When The Dark Knight hit theaters in 2008, everyone loved Batman's Batpod, an outrageous, nearly undrivable motorcycle with a bad attitude. Someone even built one and put it up on eBay. Forget that. Here's how to make your own.
Only stunt driver Jean-Pierre Goy has ever piloted the intimidating Batpod — the giant tires, crude suspension, and prone riding position make it more dangerous to ride than almost anything on wheels — but it is one of the sickest two-wheeled creations since Kaneda's cycle in Akira. Despite that, a replica of the Batpod was inevitable, it just needed the right kind of lunatic to build it. While many lunatics have tried, this full-scale version from Florida, assembled in just two months, is by far the most precise. Let's take a look at how you build Batman's motorcycle.
The hardest part of almost any build is the design. In the case of the Batpod, it took two months of thorough research studying the real 'Pod followed by careful blueprinting. The project naturally began with a set of 508-mm Hoosier Racing tires mounted on steel wheels, a welded block-and-tube style frame, and an ultra-compact, water-cooled, single-cylinder motorcycle engine like that of the KTM 690.
Every motorcycle starts with a frame. The Batpod is unique in how it offsets its wheel hubs and uses that structure to house underslung steering and hidden drive components. The big challenge in building the frame is getting everything welded at the proper angles so the bike tracks straight and true, and so the wheels aren't sitting at different camber angles relative to each other.
The engine and driveline mounting brackets designed into the frame and prefabricated are now used to accept their relative bits. There is no visible chain on the Batpod — the engine's output sprocket drives a short chain hooked to a jackshaft, the jackshaft runs down the tube parallel to the axis of the rear wheel, and a chain hooks to another shaft that drives the rear tire. It's all very convoluted and requires absolute precision so that the chains don't skip off at speed and disable the vehicle. The engine computer and a small fuel tank are installed close to the engine so that they can be covered by a shroud. The radiator is mounted at the driver's feet, just ahead of the rear tire, and coolant lines run down the main frame tube.
At first glance, steering the Batpod seems like a form of sorcery — there are some arm protectors and no visible handlebars, and blam-o, it steers. In reality, it's a touch more complicated than that. Instead of the handlebars and yoke steering found on other motorcycles, the Batpod uses a series of shafts and levers. The handlebars are mounted below the main frame tube, and a shaft mounted to a lever arm allows vertical-axis steering inputs — the motion made by rotating the handlebars — to translate into a push/pull motion. This shaft is connected to another shaft running down the front wheel's main support tube, which repeats this process at the end, leading to a steering input at the front wheel hub.
Part of the Batpod's magic is how it appears to have no engine, zipping along on top-secret Wayne Enterprises technology. For this reason, it's important to make the engine as invisible as possible. Burying it in the frame is the first part of that equation; the second is covering it with the engine shroud that the driver lays his chest on. Our Florida builder started with non-corrugated cardboard and created a three-dimensional form by cutting and taping it to shape. Once that's done, the cardboard was used as a template to cut the same shape from metal, which is then bent and welded together to create the shroud. Now would also be a good time to mock up the arm shields in the same fashion and fabricate the seat pan.
At this point there are dozens of detailed parts to add: knee and foot rests complete with shifting and braking controls, forearm rests at the top of the handlebars, forward controls including brakes and clutch levers and throttle, the Hollywood-grade guns and grappling hooks, etc. Use your imagination.
The final step in the process is to take everything apart and paint it. Start with a primer coat and let everything dry, then move to the final color coats. This Batpod was given two colors: flat black and silver-gray. Of course, when you finish painting you absolutely must drape scantily clad ladies across it and take photographs. After all, chicks love the car... er, bike.
The finished Batpod in these pictures was initially put up for sale on eBay. That didn't fetch enough cash — $30,000 was apparently too small a figure — so the builder instead put the bike up for raffle, selling 5,000 $200 tickets on eBay. The Batpod is claimed to be driveable, if barely, but the tiny gas tank means you'll be going from gas station to gas station. Quoted acceleration is 5.2 seconds from a standstill to the scene of the crash. Doesn't mean we don't want one for our very own.