"SdKfz 2 Kleines Kettenkraftrad".

Operating a Kettenkrad.

   (Ver 2)


The Drive and the Ride.

In the English speaking world it has been a mystery as to whether your "ride" or "drive" a Kettenkrad. The answer is, both. In German, a person "operates" a vehicle: they do have seperate licences for a car and a motor bike, but both are called operator licences.

It needs to be kept in mind that we are talking about is late 1930s technology, this is a vehicle that is effectively 70 years old. Back then, even what were regarded as "powerful" sports cars, in the main were really very meagre products. Unless of course you were ultra rich and could afford such exotica as a Duisenberg etc. Typically back then anything better than 20hp/ton was normal. Your average modern SUV or family sedan is around 150 hp/ton these days! So a different driving technique is required.
They take their time to accelerate and stop and most everything involves physical effort. No power steering, no power brakes, no 0 to 100kph in 8 seconds.


So, to begin with, turn on the 2 fuel taps to the main position, handbrake is a typical lever type and mounted on the gearbox.
The ignition switch is typically German and thus very odd to those of us more used to American, British and Japanese switches. The key is pushed in to switch on the ignition, not turned as we are used to doing. Turning the key controls the lighting setting. Likewise, you pull the key out one notch to switch off the ignition.
Starting with a 6 volt system, low revs and a basic carburetor is a technique that has to be mastered. There is a choke, really a "starter carburetor control", which is like a choke, but not a choke and has to be treated differently - don't touch the throttle if you are using the choke! However as it was designed to cope with the extremes of Russian winters, it is not an easy device to use in mild conditions.

Physically steering a Kettenkrad is very dis-similar to a motorbike. The amount of force required on bitumised roads is greater as you cannot "lean" as you would a motorbike. More akin to a pre-power steering truck. The application of a steering brake does NOT involve a significant amount of additional force due to the Cletrac system. You notice the extra resistance in the steering to apply the steering brake, but not unduly so.

The pedals consist of a clutch on the left and a foot brake on the right: mounted off the gearbox. Due to the layout of the mechanical bits, the pedals are further back than you would expect, but not unusually so for something produced by a motor bike company. There are no foot pegs as you would find on a motor bike, instead there are a pair of timber foot boards to give you traction and to keep your feet at a level that they cannot slide under the pedals. These are quickly removed so that the foot area can be easily cleaned. To move off, 4th gear is selected (after the usual clutch feathering to get the gear to engage). This is really 1st gear with high range selected in the Transfer box.
Then an unusual amount of throttle is applied and the clutch is slipped more than you would do in say a car as the revs die off very rapidly. The problem is that 4th gear is unusually "tall". Selecting 3rd gear (ie. low range in the Transfer box) would mean you would have to do a double gear change to get into 4th, having to change both Transfer and Gear box - not worth the hassle and alignment problems.
Once under way, the next 2 gear changes aren't unusual. Top gear (6th - really 3rd in high range) feels almost like an overdrive, even a modest incline will have you changing back to 5th (2nd in high range).
Low range in the Transfer box is intended only for off road use. Rule of thumb is that you can move off in any gear in low range, it not being necessary to start in 1st. Therefore you choose the appropriate starting gear for the conditions.

Curiously, when driving a Kettenkrad off road and negotiating rough ground, you are not always aware when the front suspension has reached full extension and the front wheel is no longer in ground contact (unless you notice a "clunk" noise as it goes to full extension). Until such time that is, as you make a steering input and realise there is no response and that you now need to use brake steer until such time as the front wheel is again on the ground.
Normally, the front wheel has a down force of 95kg due to the not inconsiderable twin springs in the forks.

Due to the adequate power of the engine, coupled to a transfer box with a very low gear ratio in first gear, a Kettenkrad can pull far greater loads than what its size would indicate. Of course there is a downside to this and that is people will over do it. There are even photos of Kettenkrads being used to try and pull bogged tanks out. War does have an immediacy to it that civilian life does not, so it is understandable that this sort of abuse occurs.
The result will usually be a gearbox failure, burnt out clutch, heat affected flywheel (cracking) and other component failure etc.
Farmers seem to be particularly fond of using Kettenkrads to pull out tree stumps, a job for which they were never intended. As the vehicle does not have a chassis, body distortion or the ripping out of the tow hooks can occur.


Download the big pics by clicking on the small pics...

A military Kettenkrad pulling out a bogged truck.



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