Fastest steam-powered motorcycle in history tears up the 1/8th mile

A husband-and-wife precision engineering team has set a new world record standing 1/8th mile time for steam-powered motorcycles. The Force of Nature is effectively a rocket on wheels, and the team says it should go much faster in the next attempt.

British couple Graham and Diane Sykes took their creation to Elvington Speed Week to lay down a record-breaking time of 3.878 seconds for the standing eighth, with a recorded exit speed of 163.8 mph (264 km/h). Graham was aboard the steam-powered dragster for the attempt, and said the bike continued to accelerate, passing 180 mph (290 km/h) some way after the post.

“There is still lots more power to come, and I feel sure we will run quicker in the coming months,” the team wrote in a blog post.

The bike is a full-on dragster, and Sykes wedges himself onto it superman-style, no doubt keenly aware that he’s draping his meat and two veg over a high-pressure cylindrical tank full of superheated water. Unlike most drag bikes, there’s no need for a wheelie bar; the rear wheel isn’t driven, so the bike doesn’t want to stand up.

A tourer it ain't
A tourer it ain’t

Force of Nature

Instead, when the green light comes up, Sykes holds on with everything he’s got and tries to keep the thing pointed straight as the steam blasts backwards through a pair of nozzles, and the bike rockets forward. The acceleration is absolutely brutal, as you can see in this annoyingly un-embeddable Facebook video.

It’s the same kind of propulsion system that Scott Truax built for Eddie Braun’s spectacular tribute to stuntman Evel Knievel. I was there to watch Braun’s steam rocket blast up its ramp and into the sky, sailing way over the Snake River Canyon and making a parachute-assisted nose-down crash landing about a mile downrange, in a lonely field on the other side.

That machine made about 10,000-odd horsepower, and Braun estimates it accelerated him to about 430 mph (~700 km/h) within five seconds – nearly straight upwards. So while the Force of Nature is a much smaller steam rocket than the Skycycle X-2, Sykes isn’t kidding when he says there’s plenty more acceleration left in his dragster. These things can get pretty nuts.

Under the bodywork, it's mainly a huge high-pressure steam cylinder
Under the bodywork, it’s mainly a huge high-pressure steam cylinder

Force of Nature

Mind you, once you move into rocket bike territory, why stop at steam? The fastest motorcycle ever to complete a quarter mile was a hydrogen-peroxide rocket bike, piloted with extreme courage by Frenchman Eric Teboul.

That bike put out some 6,000 pounds of thrust, and thus had a power-to-weight ratio around 10:1, and last September, when Teboul threw an extra liter of fuel into it as a final bow at the end of a 40-year racing career, he ascended to legend status by laying down the first ever two-wheeled quarter mile under five seconds.

His final run, clocking 4.976 seconds at 290.51 mph (467.53 km/h) can be seen in the video below. Crazy stuff.


Source: Force of Nature

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