PAGE 39. German Cyclemotors: Hilfsmotor (‘Help-engine’)

I suppose because I’m more familiar with British cyclemotors, foreign models seem quite exotic. Of course, all cycle-attachments are rather exotic. I’ve collected a number of German models over the years, and there are very many more oddities from Germany and Austria that I’ve tried to buy, unsuccessfully. I’ll use this archive, in the next few pages, to introduce them to you.


The ‘Hilfsmotor’ – ‘Help-engine’


Germany was in the forefront of cyclemotor design and manufacture. As elsewhere, early motorcycle development involved bicycles being fitted with auxiliary engines which, as the cubic capacity increased in subsequent models, became fully-fledged motorcycles. The 1909 Weil, in the photo above, is a typical example.

As in France, a few manufacturers produced cycle-attachment engines in the early 1920s but, again, they were quite expensive to make and ordinary lightweight motorcycles were cheap enough for the public to buy, so they didn’t really need to buy one of these ‘help-engines.’

Here’s an example of an early 1920s cycle-attachment engine.


This 198cc four-stroke Alba engine is fitted to a Sultan frame.


Alba-Werke GmbH of Szczecin-Möhringen , was founded by Albert Baruch in 1919. Before the company ceased trading in 1924 they also made three-wheeler vans with Alba engines.



In the early thirties came the excellent 74cc Fichtel & Sachs engine. It was soon developed into a 98cc engine and throughout that decade it was supplied to more than 30 German manufacturers so that they could market a lightweight model alongside their other motorcycles.

Because of its success, it helped to build a market for small motorized machines. This meant that, after the War, when cycle-attachment design was refined enough to provide reliable engines, the public accepted them.


Although NSU’s Motorsulm front-mounted cycle-attachment engine was introduced in the 1930s, it had limited success; likewise the Cockerell (3-wheeler version, the Cockmobil, illustrated above).

In 1938 Sachs introduced the first ‘post-war style’ cycle attachment engine, the Saxonette. It also failed, because of insufficient pre-market testing; but by the following year the country was at war so it was withdrawn anyway. It is this rear-mounted Saxonette engine that was developed, by DKW engineers during the War, into what eventually became the Cyclemaster.



With the end of hostilities, Germany was only allowed to produce motorcycles powered by small capacity engines. So now there was a serious motivation to develop efficient cycle-attachments. By the early 1950s, Germany had a thriving ‘hilfsmotor’ industry.



If you want to learn more about obscure German cyclemotors, the book ‘Fahrrad-Hilfsmotor’ (volume 7) by Curt Hanfland covers the following:

Ami, Charlett, Cockerell, Diag, DKW, FEM von Alba, FKS, Flottweg, Gnom, Gruhn, Herold, KC, Kurier, Lorenz, OGE, Opel, Paque, Phantom, Record, Saturn, Snob.

And the book ‘Leicht-Motorräder’ (volume eight) by C. Walther Vogelsang (it translates as ‘Lightweight Motorcycle’) mentions the following:

Alba, Albert, Cockerell, Dihl, DKW, Eichler, Evans, Flink, Flottweg, Gruhn, KC, Keni, MD, Mawi , NSU, Okur, Opel, Orio cool Pawa, SMS, snob, Struco, Tika, Zetge, Zündapp.

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