Sarolea motorcycles

Motto: „I am not French, I am BELGIAN...“
Hercule Poirot

Sarolea 22F belt drive motorcycle, Vojtech Svarc

Saroléa??? „I don‘t know“, probably many readers will ask themselves in surprise. Intellectually orientated people may recollect Charles Sarolea, Belgian philosopher and friend of T.G.Masaryk (The first Czechoslovak president). But this is mere coincidence of names and entirely from our topic. The centre of our attention will be Mr. Joseph Sarolea, founder of the ammunition factory, bearing his name, which is famous for its production of motorcycles in the begining of the last century.

Sarolea factory, founded by in 1850, was among the pioneers of Belgian and world motorcycle industry. Was originally established as an arms factory, but in the late 19th century began produce bicycles. Since 1901 they started manufacturing motorcycle with their own design. Sarolea engines were from the beginning so perfect, that they were delivered to many other producers, inc. English. The factory has always been characterized by a healthy conservatism in connection with latest technologies. The production range was specialized exclusively on single-cylinder machines, which show the continuity of technological continuity. Exceptions are two types of two-cylinders. The firs one of the early production was competing business to four-cylinders F.N., the second from the fifties, as the swan song of the brand, trying in vain effort to face English machines. It is surprising how little Sarolea motorcycles has been preserved, in spite of the fact, that in late twenties they were the sixth best-selling brand in the Czechoslovakia market. The factory produced, except motorcycles and velocipedes, also aircraft engines, commercial or military special tricycles and sidecars. A considerable success achieved Sarolea in sports. The company, as many others, disappeared in 1960 due to post-war motorcycle crisis.

Sarolea moto

Sarolea factory building  Sarolea 24U
Sarolea 24U  Sarolea 25M

And how I got to Sarolea motorcycles? Well, we will have to go back in time.In ancient times, when the Skoda 100 was unattained desire of every socialist-minded driver, visited my father an old man, offering something on the ad. One word led to another and it turned out that the mans´ name is Jan (John) Formanek, who in 1929 took over from his brother Jiri (George) store of motorcycles Sarolea and Velocette and ran it until one sad freezing winter day, when all turned red (Communist coup 28th February 1948). However, even after a quarter of a century he still had an overview of former customers. When he found out, that my daddy is „playing“ with old cars, he offered him to try a motorcycle too. Truly, my dad was not interested in motorcycles too much; it was my mom, who wanted to ride a bike. Then it had a classical history - from one Sarolea were soon three or even four.

Sarolea 25M  Sarolea 25M
Sarolea 25M  Sarolea 25M

Sarolea 24U

I managed to renovate one and half machines only. One of them was a fantastic type 24U, 500 OHV Super Sport, with two exhaust pipes, the blockbuster of the year 1929. The motorcycle was rarely preserved in its original condition and complete. Nowadays we would such a bike polished only, but it was a different time and different views on historic vehicles. They had to have perfect varnish and chrome. As well this Sarolea Super Sport. When the renovation was done, the situation has changed at our home. All with less than four wheels went gradually out of the house. Nobody was thinking about the little boy, who will grow up and may like to ride a bike. Oh yeah... The most I am sorry for the 24U Super Sport. Such a lovely machine! Dad sold it to the NTM (National Technical Museum in Prague). If only I imagine, that I could have that Sarolea in my garage, could take care about it with love and could rapidly ride it... What a shame!

Sarolea 25M

The half renovated bike Sarolea was type 25M, the weakest and the „ordinary“ of all that dwelt at our home. „First-class machine for everyday use“, 350 SV from 1928. When I was run about velocipedes with an auxiliary motor in early nineties (see section Cucciolo), I realized that I need an adult machine for longer travels. Because I had since childhood encoded in my mind „motorcycle = Sarolea“, I began to investigate the fate of „our“ bikes. All of them were hopelessly unaffordable, except of the little three hundred fifty. I was quite lucky because the owner has just decided to export it to the Reich. As it was often common at this time, he was blinded by the vision of the Reich Mark. Sure, he was willing to sell the bike, but for the same price on the western markets. In foreign currency, of course! It was 1992, I was civilian service with a „generous“ supply from the hospital, approximately ten crowns per day (about 0,25 €). I do not even remember what everything I have sold: Sachs motorbikes, the savings that my mom paid for me a lifetime, and it was still not enough. But when I look back now, I really do not understand how I could put the money together. There was holiday, the exchange rate float to the heavens, and I resigned entered wechselstube. Few days after I became a proud owner of motorcycle Sarolea 25M.

Intermezzo: What is a motorcycle?
(Sorry, only in Czech available - Untranslatable biker's humour from the magazine Motor Revue 1928)

The bike was certainly in the same condition, as when my Dad sold it fifteen years ago. What only has change was the price. In the initial bout of enthusiasm I quickly assembled the bike and in a short time, I chased it on the Czech roads. At the same time I started to search more information about a history of this brand, its representation in Czechoslovakia and anything linked to Sarolea. It was very difficult, because there is very few information about it in my country. But I quickly discovered that „Sardel“ urgently needs a healing cure. It was renovated in late 1996. Btw, the nickname „Sardel“ suggested itself. It was derived from Sarolea, of course. (Sardel means in Czech language „anchovy“.) However, it was a pleasant surprise for me when I later found out in the old press the same popular name for these bikes, along with the second option „Sarah“. The renovation did not stand for a long time. 8. 8. 1998, 18:00 (damn the eights...) I was shot down by young daring idiot© on copper Yamaha, near my home, way back from Kutna Hora - Kank climb hill. I was frequent guest in a surgery department for two weeks, but „Sardel“ was healed in two years.

Sarolea 22F

Sarolea 22F

In 2003 was three hundred fifty too „small“ for me and I started to look round for 500 ccm. Certainly, I wanted mainly 24U, but I always liked last belt drive models from early twenties. Super Sports were hopelessly sold out. On spring 2004 I discovered a wreck of older model. I was sure, that it is „my mark“, but it was difficult to recognise a particular type. I hesitated, whether to accept the challenge or not. Finally my ambition won! After removing of everything inappropriate and only few poor pieces of iron remained, I delved into my archive, which over the years has grown quite well. After some time, I happily could tell the world, that by coincidence I became the owner of the belt drive motorcycle.

It was quite clear to me, that a renovation of this bike will be time-consuming and unfortunately also money demanding, so I have decided with broken heart, that 350 ccm must be sold. At the time, friend of mine has founded small private museum, and he asked me to sell the bike. It seemed to be a good idea, so I agreed. However, after six months, he sold it again, which I was sorry for.

Sarolea 22F wreck  Sarolea 22F
Sarolea 22F  Sarolea 22F

In 2002 I finished renovation of BSA S29 (1929) from a wreck and I promised myself, that I don’t want anything like that in my house. And now I had here the most pathetic ruin ever! In all modesty, I am sure, that this motorbike waited for me. I think only I had the knowledge how it has to look like and was so mad, to start that crazy experiment. Also a bet helped me. At this time about ten friends betted, that at the end of October 2005, will come in to Solvayovy lomy (industrial museum) on their newly renovated machines. It was great idea, the only problem I see in penalty. It was a bottle of twelve years old whiskey. I mean, that a forfeit was most interesting for others. Finally, I was the only who kept word (though with difficulties). If I had been arriving with a bottle, instead of on a new bike, I will be more honoured. Yet there was ten bottles and after a half hour everybody was totally drunk.

Advertisement Sarolea  Sarolea 22F catalog

With a little nostalgia and a tear in my eye I remember „the little Anchovy“, but I do not regret that I had replaced with „the belt“. It rides excellently. Long strong five hundred fifty has a very sophisticated and flexible engine operation and high tensile power. It can go so that you can count the single explosions, but when I „open“ a carburetter, it can run nicely. The drive belt is amazing. I never had the honour to ride a belt drive motorcycle and I was pleasantly surprised with a soft mesh. I’m starting to think that the move to chain was a step back. But the idea of a 200 HP Desmosedici driven by V-belt ... But the brakes! The funny facility at the front cannot be termed a brake; a rear brake block is also no big deal. I tried different materials, but I’m still not satisfied. Although its work remind of braking, stop on a dime is still far away. But let’s face it, that the effort of constructors was targeted more to ride a motorcycle than to stop it. Some tree was always available. Maybe I only have just too demanding modern requirements on the brakes.

Intermezzo II: Biker's feuilleton (autumn)
(Sorry, only in Czech available - moody autumn poetry, describing the beauty of the last ride before the winter dormancy)

Also lubrication is excellent. A complete oil system includes one pump and one tube. Well, it also has a dropper as „extra accessories“, which can somewhat control a flow of oil. Point is that for each five kilometres most be pushed a pump. But guess five kilometres! When you lubricate less, there is obviously danger of galling, if more, oil flies from the engine to all sides.

Type 22F was the last belt drive model. Since 1919, five hundred sports and 550 tourist were also manufactured with chain drive. Chains at that time were quite expensive and often pulled apart. Therefore, many customers have preferred cheaper belt drive models. In 1923 Mr. Jiri Formanek has set up a general representation of Sarolea for Czechoslovakia and initially offering mainly less expensive and at that time run-out types of motorcycles.

The fate of this machine is not known. According to the serial number it was probably made in the autumn of 1923. Finally ended up as a wreck on a dumping ground. A collector from Southern Bohemia saved it. He had big troubles with renovation, consequently sold me the wreck on spring of 2004.

Cinematographic recording of chasing race „Oval“
August 8th 2009

A reportage and photos are on Bikers.cz
(Sorry, only in Czech available)

The photo, taken by Mr. Mensik, nicely captures my camera strapped to the tank with an old tyre tube. Nothing complicated...

Sarolea 22F

In a hot pace, „Oval“ July 14th 2012

Photos from the race are in the gallery

„Sardel“ has also proved to be suitable as a wedding vehicle

Photos from the wedding are in the gallery

Sarolea 33T

In the spring 2013 I bought Sarolea 33T, 600 ccm SV from 1933, in a somewhat instant form. Unfortunately, the bike was attacked by clumsy renovator. I tried to maintain originality as much as possible and the absurdly „renovated“ parts return back to the (artificial) patina.

At the end of February completely stripped down six hundred Sarolea 33T appeared on Aukro (Czech version Ebay). I can not exactly describe that feeling, when I first saw the auction photos of the motorcycle. I knew right away, that we know each other for a long time. Being Buddhist, I'd believe I'm reincarnation of the first owner. Thus, I am not, but for me it was a matter of honor and moral obligation to win the auction. It was a tough fight, but I managed. I must thank my wife, who even encouraged me not to be afraid to bid, because this bike is urgently needed in our household!

In previous years in advertising were a few motorcycles Sarolea, but none impressed me as this one. More than from spiritual reasons, it was given by the status of offered machines and by a status of my wallet. At this moment both unexpectedly met in a balanced constellation. (Could it really be a karma?) At the first times not many people realy liked it (unfortunatelly some people did), „Instant Sardel“ - its nickname had stayed - proved to be really solid purchase. Leaving aside the absurd sandblasting of the frame and fenders, which I managed „get back in time“, the other parts, incl. chroming, have wonderful patina. Fortunately, even though the machine was disassembly on primes, nothing was lost. It is fascinating, that about 95 % of the original bolts and nuts was preserved.

Saroléa 33T (1933)

Saroléa 33T, 600 SV, 1933  Saroléa 33T, 600 SV, 1933

„Instant Sardel“ pleasantly surprised me also technically. The first owner, who obviously maintained the bike very well, made a few usual repairs, one general repair, few small period improvements, but mainly no big interventions to construction! According to the original license plate, this motorcycle was put out of service before 1964. After half a century it was only necessary to thorough cleaning of the engine, replacement of piston rings, grinding valves, new sealing ... basically just routine maintenance!

On-road performance revealed beyond expectations good, fully complying with the reason for which we bought it: for comfortable riding the bike in two. No breaking speed records, but no shortness of breath in the hills. Motorcycle Saroléa 33T, respectively its newer version, was tested in the magazine „Oldtimer praxis“ from mid-nineties. The article was published under the title „Touren - hammer“, which is pretty accurate. Yes, the engine character is somewhat „tractor like“, but without unwanted vibrations, a large torque at low engine revolution, accelerating nicely at the same time. The engine is flexible, three speed gearbox is quite sufficient.

Saroléa 33T, 600 SV, 1933  Saroléa 33T, 600 SV, 1933
Saroléa 33T, 600 SV, 1933  Saroléa 33T, 600 SV, 1933

My profile on „Bikers.cz“

Topic-related renovations: Powder colours otherwise „komaxit“
The article from Motor Journal 10/2007
(Sorry, only in Czech available)

For download: all „downloads“ moved on new websites SAROLEA.CZ