Polish Motorcycles

Today in Motorcycle History

Niemen Motorcycles


Established in 1894 by Nochim Starowolski in Gradno, the firm built bicycles and sewing machines, and motorcycles from 1934 to 1939.

Built 75cc lightweights in male and female versions, along with a 98cc motorcycle. Both employed Sachs engines. They also built Villiers-powered machines of 98cc, 125cc and 150cc.

Niemen History

In 1894, the Starowolski family founded a metal products factory in Grodno. The small factory prospered quite well and in the second half of the 1930s it was significantly expanded, employing about 100 workers. Bicycles (10,000 in 1936) and their parts as well as sewing machines were produced at that time. The increase in the production potential (as well as the increase in buyers' interest in two-wheel motor vehicles) allowed the owners of the enterprise (Nochim Starowolski, Lazarz Starowolski, M.Sc. and Izaak Piwowarski, MA) to increase the product range. At that time, mopeds and motorcycles were introduced into production, which was also visible in the name of the plant - Kresowa Wytwórnia Rowerów i Motori "Niemen".

It is thought that the first motorcycles of this brand - with imported engines - appeared on the market as early as 1936 (perhaps 100 units). Records exist of the production from 1938, in which 166 vehicles were built. These were lightweight motorcycles with a frame made from structural steel tubes and front suspension with a trapezoidal fork made of pressed metal, with a central spring.

Due to the lack of reliable archival sources, it is difficult to say today whether it was an in-house construction or whether it was based on tried and tested foreign patterns, or perhaps a licensed copy. The motorcycle's appearance gives the impression that it is very similar in construction to some light English motorcycles, e.g. Villiers or, to a lesser extent, Excelsior. This impression is enhanced by the fact that the vehicles from "Kresowa Wytwórnia" had reliable two-stroke engines from the Villiers factory in Wolverhampton, imported by the partners in three capacity classes: 98, 125 and 150cc.

The "Niemen" with a small engine, typical for Villiers, with a dual exhaust, with a capacity of 98 cc and a power of 3 HP, mated to a gearbox with three ratios, manually controlled - directly with a long lever located on the right side e of the vehicle. Vehicles with much more powerful engines (about 5 hp) with a capacity of 150 cc were also purchased, although they were characterized by a slightly outdated design solution, in which the gearbox was placed separately from the engine. The "Niemny 125" had far fewer buyers, and information about them appeared in the motorcycle press only in the late spring of 1939.

In the Niemen 98 motorcycles from 1938, apart from the English engine and its accessories (Villiers - Midget carburetor with a throat diameter of 16 mm, with an air filter with a wet filter insert, and Villiers 6V - 18W flywheel-magneto. British basic elements were also used lighting electrical installation: Villiers headlight with ignition switch and high beam switch and rear lamp by Villiers or Joseph Lucas Ltd with a system typical for motorcycles of the time - single-filament light bulb serving both as a warning light (red) and a license plate light (white).

The "Niemen" motorcycles, as well as all domestic vehicles, were fitted with excellent tyres manufactured by "Stomil" in Poznan. The vehicles were basically intended for one-person trips, but the manufacturer - and the Highway Code - allowed for the possibility of doubling the load relief - after installing an additional saddle on the trunk. It was possible to practice even long-distance tourism in two people, because the capacity of the tank (fuel - petrol with oil in the ratio of 17: 1) amounting to about 10 litres meant that it was enough to cover a distance of up to 400 km.

"Niemny" were bought especially on the so-called eastern borderlands, where the points of sale of other brands of motorcycles were poorly developed, but the general commercial enterprise of Kresowa Wytwórnia Rowerów i Motorki was located in Warsaw at ul. Senatorska 28. They were run by a company called Polska Spólka Motorcycling, which also had a large warehouse well stocked with all parts and accessories. It should be assumed that it was from this company that the Niemny 98 came from, which, together with other Polish motorcycles in the roundabout rally of WKS Legia on the 100-kilometer route Warsaw - Minsk Mazowiecki - Otwock - Warsaw in April 1939, basically inaugurated the appearance of vehicles of this brand in national sporting events.

Today it is difficult to determine how many motorcycles left the halls of "Kresowa Wytwórnia", it can be assumed that there were no more than 300 - 500 of them. Despite the small amount of production, activity in this field showed some progress, as the plan for 1939 provided for the launch of 250 vehicles with 98 cc engines . It must be said here that the production capacity of the plant was twice as large - perhaps it was also planned to produce vehicles with a larger capacity.

Engine: two-stroke, single-cylinder, drives the rear wheel by means of a chain
Bore x stroke / displacement: 50 x 50 / 98cc
Compression ratio: no data
Power: 3 hp (number of revolutions unknown)
Clutch: wet, single disc
Transmission: with three gears, manually controlled
Ignition: magneto
Generator: Villiers magneto 6V - 18W
Frame: tubular, single, closed
Front suspension: trapezoidal fork
Rear Suspension: rigid
tyres: Polish Tyre Stomil 3.00 x 19"
Length Width Height: 1980/700/890mm
Wheelbase: 1330mm
Empty weight: approx. 70 kg
Maximum speed: 60km/h
Fuel consumption: 2.2 - 2.5 litres / 100 km
permissible load: 1 person (2 people after fitting an additional saddle)

Sources: Polish History Archive; Zabytkowemotocykleirowery Poland