A higher calibre of motorbike
|ZiD Voskhod was the 'luxury alternative' to the smaller Minsk M1A.|
GUNS AND motorcycles have similar requirements – spare design, quality materials, precise assembly – so it follows that the manufacturer of one might also be drawn to produce the other.A famous example of this is the Birmingham Small Arms Co., formed in the mid 19th century to make military rifles and later expanding to bicycles, motorcycles, even cars. Its BSA Motorcycles subsidiary would become the world's largest motorcycle manufacturer from the mid-1930s to the early 1960s, issuing handsome models like the Thunderbolt and Gold Star.
Russia has two versions of BSA. First to arrive was IZh, an offshoot of the mighty Izhevsky foundries in a region east of Moscow that has been making weapons since the time of Tsar Alexander I.
IZh's first bikes, produced in modest numbers in the 1920s, were large-displacement twins. They were followed in the 1930s by models based on the small-displacement German DKW E-300, and after the Second World War by a 350-cc single-cylinder bike built from DKW tooling removed from Germany by the Soviets as reparations.
|Old bike, new mirrors.|
The ZiD seen here is the Voskhod, or Sunrise, a 175-cc twin with dual pipes and five-speed gearbox introduced in 1957. The Voskhod remained in production until the 1980s, at least – this Cuban example could be of 1970s vintage.
Michele Cuoccio of the Autosoviet website reports that Soviet citizens had only a limited choice of motorcycle models, and the Voskhod was viewed as the "luxury alternative" to the smaller Minsk M1A, a version of the (you guessed it) DKW RT 125.
BSA collapsed in the 1970s, unable to compete with the well-designed and reliable motorcycles flooding in from Japan. But IZh and ZiD, now held by separate conglomerates after much reorganization following the Soviet collapse, continue to build bikes, according to their websites.
IZh's offerings look unchanged from the 1980s. All with 350-cc twin-cylinder engines, they include some dowdy looking street bikes, a "chopper class" model with raked frame and teardrop-shaped gas tank and several three-wheel cargo bikes.
Still, IZh did display an edgy "concept" bike with electric and gas power in 2012, so there could be more life left in a manufacturer said to have built more than 11 million motorcycles over its history.
ZiD's site shows a large selection of scooters, motorcycles, cargo bikes and even a collapsible snowmobile you can apparently carry in the trunk of your car (every Canadian should have one). Unlike IZh, most of ZiD's designs are modern. Some are licensed from China's Lifan Industry Group.
Oh, and both companies will also sell you guns.
|Displacement: 175 cc.|
|Voskhod is Russian for Sunrise.|