Flying Low? Pulse Autocycle

These appear here on Barn Finds occasionally, but it’s been over a year since Jesse wrote about one. The Pulse Autocycle was designed by Jim Bede. He is remembered as the creator of the BD5 aircraft and several other innovative aircraft designs, none of them very successful. His Autocycle looks a little like the BD5 you may remember from the James Bond flick, Octopussy. The BD5 was introduced in the early 1970s as an easy to build, easy to fly homebuilt aircraft as well as a factory-built version. They were neither easy to fly or build. Bede sold about 5,000 kits and plans but never did find a reliable engine, so none of the 12,000 factory-built aircraft ordered were produced and Bede Aircraft went bankrupt in 1975. Then in the 1980s, Bede started a new company, Bede Design and built about 360 Litestar and Pulse Autocycles between 1982 to 1990. Jim Bede built the first one by hand. There are about 100 Pulse Autocycles left and they have a devoted following. They have a convention every LaborDay in Marion Indiana.

So… What’s it like to drive this thing? It won’t drive on two wheels. It rides on the main wheels plus one of the 8-inch outrigger wheels. It steers like a car, but with very quick steering like a go-cart. It has a conventional gas and brake pedal but it shifts like a motorcycle. The shifter is on the right armrest and shifts in a straight line. This thing weighs over 1,000 pounds and is about 16 feet long. It leans like a motorcycle, but tips from one outrigger to the other. The outriggers are basically wheelbarrow wheels and tires.

The main frame is made up of 6-inch tubes that carry the engine and suspension. It looks like there is only a little surface rust on the frame and there’s no sign of damage in this view.

The engine is described as a “KAW”. Perhaps it’s a water cooled Kawasaki twin, an older 500R perhaps. Depending on when the autocycle was built, they usually came with Yamaha 400s or even Honda Goldwing engines from the factory.

The body on this autocycle looks to be in fairly good condition, much better than other examples found in fields. A polycarbonate windshield and canopy can be sourced through a company that makes NASCAR windshields and are about $1,000 each and are said to fit well. It appears this Pulse was in the process of restoration. The engine needs to be sorted and there’s lots of electrical work to be done as well as the interior, but it looks like a viable project. Most of us might laugh and say “no way!” but there are devoted fans. Complete and running Autocycles often sell for over $10,000. Bidding on this one listed on eBay is approaching $12,000 with one day left. The one pictured is listed here on eBay in Gallion, Ohio where bidding is over $1,000 with most of a week left. It will be interesting to see what this one sells for. So would it be worth spending the extra on the nice example or would it be better just to restore this one?

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  1. Rod444

    The seller’s technique appears to park his vehicle beside as many good looking woman and cars as possible and hope that the appeal transfers to his Autocycle. Not sure that works with anything that’s painted yellow, but I’m gonna have to give him 10 points and a thumbs up for his blonde mechanic anyway ;)

    • leiniedude leiniedude Member

      I love Nose Art, happy to see it on this thing. The cockpit really looks nice in the ad, I did not see the photo posted here in the E-bay ad. Not my kind of ride, but have to agree with Rod444 on the mechanic.

    • Alan (Michigan)

      Rod444 and lieniedude, the auction you were looking out is not this Autocycle, but one which is complete with a Honda GoldWing drivetrain. That offering did not meet the reserve, even though bidding topped 17.5K!

      • Alan Robbins

        There was one of these for sale at the Ron Hackenburger collection auction in Ohio in the summer. I thought it was really cool until I saw it in person, my conclusion is that it would be hot, loud, and noisy inside.

        Another Alan in Michigan who spells his name the same way I do, and is into rare junk same as me. A terrifying thought that. If we ever meet it will probably trigger the apocalypse.

  2. elrod

    So what to do with a plane that wont fly, vehicle that makes a terrible motorcycle and an even worse car? Throw it in a field where it belongs! Resurrecting these things is just good money after bad. 5000 kit buyers can’t be wrong. Nothing to see here.. move along…

  3. Danno

    If this appeals to you, check out the (expensive) Monotracer. I’d call it a modern version of the Pulse Autocycle.

    • Milt

      Monotracer! Coolest thing on the planet, but hideously expensive and I would probably dump it.

      • DonC

        Sorry Milt, looks to me like a big dinosaur egg with insect legs. Leaning through a curve on 2 wheels is best left to motorcycles.

      • Rod444

        I kinda like that Monotracer. But I know what would happen if I owned one. The fuse would blow for the ‘training wheels’, and at the next light I’d fall over on my side – the side that won’t open.

        Just lay there for hours, rocking and rocking and getting laughed at by every passing motorist til my friends came to flip me over, like a wounded turtle.

  4. JRP

    Almost 12k??? Ebay bidders are crazy with their money! Cobbed together POS. Like elrod said, throw it out in a field.

    • Alan (Michigan)

      Bidding is $1526 at the time I read this. So far 27 bids placed.

  5. Skip

    The one pictured here is surely not the one for sale on eBay??

    • Alan (Michigan)

      Re-Read, and click on both eBay auctions. One is heavily modified and ready to ride. The one shown here does not run, is a project.

  6. Mark S

    Waiste of a motorcycle, looks dangerous I ride a sidecar goldwing. I know all about three wheeled rides, and I wouldn’t ride in this thing. Also at a 1000 lbs it would have trouble getting out of its own way. So which is for sale the one with Kawasaki engine or the one with the goldwing engine.

  7. Andre

    Is this like the godfather to this awkward 3-wheeled Can-Am Spyders?

  8. Darrun

    Here’s the link to this one. It appears to be missing from the article. Currently bidding is at $1376

    • leiniedude leiniedude Member

      Now I am really confused! As far as the nice one goes,
      Auction has ended. US $17,699.98
      Reserve not met
      [ 28 bids ]

  9. scottymac

    I love the optimism shown by the serial number in the e-Bay ad – “We’re gonna sell millions of these things!”. The last picture, what is that, the gunsight? Still waiting on my Elio. (sigh)

  10. Brakeservo

    I’ve said it before and will say it again – save your breath on ridiculously overpriced crap on eBay when it’s bid to a fantasy level and is “Reserve Not Met.” It’s just that active bidder, Mr. S Hill again at work!

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