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Three Enormous Thumpers Duel for the Title of World's Largest Single Cylinder Motorcycle

It seems Germans have, at least when it comes to vehicles, an interesting and gigantic sense of humor.

So it was perhaps not out of character for one Franz Langer, who once held the record for the largest displacement single cylinder motorcycle engine, to join the battle with his motorcycle creation which boasted 1000cc’s. Not long after that, one Werner Dienstkrad built a 1440cc steampunk-inspired bike he designed after seeing something like it – in a comic strip.

But Langer wanted the record back. To get it, he built what he called the NSU Bison 2000, a 2000cc single cylinder monster thumper based on an NSU Konsul. Langer tossed the original cylinder (favoring instead one take from a radial airplane engine) and he was on the way.

The story does not end there; the Single Cylinder Arms Race was only beginning.

You might think a party in a barn can end up turning ugly. Someone hide the sheep, that sort of thing. But one particular barn party resulted in a bet – for a single bottle of beer – on who could take the title from Langer and build the world’s largest single-cylinder motorcycle.

German village blacksmith Claus Mees had, in the past, overhauled his 1962 BMW R50, and then went on to restore several BMW, Zündapp, Horex and NSU motorcycles for friends and acquaintances.

Then came that fateful night.

Mees decided he had to build something big. Really big.

Starting without patterns, models or scientific data of any sort, Mees set on building his enormous single with little more than his own two hands, the relatively modest machine tools in his shop and his trusty forge. Once the project began, Mees wedged work on his monstrous bike in between tasks on his regular money-making occupation. A collection of metal chunks, huge iron plates, all manner of copper tubes,levers, rods, screws, nuts and bolts all came from friends, acquaintances, neighbors and scrap yards. Once Mees found a 165mm piston and connecting rods (which weighed in at nearly 30 pounds) he discovered a steel cylinder tube in a scrap metal container and he was on his way in earnest.

Next on the list? Mees fabricated the enormous crankshaft, flywheel and ring gear. Mees made the engine block by creating a homemade “box” from 10 mm thick steel plates welded together.The cylinder head came courtesy of 15 HP Deutz tractor.

A couple of failed attempts to get fuel to the thing, one carb from a Porsche 911 and one from yet another tractor, missed the mark on getting enough flow, but the third try (a carburetor taken from an Opel 1900) did the trick.

When it was all over but the shouting, Mees hooked up the jumper cables, fired the beast up and listened with pleasure to the 125 decibels voice of his creation. His bike had a voice, and now it needed a name, and Mees and his pals ultimatley christened the monster “Hannibal the Violent”, or “HG 3000” for short.

“It idles at no more than 150 rpm, and at full throttle, 800 rpm,” Mees says.

So what has he discovered about the finished product?

A couple of shakedown runs told him the bike was featured uncontrollable handling and was pretty much unmanageable for any sort of long ride. One on such tour, one of the wheels came off and was later found in a neighbor’s field.

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