When you think of steam-powered motorcycles, you probably expect that we’re going to talk about a vehicle from the dawn of motorcycling, right? In this case, you’d be mistaken, because we’re talking about a home-built motorcycle that’s powered by steam generated from a full tank of beer. The inventor is none other than Minnesota legend Ky Michaelson, better known to some by his long-standing nickname as “the Rocketman.”
The word “legend” isn’t used lightly here—we’re talking about a guy who partnered up with the 1970s stuntwoman Kitty O’Neil on her speed defying exploits. O’Neil, who was deaf, set the land speed record for fastest woman on four wheels in 1976, achieving an astonishing speed of 512 miles per hour. In fact, it was O’Neil’s permission that Jessi Combs sought in the 2010s prior her own land speed record attempt, as you can see in the posthumously released documentary The Fastest Woman on Earth.
As the story goes, Michaelson’s work with O’Neil got the attention of major Hollywood stuntman Dar Robinson, who worked on movies and TV shows including Logan’s Run, Airplane, the Police Academy series, and Lethal Weapon. Michaelson worked alongside Robinson until the latter man’s death in 1986, at which point he returned to Minnesota and his first love: Building the rockets that earned him his nickname.
It’s clear that he loves his garage workshop, and he’s built plenty of things to prove it, including a rocket-powered toilet. The beer-powered motorcycle has been in the works for the past few years, built with his son Buddy by his side. It uses a 14-gallon keg and a heating coil to generate the steam power that shoots out the back when the temperature inside reaches 300 degrees Fahrenheit.
“The price of gas is getting up there. I don’t drink. I’m not a drinker, so I can’t think of anything better than to use it for fuel,” Michaelson told local news station Fox 9 KMSP-TV.
According to Michaelson’s estimation, this bike should theoretically be able to reach a top speed of about 150 miles per hour—but he hasn’t tested it yet. He’s hoping to take it to a drag strip soon and check its true capabilities there. So far, he’s taken it to local shows and won awards, but has not been riding it around the neighborhood.