The World’s Most Expensive Motorcycle

Cyclone Board Track Racer

This is the Cyclone Board Track Racer, a 1915 motorcycle that sold for $520,000 in July 2008 at the inaugural Monterey MidAmerica auctions. Yes, what you see here is The World’s Most Expensive Motorcycle.

It was an auctioned bike, but I always thought an auctioned Vincent or Brough Superior would be the holder of the dollar record. The Cyclone was designed by Andrew Strand, a Swedish-born engineer, and made by the Joerns Motor Manufacturing Company of St. Paul, Minnesota. Being a track racer, we’re looking at a very basic and lightweight machine, complete with low, scooping handlebars and no brakes whatsoever. The engine features shaft-and-bevel driven overhead cams, technology that was way ahead of its time in 1915. Some other features are strangely contemporary too, such as the near-hemispherical combustion chambers. The Cyclone also has roller bearings and balls which were properly caged. The V-Twin engine was quite powerful: its maximum power output is given as 45 horses, an amazing figure for almost a century ago.

It cost a great deal of money to built such a refined machine, and very few were made during the two years of production. Only twelve Cyclones have resurfaced over the years, and some of those are road-oriented bikes. Still, what made it such a huge hit at the auction? Well, aside from its rarity, the Cyclone has been described as one of the most ‘correct’ board track racers, with the correct engine internals. Incidentally, the Cyclone was formerly the property of ‘Shorty’ Tompkins, a collector of rare vintage bikes, who also owned the very rare 1914 Pope Motorcycle.

  • Mark

    What is happening with the chain here? Appears to have no chain attached to the rear sprocket which is also inside the frame?

  • JS

    Yes…what is happening with the chain?

    I love the look of bikes from the pioneer era because they are so minimal. Would like to see a 45hp modern engine in this same frame and configuration…well, OK maybe with a sprung and hydraulically dampened girder fork rather than the rigid girder that the board tracker has.

    With modern materials, someone with the right skills could make it even more “minimal”. That person isn’t me, but it is still fun to fantasize.

  • r

    i think the LC bike has some nice minimalist features and has a modern Triumph motor.
    http://www.bikeexif.com/lc-fabrications

  • Kevin

    There’s a smaller sprocket behind the back primary, but why there’s no chain???

  • harry

    What ???
    $ 520.000 and No chain !!!
    Don’t worry, you can fit one.
    On this photo you can hardly see it, but there is a smaller sprocket hidden behind the big one. There are more pictures here: http://thevintagent.blogspot.com/search/label/cyclone
    The chain is not there because it you can’t use the machine anyway. And that would be a real shame.
    Not very familiar with these very early machines, I find it difficult to image how you actually ride these bikes. Ok, I miss the brakes. Who needs brakes on a boardtrack. But can’t find a clutch-lever either. Seems a push-start and go…. no gears. I see it has twist-grips on both sides of the handlebar: accelerator on the right side and the other to play with ignition-timing, I guess. And what to think of the bicycle-style pedals: it seems to be possible to swing the right-hand-side pedal, but on the left it seems to be in a fixed position on the end of the spindle.

    What sort of topspeed where these machines capable of ?

  • J.J. Ramone

    There is no chain because there is neither a clutch or a transmission to put in neutral. Pushing this bike around even with the spark-plugs removed would be a chore. Thus they just pulled the final drive chain. Just another comment here would be there is no throttle control, most of these bikes ran full open, slowing for corners was accomplished by cutting the spark. Also these bikes ran full loss oiling systems so the wood board tracks were soaked with oil. I’m surprised the seat doesn’t have cutaways for the rider’s massive… uh you know… these guys were without a doubt the craziest bikers ever!!!

  • joe momma

    …..brakes is fer sissies…..the one board tracker i’ve been around had minimal throttle control and compression release…..for push starting….tall guys get a special kinda skidders….the old harley i been on would do a hunnert….this baby probably more….the hd just starts out chugging and pickin up revs until you are flying!….how do you ride it….wide awake i suspect……??