, mud, or even whilst resting on the centrestand with weight forward. Even with this ‘easily controlled’ power, and the modifications the brothers had made, the CZ’s career as a trials bike was short lived, and the brothers were ready to part with it a mere eight months after its purchase.

My father bought the CZ from the brothers and brought it home, and it was glorious. He covered the formerly mustard yellow tank and rear mudguard with a nice silver, and replaced the straight flat front mudguard with a lovely silver-ish plastic after market job. My dad then fitted an array of passenger foot pegs to accommodate any sized companion. Those foot pegs would later be utilised by freight he would have never dreamed possible. But early on, much to my mother’s dismay, the companions would be my older brother of six, and myself, a portly but handsome three year old.

Note 'pre-flat' tyres...

The three of us could be seen puttering about the small community of Republic, Washington, USA on the family 175, myself straddled primarily on the petrol tank, followed by dad, and big brother settled nicely on the rear, using the uppermost or ‘child’ passenger pegs. My father, a capable pilot, ferried us through the tree lined and windy logging roads of northern Washington State, gloriously mounted on our Czechoslovakian iron stallion. These are fond memories indeed.

Jawas on Now...

There is only one drawback that I can recall from my early years with the CZ, and that would involve the centrestand, which would play an antagonistic role later in life as well. I am told that a centrestand is a useful item to have, I have even heard it referred to as a ‘must have’, although never to my face. My knowledge of the centrestand is this: a centrestand will keep a motorcycle upright while parked, provided said motorcycle is parked on a perfectly flat and solid surface, and no significant, or even insignificant side-wind occurs anywhere near the parked vehicle.

Another variable to enter into the mix is a portly but handsome now four year old who has been inspired by the exploits of Evel Knievel that he saw on TV the night before. Needless to say, a driveway with a slight side slant, a strong gust of wind, and an imaginary leap over 26 school buses resulted in broken clutch handle, a trip to the emergency room, and an oddly clutch-handle-shaped scar on the back of my head. Lesson learned: mothers should not let their children play outside.

Minutes later, the bike was in the lake and Freddie Mercuy and his companion were on their way back to town with just a giant sparkplug to remind them of their moment of glory...

Despite this minor mishap (I say minor because my head would suffer significantly worse trauma before my fifth birthday), I never lost my love for the CZ. A couple of years later my second two-wheeled bicycle became my CZ, (my first two-wheeled bicycle being an integral part, and co-victim in the other major head trauma of my youth). My dad painted it the same silver flake color as the CZ. We fitted it with the closest matching seat that we could find to the massive slab of black vinyl that made up the saddle of the original, and off I went. The weight of that bicycle was even a reasonable facsimile. Having learned from my previous exploits as an imaginary dare-devil, I lived the remainder of my youth as ‘The Fonz.’

By this time we had moved from our pristine little community in the hills of Northern Washington, to a much larger community in the comparatively flat and desolate plains of Central Washington. The larger community was not as accepting of three-up riding with young children on a noisy two-stroke which left a trail of blue smoke that could be followed back from any destination to the point of departure. Not a good feature when the riding configuration is questionable as to legality.

As a result, the CZ worked its way further and further into the depths of the garage. Oh dad did pull it out on occasion, he would try to kick it over, it wouldn’t go, so he would take it down to a local cycle shop, the owner being the only other person in town that had ever heard of a CZ Jawa, and have the carburettor rebuilt. Once that was done, he would ride it for a couple of months, and it would go back into the garage for a couple of years. Then he would feel bad, have the carburettor rebuilt, and do it again. It was a sad time for the CZ, and for me.


Next episode: happy days are here again, when the teenage Jeff rediscovers the CZ…


Seized by enthusiasm? If you want to know more about CZ-JAWAs of this era then go straight to:

Headlamp eerily similar to the one fitted to the latest Ducati monster

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