Monotrack Experimental by Dan Hanebrink

Monotrack Experimental by Dan Hanebrink

Came across this photo a while back and thought you might like to see some original thinking in the motorcycle design field, this is the Monotrack Experimental built back in the early seventies by Dan Hanebrink.

The description on the Hanebrink site (no longer there) pretty much sums it up:

In 1971 "Cycle News" publisher Chuck Clayton asked Costa Mesa, California engineer Dan Hanebrink to sketch a futuristic machine of the eighties for a front page Christmas issue of the newspaper. From this sketch Hanebrink developed his ideas and the result, two years later, was the Monotrack Experimental. This design accounted for a large number of firsts in motorcycle engineering. The monocoque chassis was made from magnesium plate and a three-cylinder, rubber-mounted, two-stroke Kohler snowmobile engine provided power to the belt-driven torque converter. Drive to the rear wheel was also by belt. Hanebrink produced the 16-inch cast magnesium wheels on which Goodyear racing tires were mounted. The suspension had no springs, but relied on air and oil damping. The circular component on the fork bottom and rear strut contains a central neoprene diaphragm, which separates the oil and air. In use, the oil in the suspension struts compresses the air under load, allowing 41/2 inches of travel in the front forks and 4 inches in the rear.

So he whipped up this snowmobile powered, CVT transmission, belt driven, air and oil suspended, monocoque chassis motorcycle, based on a sketch and an idea. And they didn't have CAD and CNC machines to help, either. Neat!

Dan Hanebrink has been building quite a few interesting vehicles over the years including the "Ice Bike" used in a bicycle trip to the south pole, which is now his Extreme Terrain Bike which can be used on sand, snow or wherever else a regular bike can't go. Dan has done a little downhill bicycle racing, too, and of course there is the motorcycle business. Turn a guy loose with some tools and great ideas, and look what happens!


  1. Brian says

    Now THAT is what the new VMax should look like… maybe with slightly higher handlebars. It has Mad Max written all over it. What a fantastic looking machine.

  2. stacius says

    Werd. It’s like an Exile bike, except no v-twin! I want mine flat black with a rounded tank and cafe seat and straight bars.

    Those bikes on the Hanebrink site were sweet!

  3. RH says

    Does anyone know what happened to the Monotrack? I e-mailed Hanebrink years ago about that, but never heard back.

  4. Case says

    Yeah, that CVT bike had promise. Hanebrink is no doubt an innovator and he certainly deserves proper respect.

    I love the Kneeslider, but sometimes, as with all types of media, it’s impossible for any writer to validate every fact of a story. I know this is a motorcycle website, but I can’t let this one go.

    Since the article above referenced Hanebrink’s innovative “Ice Bike”, I thought I’d jump in with some pertinent facts so the public isn’t mislead. This has to do with invention and intellectual property of individuals, so it’s somewhat related to topics discussed here over the past few days. And it has two wheels.

    In 1997, I designed a bike as a part of a team of designers tasked with solving transportation issues at the South Pole. My school was a part of a $500k grant from the National Science Foundation to build prototypes and take them to the South Pole for testing. When we found a guy in California who was already making a bicycle designed for sand dunes, we decided to enlist his help. Hanebrink built two frames for us based on the criteria we had outlined for the most extreme environment on the planet, Antarctica. We sent two prototypes down and the project was a tremendous success. The third prototype took it a step further and incorporated a simple pedal-powered ‘track drive’. This prototype would become my thesis project. I received an award from the NSF for my outstanding achievment throughout the project’s four year duration.

    Hanebrink was very helpful to us throughout the project. But, as ‘TIME’S Best Invention of 2003″, I find it interesting that Hanebrink received all the credit for his “invention”. Especially so many years after a bunch of students pioneered it. I don’t normally get to upset by this kind of stuff, ’cause it happens all the time. There’s not a real major commercial market for South Pole bikes so I’m not too worried anymore.

    This is not a personal attack on Dan. Some people just forget how they get to the dance floor sometimes. I haven’t forgot Dan, though. I think it’s cool that the success I achieved from the Ice Bike project rolled into starting my first company right out of school, which ultimately led me to landing a contract with a very cool motorcycle client, a company for which I am now employed by and leading the design department on a certain “ugly” bike – the Confederate Wraith.

    Wow, the last 10 years of my life has just come full circle!

    Cool! Thanks Dan! And thanks Kneeslider!

  5. kneeslider says

    Now that is an interesting sidelight to the story! Thanks for adding the “where it all began” information. I just mentioned the ice bike in passing and my “research” on it was to point to the page describing the bike because I thought it was pretty neat and until I saw it on his site, I had never come across it before. I didn’t know it was just a wee bit controversial. Just shows what a small world the motorcycle business can be and until the Internet, dots like this would never connect.

    As to the monotrack itself, like RH above who emailed and got no response from Hanebrink, I, too, emailed and got no response. I was actually sitting on this post for a while waiting for some more feedback and just decided to put this out as is, based on the info from his site.

    And, Case, that really is a fascinating little “how you got here” story. Again, small world …

  6. Case says

    Yes, the motorcycle world is VERY small. Which is why the one’s who ARE in it have an obligation to help each other, as well as pave the way for other creative souls to join in. Especially for those who don’t have access to lots of money and expensive engineering software.

    Although, these days practicllay anyone with Internet can pirate the same software Ferrari uses just to get their ideas hashed out. (DISCLAIMER: I am not condoning what I just wrote, that’s illegal silly!)

    Having an innovation support site to encourage garage start-ups is something I would support. Kneeslider is the best forum that I know of who could offer this. I’d imagine that you’ll get plenty of responses and interesting concepts. Then you need a producer and some cameras, next it’s Kneeslider TV! Or at least maybe Podcasts. I know another designer who does weekly interviews with other design professionals and Podcast’s them for the world. These days it seems anyone can broadcast a show. I’m even putting some of our videos on YouTube, ’cause it’s just so easy to access so many people.

    I’d like to see more companies offer design competitions. This is a great way to get noticed when you’re just starting out. I hear Confederate has even considered it. With the success of the MotoGP project at Savannah College of Art, it’s very well possible in the near future for us to enlist the help of teams of designers.

    Maybe we’ll just throw out a challenge like, design us a fuel cell/hybrid motorcycle, to be used on the great American roadways, that gets excellent fuel economy, has progressive looks but not arbitrarily futuristic, all while retaining the essense, romance and alluring sound of an American internal combustion motor. Is it possible? Who knows, but if you have a concept please send it to!

  7. says

    Kneeslider, Dan Hanebrink told me about your webpage. Nice page! If you or anyone would like more info on Dan Hanebrinks Motorcycles / Bicycles go to his new web page or or e-mail him at
    As far as the Extreme terrian bike goes. I / we Big Bear Bikes / Team Hanebrink in 1995 held the first Extereme Terrain Snowbike Race in Big Bear Lake ,CA. Rob Carpenter Won. The Dune Bike was an Ice/Snow bike from the beginning. We live in the mountians and wanted to ride all year, Dan built the first ET in 1993. I remember putting screws in the tires for better traction. Dan designed the bike for the Ice and snow from the beginnig and after words we discovered that it was a great beach /sand bicycle. Case, keep up the great work. How is the Wraith doing? I hope well.
    Thank you for your time.
    Tom Sitton

  8. says

    No biggie, Tom. Like I said, I probably wouldn’t be doing what I’m doing now if it wasn’t for the Antarctic collaboration with Dan. I have always tried to do my best to mention the names of fellow contributors, as most innovations are rarely a one-man effort. Most times, the press feels contributor names complicate the story. No biggie, it happens.

    All due respect to Dan and his tremendous body of work, I did get to see the Monotrack at a show last year. I think it was at the Vegas auction? I was looking for Dan but wasn’t sure if he was there. I stared at that thing for at least a half hour. Amazing piece of machinery.
    The Wraith has been in production since September and is selling well. I have since left and am now doing freelance. Best wishes to all of your endeavors. -BC

  9. Peg Leg Craig says

    I was a younger mechanic in the pits of Ontario and Riverside, watching, learning and lending a hand. Dan turned up with the “Monotrack Bike” at Ontario and blew the tech inspectors away, they really had a tough time with it at first. He did get it on the track and it sounded as different as it looked. As I recall it went well and turned plenty of heads, mine included.