last time I rode this bike, the skies were blue and
the sun shone down on the smooth, grippy roads that twisted
and turned between the olive groves of southern Spain.
But now it's pitch dark,
I'm hunched over the bars and the rain is beating on my visor
as I plough my way north along the boredom alley that is the
M1 Motorway. Ah - I must be back in the UK then!
If you read the press launch
report that I did on the MZ 1000SF back in February
this year (2005), then you'll have probably got the impression
that I rather liked this bike. So much so that we've been
trying to get one from the factory for a longer test ever
since. Our perseverance has finally paid off, but unfortunately
not in time to take advantage of the best of our summer biking
My destination for this
evening ride from the Thames Valley is a friend's house just
north of Sheffield, and the plan is to get there and then
over to the pub by 10.00pm for a few local beers and one of
their massive roast pork baps. And I have to admit that at
the moment the thought of the food and drink at the end of
the journey is probably the only thing that's keeping me heading
north. The cold, the wind, and the rain are not making this
into one of the most pleasant of my recent bike journeys,
but I also have to admit that the 1000SF is making very light
work of it. That one-litre twin-cylinder engine just oozes
torque everywhere in the rev range, making it just so easy
to keep the momentum going without having to clog it up and
down the box, and the upright riding position and the wide
bars make the whole thing a very relaxing experience, in spite
of the weather.
other surprise is the amount of weather protection
provided by the small headlamp fairing. Back at the launch,
MZ made a lot out of their design for the headlamp unit, and
to be fair, in the warm Spanish sunshine it was very effective
in reducing the wind draft that makes sustained high-speeds
on naked bikes such a pain in the neck - and arms. But those
warm, dry Spanish days are a world away from the cold and
wet night as I go past junction 29 Chesterfield on the M1
Motorway. But the fairing's ability to deflect the air around
the rider works just as well with cold wet air, and although
I'm not getting the protection that I would from a fully faired
bike, I'm doing a lot better than I would expect from a naked
bike. In fact the rain's not really a problem at all. A bigger
nuisance is the buffeting I'm getting from the cars and trucks
that are sharing this wet, cold ribbon of three-lane tarmac,
and the wide bars and the upright riding position don't help
much here, as they turned my upper body into a sail and transmitted
the shocks to the steering. After a bit of experimenting I
find that tucking my elbows in cuts down on the problem.
This is not a nice journey,
but I'm beginning to appreciate some of the 1000SF's qualities.
Even in these conditions, and in spite of the turbulance,
this is one very stable bike. And it's really comfortable,
although comfort under these circumstances is a little subjective.
Still, after three hours in the well-padded saddle there's
not a trace of numbness in either buttock. It's a bit like
riding an armchair, although in this case it's as though you've
left the patio doors wide open and there's a storm blasting
through the garden!
that engine is a real peach. I have to admit to being
a bit of a fan of litre twins, and when there's lots of miles
to cover there's not a lot around to beat them. This one from
MZ is one of the best. It's basically the same motor as they
used in the 1000S, but re-tuned to move the torque lower down
the rev range. On the downside this loses 4bhp at the top
end, but quite honestly it's not that noticeable and the result
is an engine that pulls from just about any revs, which makes
overtaking simply a matter of rolling on the throttle and
riding past on a wave of torque. Ah, there goes another tin
box on wheels! Bye bye.
Finally, I crest a rise and before me there's the twinkling
lights of Sheffield. It's not often that a major city can
look so inviting in the pouring rain, so perhaps my view is
being distorted by thoughts of roast pork rolls and beer as
well as the water running off my visor. A quick sprint across
the elevated section of the M1, past the Merryhills Centre,
take the next exit to finally get off the motorway, and minutes
later the 1000SF is safely tucked up in the garage and we're
hot-footing it across the road to the pub with the saliva
glands going flat out. But they're going to be denied because
the kitchen's closed as the staff are on holiday. Rats!!!
We drown our sorrows with considerable quantities of locally-brewed
ale and then retire back to the house for a midnight feast.
The following morning
the rain has cleared, so it's time to let the MZ loose on
the roads of the Yorkshire Dales.
surface of some of these leaves a lot to be desired, and the
suspension that was so good on the M1 motorway and the smooth
tarmac of southern Spain is getting a bit on the harsh side.
But that's no problem because everything is fully adjustable
and easy to get at, and a couple of minutes twiddling with
the front and rear compression settings and backing off the
rear preload with the hydraulic adjuster calms things down
a lot without compromising the handling in any way. Now I
can really get on and enjoy the ride without getting fired
out of the saddle at every pothole and tarmac patch. The SF
seems just at much at home in these surroundings as it did
on the motorway and in Spain, and can be hustled round the
twisties in the same way, helped by the wide bars, the excellent
chassis, and the dependable grip from the Sportec-M tyres.
This is one very good neutral- handling bike, holding an accurate
line through the corners, not running wide or falling in.
The whole plot is moved along apace by the excellent injection
which is both jerk and snatch-free when rolling on and off
the throttle. In fact it's so good that if you didn't know
otherwise, you'd begin to think that there were a couple of
very nice carburetors lurking under that 20L tank. This allows
you to make good use of the other feature of a large twin
- engine braking. Although the four-pot Nissins at the front
are more than adequate for the performance of the SF, just
rolling on and off the throttle to control the rate of progress
makes the whole ride just that little bit more satisfying.
I'm really beginning to like this bike a lot.
Although the gear selection
is not the quietest or the smoothest - selecting first from
rest is particularly clonky - changes are crisp and positive
and you don't need to use the clutch to get up through the
gears. Only once did I find a false neutral, on a downchange
between fifth and fourth, and I think that was more my fault
than the bike's; but getting neutral for real can sometimes
be a bit of a pig. The good news is that when the green light
comes on you actually are in neutral, and not just checking
whether the bulb works, like some other twins that I won't
the SF into the urban warzone shows that this is a
bike that is just as much at home dodging the traffic jams
as it is sweeping through the A and B-road twisties or clocking
up the motorway miles. The bars give it excellent maneouvrability,
although their width means that the narrowest gaps need to
be approached with caution and may need to be left to the
sportsbike riders with their clip-ons. Stick it in second
and roll the throttle for any speed between zero and fifty
using just the engine to control your rate of progress. I
wouldn't even mind taking the 1000SF for a continental tour,
although I'm not so sure about about its pillion ability.
The bike we tested had the optional pillion cowl fitted instead
of the seat and we weren't able to find anyone daft enough
to sit on it and have their buttocks permanently separated.
But with the pillion pad fitted, the only place to hold on
to is the strap across the front the pad, and our experience
with these doesn't inspire pillion comfort or confidence.
I'd want something much more substantial before I'd consider
taking a pillion for anything more than a few miles down the
road, and I expect that they'd feel the same as well.
Although the SF has very strong streetfighter-styling
cues, it has ride, handling and comfort qualities that make
it much more than an urban warrior. This is a bike that is
capable of scratching, commuting and even continental touring,
although carrying luggage or packages can be a bit
of a problem as there are no bungee hooks of any kind. There's
really only the pillion peg brackets, although the number
plate mount is so substantial that you could also use this
as well. I did!
My only other gripe concerns
that big generator cover that sticks out on the left side
of the engine. When your feet are on the pegs there's no problem,
but when it comes to putting the left foot onto the tarmac
at rest, if I wasn't careful I found the lower part of my
leg coming into contact with it . . . . and it does get awful
hot, even through a layer of leather! It's also a prime target
should the bike go down, so a set of crash bungs would be
amongst the first items on my shopping list. I never really
noticed this during the press launch, probably because there
weren't any traffic lights or jams to bring me to a halt in
Spain and force me to put my feet on the ground!
whole bike has a very solid look and feel to it, and the build
quality is up there with the best. There's some nice touches
like the span adjustable levers on both the front brake and
the clutch, and there's full adjustment for compression and
rebound damping and preload at both ends that actually has
an effect on the handling.
By modern standards the instruments
look a little dated, but in use they're easy to read
and are well illuminated for night riding - not distractingly
bright, but just enough for good visibility. There's no digital
speedo, just two big stacked analogue dials for speed and
revs, a small panel containing all the idiot lights, and a
digital display with a clock, bargraph-type water temperature
gauge, and the odometer that can be switched between total
miles travelled and a trip. There's even a hazard warning
light switch, and there's a completely redundant switch for
the lights on the right handlebar, which is a bit on the strange
side as the lights come on automatically as soon as the engine
But the one thing that dominates this bike is the engine.
It really is a cracker, free-revving, but with mountains of
torque that makes the riding so easy and so much fun. I had
a minor vibration issue with the motor when I first collected
the bike for test, but quick action by the MZ factory and
Jack Nice Motorcycles soon fixed the problem. Thanks guys.
This is one very good motorbike.
Sometimes the environment and limited riding time at model
launches can give you a false impression of a bike's capabilities,
but the 1000SF works just as well on our less-than-perfect
road surfaces as it does on the warm, smooth Spanish tarmac.
And after riding the bike for a month through the UK's autumn,
I can say that it delivered everything and more of what it
promised at the launch. Just add some proper bungee points
and some decent pillion handrails and it will be brilliant.
How about it MZ?