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1896 Roper Steam Bike
Paul Brodie

14: Fine Tuning
Only problem was that steam leaked out from everywhere it seemed! Pete and I had tested the engine on 50 psi of air, and it worked very well indeed. On 65 psi of steam, which is all the boiler could get due to leaks, the engine wouldn't even turn the back wheel once. This seemed odd at first, but steam is air with added heat AND moisture, so it really is a LOT different. The engine was taken out and sent off to Bob Davis for modifications.


Dicks' steam knowledge was expanding, and now he wanted a pre-heater for the water to be pumped into the boiler. The two circular coils on the left are to be positioned inside the smoke stack. In theory this is a great idea, because you really don't want cold water cooling the boiler down; it's not good for performance. Bending copper tubing requires MANY stages of heating, annealing, and bending.


In reality, the coils hindered the up-draft, and the fire wouldn't burn as hot. It all came apart one more time, and one coil was removed.


Here's Pete Gagan, riding Dicks' 1894 Roper steam bike. Now that's a good friend; remember, Dick has only seen pictures of his bike at this point. This is part of the video, "Pete's Garage"... thank you, Lester, for this great shot. Notice how the steam hugs Pete's back as he cruises by.


Pete and Lester had that steamer up and down my street, and the firebox got re-filled several times. I was working in the shop, and no one noticed just how much heat got generated. It really was a little excessive... Dick wasn't impressed when he saw the pictures, and all he could say was "ka-ching... ka-ching!"


The right side of the bike is so busy, that the (new) brass plate really helps to balance the proportions. Notice also, the "header wrap" used to insulate the mouth of the firebox.

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