Bicycle racers used slipstreaming to achieve faster speeds behind these bikes.
I’m pretty sure we’ve mentioned this before, but early motorcycle developments were completely wild. If you think the concept of Speedway racing in modern times sounds completely mad, wait till you learn about motor-paced racing. It’s a cooperative sport involving both motorcycles and bicycles, and it might leave you shaking your head in bewilderment once I explain.
It’s not clear when the word “slipstream” first entered common parlance, but simply by living in the world, trying new things, and using our observational skills, finding out about how it works when you’re racing along behind a vehicle is pretty easy. You don’t necessarily need to know what it’s called to figure out that it’s helping you go faster with less effort.
That’s the entire point of motor-paced racing in the early part of the 20th century, and this 1935 Meyer-Bac 2400cc OHV V-twin was built to be the front part of this racing duo. It worked like this: the pacer would stand or sit upright, trying to make themselves as big as possible to provide a windbreak for the bicyclist riding behind him. He’d set a pace up to 100kmh (or 62mph). Then, the cyclist (also known as the stayer) would ride in the slipstream directly behind the pacer. That funky bar at the back of the pacer motorbike served to keep the stayer at a safe distance. Here’s a handy historical video showing how this type of racing worked.
About 30 of these Meyer-Bac pacer motorbikes were ever built, by a Peugeot aircraft engineer named Louis Bac. They have no clutches and no gears, and are driven by a 10-centimeter wide belt.
Setups like this were used to set cycling world speed records, including the 1925 record set by French cyclist Jean Brunier, who managed to hit 120.958 kilometers per hour, or 75.598 miles per hour. His pacer was Léon Vauthier.
Gallery: 1935 Meyer-BAC 2400cc OHV V-Twin
The pacer you see on offer here hasn’t been restored, but has been cared for over its lifetime and is in pretty good shape. You can hear and see it run in the video. Legendary Dutch pacer Noppie Koch raced this particular bike, and several mementos from his racing career are included with this sale. Motor-paced racing may not be as common as it once was, but it does still play into land speed record attempts from time to time.
If you’re interested, Yesterdays Antique Motorcycles in the Netherlands is selling this piece of history for a cool €14,950.00 (or US $16,332) right now.