ZAP GOES THE ZUNDAPP
By E.C. Birt
When I was a teenager in the Hill's of Pa. I really didn't know much about dirtbikes. I had only occasionally seen motorcycle magazines and didn't know what was going on in the Dirt bike scene.
So with that starts my Zundapp adventure.
One day I was trail riding my used and abused SL100 Honda. After pushing my Honda up the last 25 feet or so of a steep hill. ( little bike just ran out of power) Off in the distance came about 25 dirt bike riders, Most were on Yamaha 360's or 250's. The 360's made the hill without problems, about half of the Yamaha 250's had trouble of some sort and then a funny sounding Blue dirt bike came up over the hill without problems. For some reason this intrigued me, Funny sound or just being different, not sure. Later I was amazed that this Blue bike was a Rickman Zundapp 125. How could a 125 climb a hill better than most 250's ????
One new Motorcycle dealer was just opening in town and sold Rockford Motors bikes, Mostly mini bikes. But had one 1972 Zundapp MC125. Can this be, the same Zundapp engine, it just look liked a purpose built racer.
I had stopped in many times and talked with the mechanic, John knew a lot about dirt bikes and talked many times of Zundapp and Maico, plus other European bikes. I was hooked. I purchased the Zundapp with payments to the dealer without my parents knowing. Back then we had a motorcycle club that had Flattrack, TT Scramble, Motocross, Enduro and a Hill climb. So My Zundapp 125 did it all, just change tires and go.
My first race was a flattrack, After practice a veteran racer came up to me and asked if it was my first race. He felt like I needed a few pointers. The flattrack had a 2 row start. I was on the back row and in the first corner, I was in about 3rd place. Passing most of the front row starters. This Zundapp was far superior in power than most 125's back then. My next race was a TT Scrambles. As you may have guessed, I beat the Vet rider that had given me advice in my first race and Finished in 2nd place.
It may sound like I was a Good racer, but believe me I was a green horn and give all the credit to my Zundapp 125. My Mom had gotten a phone call and asked if her son raced motorcycles after seeing the results in the local paper. She said no, but I did have a trail bike. A few days later at Dinner, my Dad asked if I was racing dirt bikes? Knowing my Dad most likely knew the answer, it was yes. Nothing much was said after that, he just wanted to know. My 3rd race my Dad went with me, There were so many 125's that day, that we had 2 row starts with Qualifiers which would put you in a "A" Class or "B" Class. My Dad recommended that I purposely ride slow and get in the "B" class because I didn't have much racing experience. Sounded good to me, but not to my Zundapp, From a 2nd row start I was up front and in a lap or two 2nd place and then I Won my Qualifier for the "A" class. This is about the time I felt the passion for Zundapp's I really didn't know about heritage or Gold medals or the little bike that beat big bikes. To this day my Zundapp refuses to lay down and not do the best that we can. Call it Karma, Zundapp Gods, Venus in line with Mars. Cosmic thing?????? But I am a true believer.
Back in the Motorcycle shop, one afternoon, the owner came back and had Racing Mods from EC Birt, Pipes, Porting, plus other info. Without hesitating, I saw the price and said no. Making approx. $40 a week, the pipe and porting could have been a Million dollars. I really didn't have enough money for good tires let alone racing parts.
Sad the last model Zundapp imported in the USA was 1973. After many years, I had always had a passion for Zundapp's, following Andre Malherbe, winning the European 125 Championship 2 times and Gilbert De Roover 2nd place 125 GP in 1975, Both Factory Zundapp racers. Multi class champions in ISDT with 7 speed Zundapp's. Then with Monoshock bikes and out of Business in 1984.
Fast forward, I had always remembered EC, I even used his racing 2 stroke oil in my 1984 KTM 125. To this day I am sure the oil was made with EC Magic. My KTM ran like no other.
In my quest for finding a Zundapp 125 for Vintage racing, I had Called my favorite Wizard EC. EC at that time was hot and heavy into Racing Go Karts. When I called, EC really didn't have much time and who would be that Krazy to want to race a Zundapp 125 anyway? I was seeing my chance slipping away to get the inside info on all the mods that EC had pioneered. I had mentioned that I test road one of the four EC Factory Zundapp 125's. You know the one with the hand made Aluminum tank, ignition cut away, with the special exhaust. Wham the world just opened up, after a couple of questions from EC, EC told me about being in the Zundapp Factory and the secret intake boost ports the Factory was running, shifting mods. How to tell the 7 speed engines from stock and building the 4 Factory special bikes. Yikes, I was in heaven. This was all I needed, My quest for a used Zundapp was on.
At Mid Ohio in 2003 I found the Zundapp of my dreams, Yes a $150 parts bike. She's not pretty, but all Zundapp, I made the bike mechanically sound as I could and off the the races in 2004.
My first Vintage race was like bringing a knife to a gun fight. I was next to last into the first corner, only a Honda 150cc 4 stroke was behind me. WOW this isn't what I had remembered ! I knew then running a stock bike wasn't going to cut it. EC mods was a must. My saving grace was that the course was some what muddy and I finished in 2nd place. All year long it rained at every event except one. That race was dry and this is where the Zundapp Gods / Cosmic thing came into play. I was in 2nd place up until the last lap, coming around a blind corner I see the 1st place rider picking his bike up. My Zundapp came into true form and finished 1st. So just because I had seen my hopes of winning go away, my Zundapp again refused to lay down even though it looked doubtful. remember I am a believer, so this isn't out of the ordinary.
Using the internet to find Zundapp parts, I had met Gary Richards from Canada, Gary was a ISDT Vet and passionate Zundapp racer. Gary and I are the same age and purchased Zundapp's at the same time in the 1970's, mine a MC Motocross, Gary's a GS enduro. Gary had always wanted to have a ISDT Reunion Ride Zundapp Team. I was reluctant to ride cross country, but with Gary's enthusiasm for a 3 man team, I couldn't say no. In 2006 I was part of Team Factory Zundapp for the ISDTRR in St. Louis Mo. There are many stories within a story, But the deciding factor on the outcome came back to one special test. I had just crest a small bank and turned onto a ugly looking rocky uphill, being in 2nd gear I could have easily stayed in that gear and been safe. Bah Dah Bing, Bah Dah Boom, Jack Penton and many others were cheering my Zundapp on.
I don't know why, but for a moment in time I was a Team Factory Zundapp member and held the throttle wide open and hit 3rd gear, slipping the clutch and bouncing off most every rock that was in the State of Mo. trying to keep momentum. Yes, the Zundapp heritage came through and off I went like the wind in 3rd gear. At the top of the long hill I caught the rider in my class and made up 15 seconds and this helped seal my 2nd place in the Sportsman 200cc Expert class. Surrounded by AA Enduro rider, ISDE, ISDT Veterans, MY EC Birt modified Zundapp worked like a champ.
I have many people to thank that have helped me with my Project Zundapp, but EC is on top of the list, With info on Zundapp modifications, I have enjoyed Vintage racing with the bike that started it all for me.
I have searched and found additional info from EC's Magazine Tech articles on porting and engine building, Even though some info was for intake boost ports for Honda CR125's / Hodaka or Sachs powered bikes this was applicable to any engine. I get the biggest kick out of seeing other Vintage photo's of EC long list of racers. Just a couple of years ago, Don Emler had a photo of himself racing a EC Birt Rickman Zundapp 125 in his FMF catalog.
Thanks again EC for you help and inspiration
Remember "EC Keep's Ya Puttin"
Team Zundapp USA