History of the Batcycle: Two-Wheeled Justice from DC
Throughout most of comic book history, superheroes have been blessed with unusual powers that aid them in their crime-fighting efforts. Superman, the granddaddy of them all, is bulletproof, immensely strong, and can leap great distances (yes, believe it or not, the original Superman could not fly; see Action Comics # 1). Thor has godlike abilities and his trusty hammer. Spiderman clings to walls and has a sixth sense. The Hulk gets tougher the more his enemies piss him off. Aquaman is unusually gifted when it comes to breathing water. Even Captain America is sort of an optimized human being, with athletic abilities that would leave the finest Olympic athletes taking home a distant second. Then there are the heroes who must make do without these abilities. Take Batman as an example. Other than being a top-notch martial artist and highly trained detective, his list of superpowers is decidedly short. He does have something that most other characters lack, however: access to the best technology money can buy. Hence his endless list of nifty gadgets: the batarang, the batplane, and, of course, the batmobile. One of his coolest accessories, though, is the batcycle, which has gone through several incarnations since its first introduction. RELATED: Check Out the Original Batmobile The Adam West Versions
The first batcycle wasn’t much to write home about; it was a 1965 Harley-Davidson equipped with a sidecar. It appeared in one episode. But the idea of seeing Batman on two wheels was such a hit with the fans that the producers had a bike purpose-built for the Caped Crusader and his sidekick. It was based on a Yamaha Catalina 250 with a 55cc engine and built by Dan and Korky Korkes, who were doing business under the name Kustomotive.
The team added a custom sidecar for Robin. When the Dynamic Duo needed to split up the sidecar could detach and take off under its own power. The cycle used for the series was the same one that appeared in the 1966 film.
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Kustomotive leased the bike to 20th Century Fox for $350 upfront and $50 a week. By the time the show wrapped up the builders had earned the meager sum of $2500 from it. They retained possession of the batcycle, however, and used it along with four replicas for years afterwards, as a draw to bring tourists to car shows and other events.
In 2013 the sidecar was auctioned off on the show Hollywood Treasures for $30,000. Burt Ward, the actor who played TV’s Robin, authenticated it for the bidders.
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The Dark Knight Batcycle
Another version of the batcycle appeared in 2008’s The Dark Knight and 2012’s The Dark Knight Rises. It was actually built into the film series’ Batmobile as sort of an escape pod; in fact, Alfred refers to the cycle as the “batpod” at one point in the first film.
In the real world, the batpod was built by British special effects wizard Chris Corbould, who has been honored countless times for his work with films from Star Wars and other franchises. Corbould built six units for the films, most of which were destroyed during filming.
In The Dark Knight the pod breaks away from the batmobile, aka the “tumbler,” after the Joker fires an RPG at the larger vehicle. Fitted with 20” front and rear wheels, this version of the cycle is little more than a frame, some added weaponry, and a single-cylinder water-cooled engine. Its actual noise was cut from the film, replaced with the sound of a Tesla Roadster revving up.
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The pod is equipped with machine guns, grappling hooks, and a cannon. Batman steers the cycle by fitting his arms into protective shields while leaning forward on the gas tank. The design, like that of Batman’s car of choice, is decidedly spartan.
It seems odd that Batman chose to wreck his cycle, rather than simply run the Joker over with it as he should have. Apparently heroism, like other virtues, becomes a vice when taken to extremes.
The cycle returned in 2012’s The Dark Knight Rises. In it, Anne Hathaway plays the sexiest Catwoman ever, as the uses the pod to kill Bane and several of his henchmen. At last the deadly steed has a rider worthy of its lethal potential.
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