Budvar special CZ reaches Budweis from London

Custom CZ roadster makes the 1,000-mile trip to its homeland!

CZ Budvar bike

WHEN I was a lad, CZ bikes were a bit of a joke. Worse than MZs in fact - ropey old two-strokes with sub-optimal components, sub-Soviet build-quality and sub-par performance. A shame really - because Czechoslovakia was one of the industrial powerhouses of the early 20th Century, making loads of amazing armaments and heavy engineering, before WW2 and the Cold War made a bit of a mess of the whole gig. Boooh.

The bikes still have a cult following though. Fans cant get enough of that 1970s Eastern Bloc kitsch, and once properly restored and improved with modern parts and materials, an old CZ could make for a sweet lo-fi city commuter or cruiser. What you wouldn't want to do though (well we wouldn't...) is ride one 1,000 miles to its homeland. But that's what the guys from BOLT motorcycles have done, in association with Budvar beer. The brewery tied up with BOLT to rebuild a CZ 250, and the final machine was pretty sweet to look at.

We saw it at the Bike Shed show in May, and it was the best-looking piston-ported two-stroke hardtail with drum brakes we saw there... But the lack of rear suspension and a 50mph top speed would put us off riding it any further than the pub at the end of the street, much less a brewery in das mittel-Europ.

So fair play to BOLT owner, Andrew Almond, and custom builder, Simone Fiore, who rode the beastie from BOLT’s headquarters in Stoke Newington, London, to the Budvar brewery in Budweis, South Bohemia, via Amsterdam, Hannover and Prague. It took them six days, and we assume they had more than a few pints of Budvar when they arrived...

But they didn't have a trouble-free trip. “During the ride, the JAWA had developed a problem," said Andrew. "Hardly surprising with a vintage bike being put to this kind of test, but we needed to find a new clutch and gearbox fast. After a phone around, we struck gold. The best JAWA garage in the country, on the outskirts of Prague.”

Despite the founder of said dealership - MCH garage, Milan Chalupnik, passing away just three days before, his son-in-law and grandson agreed to help after hearing the story of the Budvar Bike and the epic journey to the brewery.

“It turned out that Milan had worked for JAWA as an engineer and raced in their race team, competing in the local races and Grand prix from the 1950s. Frantisek “Franta” Stastny was a close friend and a formidable road racer in the JAWA team, a real legend in motorcycling history. Following an accident in the 1970s, Milan gave his racing JAWA to Franta who raced it in the classic classes and numerous TT races on the Isle of Man. And that bike was there in the workshop!” said Andrew.

"We were showed around their entire collection, with room after room filled with immaculate motorcycles. And we weren’t allowed to leave until we were shown how to squeeze every inch out of our engine. It gave us a renewed sense of the bike’s history and the Czech passion for doing things the right way.”

Back on the Budvar Bike, Andrew and the team set off on the 90-mile ride into South Bohemia, crossing into beautiful rolling fields and mountain scenery, reaching the stunning UNESCO World Heritage site of Český Krumlov. The JAWA museum in the town had provided inspiration for the Budvar Bike build so it seemed only right to return to show the curators the finished motorcycle. Then the team rode through winding forest roads to spend the night in a tipi and swim in the cool Vltava river, before sharing some beers and stories around a campfire. 

Their last stop was České Budějovice or ‘Budweis’ – home of Budweiser Budvar. The team entered the town and its breathtaking market square to cheers and applause as locals spotted the ‘Budvar’ painted tank. Then it was up to the home of Budweiser Budvar for the riders’ reward: a tour of the brewery and tasting.

As well as getting to have a go at making Budvar themselves, helping tip the whole-cone hops into the copper brew kettles, the Budweis or Bust team took a late-night tour of Budvar’s famous cellars with master brewer Ales Dvorak, where the beer is matured in conditioning tanks for 90 days.

“It was great to get there. We made something really special with the Budvar Bike and for all involved it was a real labour of love. This was about craft, dedication and the spirit of adventure as well as honouring tradition. Beer and motorcycles inspire passion, they bring people together.”

For more on the trip, check the Budvar mini-site here: http://czechstories.com

BOLT London is at https://www.boltlondon.com.