IZH Motorcycles

The Izh, as already said in the section dedicated to the cars, is a well-known producer of weapons (the most famous example is the "Kalashnikov" machine-gun). However, about the production for the civil market, the Izh was not only an automotive factory, but also the main Soviet motorcycle factory before the fall of the USSR, with a production even more massive than the IMZ-Ural. Considering that the Izh was the main Soviet motorcycle factory, and that the USSR was the second producer of motorcycles (after the Japan) until the early '90s, it possible to say that this Russian brand was one of the greatest factories in the world about number of production (11.000.000 of bikes produced since the 1927). But, in spite of these numbers, it's almost totally unknown in the Western countries! 


The beginnings

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 The Izh's automotive production started only in the 1966, but the motorcycle production started already in the 1927, when the engineer P.V. Mozharov realized the Izh-1 (first, second and third pics, above), a big V-twin bike (the engine was placed transversally, Guzzi-style), 1200 cc, three-steps gearbox with final shaft drive, 23 hp, and with an original frame in stamped steel foil. Moreover, the bottom of the rear part of the frame has also function of muffler. The simpler Izh-4 single-cylinder (fourth pic), with similar technical solutions, was recommanded for the serial production, but it was produced only in few exemplars, like the Izh-1 and other experimental bikes produced until the 1929. In the fifth pic, instead, the "NATI-A 750", a 750 cc., V-twin copied from American models (Indian and Harley Davidson), with stamped-foil frame; the man in the pic is the engineer P.V. Mozharov.

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However, after the early great-displacement models, the Izh realized motorcycles of smaller displacement for the definitive serial production. In the '30s, the first Russian bike produced in great series was launched: the "L-300" (first pic, above), produced by the "Red October" plants before, and by the Izh after. It was a copy of the German DKW "E-300" of the 1929, with two-stroke engine, 7 hp, 80 km/h. This bike inaugurated the typical Izh's production, with models constantly inspired to DKW and Adler. In the second pic, the following Izh-8; in the third and fourth pics, the Izh-49 of the 1951, produced in over 500.000 exemplars in 7 years. In the fifth pic, the Izh "350-S", a racing version (see the manual gearshift on the fuel tank!). In the sixth pic, instead, an image of the factory.

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In the 1956, the Izh-56 (first pic, above) was launched, with an improved engine and a new swingarm suspension. From this bike, in the 1962, the new "Planeta 350" was obtained: the name was reprised from the USSR's successes in the aerospace industry. In the second pic above, one of the early "Planeta" models. This version remained in production until the late '80s! In the third and fourth pics, the pleasant "Planeta Sport" (1976), with an engine boosted to 32 hp (the normal version has 20 hp), 140 km/h. This version had many Japanese components (the Mikuni carburettor, the headlights and the ignition), separate lubrification pump, and the engine was mounted on rubber supports: a real dream for the young Russians of the Soviet era! The "Planeta" is almost unknown in the Western country, in spite of the fact that it was one of the most produced models in the history of the motorcycle (almost 1.200.000 exemplars only between the 1962 and the 1971...without the count of the following versions!!!)

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In first pic above (and also in the opening pic), the Izh 350 "57-K" motocross/enduro version of the late '50s. In the second pic, the Russian driver Anatolj Bessonov on this bike during an international enduro race, and, in the third pic, another Izh 57-K during a refueling. This bike, of course, was only a "flagship", without ambitions of victory in comparison with the Western bikes! In the fourth pic, another special Izh 350 of the '50s/'60s, modified for the road-racing competitions (32 cv, 155 km/h): the man on the bike is Italian: his name is Alfredo Ravaldini, and he was taken as prisoner by the Russians during the war, but he was rehabilited, becoming a well-reputed driver in the USSR championships. He's back in Italy only in the year 2000, when he was 80 years old!  

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Above, other motocross/enduro bikes realized by the Izhevsk's factory: in the first pic, the Izh "M-12" of the 1968, equipped with the usual single-cylinder 350 (but with 34 hp; total weight 130 kg). This bike, although unknown, competed with honour also in the international enduro competitions, where the USSR's team won 20 gold, 7 silver and 6 bronze medals during the time. The "M-15A" enduro and "K-15A" cross in the second and third pics above, produced in small series since 1974, were substantially similar, but with several improvements (lower weight, different suspensions, etc.); they were used for many years in the national competitions. In the fourth pic, instead, the Izh "K-13" of the 1970: it was equipped with a new 400 cc. engine, totally different from the serial models, with 40 hp of max power; total weight 105 kg. It was substantially a prototype produced by single consignment, for a very little number of privileged drivers! 

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It's interesting to note that the engines of the Izh-49 and "Planeta" were used also for some microcars, produced not by the Izh, but by the SeAZ, another factory located in the city of Serpuchov (today in that city is produced the Lada "Oka"). The first was the "S1-L" (first pic above), launched in the 1952; it had a tubular frame covered by metal panels, the engine from teh Izh-49 was modified with the fan cooling system, lanciata nel 1952; aveva telaio in tubi ricoperto da pannelli in lamiera e sospensioni indipendenti,e la potenza era di 7,5 cv per appena 55 km/h di velocitą massima....ma si pensi che la prima versione aveva un piccolo 125 cc (lo stesso delle motociclette Minsk) che, anche a causa del peso di 275 kg, la spingeva ad appena 30 km/h !!! E, nonostante le prestazioni letargiche, pare che questa piccola "tre ruote" fosse terribilmente instabile gią a bassissima velocitą...Dopo questo umiliante aborto (scusate il termine, ma ci voleva...), nel 1958 venne presentata la pił graziosa "SZA" (seconda e terza foto), con quattro ruote, avviamento elettrico e lo stesso motore 350 (potenza 8 cv per 60 km/h). Nonostante l'apparenza, questa piccola microvettura costava pił di una Moskvitch (tipica media cilindrata russa), perchč per costruire il telaio venivano utilizzati ben 75 metri lineari di tubi! Nel 1970, infine, la "SZA" venne sostituita dalla "SZD" (quarta e quinta foto), un' umilante scatola di sardine che rappresentava l'estremo limite della concezione di "veicolo socialista"...Aveva sospensioni a barre di torsione e persino una stufetta autonoma a benzina (!); il motore erogava 12 cv per 70 km/h. Sorvoliamo sull'estetica: nella quarta foto, la Lada che le sta accanto pare una Rolls Royce a confronto!

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About the normal motorcycles, in the '60s another model was launched, in order to create an alternative to the "Planeta": in the first and second pics above, the "Jupiter" 350 twin-cylinder, inspired to the German "Adler" bikes of that period, therefore slightly less outdated than the "Planeta" single-cylinder. For the Russian market, this bike was effectively considered as a big displacement bike. In the third pic, another image of the factory: the model on the assembling line is the "Jupiter" of the late '70s-early '80s. 

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The "Jupiter", although the "quiet" engine, was realized also in some racing version! In the first, second and third pics above (kindly sent by Kenneth Botvidzon, Sweden), the "344-A" of the early '70s. The bike was strictly derived from the normal "Jupiter", although the presence of new carburettors (Jikov, made in Czechoslovakia), new suspensions and new racing exhaust pipes: it had 36 hp, for 180 km/h of max speed. In the fourth and fifth pics above, instead, another racing version: the "Jupiter SH-12", realized in the 1975 by the engineer G.N. Serebryakov. It had a weight of 126 kg, a power of 40 hp, for a max speed of 185 km/h: modest performances in comparison with the racing Japanese 350 cc. bikes, but quite high for the Russian standards!

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During the early '90s, the Izh realized new prototypes in order to replace the obsolete two-stroke models. In the first pic, above, the Izh "Orion", equipped with a Yamaha XT 550 engine, front disk brake and monocross suspension (the Izh bought the license from Yamaha for the production of the engine and of some components: wheels, fork, etc.). The modular dismauntable frame was engineered in order to be combined with the Yamaha engine or with a new Izh two-stroke engine, liquid cooled (the version with the Izh engine was called "Sirius 400 Sprinter", second pic above). On this base, also a new enduro bike was launched, called Izh "Marafon-560" (third pic above), always with the Yamaha four-stroke engine. Economic and logistic problems (even the absence, in the USSR, of a good oil for the Japanese engine!) stopped the project. In the fourth pic, instead, another prototype: the Izh "Leader", destined to the KGB and other governative institutions, and equipped with a Wankel engine (liquid cooled, 57 hp) engineered by the "Vniimotoprom" (this engine was fitted also on some Dnepr prototype). Also this bike, engineered by A. Perevozchikov, remained one of the several projects stopped for lack of money. 

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The Izh realized, in the early '90s, also the strange foldable mopeds in the three pics above. The first is probably powered by a moped unit, two strokes, air cooled without fan, of national production (Verkhovina or Karpaty); the second is powered by a scooter unit (air cooled with fan, continuous variable transmission), probably of Taiwanese origin. About the moped in the third pic, instead, i don't know! Behind these three mopeds, it's possible to see other prototypes; in the second pic, on the right, there is the already mentioned "Leader" with Wankel engine, with a wide GT fairing. 


Recent models

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Today, the Izh's production features models substantially derived from the old two-stroke engine of German pre-war origin, a project of 60 years ago! Above, three pics of the Izh "Planeta 5" 350, currently produced. The engine is always single-cylinder, air-cooled, two-stroke with timing regulated by the piston, 4-speeds gearbox (with chains for the primary and secondary transmission), 20 hp. Like several Eastern bikes as Jawa, MZ and others, the final chain is sealed under a plastic carter, an useful solution on the dirty roads (where the Russian vehicles are frequently used). The best equipped version (second and third pics, with the sidecar) has several components produced under Yamaha's license, as the fork, the disk brake, the Mikuni carburettor and the self-lubrification system...the "base" version (first pic above), instead, has still the drum brakes! In substance, the "Planeta" is a simple and cheap bike with easy maintenance, although the very outdated project. 

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Above (first and second pics), two recent versions of the "Jupiter 350", air-cooled (not more produced) and liquid-cooled. Ok, it seems very similar to the previous bike, and, in fact, all the components (except for the engine, twin cylinder, 24 hp, four-speeds gearbox) are the sames of the "Planeta", even the colour orange.  In the third pic, instead, the mototrolley version of the "Jupiter", with a cargo element painted in black, very ugly! The "Jupiter" is produced even in the "firefighter" version (fourth pic above): the bike is fearfully squeezed under the weight of the pumps...i hope that the firemen driver of this vehicle doesn't need of an ambulance, after driving it! In the fifth pic, instead, the police version of the "Jupiter", with liquid-cooled engine: the bike looks more pleasant than the normal version, and it has almost a good "years-'70s" look!

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But the vehicle in the first pic above, is probably the ugliest vehicle of the world!!! This strange "object" is called Izh "Motoriksha", and it's a "rikshaw", the vehicle used in several Indian and Mid-East cities, usually to transport the tourists. I don't want to criticize the utility of this popular vehicle, but not only the look is bad: you can see the incredible inclination of swingarms and shock-absorbers...this bike seems not realized by a factory, on the contrary it seems the experiment of a clumsy artisan! In the second and third pics, instead, another strange vehicle...no, it's not a Photoshop work: it is the Izh "Samson", an enormous three-wheeler based on the "Jupiter" with liquid-cooled engine. You must hope to not break a tyre: inflating it could be very, very fatiguing...

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However, the Izh is trying to make something of new. In the four pics above, the Izh "Yunker 350", a chopper-bike  strictly derived from the "Jupiter" liquid cooled. Although the general look is not bad, there are several lacks: why a rear light placed so high? And a so inclinated tank? Also the rear part needs a wider tyre, not a tyre with dimensions similar to a moped...Anyway, this could be an enough pleasant bike: even the  look of the engine is not bad... The fourth and fifth pic shows the police version (in the fourth pic, the bike is equipped with alloy wheels). Also this police version looks more pleasant than the normal version. Although the facial expression of the Russian policeman in the fifth pic looks not very enthusiasting!

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The bike in the three pics above, instead, is the Izh "Springbok 350" enduro, launched in the 1997 and derived from the old motocross models of the '70s/'80s, powered by the same unit of the "Planeta Sport", with 32 hp. The project is very outdated, and also the colours aren't exactly elegant...Also the "Springbok" is available with a Suzuki 350 engine, but with an higher price.

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The Izh have realized also new prototypes of mopeds, often not bad, except one model...In the first pic, the Izh "C-50", a prototype of 50 cc. "naked" in the Ducati Monster-style, with tubular diamond frame, front disk brake, reverse fork and monoshock absorber (derived from the car Izh "Oda"); in the second pic, instead, the Izh "Man Style 50" enduro, with double arm frame (in aluminium!) and disk brake also on the rear wheel: not bad! The "C-50" has an engine with 4-speeds gearbox, produced by the German Simson; the engine of the "Man Style", instead, has a gearbox with only two speeds, and it's derived from the "Karpaty-2", another Russian moped. Both are air-cooled, two strokes, without automatic lubrification; anyway, the units could change on the definitive versions. In the third pic, instead, the horrible "Izhik", a very poor motorized bicycle! In the fourth and fifth pics, the Izh "Kornet" (same name of a gun produced by the weapons division), a mini-chopper equipped with a Simson engine produced by Molot under German license, and also with two disc brakes (not frequent feature on a Russian moped!). Anyway, the look is not very enthusiasting...it seems a toy-bike quite than a 50 cc. motorcycle, but for the young Russians this bike could be a good basis for custom-made bikes! 

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The Izh is working also on new mid-displacement motorcycles: in the two pics above, there are two official drawings with some "hypotesis" of new bikes. Anyway, the base of the new models will be the Yamaha XT 550 engine (produced under license) planned for the "Orion" of the 1990, but evolved with the liquid cooling system. The Izh declares that, from this engine, even a 1200 cc. V-twin will be obtained...but nothing is sure, at the moment. 

However, the old "Planeta" and "Jupiter" have a strange fashion, like all the old Soviet popular bikes (except for the "rikshaw"!). I could make like the tourist in the pic above, in full desert with an old "Planeta" (!!!). I hope that he doesn't had a breakdown in the desert...

Some pic taken from http://www.autogallery.org.ru/gal.htm , www.cartinki.ru , www.czowner.net and www.izhmoto.ru