N. G. Spagthorpe:
Spagthorpe Indomitable was developed during the time that BNG (British National
Group) owned Spagthorpe, shortly before the original family bought it back,
by Wilhelm Grotonwicke Spagthorpe, AKA Willie G. Spagthorpe, as an answer
to the Japanese invasion of hi-tech bikes. The market response was something
less then enthusiastic and only 4 additional units were produced. (I think
Malcolm Forbes had one, one blew up on the bonnie salt flats when the cooling
water became contaminated, and the other two lost in the sands of time.)
It had a driven front wheel; it was a water-cooled bike, but instead of a radiator, it had sort of a boiler affair. They ran steam lines down the front forks to a steam turbine in the front hub (the hub apparently looked sort of like a front drum brake type deal). The clever part was the centrifugal vane advance on the turbine which would adjust the vanes for maximum torque when stopped, and maximum power at speed. I was sort of skeptical, but he explained the reasoning behind it: an internal combustion engine is only about 70% efficient, with the rest being lost to heat. If you only get 50% efficiency out of the steam turbine, that’s still 15% power that would otherwise blow away in the wind. 15% power to the front wheel may not sound like much, but proportionally, it’s similar to the amount of efficiency you get out of a rear brake. So, when you look at it that way it doesn’t seem so unreasonable.
The goal behind the driven front wheel design was similar to that of 4-wheel drive cars--increased cornering stability, and better control on surfaces with poor traction. I was concerned about the effect of the additional unsprung weight in the front wheel, but my friend just said, “Hey, it’s a Spagthorpe.” Good point.
Apparently these bikes were never made in quantity, because the cost of British union steamfitters would have made production bikes prohibitively expensive.
I take it that this was a completely different design from the one that had the small radial-engines, not unlike miniature versions of those used in WWII vintage aircraft, acting as both motive force and as front and rear wheels? I recall that they had several problems with this design:
There were several lawsuits, I recall, from pedestrians who were clipped by the rather wide (and hot) “wheels” when the machine was ridden through town. Not to mention the few that were flayed by loose spark plug wires and the still-attached plugs. A fascinating experiment, one which the march, or at least the stagger, of technology will surely eventually make feasible.
The steam-powered front-wheeled bike was fairly dangerous and certainly too dangerous to be used in the States where its citizens have that nasty tendency to sue somebody every time they encounter even a reasonable amount of danger.
The Spagthorpe was entered in the Ulster Trials but the local Police confiscated it, thinking it a device of the IRA.
Jim Groh email@example.com | DoD #0356 | Hog# 0437643 |new improved
1959 XLH 900 ** 1982 FXR ** 1989 XLH 883 ** 1990 XLH 1200 | smaller sig
John Sloan "Since I've given up hope, +1 303 497 1243
NCAR/SCD I feel much better." Fax +1 303 497 1137
Boulder CO 80307-3000 USA firstname.lastname@example.org
Logical Disclaimer: belong(opinions,jsloan). belong(opinions,_):-!,fail.