MZ Baghira Street Moto

Text: Andi Seiler • Photography: Christian Neuhauser

Concept & Tranformation
After the German Reunification in 1990, the nationalized companies in the eastern part of the country (formerly the German Democratic Republic) were no longer sheltered and suddenly acquired new perspectives of good and bad. 'Live or die' was the motto. MZ, the brand from Zschopau, tried to move forward but it was a tough time. Only 130 of 3,200 employees continued to work. In 1992, MZ (actually called MuZ then) added the 500cc Rotax-single to their line. The 500 R was a refreshing alternative to the old two strokes of the manufacturer. Then, in 1994, the company introduced two new bikes with a water-cooled four-stroke single from the Yamaha XTZ 660 Ténéré. The Skorpion Tour and Skorpion Sport (48hp) launched a brand-new design with an interesting steel, double-beam frame developed by the British Design Company, Seymour/Powell. This was the first big step into a new future.

But insufficient funding was still a big problem. In 1996, Hong Leong, a Malaysian investor, put the company on the right track to improve production and forced the development of new models. The Baghira Enduro and the supermoto version Mastiff became the first bikes in a new generation of MZ motorcycles presented to the public in 1997 that hit the market in 1998. Masanori Hiraide, a former Yamaha employee, inspired the unusually fresh designs. The engine, still the Yamaha XTZ motor, now came with 50 hp, and the suspension was real high-tech stuff, delivered by Marzocchi (fork) and White Power (rear shock). Also new, the steel single-cradle frame.

The bikes produced the profitability MZ needed, with an additional 130 people hired. In 2000, the Street Moto and the Black Panther completed the line. Both versions differ only in color (Street Moto: Yellow; Black Panther: Black) and share many common parts with the Baghira. Seventeen-inch wheels with sporty tires and a bigger rotor in the front (298 instead of 282mm) improve the bikes' handling abilities and braking power.

Engine & Transmission
There are snappier single engines out there than the Yamaha thumper, but overall the 660cc motor is a good choice. First, it's reliable. And second, it's easy to deal with and offers a wide range of usability from all-day riding and touring to short commutes. What else do you want? Also, the technical side is interesting. A five-valve cylinder head, water-cooling, and counter-balancer are representative of MZ's high standards.

Compared to its competitors from Aprilia, BMW, and KTM, the MZ doesn't rev that high, but shows its strength in the middle of the power band - right there where you need it on curving back roads. Fortunately, we ran into this kind of asphalt and could enjoy the attributes of the MZ single. With 50 hp at 6,500 rpm and 5.8 mkp (43 ft. lbs.) at 5,250 rpm you never have the feeling of a lack of power. Its ease of operation even makes it possible to stay in the rear view of bigger displacement bikes in the curves. Part of this is due to the five-speed gearbox and clutch, which work just fine. Changing gears is fun, but you also can roll just in fourth and fifth on mid-sized highways. Good midrange power makes that possible.

Chassis & Brakes
The focal points of the Street Moto are clearly its great chassis and suspension. As mentioned, both come from the Baghira Enduro and offer a comfortable travel of 280 mm for the front and the rear. Because both units are dialed-in stiff enough for rough terrain, they also work great on asphalt. Under hard braking the fork doesn't dive in too far as it does on other street enduros, which leaves enough suspension reserve left for tough bumps. Additionally, the Street Moto doesn't mind being ridden on a dirt road with some gravel. Here, its origins as an enduro bike offer a big advantage.

Large brakes are typical on the supermoto scene. The 298 mm disc rotor and a floating double-piston caliper in the front have no trouble stopping a wet-weight of 170 kg (378 lbs.). The setup from Italian manufacturer Grimeca demonstrates good performance, and it's fine to modulate it. That goes for the 245 mm rotor at the rear as well, but you only need it on surfaces like gravel or if you ride with a passenger in the back.

Accessories &Arrangements
No doubt about it, the Street Moto is unique. The design sets it apart from the rest of the enduro or supermotard world. The 17-inch spoke wheels with wide aluminum rims look great and the grabby sport tires offer excellent grip. The front with the cockpit fairing, the small headlight, and the stylish tubing around it lend the 'yellow Panther' an aggressive look, as though it's ready to pounce. A nicely arranged outfit, it fulfills all the needs of a supermoto fan.

But those needs also mean the bike only carries a minimum of accessories to drop the weight. So you have to live with a 3.3-gallon fuel tank (12.5 liters), but the fuel range of 43 mpg is still acceptable for shorter touring trips. The plastic tank is short for better maneuverability, but that's bad for mounting a tank bag. And the hard enduro seat does make you swagger like John Wayne after a long ride at the head of a posse. Smaller people won't go for the seat height of 900 mm; for them, the Mastiff at 830 mm is the better choice. A small speedo and some control lights are all you get in the cockpit. On the flipside, the quick mounting fastener kit for the seat and the easy to access toolbox under the tail section are nice arrangements. For touring or commuting purposes, MZ offers a topcase in their accessories catalogue. If it's only one for the road, you can get along using the

rear seat to mount stuff. We carried a big luggage roll with waterproof coating, and strong tie wraps kept it in position. That's usually good enough for trips that don't last longer than a week, but only if you're not too much of a space hog when packing clothes.

Test Summary
The Street Moto is really a predator bred to prowl the curves consuming asphalt. Of course to properly ride its back, you have to minimize your needs for luggage and seating comfort. But those concerns won't matter once you've ridden the beast.