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Czech Republic Motorcycles Live On, Thanks to Praga

Jul 20, 2023Jul 20, 2023

A modern reincarnation of the iconic 1928 Praga BD 500 is on its way.

Praga isn't exactly your traditional motorcycle manufacturer. Born in 1907 in then Czechoslovakia, Praga has been a cornerstone of the nation's industrial manufacturing throughout its tumultuous history, building everything from off-road, military-grade transport trucks and tanks to motorcycles and early airplanes. Of the sprawling fleet of vehicles that Praga made, one, in particular, remains well-regarded amongst classic motorcycle enthusiasts thanks to its high-performance engine and timeless design: the 1928 Praga BD 500.

However, the company's operations in the 21st century have been rather limited, producing agricultural light and medium-duty vehicles, some race-ready but street-legal hypercars, as well as a brief run of enduro motorcycles. That's all about to change though, as Praga launches its first road-going motorcycle since 2003, known as the Praga ZS 800.

Built on a hardtail steel frame, the new ZS 800 was engineered by the same folks who created the Praga Bohema hypercar, which means it's set to be performance oriented with nostalgia baked into the design. Powered by an air-cooled, 773cc four-stroke parallel twin engine from the Kawasaki W800, the model should be punchy and relatively quick by modern motorcycle standards, making 65 hp and 37 lb-ft of torque. Not only does the parallel twin construction mimic its namesake model, but the engine uses a bevel-gear cam drive system reminiscent of those found in 20th-century classics.

Forged 18-inch carbon wheels with carbon-tensioned spokes aren't exactly old school, but the accompanying front and rear drum brakes certainly are outdated technology. Praga acknowledged this peculiar choice by saying the decision was made to complement the motorcycle's vintage style. While drum brakes will be perfectly capable of slowing this 348-pound bike, the addition of disc brakes and ABS modules (not offered on the new Praga) has undoubtedly made motorcycling safer.

At first glance, it would be easy to think the ZS 800 is completely suspension-less, given its hardtail frame and front-end construction. However, look beyond the Girder front fork and inside the steering head to see the fully adjustable Öhlins front suspension with a titanium spring. Additionally, Praga didn't want to fully subject its customer to the butt-numbing hardtail experience, so it added Öhlins TTX air under seat suspension to soften the ride. Paired with a set of retro-looking Dunlop Roadmaster tires, the ZS 800 won't be setting any lap records, but its lean limitations will be more from the foot pegs than the suspension.

Despite focusing on neo-retro visuals over performance, Praga engineered this bike to ride light and balanced, boasting a 50:50 weight distribution. Praga engineers incorporated lightweight materials wherever possible, with nearly every assembly bolt being titanium to the rear mudguard being made of carbon fiber. Notably, the exhaust system and engine are made of titanium as well. Being equipped with a small 3.0-gallon gas tank also helps keep the model light, though it will drastically reduce its range.

"Strong and extremely lightweight materials—such as carbon, titanium, chrome-molybdenum steel, and aviation duralumin—enabled us to reimagine the rigid rear wheel suspension, the front swingarm fork, and the hydraulic drum brakes," said the ZS 800's Chief Designer Jan Žuži.

Here's the kicker: It's going to cost $92,226, and only 28 units will be made. Yes, Praga is serious.

The company says this is a result of Praga's latest business strategy, one that centers on creating bespoke, small-batch machines that are developed seemingly without a budget. And the launch edition press release even notes these bikes will likely become instant collectibles, much like Praga's recently announced $1.34 million hypercar. Even though most riding enthusiasts won't ever get to ride Czechia's newest toy, it is still cool to see Praga getting back into making motorcycles, especially with such attention to nostalgia.

Is a bespoke chassis and nostalgic, period-correct design really worth almost $100,000? Or were these units made for collectors and museums? Please share your comments below.

A New York transplant hailing from the Pacific Northwest, Emmet White has a passion for anything that goes: cars, bicycles, planes, and motorcycles. After learning to ride at 17, Emmet worked in the motorcycle industry before joining Autoweek in 2022. The woes of alternate side parking have kept his fleet moderate, with a 2014 Volkswagen Jetta GLI and a 2003 Honda Nighthawk 750 street parked in his South Brooklyn community.

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Czech manufacturer Praga is back to manufacturing motorcycles, with its new ZS 800 (pictured left, above) designed after the iconic 1928 Praga BD 500 (pictured right).With a bespoke hardtail frame, premium components from Öhlins, and an air-cooled 773cc four-stroke parallel twin, the ZS 800 blends modern components with vintage mechanics.Only 28 units will go on sale at the price of $92,226, as a result of the bespoke and potentially collectible nature of the model, with deliveries slated for mid-2023.