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Motorcycles during the Second World War. German motorcycles

The May holidays are in the yard, and as a tribute to the feat of our ancestors, I would like to review the motorcycles that took part in the front line and in civilian life. What else besides motorsport is driving the motorcycle industry? War and the arms race spurred the development of motorcycles, because even one motor unit can change the course of history.

By the time the Second World War began, German motorcycles had an advantage, so we will begin our review with them.

We recall the course of history. After the First World War, Germany was humiliated and, according to the agreement, she had no right to develop the defense industry in full. Citizens of the country could not buy cars that were quite expensive at that time, but a motorcycle was affordable for any ordinary resident of the destroyed country.

The development of motor vehicles received a strong impetus. BMW and the then popular Zundapp entered the competition for the leadership in the new market.

BMW switched from the railroad parts market, and Zundapp made projectiles and detonators before developing motorcycles.

BMW motorcycles

Until 1924, BMW produced civilian motorcycles, the engine of which was copied by the English boxer Douglas, but closer to the 1930s, the motorcycle began to acquire already familiar features. It was by this time that BMW presented a new modification, called the R32, and the R35 became the first real military development.

New products introduced to motorcycle construction by the 1930s. years:

  • Cardan drive instead of chain drive. The cardan shaft is more convenient and safe under military conditions, requires less cost and less wear on the chain
  • Telescopic front fork and fork with hydraulic shock absorbers

BMW Motorcycle Models:






BMW motorcycles have been developed with different configurations for transporting weapons, ammunition and transporting the wounded. Separate versions were motorcycles for detachments of motorized troops and patrol police. Motorcycles had trunks, mounts for guns, even trunks for a machine gun. They were distinguished by their high carrying capacity and maintainability, they were produced both with wheelchairs and solo solos.

BMW has proven itself from the best side, and even made a splash with the R71 model, which has become universal and one of the most popular.

Zundapp motorcycles



The more expensive Zundapp motorcycles have been in the German army since 1940. The KS750 has become one of the most powerful representatives of the Wehrmacht motorcycle troops. The off-road model could force shallow water obstacles with full engine immersion. But the dive had to be short to prevent the motorcycle from choking.

The adjustable suspension made it possible to adapt to the difficulties of the route. Sidecar drive and a spare fuel tank filter, the essence of which is to help the motorcycle move even with a punctured tank.

The Zundapp company went bankrupt in 1984, but is remembered as a manufacturer of military off-road motorcycles.

Kattenkrad aka Sd. Kfz. 2

The tip of the iceberg among high-performance motorcycles. Kattenkrad – a tracked motorcycle with an Opel engine of one and a half liters replaced the main horse-drawn force, dragging heavy weapons and even aircraft. The most lifting type of motor vehicle in the enemy army. The obvious disadvantages of such a development were the difficulties in cross-country ability in the diagonal on a hill, an extremely uncomfortable landing and seat height, because of which the pilot with obvious difficulty left his seat in case of trouble. And Kattenkrad rolled over quite often, especially on sharp and sharp turns.

DKW – Dampf Kraft Wagen

The Germans came up with their own abbreviation for the motorcycles of this company – Des Knaben Wunschili, Das Kleine Wunder, which translates as “a boy’s dream” and “little miracle”.

Small and nimble motorcycles in the ranks of the German army, with modest dimensions and small engine displacement, have become very popular outside the front for their size and economy.



The bottom line: the consequences of the First World War laid fertile ground in Germany for the successful development of the motorcycle industry and the whole niche of this mode of transport. By the beginning of World War II and in the midst of the conflict, the motorcycle industry entered a new stage of development, improving the characteristics of cross-country ability, equipment endurance and maintainability in, as they say, on the knees.

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