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The history of Soviet motorcycle industry can be considered only in connection with the history of the country, otherwise there may be a false feeling that Soviet engineers could not invent a thing on their own. Therefore, it is worth recalling the economic situation in the Russian Empire at the beginning of the 20th century, when Europe and the USA began to actively develop the motorcycle industry. The countries that were more developed at the time, which had long passed from the agrarian economy to the industrial one, had every opportunity to develop a new direction of industry.

Motorcycles used in the Russian Empire at the time of the First World War were all imported from the leading countries of the motorcycle industry. Own production was limited to the installation of engines of foreign designs (Moto-Reve, Duks) in the simplest bicycle frames. The engineering school, present in the Russian Empire, did not show worthy examples of the “motorcycle art”.

The difficult process of reorienting the economy towards the industrial way was accompanied by political upheavals. The revolution, the change of government, the struggle for power inside the new political system, all this led to the fact that more time was needed to build a new engineering school and new factories. In fact, there was no time. The approach of a new war was felt almost since the signing of the Versailles Peace Treaty in 1919.

The first experiments of Soviet engineers, led by Peter Mozharov, were successful, but without the experience, which in Europe had been evolving for 30 years, the first Izh motorcycles simply could not be sufficiently competitive. The time was needed to search for shortcomings, calculations contributing to their correction, the refocusing of production, building of new lines, factories… This still had to be done by the Soviet leadership, but new motorcycles were needed right there and then.

Now it looks quite logical that the L-300 model, produced by the “Red October” plant, the first serial Soviet motorcycle, was not our own development, but was based on a successful foreign model — the German DKW Luxus 300.

Л-300 из коллекции музея мотоциклов "Мотомир Вячеслава Шеянова"
L-300 from the collection of the motorcycle museum “Motorworld by V.Sheyanov”

Serial production of a 2-stroke, single-cylinder L-300 began in 1930 at the “Red October” plant in Leningrad, and also in 1933 at the Izhevsky motorcycle plant.


At that time, the main obstacle in the work of numerous regional units of Autodor was… almost complete absence of motorcycles. The Autodor concluded an agreement for the supply of 4,050 units of the L-300 motorcycles to the collectives during 1932-1933. This agreement contributed greatly to the reconstruction of the plant.

Izhevsky plant received full documentation on the L-300 motorcycle from their colleagues in Leningrad, and by May 1, 1933, prototypes of Izh-7 light motorcycles were assembled.

The engineers from Izhevsk made small changes in the design of the front fork and the profile of the front and rear fenders of the motorcycle. The designers also got rid of the massive rear shields, flat steps and storage boxes on the trunk.

Unfortunately for the designers, out of 12 motorcycles manufactured in 1933, almost all returned to the factory due to the ignition system failure. But soon all of the “childhood illnesses” were cured and, in 1934, the plant produced 111 new motorcycles. Total production of Izh-7 equaled to 5,779 units.


The optimistic prognoses for the second five-year plan presupposed the release of the Izh-8 with a battery ignition system, modified by the headlight and enlarged 350cc motor (in 1936), but the first news about the new Izh appeared only in 1938.

The power of a new 300cc engine had increased from 5.5 to 8 hp. The electrical system has also become more perfect — instead of a flywheel magneto, the machine has been equipped with a generator and a battery.

Having put the Izh-8 in mass production, the plant increased the plan by 1,000 units. The population’s demand for this motorcycle led to another correction of the plan. In 1939, another 4,300 vehicles were produced. At the beginning of the same year, the design department came up with a new two-stroke 350-cc engine for the new Izh-9 motorcycle with a capacity of more than 10 hp, thus ended the long work on the improvement of the L-300, recommended by Autodor.


The evolution of the Izhevsk motorcycle is described in sufficient detail in Soviet literature. In 1938, engineers completed the wiring, installed a speedometer, completed the engine and planned to install an ammeter in a headlight of a new design. The modifications, applied to Izh-8, automatically became the starting point for the next model — Izh-9, the release of which was planned for the middle of 1939, and even to Izh-10, which was repeatedly mentioned in the press.

The Izh-9 was equipped with a single-cylinder 300cc engine, the cylinder had two exhaust windows. The motorcycle had a mass of 147 kg. The front brake drums were improved and increased in diameter.

The fuel tank of the motorcycle had a volume of 14 liters. On the Izh-9 a new improved front fork was installed, along with a new damper and an upper bridge. The scavenging system of the cylinder was changed, exhaust gases were directed into two mufflers, cooling of the cylinder and the head of the block was improved, a needle bearing was used in the connecting rod, a stronger and more reliable front fork was created.


At the exact same time the L-8 motorcycle (“Red October” plant) appears on the horizon, with a new 350cc 4-stroke engine with a capacity of 14 hp. A modern foot gear shifting was applied on this motorcycle, brakes were tightened and the base was extended from 1320 mm to 1400 mm. The long-awaited M-132 ATE-132 magdyno of own design was finally introduced.

Since the head tube didn’t changed, the only way to install the increased engine was to lengthen the upper part of the frame (1,125 mm instead of 1,075 mm). The engine mounts along with the gearbox became detachable and were fastened on 3 bolts. Here is a drawing of the L-8 frame and the L-300 frame, so you could compare them for yourself.

In 1939, on the basis of the L-8, the “Red October” plant assembled its first sport motorcycle, the S-1. The modified L-8 engine on a hydraulic dynamometer showed a maximum power of 24.79 hp at 6,700 rpm. A nice boost compared to the road version, which gave only 13.5-15.5 hp. The gearbox, by the way, remained 3-speed with a foot shift.

Leningrad sport motorcycle S-1.

In 1940, Leningrad designers sent documentation of their developments to Izhevsk, where it was decided to use the Izh-9 motorcycle chassis to speed up the development of a new model. Serial production of this new motorcycle, named the Izh-12, was supposed to begin in the summer of 1941. The war had prevented all of this from happening.


Specifications L-8

Manufacturer Krasny Oktyabr [Red October] plant, Leningrad, USSR
Years of manufacture 1940 – 1941
Quantity produced, units 48
Today’s value
Type Single-cylinder, OHV
Engine capacity, cc 350
Bore and stroke, mm
Engine rating 14 hp
Sparking ATE М-132
Carburetor AMAL type
Clutch Multiplate
Transmission 3-speed, footgear
Frame type Stamped
Front suspension Sprung
Rear suspension Rigid
Brakes Drum
Wheel size
Length, mm
Width, mm 830
Height, mm
Wheelbase, mm 1 400
Ground clearance, mm
Seat height
Mass, kg
Gas tank size, l 14
Maximum speed, km/h
Range, km

* – Exhibit Measurement Data.