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Back To The Origins: Watch This 1860 Steam-Powered Motorcycle In Action!

According to the video, this steam-powered motorcycle was built in 1869 – making it one of the very first motorcycles to have ever existed.

Funnily enough, there was a time before gasoline powered motorcycles. Way back then, if you wanted a ride on two wheels that didn’t involve a set of pedals, your best choice would’ve been a steam-powered affair. Since we spend most of our time looking to the future of motorcycling, how about we take some time to appreciate this gem from the past instead?

The description that accompanied this video was written in Russian, and according to the uploader it’s an 1869 Roper steam velocipede. It’s a bold claim, since so very few of them exist and this one looks to be in remarkably good health, but even if it only turns out to be an extraordinary re-creation it’s still pretty damn impressive to watch.

The original velocipede was a steam powered motorcycle built by Sylvester H. Roper from Massachusetts, and he predominantly used it to wow audiences at circuses and fairs. Now, this obviously isn’t the original one, since that is kept under lock and key in the Smithsonian, but that doesn’t mean that it couldn’t be another original prototype.

The Roper Velocipede: The Steam-Powered Motorcycle

The steam-powered Roper model is pretty much the great grandfather of the bikes we know and love today, and modern day motorcycles still proudly wear some of Roper’s original innovations, such as the old faithful hand operated, twisting throttle. As you can see, there’s been a great deal of evolution since the 1860s to today. The Roper steam-powered motorcycle  was powered by a steam boiler, with a hand controlled water pump, linked to a series of steam cylinders that pivot on either side of the frame. It is Victorian plumbing at its finest, but it’s not too far removed from what goes on today.

According to the video’s uploader, many parts have been replaced to keep the model running, so it’s anyone’s guess as to which parts are replacements or genuine – or if any of it at all is from the 19th century. It doesn’t matter though, it’s still impressive to see such old technology still working in our modern age. They don’t make them like they used to… And this time, we’re glad about that.

Maybe steam is the way forward? Steampunk enthusiasts would be pleased – and the guy’s at Revatu too! However, we think that steam might be a step in the wrong direction. We’re about to enter the age of the electric vehicle proper…but even that’s is a step back into the past. Here’s a fun trivia fact for you: back in 1899, the world’s fastest vehicle was battery powered. So, maybe we’re regressing after all?

Categories: Motorcycles

Joe Appleton
About Joe Appleton

I’ve done a bit of work here and there in the industry – I’ve even ridden a few bikes for actual money but what it comes down to is this: I ride bikes, build bikes and occasionally crash ‘em too. I like what I like but that certainly doesn’t make my opinion any more valid than yours…