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MZ Baghira

Published: 21 October 2001

Updated: 19 November 2014

It’s a little known fact that MZ, former manufacturers of everlasting two stroke commuters (and, before that, GP champions) have been making supermotos since 1996. One was the twin headlight Mastiff, the other’s the Baghira you see here.

And it is the strangest machine. The factory is still obsessed with durability over styling – check out the front and rear bull bars, and galvanised (yes, galvanised) rear suspension tie rods. But they’ve also got a Yamaha XTZ660 engine in there punting out 47bhp at the rear wheel, and some fairly creditable chassis components including stainless spoked rims, race compound Pirelli MT60 tyres and a fully-adjustable WP shock. Even the right-way-up forks have adjustable rebound damping.

Jump on and the Baghira feels low and planted. The seat height is dramatically nearer the ground than on the other three, and the saddle itself is bigger and softer too. The bum basic steel bars feel about an inch too wide and low, and there’s a fair bit of sag in the rear shock even with an 11 stone rider, leading to a squidgy, chopper-like feel, but it’s not far out. The super-low seat still gives you a decent distance to the footrests, and the Pirellis add to the ride quality even at town speeds. The result is a bike you can immediately chuck around any old how.

Increase the rear preload a touch (an exhaust-off job), fit narrower bars and the MuZ would probably steer as sharply as the KTM Duke. Even as it is you can ride the Baghira just as fast – over the most appalling bumps. It’s only when you look for drive out of slow corners that the MuZ can’t stay with the Duke. It gets a bit wobbly on the limit, but like the KTM this isn’t much of a bother.

Braking, by Italian firm Grimeca, is at least a couple of levels down in power and feel from the Brembo perfection on the other three bikes, but like the suspension it’s adequate. And like a proper supermoto it’s got a sliding rear caliper for quick rear wheel removal.

Perhaps the biggest surprise is that the MuZ is the smoothest and the most comfortable bike here. Of the four, only it and the Duke could credibly tackle the M6 from London to Birmingham. There’s no tacho on the Baghira, but we’d guess 5000rpm at 80mph, which is where the motor is smoothest. For a slight increase in vibration it’ll happily hold 90 (and do 45mpg), but by now you’re beyond the limit of the riding position. Top speed, an indicated 182km/h or 113mph, is more or less equal to the KTM, though full throttle on our bike produced an occasional falter as if it was running onto reserve. This is highly likely to be a side effect of standard jetting and the decidedly average quality £350 American M4 pipe. Supplying dealer Phil Youles reckons it adds a couple of horsepower at most.

No one even pretends the Baghira will induce a loving frenzy of polishing every Sunday. But we reckon the abundant grease nipples and almost total lack of exposed aluminium means it will last. If you noticed the disc lock on the front engine mount and thought, That’s handy, or imagined how much luggage you could strap to the rear rails, you’re on the right wavelength. It’s certainly the only bike here you’d dream of riding through the winter.

Three small details spoil that all-season usability. First, the fuel cap easily cross-threads, and spills fuel. Second, the headlamp is hopeless, seeming to give as much light to the inside of the yellow cowling as it gets to the road. Third, the trip meter is in kilometres, so you’ve got to know your 0.621 times table. The tool kit is highly nickable as well.

In all, a pretty competent motorbike. If you happen to find it beautiful too, buy one. You won’t regret it.

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