"dalniks" & cabin motorcycles

OK, so the term "dalnik" is unknown to most people, but they are a fascinating group of cabin motorcycles that have been constructed for the past 75 years, mostly in eastern Europe. Their design brief is a sensible one: a hybrid of motorcycle and automobile, with the virtues of both (at least in theory). The "golden age" of dalniks was during the 1950s and '60s, and the former Czechoslovakia was its center. These vehicles almost always seated two in tandem, with a motorcycle engine mounted behind the passenger, and a streamlined body around them. Some had openable flaps for the feet of the driver, when at rest, others used outrigger wheels to prevent falling over when stopped. A very few experimented with gyroscopic stabilizers.

The man one might consider to be the father of dalniks was Jan Anderle, a brilliant engineer with the Czech aircraft factory Aero. He built his first cabin motorcycle in the late 1930s, and over the years he created many more. His idea of building your own inexpensive two-wheeled car proved to be very popular with other Eastern European handymen after WW2, and many more experimental models were made. Anderle and his wife escaped to the West after the partitioning of Eastern Europe, but his wife persuaded him to return. Unfortunately, after they got back, he was arrested for treason and forced to work in the state uranium mines for the next 15 years. He spent much of the rest of his life in poverty and died in obscurity in 1982. Still, his influence over the vehicle type whose name he coined was immesurable.

NSU was one of the most progressive motorcycle and auto manufacturers in the former East Germany. They created a group of incredible record-breaking dalniks in the 1950s. Nicknamed the "flying hammocks", they held many motorcycle world speed and fuel efficiency records for years. Their perfect teardrop shapes were honed in the NSU wind tunnel. The cut-away and ghosted views clearly show the internal structure and seating position.

The "Bat Dalnik"? This amazing vehicle from 1959 is sculpted in such a way that it looks more like a jet-powered auto than a motorcycle with a body. It had a 4-cylinder, 1200cc engine and took 5,000 hours of its creator's time; he had hoped to put it into production. The series of photos shows its development from wire forms to finished product.

Here are some other dalniks that deserve to be seen. I know very little about them. I apologize for the poor quality of the images; they are many generations removed from the original photographs.

This remarkable dalnik was made by a hobbyist in Czechoslovakia. I know nothing about him or anything specific about the vehicle, but it presents a very tidy and well thought out appearance. The outrigger stablizer wheels appear to retract into the body when underway.


Dalniks are still being made today! The Swiss company Peraves makes something called the Ecomobile. Powered by a 4-cylinder BMW motorcycle engine, this is probably the most sophisticated 2-wheeled vehicle ever sold to the public. They seat two in good comfort, contain a full roll-cage and are incredibly fast and manouverable. They cost about $30,000 and require a training course to operate properly. According to owners, they are the closest thing to flying that can be achieved on land. Jan Anderle was rediscovered by the Ecomobile company a year or two before his death, and he acted as a design consultant to them. He must've gained some satisfaction from seeing his work carried on into the 21st century.