Meet the Trabicikli — the combination of a bike and the bodyshell of a Trabant, an East German car.
The inventor behind this odd-looking vehicle is Zsolt Szaniszlo.
“I had a bicycle at home that I used as a base. And then I bought the Trabant fenders, front and rear ones. First I just tried them on, looked at them, and then I started to customise the fenders and attach them to the bicycle itself,” says Szaniszlo.
For his day job, Szaniszlo designs and manufactures storage systems and steel structures.
Building his two-wheeled oddities is a more creative outlet for him.
The first working prototype of the Trabicikli was completed in roughly three weeks, including two of careful painting.
Szaniszlo welded metal ribs onto a stock bicycle and placed the outer layer of the Trabant body on top using the East German car’s four fenders and one of its front and rear lights.
The new creation can be steered, ridden and braked safely, and if any mechanical problems arise, such as a broken chain, the cover can be removed by a single person without any additional help.
The total weight of the bicycle including is about 10 kilograms (22 pounds), making it a bit heavier to ride than a ‘normal’ bicycle.
And steering the extra-long frame can take some getting used to.
But unlike a normal bike, the Trabicikli features an LED headlight with colours that can be adjusted, and music is provided by an onboard speaker. Both features can be controlled with Bluetooth using a mobile phone app.
“I build what is inside me, what I think of. I don’t want to show myself off on the street, I don’t care if people buy it, if it becomes a business success. I care if I can build something. But it’s very important that what I create makes people happy. If I see smiles and happiness, that’s very good. The best feedback I get from people is that I’m a little bit sick. That’s a compliment for me somehow,” says Szaniszlo.
The stylish two-wheeler, which evokes Hungary and Eastern Europe’s communist past, has already drawn the attention of some curious buyers: since Szaniszlo created the first working example of the Trabicikli in 2020, he has managed to sell six.
“I saw from the first moment that it was from a Trabant, that’s what immediately came to mind,” says Ferenc Kovacs, Andornaktalya resident.
“By making a bicycle out of the two halves of the sides, they brought back the past which is a good memory for us. It’s beautifully done, I really like it. I look forward to many more ideas like this.”
Seeing the success of his venture, the builder has expanded his activities into the production of customised vehicles.
After the Trabicikli was born, he decided it was time to experiment with larger motorised vehicles.
He merged a Wartburg car, also from East Germany, with a Czechoslovak Jawa Babetta scooter.
The concept is similar to that of the Trabicikli, but the complete roadworthy design means the Babetta scooter, placed beneath the abridged frame of the Wartburg, is fully functional.
In their heyday, these former Soviet bloc vehicles were driven by millions of residents of communist Europe.
Manufactured in East Germany from 1957 to 1991, the Trabant was a popular vehicle in Hungary.
But its two-stroke engine, plastic resin body and poor reliability meant the iconic East German cars were mostly only useful from getting from point A to point B.
Yet by using their original parts, Szaniszlo is breathing new life into these largely forgotten relics.
“I’m always motivated to build something that no one else does. I may do something similar to someone else, but it will still be unique in some way, with solutions that others don’t do. I don’t know… Maybe it’s about proving that I can do what I think I can do,” says Szaniszlo.