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Fisherman nets antique motorcycle

Bike finds its way to Ron Miller

December 14, 2012
By Fritz Busch - Staff Writer ( , The Journal

NEW ULM - With a little help from a willing former owner and a commercial fisherman he does business with, a New Ulm man with a passion for motorcycles recently picked up a bike like he's never seen before.

Ron Miller of New Ulm - who hauls live fish to the Asian market in New York City for a living - was recently contacted by Ken Seemann, a Dassel commercial fisherman whom he buys fish from.

Seemann said he snagged something unusually heavy on Nov. 29 while seining (using a fishing net that hangs vertically in the water) for carp on the south side of Big Swan Lake in Dassel.

Article Photos

Staff photo by Fritz Busch
Ron?Miller looks over the 1938 NSU motorcycle that was netted by Ken Seeman of Dassel while seining for carp in Swan Lake last month. The motorcycle had been sitting on the bottom of the lake since going through the ice 56 years ago.

Reaching the north side of the lake, Seemann saw his unusual catch - an old, waterlogged motorcycle.

Talking to people the next day, Seemann found a man who remembered the story of a Dassel man who was riding a motorcycle on the lake in December 56 years ago when he and the motorcycle fell through the ice.

Thanks to several nearby fishermen and a tight leather jacket he was wearing that filled with air, Dean Ailie survived the mishap. His motorcycle sunk to the bottom of the lake and was not recovered back then, despite dragging the lake bottom with a rowboat and several scuba dives.

"I'm surprised at the shape the 1938 NSU 251-OSL is in. I want to research it by finding serial numbers," said Miller, who already owns eight motorcycles. "It's priceless. Not for sale. I want to tell the story about how it was found and show it to people the way it is."

The front fenders and wheel, handlebar and some engine parts on the motorcycle appear to be like new. Many other motorcycle parts were heavily-corroded by 56 years at the bottom of the lake.

Founded in 1873, NSU was a German manufacturer of automobiles, motorcycles and pedal cycles. Built at the Neckarsulm, Germany factory in 1934, the 251 motorcycle had a 249 CC engine. The model was used by the German army for solo dispatch duties from 1938 to 1940, according to Deutsche Autos.

Completely destroyed in World War II, NSU began building bicycles and motor-bicycles at its Nickarsulm plant in December 1946. In 1955, NSU was the world's biggest motorcycle producer.

The company set world speed records in 1951, 1953, 1954 and 1955. In August 1956 at the Bonneville, Utah Salt Flats, Wilhelm Herz became the first man to ride a motorcycle more than 200 mph, according to Deutsche Autos.

Acquired by the Volkswagen Group in 1969, VW merged with Auto Union, eventually evolving into Audi.

(Information from the Dassel Cokato Enterprise-Dispatch was used in this story).

Fritz Busch can be e-mailed at



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