What Is It: Can You Identify This Survivor?

Unidentified Bike
A UNIQUE BIKE is going up for sale this week at The Grand Palais Ephemere auction in Paris. It’s a bike so unique, its builder or brand is unidentified. From the Dr. Peter and Ulrike Buhner Collection of Important Pioneer and Collectors Motorcycles and Motor Cars, comes a 1905 motorcycle that’s simply called the Unidentified Veteran Motorcycle. We can usually count on Bonhams to find some rare and interesting bikes from its high-profile auctions, like a vintage Curtiss but this one’s so rare, nobody knows what it is.

Unidentified Bopnhams bike
Even the experts at Bonhams can’t tell you who built this early motorcycle. There are a few clues, but not enough to solve the mystery. Many of these early motorcycles were built by privateers who assembled parts from many different bikes, while others were prototypes for later production motorcycles. After all, this is how Harley and Davidson started their partnership.

We know a few things about this funky bike, but it’s not the first mystery we’ve written about. It has a frame number of 31224 and an engine number of 32. It’s a single-cylinder engine attached to a bicycle frame. Like many early motorcycles (and later mopeds), you have to pedal it to start it. It has a direct belt drive.

Unidentified Bonhams bike
The Veteran has a Phanomen acetylene gas brass headlamp, which adds a new meaning to “safety second.” The un-braked front wheel on a rudimentary springer-like front suspension also adds to a sense that in 1905 safety and comfort were after thoughts.

Bonhams | Instagram

Unidentified Bonhams bike
The collection is being sold after the passing of the Buhners. They displayed their collection of pre-war motorcycles and cars in local museums or stored them. Other cool motorcycles from the collection include a 1921 Cyklop Lightweight, which is another single-cylinder bicycle-frame motorcycle, as well as several other early three-wheeled delivery bikes.