Diesel Motorcycle Time Line

Notable Diesel Motorcycles and Developments down the years.


Is this the first ever Diesel motorcycle?

The Dopper motorcycle was build in 1904 with components from an old cycle that was given by Jan Brons to Jan Dopper.
The engine had a bore from 70mm and a stroke from 70mm and has 2 bhp at 700/rpm. As seen at the picture we think that the engine has two gears (as you can see the two belts at each side of the engine) and a coupling.
After some testing the engine was rebuild with his new motorcycle frame as shown on the picture. In the begining of 1910 Jan Dopper made a three wheel motor cycle with the Dopper engine. On this cycle he can moved two passengers and himself.
Before WW2 the Dopper engine was placed in a mill, the mill was shot down and this was the end of the Dopper engine.


The machine below was built in 1904 by Jan Dopper. Its engine is a BRONS type Diesel and help was given in building it by Jan Brons.

I am indebted to Jan Vegter and Ad Langelaar who supplied me with information on this machine. Thanks gentlemen..

More information here on how the engine works at the Brons Engine website.

Early B.S.A. Development

(Perhaps the first Major manufacturer to consider a Diesel Bike?)

Alistair Cave, who was the factory manager at BSA for a number of years, until its closure, confirms that there was a project to fit a bike with a diesel engine. This was around 1953 or 54 and in conjunction with engineers from Daimler, which was a subsidiary of BSA at the time. However the impracticality of making a new engine small enough to fit a motorcycle frame, and the fact that they were concentrating on lightweight machines such as the Dandy, to supersede the Winged Wheel and the development work that had to go into this, plus, improving suspension on the larger bikes with the then new swinging arm suspension meant that the work on the diesel bike was dropped.


The Sidney Diesel Norton

This is, I believe, the first British Diesel Motorcycle.

The Sidney Diesel Norton with its prototype Diesel engine.

After much searching I can annouce that I finally managed to find the original test rider of the above machine. His Father designed the above engine and fitted it into what he refered to as his mobile test bed. The bike was put together in Sussex, England in the mid 1950's. Below are details taken from two letters sent to me from Tony Sidney, the machines test rider.

The Norton Motorcycle.

In the early 1950's Arthur Alexander Sidney developed a revolutionary high speed Diesel engine of 500cc capacity which was comprised mainly or Aluminium. Firstly to help prove the engine, secondly to simulate different loads upon it and thirdly to show it to potential customers he fitted it into a Norton motorcycle frame.
His son, Arthur Anthony Sidney joined him in 1956 at the workshop in Saltdean, Brighton, and together they tested the Diesel Motorcycle driving it as far a field as West Drayton, London where another engine had been fitted to a Dumper Truck owned by a company called Road Machines.
The bike produced 10-14 BHP at around 4000 RPM. It was possible to kick-start the machine with the valves lifted but on cold mornings it really needed to be pushed or towed behind a car.
Top speed was about 55 MPH using a standard Norton Gearbox and the engine had, as you'd expect, bags of torque. Getting over the hills outside Brighton was no problem but acceleration was relatively slow.
The large exposed flywheel could be dangerous at times but the very fact that it was exposed helped enormously when setting up the engines timing.

The Engine.

The engine itself was made from Aluminium to a: help dissipate the heat and b: save weight. Any loss of strength, considering the high compression ratio, was compensated for by the use of tensile steel rods which ran from the main bearings up to the cylinder head. The piston also carried a relief for the valve.
The combustion chamber was of the 'squirt type' being machined into the cast iron cylinder head. Fuel injection was by CAV pump with modified nozzle (to give optimum spray profile and combustion).
The crankshaft was pressure lubricated and ran in phosphor bronze plain bearings (a massive construction) and the cylinder block was lined.
Testing took place on a Heenan & Fronda water break Dynamometer. Only 4 engines were made and all parts were manufactured locally in the Brighton area. At one time Ford was interested in aquiring the patent but this was not followed up.

The Petter Ambassador Diesel Motorcycle

Constructed as the first project by Diesel Bike enthusiast Ernie Dorsett. Experience gained from building this machine was of great help when he decided to move on to building 6 Matchless/AJS Diesels fitted with Robin/Fuji engines (see elsewhere).


The Royal Enfield Taurus Greaves Diesel Motorcycle

I'm not sure which year Royal Enfield started to make their Diesel motorcycle but as the first major manufacturer to even take a step in this direction they deserve a mention on this page. Once available with either a 325cc or 436cc single cylinder 4 stoke Greaves engine these bikes are no longer in production according to the Official Royal Enfield website. Both versions of this bike have 12 volt electrics, 4 gears, 14.5 litre tanks and 18 to 1 compression ratios. This bike is no longer in production.


Probably the most massed produced Diesel Motorcycle to date.

The D.E.R.A. Military Motorcycle

To those who take an interest in matters Military, it's common knowledge that NATO has embarked on a one fuel policy due to the fact it's cheaper and safer to have all their vehicles running on the same substance, ie: diesel. Obviously they had a slight problem when it came to motorcycles and both the British and United States Army's have embarked on various ventures to see how feesable it would be to convert existing bikes to diesel. The British converted a Royal Enfield engine to run on diesel and invited Fred Hayes of HDT over to try it out. Things went very well and R.M.C.S. landed the contract to design a completely new engine for the Marine Corps. After 2003 Petrol will no longer be allowed aboard U.S. warships and so the Corps needed to replace their existing bikes with something that used an alternative fuel.

This D.E.R.A. / R.M.C.S Bike (above) produced in1995 has an Enfield Bullet crankcase (beefed up) and a specially made top end which boasts 4 valves! It is of 547cc and produces between 16-18 BHP. Diesel injector is a modified unit from a car while the gearbox has but 4 gears. Apparently the engines flywheel is lighter than you'd normally expect to find on a diesel. The bike clocks 156 MPG @ 40MPH and 184 MPG @ 30MPH. The engine is mounted in a frame supplied by Eric Cheney. This bike easily pulls away from 250cc petrol bikes on cross country runs according to test riders.




Royal Enfield Stop production of their Taurus model. 2001

Royal Enfield to phase out 350cc diesel bullet as fuel-efficiency loses charm, says Byas Anand of the Indian Times.

With style and power becoming order of the day, a fuel efficient and economical ride is passe.

A reflection of the brawn image of modern day youth can be found on their bike preference, which shows a growing swing towards more stylist and (if possible) even customised vehicles.

Thanks to these trends, the highly fuel efficient diesel bikes are finding no takers now. Adding to the woes, are the natural calamities that have wrecked the traditionally strong diesel markets.

Faced with a speedy erosion in sales of its diesel bikes, Royal Enfield Motors (REM), an Eicher group company, is now contemplating bidding adieu to its 350cc diesel-powered Bullet motorcycle next fiscal. The sale of its diesel bike has dropped from a high of 4,000 units in 1999-2000 fiscal to a few hundred units this year.

"Though sale of our petrol bikes has been on the upswing in line with the market growth, the diesel motorcycles have not been able to match the pace. It was a product targetted at a niche segment. But now I don't think we will continue with the bike," Eicher group chairman and chief executive S Sandilya told The Times of India. A final decision on the future of the model will be taken by the beginning of the next fiscal.

The diesel bike was targetted at the Gujarat and Saurashtra markets. "But the recent drought destroyed the whole market and sales have dropped drastically." REM sourced the diesel engine from local manufacturers and assembled the bike at its Thiruvallur plant.


The Kawasaki KLR 584cc Diesel Motorcycle

The HDT-RMCS motorcycle is a collaborative venture between Hayes Diversified Technologies (HDT) of California and RMCS to develop a production diesel motorcycle. The engine was designed at RMCS and is being produced by HDT. Development has been undertaken jointly by HDT and RMCS. The bike uses a Kawasaki KLR 650 rolling chassis, modified for military use. Current status of the project is that pre-production bikes have been fully trialled and evaluated by the US Marine Corps. As a result of these trials, the USMC has now accepted the bike for service, and production is expected to commence next year. USMC currently has gasoline KLR650s in service and all these will ultimately be converted for the diesel engine. The UK MoD currently has several bikes under test, and other NATO armies, including France and Germany, have expressed serious interest. We are now looking at other applications, both motorcycle and non-motorcycle, for this engine technology. However, there are NO immediate plans to offer the motorcycle to civilian customers, as we are presently fully committed in satisfying military orders. It is possible that a civilian version of the bike will be made available eventually but this the cost would be about 20% up from a standard bike. For the forseeable future, while the Military are swallowing the cost of this machine, they are unlikely to want to see it sold cheaply to the general public.

Based on a Kawasaki KLR650 the 584cc engine is designed to run on either diesel or aviation kerosene. Some parts from the original engine, such as the generator, have been used on the new machine in order to save money but essentially this motorcycles engine is completely new. This makes this machine completely unique, it being the first purpose built diesel motorcycle engine ever built.


Dutch ThunderStar 1200 TDI Lupo VW Diesel Bike

This amazing looking machine was recently shown in Holland. Details are as follows: Engine is a 1200cc three-cylinder out of an VW Lupo 3L TDI. It originally produced 61 hp and 140 Nm. With Chiptuning it has improved to 90 hp or 210 Nm. For more information and pictures go here.


Surely this is the future?

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