Steampunk Motorcycles

Bobster trike by Zeel Design

What if technology had taken a different path? What if the steam powered technology of the Victorian era had continued on to the present day, offering up the same devices we use but with the metal, gears and wheels prevalent in those early machines? That's the idea behind steampunk, current day tech with a steam era look.

Confederate WraithBecause of the current high interest in steampunk, quite a few artists and craftsmen have built or modified everything from computers to wristwatches with a vintage sci-fi appearance. They're pretty neat, too, but I haven't seen many motorcycles that would fit the steampunk category, some come close, maybe, but more by chance than purpose.

The Bobster trike shown above has strong hints of it, something I didn't think about until I saw a few others comment and I would have to agree. Brass and copper are a strong design cue. Some point to the Confederate Wraith and when you step back for a second, yep, it has it too.

Hubbard Steamcycle

The Hubbard Steamcycle goes without saying, if you actually use steam power, you have ten points to begin with, add a little copper and brass and you're in.

Steampunk motorcycle built after comic designThe interesting machine on the right started as a drawing in a biker comic and the artist's brother thought it was so neat he decided to bring it to life. It doesn't actually run on steam but it looks like it should.

The single engine cylinder is from a tractor and it displaces 1440cc, think about what that sounds like! Tires and wheels are from a Ford Model A. The wooden fork is made of ash with forged iron strapping plus there's a shovel for a seat. Practical? Are you kidding? Cool? Of course.

There are other examples floating around out there, I only tossed out a few, but I think any design that focuses on the mechanical with a few added gears and wheels plus some brass and copper is pretty neat. Steampunk is all about the design and very little concerned with added (or lost) function but some of it would be neat if it worked half as well as you wish it would.

What are some of your favorites?

Link: Steam cycle from comic via Brass Goggles

Wikipedia steampunk


  1. sweetlemonaid says

    You have to love the “old stuff.” Who would not like to ride a a steam powered motorcycle down main street. Look at the Bobster by Zeel Design. Take a old child’s trike, and make it fit for a adult to ride. You could literally put any engine within the Bobster’s frame, and it would not loss its appeal. The resurgance of the old boardtrackers clearly indicate that riders are looking for a connection to the pass. What was old, can and will, be new again.

  2. Gutteral Tone says

    Check out a bike called Time Machine, built by some guys in Hungary. It won the Official European Championship of Custom Bike Building in Germany this year — it is dripping with Victorian engineering chic and was designed and built as an homage to WG Wells … surely the Dark Lord of all things SteamPunk. There are pictures and details at

  3. aaron says

    I love the old look, but rather than new tech with an old look, why not use the old tech with modern engineering and materials? look at the watch world. you can get a battery powered retro watch…. or you can get something with a thousand moving parts, like the patek calibre 89
    yes, very expensive – but with all that engineering going into only 4 timepieces, what can be expected?

    so expand that into motorcycles – external valvetrain like the manx, open driveshafts, visible evidence of what is actually required to prople the rider down the road. I’m still trying to figure out how to skeletonize an engine….
    I like the idea of seeing everything at work as you ride!

  4. chris says

    aaron, that’s brilliant. an exposed engine and drivetrain?! i’ve always loved this style, but didn’t realize it had a name until just a few weeks ago. i think a victorianized bike with bleeding edge technology would be awesome. now that i’m thinking about it, it wouldn’t even be all too difficult. hmmm. . . back to the drawing board

  5. Sean says

    Wasn’t going to say anything (I realised I’ve been saying too much) but steampunk is really, really popular in nerd culture. I’ve seen steampunked computer cases, right down to vaccuum tubes that actually serve a purpose, that 1440cc steampunk motorcycle, and many more in between. I once had a copper case made up for an Xbox controller. Old stuff is now really popular (Check out the Morgan Aero 8, Triumph’s re-released Bonnies, the recent cafe racer resurgence). What’s old is new, as sweetlemonaid so rightly said.

  6. Prester John says

    I’ve seen this over the last ten years or so in bicycles. Some young riders are rejecting today’s 30-speed carbon fiber rides and turing to single speed, fixed gear bicycles with steel frames and forks. This isn’t just a styling aesthetic, it’s actual 1890’s technology!


  7. says

    I’ve seen a few people cast engine parts in glass to expose internal parts. Totally possible if you use hi-temp glass, like borosilicate.

    The modding culture in any market is quite fascinating to me. I guess it recycles every generation. I never really understood what motivated people to buy inexpensive objects, only to then pour countless hours and money into them. It seems like that time and money could have easily gone towards a higher value object, designed and engineered as a holistic concept.

    I’m certainly guilty of this, as I think many crafty people are. Instead of buying a perfectly good entertainment center for $xxx, I decided to design and build my own, thinking I would save money and it would look cooler. Which way is better? It’s amazing what you can get at Circuit City these days for $99.

    A more related example of this would be tuners, and how they scoff at yuppies who buy expensive marque sports cars. My dad would say it’s the same now as it was in the 60’s hot rod era. The kids back then couldn’t afford to buy new, so the bought junkers and poured countless hours and money into them. Was their intention to spawn a new look, or were they just broke kids trying do something different. Regardless, the result was an entirely new culture.

    Necessity (and lack of money) is the mother of invention.

  8. Spaceweasel says

    I, too, hadn’t realized there was a name for this motif. A quick google search later, and I’m in love. This conflicts mightily with the plan to build an electric racer…two different ends of the design spectrum. Hmmm. Will require much thought and a couple of beers…

  9. Frood says

    Those may be Model AA wheels (from a truck), but they’re certainly not stock Model A wire wheels…

  10. Charlie says

    @ spaceweasel – shouldn’t be too much of a conflict, electric motors are actually victorian technology, just make sure you insulate everything with gutta percha 😉

  11. Charlie says

    Oh, and the Time Machine? Wow…hub centred steering with wooden spoked wheels…mmmmmmmmmm

  12. SlakeMoth says

    Take a look at for a bevy of heavily modded rat- and survival-bikes. They may not necessarily have the steampunk aesthetic, but definitely fit the spirit, with bikes cobbled together from disparate parts, improvised bodywork, and shaker-can paint jobs.

  13. says

    I have been watching this guy’s videos lately on YT. In less than a month he has come up with two cheap motorcycles and is building a Chopper from Junkyard parts. Aside from 15+ videos he has drawings and such on the idea itself that look really great. I can’t wait to see how his frame comes out.

  14. says

    Some of these guys are true artists! My Genius friend Mark Boyd and I built and
    tested a Solar/Electric/Steam powered motorcycle at the BUB meet at the
    Salt Flats this last September. It was deemed too unsafe to race, but that was
    perhaps just as well, as it was also pretty unsteerable. It was an engineering
    failure, but in time, one of it’s progeny could concievably run on only sunshine
    and rainwater…Search You Tube for “Bonneville” and “Blue Flame” to see a
    video of some knuckle head wobbling about 80 feet, then falling over. Keep
    thinking and keep building!
    Hap 33 1//3
    P.S. I will post here again with pictures of the bike.

  15. Claus From Denmark says

    just a bit of correction, the 1440 bike ( in german called “satte literschüssel” which would translate to someting like full litre bike ) the wheels are of a German vintage tractor, a few years back i saw a tv show where theyt showed how they built it, crank and transmission is Harley, deutz tractor barrel, german piston, and homebrew cylinder head, all made on old manual mills and lathes.

  16. says

    Mind blowing please send me all the sports and the modified bikes pictures ans there ideas for preparation?