World record price expected for steam motorbike

A steam-powered motorcycle built in 1894 is expected to fetch a world record price at auction when it goes on sale in LA.

One of only two motorcycles ever built by knitting machine inventor and Hells Angel progenitor Sylvester Roper, the Roper has a rectangular coal burner attached to the frame, feeding steam from a boiler into a small engine, which powers the rear wheel.
The water tank incorporates a race spec wide bore tailpipe, ready to spit hot water all over any Victorian vagabond unfortunate enough to be walking by.

It looks like a recipe for guaranteed third degree burns for the rider, too, but back in the late 19th Century it was quite the superbike: in May 1896 it averaged a whopping 40mph speed over a measured mile in Boston, USA.

The Roper steam bike is officially a motorcycle by virtue of not having any pedals; the controls are on the handlebars.

Due to be auctioned at the first ever Las Vegas Premier Motorcycle Auction in January, the Roper will break the world record price for a motorbike by virtue of its provenance as well as its rarity.

Pre-dating the earliest motorcycles from Harley Davidson, Roper's first bike was built in 1869, featuring a wood frame, massive rims and a two-cylinder steam engine. It's currently on display in the Smithsonian Museum.

This one was completed just two years before Roper died in 1896, and has a complete history, with records existing of every museum it has ever been displayed by. Its current owner bought it in 1996 for his private collection, only occasionally wheeling it out for motorcycle shows in America.

The January auction is the first time the bike has been offered for public sale; Roper's first 1869 bike is unlikely to go on sale any time soon.

Seller RM Auctions has not put an estimate on the Roper, but is confident the sale price will comfortably surpass the $520,000 (£320,000 in proper money) spent on a 1915 Cyclone Board Track Racer in 2008.

So, over to you, Chris Evans...
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