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15th April 2009

Erzgebirge and Beyond - Part 2
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Phil Speakman and his trusty MZ ES250/2 finally arrive at the Erzgebirge rally, where he promptly forgets everyone's name. Pass me the cleaning socks..

Let me be clear on this, I am hopeless with names, as many of you whom I've met at rallies will be first to testify. I'm hopeless with names after just 2 minutes, never mind 6 months later as I finally settle down to write this. I'll do my best to remember the names of the people I met at the rally, but I expect there will be more than a few blanks.

However, I do remember many of the bikes that were at Sosa. As I'd arrived shortly after noon on the Thursday there were perhaps 20 machines already in attendance. I'd parked next to a dark red IFA BK350 and stood admiring its chrome tank as I drank my first beer. The owner of the BK introduced himself in perfect English and started fiddling within the timing cover of his bike. It was miss-firing, apparently. Eventually the fault was traced down to a washer in the wrong place that was preventing the points cam from being secured. It turned out that Knut (as he is known on the forum) was one of my room mates for the weekend. You can read about his BK350 rebuild here:

A typical rally-goer...

Two other bikes also caught my eye, one immaculate 1957 Simson AWO425 Sport finished in a typical 1950's pale shade of polychromatic blue and curiously, a stretch ETZ250 3 seater !

Perfect for Saturday night hen parties perhaps?

Frank, the owner of both machines let me have a ride on the AWO later that day and I instantly fell in love with the machine. Truth be told, I'd actually fallen in love with AWO425's a few years previously when I'd come across one at a B&B in Coswig on the Elbe river. However, it is chiefly because of the ride through the Erzgebirge woodlands on Frank's machine that I now have my very own 1958 Sport in the garage. During the weekend, Frank kindly let me take detailed photographs of his bike and answered all my questions about its restoration, thus allowing me to write a feature article about the AWO425 for Realclassic magazine.

This combo's chain broke, apparently. Are we surprised?...

Gradually the car park (or was it a basketball court?) filled up with new arrivals, as did the campsite. I'd settled myself in my room and once a particularly violent storm had passed, I appeared at the door of the hostel armed with yesterdays socks, underpants (de-buttoned) and a waste paper bin filled with soapy water. Then much to the amusement of my hosts, I proceeded to wash my ES250 with the underpants and finally polish it off with yesterdays T shirt.

You see, I have a system whilst travelling abroad. I always take old clothes with me and at the end of every day, the socks, underpants and T shirt are utilised to clean the machine. This gives me the opportunity to give the bike a once over for anything requiring attention and then the dirty items go in the bin. When I return home, my luggage is virtually empty and I have new clothes already waiting for me on my return. I can assure you that there are now photographs all over Germany of a strange Englishman washing his MZ with a pair of socks.

No socks please, we're German...

Another thing that attracted the attention of my hosts, was the Trophy's mph speedometer. It seemed that throughout the weekend, every time I so much as glanced at the Trophy, there was someone standing over it, focusing their camera above the headlamp unit. Likewise, they all seemed fascinated by my tax disk and that too was no stranger to the white light of the flashbulb by the end of the weekend.

After a pleasant evening of barbeque and beer, the Friday morning dawned as changeable as the Thursday. There was a ride out planned for the afternoon to the Schloss Wildeck motorcycle museum at Zschopau and the MZ factory itself just up the hill at Hohndorf.

The MZ factory...

However, having already been there and having ridden for the last 4 days, I was happy to put my feet up and watch the new arrivals take yet more photographs of my speedometer. Besides which, my hosts had arranged for me to be interviewed by Carolin (officially the prettiest newspaper reporter since Lois Lane's days at The Daily Planet) for an article for the Chemnitz free press. It would appear that an Englishman on a 36 year old MZ riding through the Erzgebirge is hot news in former Karl Marx Stadt.

I have to say though, I think she saw through my clumsy attempts at media spin and she got me bang to rights. One of the subtitles in her article says it all really:

"18 Maschinen, aber keine Frau"

Ho hum!

Hafl sidecar, half watertank...

All morning was spent watching new arrivals arrive (as they do) and riders fixing and fettling their machines. One guy in particular; by the name of Roland, was having problems with his beautiful blue TS150. The diagnosis was carburettor jetting and I was impressed to watch all those involved checking each jet with feeler gauges to ensure they were the correct diameter. Eventually Roland was happy that the TS was running perfectly again and the ride out left for Zschopau in the late morning.

Sadly the ride out was cut tragically short when Roland was involved in a head on collision with a car and he was killed instantly. As you can imagine, this tragic turn of events cast a dark cloud over the rest of the weekend. There was even talk about cancelling the rest of the meeting and people were being apologetic towards me, having travelled so far to be there. I told them straight, not to worry about me I would be fine. They should just do whatever they thought was right and that would be fine by me. At a time like that, I was the least of their worries.

Eventually the decision was made to carry on with the event, but it was a much sadder and more sober affair, Roland being one of their MZ forum moderators and very close friend of Andreas the organiser. They had even travelled together to the treffen.

It was a much sadder and more sober affair... Andreas, the rally organiser.

On the Saturday evening there was the usual tombola in which I won a book about the MZ factory. In return I'd donated a North Wales & Cheshire MZ Riders Club T shirt and the new owner seemed very happy with his item of sartorial good fortune.

Hardy Lenk, the proprietor of also turned up and set up his stall selling MZ spare parts. Up until now my very limited German had been restricted to telling people about the bikes I owned, with many people there speaking English as well as me. However, as I used my Sunday best German to ask Hardy about his stocks of ES/ETS 250 chain rubbers, I could see Bernie and Eichy (who between them translated for me with enormous patience so often during the weekend) shaking their heads violently either side of me. Hardy also looked taken aback. Eichy was the first to speak.

"You have just asked him for twenty sets"

"Yes, I would like twenty sets"

They looked puzzled, to say the least.

Once I'd explained that they were all for MZ spares supplier; Fred Rogers, then Hardy immediately understood. The deal was done and during a short phone call, Fred secured even more items that he was running low on and soon the order was complete. Bernie and Eichy either side of me looked surprised, and even Hardy looked pleased, despite me bargaining him down on a few prices.

Later that evening there was a parade of one of each of the best examples of all of the MZ & Simson models manufactured. That part of the evening had been organised by my friend Lothar Benke and the attendance of my Trophy was requested to represent all the ES250/2 models present. Earlier in the day an elderly gentleman had approached me and in broken English, inquired:

"Please can you tell me, where is the shop in England where I can buy a new ES250 Trophy?"

It was the finest compliment he could ever have paid me and I was absolutely delighted.

Earlier that afternoon, Lothar had been demonstrating a novel way of getting home should your high tension lead or plug cap fail. Simply walk to the side of the road, pick a blade of ordinary grass and substitute the faulty parts with the newly acquired foliage. He demonstrated an ETZ125 running perfectly using this technique, to much surprise and amusement.

On Sunday morning I packed up everything and headed out into the steady drizzle in convoy with Lothar and his wife Gabi. We travelled the length of the Erzgebirge on route 101, also known as the Silberstrasse.

We bisected Zschopau and Marienberg at Hilmersdorf, then continued eastwards through to Freiberg and eventually arriving at Lothar and Gabi's home at Gohlis on the western outskirts of Dresden. I was booked into a local B&B for a few days, which was to be my base for exploring Dresden as an ordinary tourist using the excellent local bus service. After cleaning myself up, a window in the weather allowed me to clean the ES250 once more and get it under cover in the garage of the proprietor.

Simsons on

The next few days were spent discovering Dresden during the day whilst evenings were spent enjoying the company and hospitality of Lothar, Gabi and their family. Their daughter Katrin and her husband Mike had recently been blessed with a little boy, Leandro, who I'm sure will be taught to ride motorcycles from an early age. Mike owns various machines, including a model that one day I hope to add to my collection, an EMW (Eisenacher Motoren-Werke) R35.

On my first evening in Gohlis, Lothar and Gabi gave me a tour of the flood plain of the River Elbe that Lothar's family had originally cultivated for many generations as flower growers. Lothar has now planted a small area with a row of vines and I believe the results of his first years crop of grapes were a great success. They also showed me just how high the River Elbe can flood to, the mark on the wall from the 2002 floods was level with the top step leading down into their basement, now converted into a garage with an entrance to the rear of their house.

Number one in a new series of RealClassic Cathedrals... The Baroque splendour of the Frauenkirche

I was blessed with good weather during my stay in Dresden and on the Monday afternoon I was delighted to finally see the Baroque splendour of the Frauenkirche, reconstructed using funds raised from all over the world. The construction costs have been estimated at 180 million Euros, much of it from private donations. My entire morning had been taken up by looking around the impeccably restored Zwinger palace and admiring the ornate collections of artworks and treasures housed in the Dresden Castle.

Watercooled DKW at the Schloss Museum

On the Tuesday, I rode westwards to Zschopau for the compulsory photograph of my Trophy in front of the old MZ factory. However the barrier at the entrance was locked, so I couldn't get right up to the buildings like I had on my previous trip. I spent a pleasant hour in the Schloss Wildeck museum looking at some of the pre-war DKW's and a curious electric start TS200. Was this a prototype that never made it into production, I wonder? It is a fine collection of machines and with the Schloss Augustusburg collection just up the road, I would urge anyone with an interest in MZ's to go. You will not be disappointed.

Off-road (ISDT?) Simson at the Schloss Museum

Wednesday morning saw me packing up and heading North. I'd decided that the Czech Republic and Bavaria could wait, as I wanted to see the Baltic coastline instead. With maybe a trip into Poland? We shall see.

Photographs of the Sosa 2008 Spring Rally can be found at: Just click on the "Frühjahrstreffen Sosa 2008" link. There are 1854 photographs from all those there who have contributed their pictures. There may even be 30 or 40 of them that aren't photographs of my Trophy's speedometer !

Another day, another body of water to cross. This is at the Bascul bridge... MZ ES250/2


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