When it comes to rocket propulsion, a bike is seldom mentioned. But why?
Let me introduce a 1920s rocket two-wheeler - and a brilliant article by Paul d'Orleans / The Vintagent (sure many of you are familiar with his blog).
"It's summertime, and a young man's fancy turns to... attaching rockets to his motorcycle! Except, in each of these cases, a middle-aged man is actually behind the project, which lends a Freudian question mark to their motives...
"In 1928, Fritz von Opel, from the family of founders of the Opel car and motorcycle works, began experimenting with attaching rockets to his racing cars, a special high-speed train car, an airplane, and a Neander/Opel motorcycle. The bike in question was a MotoClub 500SS (Opel bought out Neander and badged the bike as their own), to which 6 solid-propellant rockets (with a thrust capacity of 66lbs combined) were attached.
"The rider activated the rockets with a foot pedal, after using the motorcycle's engine to reach 75mph; Opel calculated that 220km/h (132mph) was then possible. The World Motorcycle Speed Record in 1928 was held by O.M. Baldwin on his 996cc Zenith-JAP, at 124.5mph (taken at Arpajon, France).
"Note in this photo that a dozen rockets have been added - doubling the capacity from the above photo. It was thought the machine would be used for a world's land speed record, but obviously, strapping on rockets isn't a guarantee of success even in a straight line... German authorities thought so as well, and forbade the use of the rocket-cycle for a speed attempt on the grounds of safety. Opel had success with his other rocket-propelled experiments (the car and airplane - RAK1- especially), so was satisfied to lay the motorcycle aside after a few demonstration runs. "
A modern replica of the Opel Monster was built in 2003, using the Neander frame (no original MotoClub 500 frames found):
Black & white photos: Opel-Motorräder aus drei Jahhrzehnten, 2001, by Jurgen Noll, published by Heel. Via The Vintagent.
Color photos via Steampunk.dk
In two or three weeks, some other Opel rocket vehicles will be featured. Stay tuned!