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Reviewed: Praga ZS800

Praga rider in front of fields

Praga is a historic Czech motoring brand that dates back 117 years and is now being thrust into the modern centre stage mostly with its £1m Bohema road-going hypercar. Now, as a side ‘passion project’, it’s also launched this, a handbuilt, retro-influenced ‘homage’ to its historic 1928 BD500 motorcycle, which showcases the exotic materials, high tech and ultralight weight that help define the Bohema.

The result, based around a 50bhp Kawasaki W800 motor, may not be superbike quick or, with its girder forks (albeit with an Ohlins shock), hardtail rear and drum brakes, even modern handling. Starting at £77,000, it’s not remotely cheap, either, but it is hugely classy and characterful, with bespoke everything fashioned from carbon-fire, titanium, dural and more, it is a jewel of a motorcycle to justify its price. With just 28 being built, the Praga ZS800 is about as exclusive as motorcycles get.

 

Praga engine

 

With a bike so much about form than function you shouldn’t expect mind-blowing performance, but the Praga is still characterful and stirring. It’s powered by Kawasaki’s charming engine from the now defunct W800, a retro air-cooled, bevel drive parallel twin, but with Praga’s own intake and exhaust systems. Power is a claimed 50bhp delivered through a five-speed shift and is fruity, authentic-feeling and adequate. In a bike like this you wouldn’t want any more and the unbadged Kawasaki unit is perfectly suited and reassuringly proven.

 

Praga tyres

 

The chassis, however, is all-Praga, all-new and all-retro – well, sort of. There’s a hand-made tubular steel hardtail frame (although the single seat is softened by a damper); the vintage-style girder forks are controlled by an Ohlins TTX30 shock and the 18-inch ‘wire-alike’ wheels are not laced with traditional spokes, instead being insane hand-laid carbon fibre items built around bespoke, duralumin drum brakes with a modern hydraulic action. It shouldn’t work but it pretty much does. All that carbon and titanium leaves the ZS800 joyfully light (it weighs just 142kg dry); it’s low and easy to ride and steers and tracks to expectations. Braking, admittedly, takes a little getting used to and still isn’t as sharp as a modern disc. It requires a tug on the front and rear brakes, but is acceptable.

 

Praga riding detail

 

Despite being a hardtail, the damped saddle helps make the ride pleasing enough, although the limited travel from the front girder arrangement means speed bumps and potholes need to be ridden with caution. Otherwise, the riding position is old school yet ok for gentle Sunday rides. Besides, it’s unlikely anyone is ever going to ride one of these over any sort of distance or in remotely dodgy conditions.

Practicality isn’t realistically a consideration for a prestige, bespoke, £70k+ machine such as this, either. Yes, it starts and rides conventionally enough (there is an electric start and neutral light, but little more) and it’s light and manageable, so I can easily imagine it drawing admiring glances along a seafront or around town, but ultimately, the ZS800 is a luxury indulgence and a bike you’ll gain as much pleasure from simply owning and admiring rather than actually riding, so the lack of practical considerations such as pillion pad, luggage, weather protection or modern electronics are simply irrelevant.

 

Praga front of bike

 

Funnily enough, although the vintage style nature of the ZS800 suggests it hasn’t got any conventional equipment at all, it actually has – up to a point. There’s a neat, miniscule, round digital dash built into the headlamp nacelle which reveals (if you squint) neutral, high beam and even speedo, although it is very small. Switchgear is taken care of by a gorgeous pair of bespoke, carbon fibre thumb levers which operate the starter, indicators and navigate through the dash. The bar-end mirrors are equally custom made, gorgeous and milled from aluminium (and they work well enough too) and everywhere you look the components are handmade and of the highest quality, right down to the footpegs. In short, while the ZS800 might not seem to have much on paper, what it does have is gorgeous and works. There are no conspicuous off-the-shelf components here…

What does it cost and should I buy?

Ok, there’s no way of glossing over this: the ZS800 starts at a whopping €91,000 (£77,000 at the time of writing) rising to €98,000 (£83,000) for the ‘Black Carbon and Gold’ limited edition tested here, with carbon throughout and a fancier finish. Whichever way you slice it that’s a phenomenal amount of money for what is at the end of the day, a retro-style toy with 50bhp W800 performance.

But that’s missing the point. The ZS800 is also an extremely exclusive, jewel-like wonder. Just 28 examples in total are being built, of which five are the higher spec version, with, as I write, under 20 still available all told. There is no real rationale for buying one apart from being a glorious, unique machine which is a joy – in a particular way – to ride and a thrill to merely be in the presence of. If all of that fits into your world, demo rides are being arranged via UK partner and supercar dealer Premier GT in West Sussex.

 

Praga in front of fields

 

2024 Praga ZS800 specification

 

Price:                                            From £77,000

Engine:                                      773cc parallel twin, SOHC, four valves per cylinder, air cooled

Power:                                          50bhp (39kW) @ 6000rpm

Torque:                                        65Nm (45lb-ft) @ 4800rpm

Transmission:                        Five-speed, chain final drive

Frame:                                          Tubular steel hard tail

Suspension:                                 (F) Girder forks with adjustable Ohlins TTX22 single shock, (R) Hardtail with damped single seat.

Wheels:                                    Bespoke forged carbon, 18”/18”

Tyres:                                     (F) 100/90 x 18, (R) 130/70 x 18

Brakes:                                         (F) Hydraulic TLS drum (R) hydraulic drum

Weight:                                     158kg (kerb)

Seat height:                               N/a

Fuel tank:                                 11.5 litres

Fuel consumption:                     50mpg (estimated)

Contact:                                    www.pragaglobal.com

 

Words: Phil West 

Photos: Praga

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