Remember Dnepr? The Soviet-era motorcycle-and-sidecar company? Well, it’s back in business (sort of) as an electric moto brand.
Dnepr was one of a few motorcycle manufacturers that Communist countries set up around World War II, all making the same basic design. The most famous of these brands is Ural, the Stalin-era knock-off of the BMW R71 design. Did Uncle Joe steal the plans from his Nazi friends, during a vodka-fuelled planning session for their collaborative invasion of Poland? Or were those plans traded legitimately, an incentive in a tit-for-tat, you-take-the-north-and-we-take-the-south deal?
Historians and motojournalists are still arguing about that question, but after the Russians got the IMZ-Ural plant into production, they also started a similar production facility in Ukraine, building the same basic design under the Dnepr marque. They also sent the plans to China, where they were used to set up Chang Jiang CJ750 production.
So, the original Dnepr was a flat twin derived from a pre-War BMW, the kind of bike that Eastern European buyers mostly lost interest in once the USSR collapsed. The modern version? It’s an electric bike built by e-bike manufacturer Delfast.
Delfast itself is based in Ukraine, so you could potentially see it as the spiritual successor to Dnepr. It’s known for pushing the envelope of e-bikes, building a machine with a 228-mile range, good enough for a Guinness record. Now we see the first prototype of the Delfast-Dnepr Electric motorcycle.
The new electric moto was at Bonneville Speed Week, trying to set a new speed record in the Omega class. Delfast has been to Bonneville before, with an electric motorcycle that made 104.78 mph at the 2018 event. The new machine was upgraded and expected to exceed that—at the end of the event, the new bike had set a 107.2 mph record.
Honestly, 105 mph is a pretty low target in the electric superbike world, so Delfast/Dnepr’s record stands in the custom electric motorcycle category, where there isn’t much competition The press release from Delfast/Dnepr is very limited in its description of the new bike and its technology, so who knows what’s up? We are told that “The author, ideologist and creator of the motorcycle is Serhiy Malik, a Ukrainian racer and the motorcycle pilot at this year’s competitions in Bonneville. He’s also a multiple champion at Bonneville Salt Flats in 2017 and 2018.” So, at least they have an idea of how things work on the salt flats, at least.
However, judging by the tone of the press release, it seems this is only the start of things to come. Delfast makes a point of emphasizing it now owns rights to Dnepr’s brand and plans. So who knows—maybe as the world pivots to electric motos, the weird knock-off Soviet Bloc sidecar brand will become a world leader?