My first motorcycle was a revelation. It opened up my world and gave independence and freedom that I could have only dreamed of in 1975.
The Jawa-CZ 175cc A Seventeen-Year-Olds First Motorcycle Experience
What seventeen-year-old isn't dying to ride a motorcycle? Back in 1975, I wanted one so badly. All the cool lads were tearing up the streets on the motorbikes, and I longed to join them.
So, it was in the summer of 1975 that I set about taking ownership of my first wheels. I yearned to be mobile for over a year, saving as much as I could over that time to pay for it.
My Dilemma: The CZ 175, or a Japanese Motorbike?
Choosing a motorbike was difficult. It was the beginning of the Japanese motorcycle era that had just burst onto the scene, revolutionizing both styling and performance. I drooled at the lines, the gorgeous chrome and muscle-like beautiful looks of the Suzuki GT 250. The Yamaha RD 250 was sleek and less beefy and a close contender for my attention.
But there was only one problem—the price! They were tantalizingly close to being affordable, but in reality, purchasing one of these would take me at least another six to eight months of saving. I was young, and didn't want to wait any longer to make the purchase.
Motorcycles in the Seventies: Two-Stroke Tearaways
The Eastern European Imports of 1975
And so it was that I set my sights a little lower and focussed on a Motorbike that I could afford. The reality meant my purchase options were to settle for a 50cc moped (not likely) or examine the East European imports, the MZ 250cc, and the CZ 175cc.
The MZ 250's styling had more in common with bikes made in the 1950s than in the 1970s, and to be candid, I was not too fond of the look; it appeared chunky and a world away from the exciting Japanese motorbikes available. The CZ 175cc fared a little better in my eyes, but still not a patch on those I had initially longed to own. In truth, the Jawa-CZ wasn't trying to be the "eye candy" that its Japanese counterparts were. It was purely a reliable mode of transport for everyday use, and it lived up to this aim.
The CZ company's advertising around this motorcycle was comparative with other motorbike manufacturers and reasonably well done. It emphasized reliability, high performance, and "modern sports styling." It made the most of the firm's motocross machine heritage, pointing out that the CZ motocross bikes' sporting excellence was incorporated into the CZ 175 build and design.
Motorcycle Choice Made: The CZ 175 Won Out
I deliberated long and hard before committing to a purchase. In the end, I think it was the CZ's connection to its motocross models that had been so successful in the early 1970s and which had a considerable following that gave me the confidence to buy. In retrospect, it was a strange decision, as the CZ 175 was NOT a motocross bike; it was without doubt made for your daily commute.
A Restored CZ 175 Motorcycle from 1975
CZ 175 Specifications
Model: Jawa-CZ 175-477
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Displacement: 172.0 ccm
Engine: Single cylinder, two-stroke.
Power: 15.0 Horsepower at 5,600 Revolutions per minute.
Top Speed: 110.0 km/h (68.4 mph)
Fuel Capacity: 11.5 litres (3.04 gallons)
Weight: 128.0 kg
Braking relied on an expanding brake in the front and rear.
The Ride Experience
The CZ 175 was a surprisingly comfortable ride for such a heavy motorcycle. The bike weighed in at around 120kg, and given that at that time, I was all of 70kg wringing wet, it was more than a little cumbersome when dawdling, but the ride was enjoyable once on the open road. Working your way through the gears took a short time to master—the semi-automatic clutch feature helped make riding a little easier as this would automatically disengage the clutch when changing gear. When I passed my motorcycle test a few months later, I found that even with a pillion passenger on board, the bike behaved well.
Acceleration couldn't match many other similar-sized bikes on the road at that time, but it didn't matter. Slow and steady may not win the race, but you'll at least finish—eventually.
In my experience, at slow speeds when turning a corner became a constant worry. I came down on the bike at least four times as I turned the last corner into my road. The combination of slow speed, poorly gripping thin tires, the motorcycle's weight, and my inexperience seemingly created a "perfect storm" of circumstances that resulted unfailingly in me being dropped to the ground with the bike's engine screaming as I clung for dear life to the throttle. I would sheepishly pick myself and the machine up and walk it the few remaining yards to the house.
Thankfully, apart from the odd damaged wing mirror and scuffed footrest, the bike seemed bombproof. It was an embarrassing experience and not remotely as cool as the image I was trying to portray.
I Miss My CZ 175
Overall, this bike of the 70s was a sound purchase and an enjoyable experience. During the first few years of ownership, it ferried me to work; it gave me the freedom to roam, and it was a pillion to my girlfriend (later to become my wife of 43 years and counting).
The CZ 175 made a lasting impression as even today; I remember this motorcycle with fondness and an appreciation of its dogged robustness and ability to take all that a young inexperienced rider could throw at it.