Steam cycle feels like your pants are on fire

Usually we don’t like to feature projects that have zero build details, saving them instead for a links post. But this steam-powered bicycle is too… peculiar to pass up. In between the rider’s legs is the firebox that contains a wood-fueled fire. Watch the clip after the break and you’ll find just how noisy this contraption can be. In addition to the mid-range “chug-a chug-a” there’s also the constant whistle we’d attribute to the pressure regulator. It’s surprising that the whole bike doesn’t heat up, but it must not be all that bad since the test pilot isn’t wearing asbestos pants. All kidding aside, it looks like this beast has no problem getting up to a running pace (based on the movements of the camera) and that’s thanks to a renewable energy source.

We’d be much more¬†comfortable¬†seeing this in a mechanized tandem form factor since we just can’t get over having a fire between our legs.

[Thanks Frogz]

52 thoughts on “Steam cycle feels like your pants are on fire

  1. That’s hands down the most dangerous thing I’ve seen on HAD in a long time. I hope the guy using it has REALLLY good insurance and lots of burn cream.

  2. dbear- the piston-valve spud cannon was probably more dangerous. BTW, a hack is only as dangerous as it’s user is incautious and/or stupid. So it’s not the hack that’s dangerous, but the guy who chooses to sit on a firebox who is being dangerous.

  3. Neat (and you gotta love that chug chug sound) but the firebox really needs to be put elsewhere (or at least shrouded with something non heat conductive).

  4. Someday I will make my own, but this is an awesome, awesome thing to behold!

    Steam power will always be important, and is always wonderful.

  5. At least he wont have the problem of people stepping out in front of him, then saying “sorry m8, didn’t know you were there”.
    Unless they are deaf of course :-)

    I look forward to this guys future enhancements. If nothing else, they should be funny.

  6. “thanks to a renewable energy source”

    Since when is wood fired steam power a renewable source of green energy? I seem to recall mass deforestation being caused by the last time the world depended on wood as an energy source.

  7. Hey Joe… who says the wood had to come from deforestation methods? Sustainable wood fuel can take place and does.

    Back on topic…

    Here are some other steam bikes that have been a bit more refined:

  8. @Joe- Really? Lol. The “green” was your addition. Since when is wood NOT renewable? Trees renew themselves regularly, and humans even plant trees. As far as i can tell he’s not exactly “depending on wood” as an energy source. I doubt he depends on a steam engine for anything other than education or entertainment. He probably depends more upon gasoline for that motorcycle or for the cars that made the tracks he’s riding that bicycle on. Get a life troll! Green wood doesnt really burn well though, i prefer my wood well seasoned.

  9. This is cool! I remember seeing this in a book about inventions during the last 200 years. Cool to see one actually working. =D

  10. @Joe

    Wood comws from trees. Trees come from seeds. Plant a seed you get a tree. Renewable. Water, turned to steam, comes out, condenses into water. Renewable.

  11. Seems to run out of steam perty quickly. Wood, how about mail spam catalogs phone books etc. Trash to travel. A three wheeler would be a better platform.

  12. Wood is renewable, but it burns REALLY dirty. It’s much worse than fossil fuels in almost every way. It’s basically renewable coal.

  13. @Darron – and do you have anything from real chemistry to back that up – or are you just willing to blithely quote tree-hugger monthly?

  14. @Darron: you are talking some nice crap here…

    What does a tree to grow? It is taking that fancy CO2 to convert it to C and O2. The C part is being stored within the tree for growing purposes and the O2 part is being “exhaled” into the atmosphere. Since we know that C is for carbon, we also know that wood is basically coal (it’s both full of carbon…that’s the actual stuff that burns). The only difference is, that coal wasn’t taking the CO2 out of the air while it was “produced” and the tree was.

    5th class biology

  15. @Nomad: I think in 4th grade biology we learned that there aren’t enough trees in the world anymore either.

    Yes the tree stores carbon in the ecosystem, so why is it a good idea to burn it and release it? It’s not like we have this huge tree overpopulation problem. Trees aren’t very fast runners so I think we can take them.

    If you grown another tree to replace the one you burned, you basically break even (neglecting efficiency losses, which are not negligible). Combine that with the fact that it takes many years to grow a tree, and only a few minutes to cut one down and burn it, and you quickly see how we’ve reached the state we’re in now. It’s not a steady-state system, but rather one that is being pushed to imbalance.

    Respek Mother Earth, my brothers!

  16. @Mike: yes this is correct…but i was only making a point about why trees are not worse than fossil fuels.

    But it’s a fair point that we humans tend to handle things very carelessly. Especially those that are not our own or those we didn’t work hard for.

  17. Indeed I have to agree with Dave and others. The steam bikes are nice to look at but regarding pollution it is worse than a gasoline bike ;). Also if everyone converted from gasoline to steam tomorrow we’d be out of trees in a week or so…

    But why not feature more electric bikes here? You can charge them with a solar panel and have 0 emission, 0 trees cut down and better speed + less noise!

    Good example was this one:

    http://hackaday.com/2010/07/06/30-mph-electric-mountain-bike/

    But maybe we should start working on solutions using off the shelve parts like laptop batteries and engines from power tools to cook up our own electric driveable contraptions ;)

  18. @Mike: It depends on whether sustainable forestry is being practiced. In areas where slash/burn agriculture is the norm (Brazil, etc.), there is generally a net loss of forested area as it is cleared away for other purposes. I think we can all agree this is a Bad Thing.

    Where sustainable forestry is practiced (generally North America, Europe), forests are essentially treated like giant crops on decades-long rotations and are re-planted after they are logged. Additionally, other management techniques (thinning, brush clearing, controlled burns) are used to ensure that trees grow healthier and stronger than if the forest were left to grow alone. In this case humans aren’t merely taking advantage of nature, we’re being stewards as well.

    I might be a bit biased here, I’m from a family of foresters/loggers. Without any trees, there’d be no business.

  19. To refute the previous post about wood burning dirty, it doesn’t if you make a proper fire. When the fire is properly hot and getting enough O2, it burns quite cleanly. It does create CO, but just don’t breathe it in an enclosed space.

    If you notice, once a fire is almost all hot coals, there isn’t much smoke nor flame, just heat.

  20. Enough of feeding the trolls. Enjoy the wackiness of the post. It’s not like we can expect an invasion of steam powered bikes. Let’s celebrate the creativity of the dude who built the thing…

  21. To all the people saying wood isn’t an environmentally friendly fuel, think about what wood does. It takes energy from the sun and stores it chemically, with no net pollution of any sort (all chemicals released were taken from the environment to begin with). Sounds a lot like solar panels and batteries to me, minus the enormous energy cost of producing solar panels and the environmental cost of producing batteries. Not to mention the environmental *benefits* of having the trees around in the first place. And hell, with enough trees, you could probably run something like this bike just off of the branches that inevitably fall off.

    The only way wood can damage the environment is if we overuse it, but that’s a problem with the humans using the fuel, not with the fuel itself.

  22. @Chris: You’re right about the sustainable part, if it is practiced that way. But as Nomad pointed out, we humans seem to be unable to control ourselves. A guy making a steam bike is ok, I have enough wood piled up in my tiny yard to fund that project. For our whole society to convert to tree power, well I’d have to do some math that I’m not going to do right now, but somehow I don’t think there’s enough acreage in the country to keep up with the energy demand. There is also the issue of particulate emissions and all kinds of other fun stuff. I’m sure the excess water vapor would have an effect as well. Time to look for another source of fuel.

  23. Chestnuts roasting on an open fire….

    That guy has some balls I don’t know for how much longer but he’s got massive balls.

  24. Everyone is worrying about the firebox when the boiler is the real thing to worry about. The firebox itself is really not very dangerous, while the boiler could spontaneously explode. Thousands of people have been killed in boiler explosions since the invention of the steam engine.

  25. @Walter: It’s not a cool viewpoint to have in these “green” days, but electric bikes (as with all electric vehicles) are lame ducks. Short range, low speed, expensive components and the main issue – no refueling. I know. I’ve owned one (bike) Always used to go to the electric car hobbyist races and shows around here and you know what – it’s the same place now as it was 10 years ago, just with fancier batteries. Un-tethered electric transportation is dead in the water, marketing it to hippies aside.

    And “green”-wise, by the time you add up the materials consumed and toxins released to build an electric bike, and to generate the electricity to run it (here’s a good one, it still takes more energy to refine the silicon to build a solar cell than it will generate in its lifespan, unless installed in a desert and run as part of a utility array), it is much more efficient to build this steam bike out of scrap and run it on wood that renews itself with the power of the sun.

    Or you could run it on scrap paper/wood, god knows we have enough of that! A nice pellet fired boiler and this would burn clean and probably generate twice the BTU – and that’s sawdust that’s left over from mills. We use it for heating a lot around here.

    @Mike: excess water vapor? you must be joking or trolling. Do you know how much water vapor comes off any body of water when the sun is out? Have you seen it come out of the sky in the form of rain? By the way, many modern steam engines condense and recycle much of the water to increase range.

  26. - Losing control on gravel road crashing and having the firebox ending up lying on your leg
    – Losing control on gravel road crashing and having the boiler rupture
    – Having the boiler or a pressure line spontaneously rupture just ’cause it wants to
    – Getting hit by a car and ending up at the bottom of steamy, boiling burning mass.

    Kinda proves my original point.
    The Darwin Awards await!

  27. As andar_b pointed out, properly burned dry wood creates very little polution. OTOH, if your experience is only with making campfires after the rain, … ;) Wood is a renewable source of energy which should be burned in centralized power plants to reduce pollution even more. Not like we have today with millions of cars with 20% efficient engines. Blah.

  28. Not bad considering their boiler system is by far the most basic in design. Now built it with modern designs and non-dumpster finds you’d alleviate most of the issues commenter’s had here before the eco rant.

  29. if this bike were mine, i would get bone dry wood, dip it in boiling wax, heat until it soaked into it and any excess dripped off, then soak in gasoline before igniting, need even MORE polution
    nothing beat my motorised bicycle, has HAD had anything like that before? i am pretty much going to have to re-do it completely as my bike is dead
    engine came off at 25 mph(fun thing to hit you in the leg, i am going to have to buy a new crankcase(basically for the mount as these piece of crap pot metal engines cant be welded properly)
    on that note, never replace soft metal studs with grade 8.8 hardened steel bolts

  30. You can use an old puegoet 103 moped crank for the rear driven shalft as the clutch spindle is long enough to reach thrue the wheel, and be used as an axle, in addition to this? it has the same stroke of the crankshalft. but foe a more modern set of patterns using a set of coleman stoves for the boilers fire sorce,or a set of kerosene fueled Blow-lamps, (old fashioned blow torches)
    I may be reached at foiselrichard@yahoo.com or go too http://www.steamcar.net/z-foisel.html for a baisic set of patterns, and short description.

  31. You all haven’t done much research have you?.. try reading up on steam powered cars. They don’t burn only wood or only coal, they burn kerosene, or vegetable oil, or even moonshine.. The big giant engines like trains used to be powered by coal, but the smaller engines for bikes and cars are liquid fuels. This guy made a homemade bike powered by wood or anything he could burn in the box it looks like. Also, they make a small steam powered engine you can attach to the front wheel of a bike, runs on Kerosene.. Pretty much attaches to any bicycle.

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