Aug 06, 2023
What is it?
It looks like a jet aircraft. It’s not. It’s called a Pulse. Some states title it as a motorcycle, others as an automobile. The Pulse is a Ground Cruising Recreational Vehicle.
It is 16’ long, 10’ wide and has 4 wheels. The front wheel and assembly is from an automobile. The back wheel is from a motorcycle. The side wheels are actually mounted under what’s called outriggers. They look like little wings and keep the Pulse balanced when in operation. It features a fuselage with a sliding canopy. Open the canopy and you will find 2 seats, one in front of the other like a fighter jet. The Pulse is powered by a motorcycle engine with the controls mounted forward in the cockpit. It has a ratchet shifter and automotive type foot clutch, brake and accelerator. It’s without a doubt, one of the coolest and weirdest vehicles you will ever see on the road. If, you are lucky enough to ever see one in person. They didn’t build many and very few still exist.
In the world of motorcycles, there are rare gems that stand out for their innovation and unique design. One such extraordinary creation is the Pulse Motorcycle, a brainchild of aviation designer Jim Bede. Inspired by his pioneering aircraft design, the BD-5, Bede ventured into the realm of motorcycles to create an exceptional, futuristic, and efficient two-wheeler. In this blog, we explore the remarkable journey of Jim Bede's Pulse Motorcycle, from concept to marketing, its rarity today, and the devoted following that it still commands.
I. Jim Bede's BD-5 Influence
Before delving into the Pulse Motorcycle, it's essential to understand the significance of Jim Bede's aviation background and the impact of his BD-5 aircraft. Jim Bede, a visionary aerospace engineer, designed and built the BD-5, an innovative single-seat kit aircraft in the early 1970s. The BD-5 was known for its lightweight, compact design, and aerodynamic efficiency, which set the standard for personal aircraft at the time. You may remember seeing a BD-5 in the James Bond movie “Octopussy”. Bede’s experience and expertise from the BD-5 project laid the groundwork for his ambitious venture into the motorcycle industry.
II. The Concept and Design of the Pulse Motorcycle
In the early 1980s, Jim Bede set out to revolutionize the motorcycle industry by applying his aviation expertise to create the Pulse Motorcycle. The concept behind the Pulse was to develop an aerodynamically efficient motorcycle that could redefine the riding experience.The frame of the vehicle is constructed of welded steel tubing, which in turn is fitted into the fuselage "shell."
The aerodynamic design of the Pulse Motorcycle resembled a futuristic spacecraft rather than a traditional bike. Its teardrop shape, blended fairings, and tucked-in wheels allowed it to slice through the air with minimal resistance, making it exceptionally fuel-efficient and capable of achieving higher speeds.
III. Marketing Strategy and Production
Jim Bede, a skilled marketer, understood the importance of creating a buzz around his innovative creation. To showcase the Pulse Motorcycle's potential, he embarked on an aggressive marketing campaign, displaying the bike at prominent motorcycle shows and events. The futuristic design and promising performance features generated immense interest among motorcycle enthusiasts and the media alike.
The Pulse was built from 1984 until 1990. The initial production faced challenges due to financial constraints and unforeseen engineering issues. Despite the limited production numbers, the Pulse Motorcycle garnered a dedicated following that admired its visionary design and technological advancements. The Pulse utilized an air cooled, Yamaha 400cc motorcycle engine and transmission. It was promoted as a 100 mpg gallon vehicle that could cruise speeds up to 100 miles per hour. The late eighties models utilized a water cooled Honda engine that could power the missile like craft up to 160 miles per hour, according to the marketing campaign.
Many Pulses were purchased by small business owners who lettered them up as rolling billboards. Coors Brewing Company ordered an estimated 10 Pulses that were all painted silver and lettered as Coors Silver Bullets. All of the Silver bullets were believed to have the larger Honda engines. Other companies including Budweiser, McDonalds and the Space Shuttle Inn purchased and lettered up Pulse’s. A few Pulse motorcycles even made it to the big screen. You will find a Pulse in several movies including Back to the Future II & Sea Quest.
IV. Limited Production and Rarity
One of the key factors that contribute to the Pulse Motorcycle's allure is its rarity. Production numbers were relatively low, with only around 360 Pulse motorcycles estimated to have been built. This limited production, coupled with the passage of time, has made finding a Pulse a challenging task for collectors and enthusiasts.
V. Today's Following and Collectibility
Despite its limited production run and financial setbacks, the Pulse Motorcycle continues to have a devoted following among collectors and enthusiasts. The Pulse's design remains iconic, representing the bold spirit of innovation that characterized the 1980s. Vintage motorcycle collectors value the Pulse for its rarity, unique design, and historical significance as a pioneering engineering feat.
Owning a Pulse Motorcycle has become a badge of honor among motorcycle enthusiasts, representing not just a mode of transportation but a piece of engineering history. As time passes, the rarity of the Pulse only increases, fueling the demand and driving up the prices of these unique machines in the collector's market.
VI. Where Are They Now?
Today, the existing Pulse Motorcycles are scattered across the globe in the hands of passionate collectors, motorcycle museums, and enthusiasts. A vibrant community of Pulse owners and admirers has emerged, who organize gatherings, events, and forums to celebrate this distinctive creation. Over the last 20 years, I have had the opportunity to buy and restore over a dozen Pulse motorcycles. I currently own Pulse #142. That Pulse is currently being offered at auction through my online collector car auction website, BidWinCruise.com.
Jim Bede's Pulse Motorcycle is a testament to the power of visionary engineering and design. Inspired by the success of his BD-5 aircraft, Bede sought to revolutionize the motorcycle industry with an aerodynamically advanced two-wheeler. The Pulse's futuristic design, innovative concept, and aggressive marketing captivated the motorcycle world, leading to a dedicated following that endures to this day.
Despite the challenges faced during production and its limited numbers, the Pulse Motorcycle has become a sought-after collectible, cherished by enthusiasts who recognize its historical and engineering significance. As a rare and iconic motorcycle, the Pulse continues to inspire awe and fascination among those who appreciate the marriage of innovation and design in the world of motorcycles.
Owning a Pulse is a unique experience. Take it to a car show or cruise inn and you will steal the spotlight away from $100,000 collector cars. Pull into a gas station and you can expect to spend an hour at the pumps. Everyone wants to talk to you about it. Driving a Pulse is interesting. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been pulled over by the police. People actually call 911 to report that an airplane has landed on the highway. Don’t worry though, your Pulse has a registration and tag. Once you explain that its a motorcycle and point out the tag, you can still expect to spend the next 30 minutes with the police offer who wants to talk about how cool it is. Owning a Pulse is a cool experience!
Life is short. Drive something cool.