Polish Motorcycles

Today in Motorcycle History

Lech Motorcycles

Manufactured by Waclaw Sawicki & Wladyslaw Zalewski, Poznan 1929-1932(1)

Built in nearby Opalenica Wielkopolska, the Lech 500 was presented at the 1929 National Fair in Poznan. That city later became the centre for motorcycle production in Poland. This was a twin-cylinder four-stroke model.

Lech - the first Polish motorcycle.

The manufacturer "Lech" existed from 1 January 1929 (created by industrialist Waclaw Sawicki and engineer Wladyslaw Zalewski - re-emigrant from the United States - constructor of the vehicles) to 1932. First bikes were presented on General National Exhibition in Poznan. The bike was not big but reliable, equipped with a four stroke, V-twin, 5 hp engine. Pipe frame went over and under fuel tank (10l of petrol, 2l of oil). Both brakes (hand and leg) worked on rear wheel. It was drum brake: inner shoe brake and outer band brake. Gear box was separate and was driven by chain transmission. The engine was very modern. Light alloy pistons, removable cylinder heads, pressure lubrication and roller bearings on crankshaft necks.

Borgo Pistons

Alloy Pistons

Aluminium pistons first appeared before the Great War in engines by W.O. Bentley (UK) and Borgo (IT).


Both single cylinder models and twins were produced for solo and sidecar user. There was also sport version from Lech for competition.

The "Lech" factory produced all the main components in-house, and had its own foundry. The motorcycles were as good as foreign constructions. The upgraded version of Lech (with drum front brake, redesigned frame with saddle tank) received a 'commendatory letter' on Tourist and Communication Exhibition in Poznan in 1930, as 'high quality, home article".

Some small parts were imported, ie bearings, carburetors, electric installation (Bosch). Lech was a successful bike, as the press stated:  '...knowledge and practice gained (by the constructor) in foreign factories, preceded by a couple of years of experiments and tests gives full guarantee for good quality and reliability of Polish products...'

Facts confirmed that statement: Motorcycles took part in sport  competitions and, although they didn't win, they always place highly.

The factory cared about the client. They had a spare parts stock and also replaced old bikes (with surcharge) with new. They also gave free lessons how to ride to all new owners of Lech. The factory was developing but couldn't survive the international financial crisis. In 1932 production ceased. In total fewer than 40 motorcycles were produced.

Lech model 1929:

Engine: V-twin, four stroke, side valve, 500cc, 5 hp
Gear box: 3 speeds, hand change
Magneto ignition;
Front suspension: sprung
Rear suspension: rigid
Max speed: about 75 km/h

A few words about the name 'Lech'. The legend says that before Poland was formed there were three men (brothers?): Lech, Czech and Rus. They met and decided to go their own ways. Rus went east, Czech went south and Lech saw a tree with white eagle and its nest and decided to stay there. Lech was first Pole, the city formed on that place was called Poznan ("poznac" = meet) and the white eagle is the polish national emblem. After one thousand years, near Poznan, comes first Polish bike: LECH. Isn't that fascinating?

Article contributed by Marek Kowalski dwusuw at polbox dot com. (Minor edits Nov 2022)

Some information from: 'Polskie motocykle 1918 - 1945' by Jan Tarczynski.

See also http://motocykl-lech.pl

Mon Jan 30 2012
Author researching for novel
Lech 1929
Seeking a photograph of 1929 Lech motorcycle (and sidecar?) as part of my research for a novel set in Poland between the wars. Any help gratefully received and will be fully acknowledged in the book. Many thanks, Gary Bryson

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