This year marks the 135th anniversary of the first motorcycle in the world. Its creators were German engineers Daimler and Maybach, later founders of famous automobile brands. The first domestic motorcycle was developed and put into production at the Krasny Oktyabr plant, the successor of which, years later, became ODK-Klimov JSC.
L-300 became legendary in its own way – it rode the roads of the Great Patriotic War, opened up motorcycling for many, participated in record-breaking races. “Octoberers”, as the L-300 is often called, are not many left to our time. One of the machines has been preserved for history and is an exhibit of the museum “ODK-Klimov”.
From a German bike to a Soviet motorcycle
In the mid-1920s, the Soviet government seriously thought about the development of domestic motorcycle construction. Initially it was discussed to create its own models of motorcycles and organize their serial production. But soon it became obvious that the development of original designs was not a quick matter and the country was in urgent need of motor vehicles. The way out of the situation was found as follows: to take a suitable foreign motorcycle, modify it to the Russian conditions and put it into series production.
When choosing among the European models, the German ones were considered in the first place. And it is not surprising – Germany, being the birthplace of the world’s first bike, had made considerable progress in motorcycle construction by that time. The first motorcycle with an internal combustion engine was built in 1885 by German engineers Gottlieb Daimler and Wilhelm Maybach – in the future these names will be associated exclusively with the famous cars. At the same time, at the end of the XIX century, Daimler and Maybach became the authors of the first classic motorcycle with a 1.5 hp gasoline engine and a maximum speed of 12 km/h.
The first Russian motorcycle was based on the German DKW Luxus 300, which was considered the most reliable bike at the beginning of 1930. It was on the basis of this model that Leningrad designers prepared drawings of the first serial Soviet motorcycle. However, it is worth noting that experimental models were created in the country before. Back in 1929 at the Izhevsk plant (now Concern Kalashnikov) were made several prototypes. They were created under the leadership of talented engineer and designer Pyotr Mozharov, who would later lead the work on the first serial motorcycle in Leningrad.
The model was called “L-300” (Leningrad, 300 cc engine). The motorcycle weighed 125 kg and reached speed up to 80 km/h, at the same time its average petrol consumption was about four liters per 100 km. Since the fall of 1931, the country mastered the production of all units for the L-300 – from that moment the production became import-independent.
On military trails into motorcycling
Motorcycle L-300 was produced until the end of 1939 – only about 19 thousand motorcycles of this model were made. And even when by 1940 their design was “morally” outdated and was replaced by Izhevsk “Moto Legends”, Leningrad L-300 were still in demand due to their high reliability and ease of operation. To prove it in practice -L-300 was actively used in the Red Army as a reconnaissance and communications motorcycles. They took part in the battles on Khalkhin-Gol and Hasan, in the Soviet-Finnish War and at the beginning of the Great Patriotic War.
L-300 took an active part in the development of domestic motorcycling – it was widely used in races, cross-country races, record races and long runs of thousands of kilometers. At competitions L-300 often won prizes in competition with famous foreign motorcycles.
And, perhaps most importantly, the L-300 gave thousands of Soviet people the opportunity to sit on the saddle of a motorcycle for the first time. At the same time the experience of the organization of serial production of the L-300 helped in the production of domestic motorcycles of new generations. So there was the first Soviet sport-road bike L-500, and after L-8 with a lot of racing modifications and speed about 140 km/hour. “Descendants” of the L-300 became the legendary Izhevsk motorcycles Izh-7 and Izh-8. The latter is considered a true Soviet legendary bike, and also became famous abroad. The Izh-8 motorcycle is even embossed on New Zealand silver coins.
In addition to Izhevsk, mass production of motorcycles was established in Podolsk, Taganrog and Serpukhov. But still the first was Leningrad and the model L-300. Today this motorcycle is no longer found on the roads, but you can see it in the museum. One of the copies of this model is on display in the museum of ODK-Klimov JSC.