The history of two-strokes

Published: 13 October 2017

It’s all about character. Nothing else on two wheels delivers the visceral thrills of a two-stroke engine. They deliver a hit of power every other stroke where a four-stroke manages only half as many. This means that power potential for its capacity is greater than a four-stroke, a fact recognised in racing where four-strokes are allowed considerably more displacement than the two-strokes in the same class.

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Two-stroke engines are simpler and lighter than four-strokes. They are however less torquey and tractable than four-strokes as well as dirtier, the fact that signed the death warrant of new road-going two-strokes of any useful capacity.

As part of our two-stroke celebration in the October 11 issue of MCN we also got a ride on the amazing Suter MMX500. You can watch the video or peruse the gallery.

Here is MCN’s ring-a-ding history of the two-stroke.

1904
Scott patent the two-stroke parallel twin. 

1939
MZ develop the RT125 which will also form the basis of the BSA Bantam as part of reparations post-WW2. 

1956
Villiers, the British two-stroke engine manufacturers, whose admittedly uninspiring power units are used by many manufacturers, produces its two millionth engine.

1961
East German racer Ersnt Degner defects to the west bringing MZ and Walter Kaaden’s two-stroke racing secrets with him. Degner signs for Suzuki. 

1962
Degner wins Suzuki’s first GP World Championship, in the 50cc class. 

1970
MZ builds its millionth motorcycle, an MZ ETS 250 Sport. 

1970
The Yamaha FS-1E moped first offered for sale. Affectionately termed the Fizzy and by faraway the best and most popular of the 1970s sports mopeds. 

1971
Jack Findlay and his Suzuki TR500 at the Ulster GP are the first two-stroke winners in the 500GP class 

1974
Suzuki’s RG500 is the first square four two-stroke in the 500GP class. Yamaha become the first two-stroke and the first Japanese 500 constructors champions. 

1975
Giacomo Agostini (Yamaha) claims his final 500 class GP title in a first for the 500 two-stroke. 

1978
Suzuki launch the first 100mph (ish) two-stroke road 250, the air-cooled X7. 

1980
Yamaha launch the RD350LC. Grown men continue to go weak at the knees today. 

1984
Sale of road-going strokers banned in the USA. 

2001
Valentino Rossi’s first 500 title is also the last for a two-stroke in the premier class. The following year 500cc two-strokes continue to race against the new 990cc MotoGP four-strokes. 

2004
Last of Aprilia’s RS250 two-stroke sportsbikes twins sold in the UK. The two-stroke engine is relegated to small capacity scooters only. 

2011
The end of two-strokes in GP racing as the 125 class is the last to give them up to be replaced by Moto3 four-strokes. Nicolas Tirol takes the title.

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