French Motorcycles

Today in Motorcycle History

Moto-Cardan Motorcycles

A Brief History of the Marque

Represented by A. Lambert et Cie
27 avenue de la grande Armée, Paris

Moto-Cardan built 250cc single-cylinder and large capacity V-twin engined motorcycles in France from 1903, the latter by the Ader company and probably designed by its namesake, Clément Ader. It was one of the first motorcycles (possibly the first) to feature shaft drive to the rear wheel.


Shaft Drive

Examples include BMW, Zundapp and Velocette LE Cardan drive eliminates chain and associated mess and maintenance. Often referred to as a "diff", the final drive unit consists of bevel crown and pinion gears.

Émile Robion of E.R., like Ader an aviation pioneer, patented his creation on February 14, 1903, and it was introduced at that year's Critérium des quart de litre.

According to a post on, much of the historical information about E.R. and Moto-Cardan requires revision.

The page says, in essence:

In 1900 or 1901 Emile Robion of 142, rue de Paris, Puteaux, conceptualised the motorcycle which would later be marketed under the Moto-Cardan brand. Without financing, machinery, or engineering skills, he concentrated first on the transmission components - drive-train, clutch and gearbox. He filed patents in May and November of 1902 and March 1904, and later filed for patents in the US, UK and Austria.

In 1902 he met Léon-Georges Lévy of Manufacture Française d’Appareil & Accessoires pour Cycles & Automobiles, also of Puteaux, who co-operated with Robion to built his "E.R.", the name of which was coined on May 30, 1902.

It is understood that the motorcycle (or perhaps just the drive train) was exhibited at the 5th International Automobile Exhibition in December 1902.

Lambert & Cie, an automobile manufacturer in Nanterre with showrooms in Paris became the sales representative for Emile Robion's creations. In late 1902 the first prototype was built, equipped with the two-speed ER clutch gearbox and the Lambert igniter, using the Moto-Cardan marque. This name was registered on September 23, 1903 by M Levy.

The post goes on to say that in fact Ader (often associated with the marque) had nothing to do with E.R. or Moto-Cardan, providing a fairly solid argument and a number of photographs.

Recently, however, more information has emerged, and a Moto-Cardan with an Ader engine has come to light.

Opel & Beyschlag of Austria advertised a "Moto Cardan" which appears to be this one.

Sources: Bourdache (p434),

Article on Moto Cardan in La Vie de la Moto No. 253 August 1999.

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