The Ruscombe Gentleman’s Steam Bicycle

Cycling for health and transportation might seem like a good idea, but it unfortunately has the nasty side effect of making you tired. To ease the suffering, many have turned to electric bicycles. But what if you want to really stand out from the crowd? Well then you should look to [Mark Drake] for inspiration, the creator of the beautifully engineered Ruscombe Gentleman’s Steam Bicycle.

[Mark] wanted to create a steam powered bicycle that’s actually usable, instead of just an awkward novelty. To achieve this he made extensive use of modern tech like spreadsheets to model the steam cycle, and CAD for the mechanical design. The engineering design that went into the project really shows in level of refinement of the end product, which is able to comfortably reach 15 mph. Watch the video after the break to see it in action and get all the details.

Petrol is used a fuel source, which is forced to the vaporising burner via air pressure. The fuel is heated by the burner itself to form a vapour before entering the combustion chamber and igniting. The steam generator is a hybrid design, using both mono tube steam generator coils and a small fire tube boiler. This produces superheated steam at over 300 °C, which [Mark] says is key to the bike’s performance. Mineral oil can’t handle the high temperature, so modern synthetic oil is used for lubrication. The steam generator is so well-built that [Mark] managed to get is certified to industrial standards. For safety, it features both a pressure release valve, and a system that automatically shuts of the fuel supply when the steam exceeds a certain pressure. 130 W of power is provided to the wheels by a single cylinder slide valve engine via modern toothed belt. This also drives the air pump to keep the fuel system pressurised, and an adjustable water pump to feed the boiler.The range of the bike is limited to 16 miles by the water supply, since all steam is exhausted to atmosphere. [Mark] hopes to improve this by adding a condenser to the system to recapture some water. He also wants to add a feed water heater to preheat the water using the exhaust steam, and increase fuel efficiency.

We’ve covered a few steam bicycles over the years including wood fired and recumbent versions.

Thanks [Kelvin Ly] for the tip!

15 thoughts on “The Ruscombe Gentleman’s Steam Bicycle

  1. At 300°C steam temperature, he could probably also gain a lot of efficiency by going to a 2 cilinder expansion engine design with a high and low pressure cilinder to make better use of the thermal content of the steam. This would also make adding the condenser easier as it would need to remove less energy from the steam to condense it. (In a really good/efficient design the condenser pressure would be well below atmospheric, but I doubt that’s achievable at this size)

    The big problem with adding a condenser at this size is the oil content of the steam. It can choke a condenser and if you pump it into your boiler you’ll likely get problems too. It’ll be interesting to see if he can make it work

  2. 300°C steam between your legs, what could possibly go wrong? Lovely build though. I would like to have had more details of the engine and individual parts, not just a video of it in use.

    1. How about straddling explosive fuel air mixes, or large piles of lithium batteries?
      Properly built (which this looks like it is) it should be about as safe as any motorcycle.. If you do go and have an accident that ruptures the boiler it would be rather bad though any two wheeled accident tends to be . Is not like covered in petrol that can ignite from the hot exhaust etc makes ICE motorbikes safe, and lithium cells can just decide to catch fire all on their own with a slight flaw in the cells/circuits..

      In short anything powered could failure horrifically no reason to worry particularly about steam. Infact i’d say the most dangerous power source in use for mobility today is the lithium batteries.. As they can go wrong without warning and with great gusto, and when they do putting the damn things out isn’t easy.

  3. He said he used Excel to do the thermodynamics simulation…that’s just one step above simulating everything on paper. That makes him better than most engineers nowadays. I wonder if he studied maths first?

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