Eight Years in a Sidecar

Two Hungarians set out on a Harley-Davidson—and didn't stop.

Hungarian Side Car Duo January 1936Fox Photo/Motorcyclist Archives

Facing an imbalanced and troubled economy from the dismantling of the Austro-Hungarian Empire after WWI, Zoltán Sulkowsky and Gyula Bartha left Budapest in 1928. Their first stop was Paris, where they bought a 1922 Harley-Davidson Model J with a sidecar and set off on what would become a truly epic journey.

In January of 1932, The New York Times reported the two men passing through The Big Apple, having met the mayor and covered 65,000 miles through 43 countries. This photo was taken nearly four years later at the 330-foot-high suspension bridge in Bristol, England, on their way home. In total, the pair traveled 110,000 miles over six continents, 68 countries, and eight years. Their journey would be an astonishing expedition at any point in history, but it seems especially heroic given the state of technology at that time—in motorcycling and in general.

Sulkowsky’s account of the trip was published in 1937 and came to stand as an unintentional and enduring snapshot of humanity between the two World Wars. The book, Around the World on a Motorcycle: 1928 to 1936, was translated from Hungarian to English in 2008.