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Bike Profile - Posted 2nd November 2011

An MZ Adventure, Part One
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Phil Speakman sets off an a long distance trip aboard his freshly rebuilt ETS 250 Trophy Sport. What… could… possibly… go… wrong?

Old bikes and their associated idiosyncrasies can often threaten even the best laid plans of men. Although, unlike John Steinbeck, I'm not what you might call 'au fait' with the aspirations of rodents, so I don't feel sufficiently qualified to make any such claim regarding their effects on mice.

'Any road up', as my Auntie Peg was oft heard to exclaim, utilising the expression as a convenient way of moving the conversation forward... having spent much of this summer working away, I returned home with a couple of days to spare. During which I managed to squeeze in the various required maintenance checks on my ETS250 Trophy Sport amidst my normal family duties.

By the Friday morning I'd removed the stargazing tail lamp and re-fitted it with the correct ETS mounting rubber, giving the rear lamp a more level outlook to its ever diminishing view of the world. That's a job I'd been meaning to do for a while, as the MZ ETS and ES rear mudguards may look identical at first glance, but I assure you they're not!

The last time I'd used my ETS250 was on a showery June Saturday, for a return day-trip to the MZ Riders' Masham summer camp. On the way home I'd noticed the fork top nuts were leaking a tiny but significantly annoying quantity of fork oil. It was only a few miniscule droplets but isn't it amazing just how far they'll go once smeared over new paintwork? Besides, the manual does mention that these nuts should be re-fitted with a suitable thread sealant, so a few turns of PTFE tape on each cap soon remedied this minor problem.

Other than checking tyre pressures and lubricating the enclosed chain, I'd left myself with ample time on the Friday morning to pack a small bag and make my way to meet up with Tony and Phil in Stockport. From there we'd planned to enjoy a sedate journey across the Pennines, Phil on his Goldie and Tony on his Jawa 360 Panelka. They'd arranged a further meeting later that day, with BSA A65 Thunderbolt riding Hippy Dave, somewhere in the vicinity of Hull. From there we'd catch the overnight ferry to Zeebrugge.

Yellow. You can't beat it... MZ ETS250 - It wasn't to be this bike's year, alas...

Having hardly ridden the Trophy Sport since its rebuild, everything was either new, freshly assembled and lubricated and either repainted or newly coated. It's a fine looking machine, even if I say so myself. I've always considered the ETS250 to be the 'looker' in the MZ line-up, albeit beauty firmly remaining in the eye of the beholder where MZs are concerned. Admittedly, we weren't planning to do any silly mileages on this trip, in fact barely to the other side of Ypres and back, but it's nice to feel you've done as much as can be realistically expected in readiness for a trip abroad, isn't it?

As I approached the Dunham Massey junction on the M56 I found myself overtaking a wagon at a steady 65mph when something went very seriously wrong. Just as I pulled level with the front of the cab of the articulated lorry, the back end felt like it had completely locked up and I found myself sliding approximately 30 degrees sideways to my direction of travel, heading gradually but inevitably into a thankfully empty outside lane. After what must have been a good 350 yard barely controlled slide with a pulled in clutch, I finally came to rest, amazingly still vertical; on the grass covered central reservation with motorway traffic speeding either side of me.

Still, at least the back end had slid that way and not the other, which would have quite conceivably seen me disappear under the wheels of the articulated lorry...

Having worked for many years on the UK motorway networks, crossing motorways is not that strange an activity for me. I waited patiently for a suitable space in the flow of traffic, then briefly checked over the ETS and pushed it to the relative safety of the hard shoulder.

The back tyre was completely flat, and looked to have flopped over the edge of the alloy rim, protecting it from being ground away on the Tarmac. I had intended replacing the tyres during the rebuild, but having priced up a set of new Heidenaus for it, I'd opted to replace the hardly worn ones instead, as they still had plenty of tread on them and appeared fine.

In my defence, I had fitted a couple of new rim tapes and tubes so I'd more than made an effort to ensure it was well shod for the jaunt.

MZ bits on Right Now......

By the time I'd phoned in my predicament to both Green Flag and my travelling companions, parts of me were gradually starting to 'unclench' and I found myself weighing up the merits of replacing the tyre and tube verses the option of taking a completely unprepared machine. Of course, given more time, I could have had a back-up machine prepared as I always have had previously. But for this trip, I'm afraid time was very much against me.

In just over an hour, the van had recovered me home and once the crippled ETS had been safely stowed away inside my shed, my ES250/2 Trophy was pulled out to see if it could still salvage my trip to Belgium. By now, time was getting quite tight…

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