Russian manufacture of motor vehicles is a thriving industry and many of the cars and motorcycles on the country’s roads seem to mirror the history of Russia over the last 100 years or so. From functional design in the Soviet Era to luxury models in more recent times, vehicle production has changed much over the last few decades.
Russian motorcycles are typical of that shift and while earlier models from the mid 20th century onwards are becoming collectable and regarded as classicsm modern Russian motorbikes combine speed and high quality design. Here are some of the best Russian motorcycles of the past and present.
IMZ or Irbitskiy Mototsiketniy Zavod motorcycles were born out of the Second World War and orders from Stalin to prepare for any eventuality. Ground mobility was particularly vital with the need to get around quickly and without fuss and this is where the motorcycle really came into its own.
Production by IMZ therefore began in 1941 and they are still going strong to this day. Over the 70 or so years that the company has been in existence they have produced a number of bikes along with the almost obligatory accessory for any Russian motorcycle, the sidecar.
Even in the modern age, the IMZ bikes are designed as heavy duty machines, often with a sidecar still present and this makes them extremely popular in their own country. The Sportsman and the Wolf are fine examples of the IMZ range that are also exported to a global market.
IZH, IZmash or Izhevsk Machine-Building Plant to give them their full title are a multi production business where motorcycles make up a very small of the overall manufacture.
The very first IZH bike pre-dated the IMZ by some way, appearing back in 1928. Outside of Russia and the former Soviet Union, IZH bikes were distributed under a fairly stereotypical umbrella known as ‘Cossack’. This covered a multitude of motorcycles from different producers.
The vast majority of IZH bikes have 350cc two stroke engines but their success overseas has been largely halted by the tougher European emissions standards that have emerged in recent years. While IZH bikes continue to fall foul of the regulations, their progress will be slow but brands such as the Jupiter, the Planeta and the Springbok remain popular at home and abroad.
Voshkod motorcycles have been made since 1965 in this Russian town. While sales remain brisk in their homeland, there have been no real successes outside of Russia other than with some dedicated motorcycle enthusiasts.
Strictly speaking this isn’t a Russian motorcycle as it was manufactured in the Ukraine but DNEPR were one of the best selling models of the Soviet era. Produced in Kiev since 1946, all makes and models are similar to the IMZ in their ruggedness and the predictable appearance of the sidecar.
Since the early days of production, Russian motorcycles are a thriving part of the economy in their homeland and while regulations are reducing their chances of success overseas, this remains an industry that Russia can be proud of.