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The modern version of the Sachs Saxonette seems to have stirred up a bit of interest recently. It has been mentioned several times in past magazines but, in view of the recent interest, perhaps a recap is in order. There are basically 4 versions of the Sachs engine unit, made up from the combinations of two wheel sizes and electric or hand start. The two wheel sizes are to accommodate both roadster/tourer machines and the modern 'hybrid' bikes derived from mountain bikes. In most countries the engine unit is not available separately, only as a complete ready-to-ride machine; this is to avoid any problems over product liability legislation. So, as well as the four engine units, there are further combinations of frame styles: lady's, gent's, mixte, etc. I believe there is a tandem version produced in the Netherlands.
In the Netherlands, the machine is known as the Spartamet; this is because it is marketed there by Sparta, a large cycle company that is part of the Fichtel & Sachs group. In Germany it is available as the Hercules Patrol. Again, Hercules is the German cycle-producing arm of the Fichtel & Sachs empire (and not connected to the Hercules cycles built in Britain). It is available in many countries, usually under the Hercules or Sparta name. Most countries have sensible legislation covering this type of machine and, subject to certain restrictions on power and maximum speed, they are treated just like bicycles: no licence, no helmet, no road tax and allowed on cycle paths. Here in the UK, they are treated as motor cycles so you need to register, insure and tax them, wear a motor cycle helmet and have a suitable driving licence. Despite this deterrent, a few determined people have been importing them. In 1992 a firm in the West Country, Crystal Engineering, sold a motorised version of its "Trice" recumbent tricycle with the Sachs engine; probably the most unusual production version of the Sachs. I don't know if this is still available. Geoff Ludbrooke of Serpico International Ltd is currently importing the engine to the UK. It is sold as a complete machine using a Dawes touring frame and sells at £575 plus VAT.
The Daily Express of 16th February 1995 reported that several police forces are trying out motorised bicycles. Most of these are electric machines, but the South Yorkshire police force has a couple of the Hercules Patrols, supplied by Serpico. They are being used in the eastern part of their area. Have any club members seen these machines in action? I would welcome news of any sightings.
BBC breakfast news on March 16th 1995 also featured the Sachs cyclemotor being used by the Police at Barton-on-Humber. The report said that not only S Yorkshire but also Leicestershire have already tried them. In a 3 minute slot it was presented as a new idea but we, of course, know differently! Perhaps the Humberside section could recruit a new member!
My thanks to Roger Worton, Andy Moffat, Andrew Roddham and Nick Devonport for information.
First published - April 1995
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