Anyone who’s seen the Christopher Nolan films,The Dark Knight or The Dark Knight Rises will instantly recognize the formidable Batpod. Indeed, considered one of the most exciting custom crafted vehicles in film history, the Batpod was designed to be sleek, fast and big. A bike so menacing, that just its appearance would make any Gotham villain think twice before embarking on any form of dastardly destruction. Designed to be an alternative vehicle to Batman’s Tumbler for both The Dark Knight and The Dark Knight Rises, the bike quickly caught the imaginations of fans near and far. With its beefy, fat 31 inch Hoosier racing tires, the Batpod carries its rider through several action packed scenes. So to answer the question, “Was the Batpod real?” the answer is yes. However, certain scenes were completed using CGI, most notably the Batpod’s launch from the Batmobile, as it wasn’t feasible with the actual vehicles, so was completed via computer.
An Escape Vehicle
The Batpod’s purpose was to be an escape pod for Batman, in case his valiant Tumbler vehicle became irreparably damaged. For those new to the Batman franchise, the matte black Tumbler was a gadget and weapons filled, all-terrain vehicle modeled after military tank design. The gallant Tumbler was later named the Batmobile. Fans got their first good glimpse of the Batpod in the film, The Dark Knight. Here, the Joker fired an RPG round which caused significant damage to the Batmobile. In order to escape and maintain pursuit, Batman used the Batpod to escape, as its integrated into the Batmobile itself, its two tires acting as the Batmobile’s front tires.
The Batpod is the brain-child of one Nathan Crowley, the film’s production designer. Once the design was drawn out, FX supervisor Chris Corbould was charged to build it. In the end, just six of these custom cycles were built. The Batpod saw action in The Dark Knight (2008) and The Dark Knight Rises (2012), and was handled by Jean-Pierre Goy, stuntman extraordinaire. In fact, Goy was the only person to ever ride the original Batpod. Here’s an interesting piece of film trivia for you. While we get our first look at the Batpod in The Dark Knight, did you know that the actual design of the Batpod was initiated during the filming of Batman Begins? According to Crowley, it was a Warner Bros. executive who suggested that the Batpod should emerge from the car.
In order to get their vision into the real world, Crowley and company decided to get their hands dirty and create the prototype themselves with whatever they could find. According to Popular Mechanics, Nolan and Crowley paid a visit to their local Home Depot in order to pick up some supplies in order to make the build a reality. In other words, they designed and built a custom bike for the caped crusader on their own, without the help of a professional bike shop. The design for the Batpod garnered Crowley both an Academy Award and BAFTA nomination.
After the mockup was deemed successful, they began to craft the custom, ridable, life-sized version of the Batpod. At first glance you’ll probably notice one thing first: The massive tires. These huge monsters are actually 31 inch Hoosier racing tires, tires made for the drag strip. The chassis was constructed of carbon-fiber, Kevlar and steel with an exhaust system from metal tubing. While the Batpod was real and ridable, the weapons systems were not. The cannon barrels were fake and made from plastic. Other “fake” weapons included grappling hooks and machine gun turrets. The laser targeting system, however was real.
The engine design chosen to power this behemoth was the Honda 750. However, when you look at the bike, you’ll notice there’s no sight of an engine anywhere. That’s because the Batpod used two high performance engines, which were placed inside the hub of each wheel. This technology exists today, and is called Independent Wheel Drive. The overall design of the Batpod was low and long, which meant that the rider would control the Batpod from a prone position. As such, steering the bike with the shoulders and arms, rather than hands alone. This prone position adds to the aerodynamics of the bike. In fact, it’s this same low profile position that you’ll see riders take in motorcycle racing events.
Fans of the fantastic love their cosplay. They relish the idea of becoming a facsimile of their favorite character, whether it’s from comics, movies, or anime. But some diehard fans of the Batman universe have gone a bit further, and that’s to recreate a functioning Batpod in real life! These fan-made replicas prove once and for all, that not only is the Batpod’s design possible for a film set, but also for the real world.
Chopper City USA
Chopper City USA is a professional bike shop in Middelburg, Florida, which re-created on of the best known Batpod replicas for a fan, Pankaj Shah. Visiting their page, you can get a birds eye view of just how much sweat they placed into their version of the Batpod. Here, you can see everything from the imitation grappling hooks, custom made frame, to the final test ride.
Some very talented fans in Vietnam built a convincing Batpod replica. While not as detailed as the Chopper City version, one thing is for sure, these Vietnamese Bat-Fans did a terrific job in putting together their version. Sporting a Suzuki engine, it comes with Bimota Tesi hub-center steering. While the gatling gun is purely for show, it is quite cool how they rigged it on the bike.
On 2016, one of the six Batpod vehicles made for the films went up for auction at propstoreauction.com. Since the design is definitely not street legal, the bike was minus a battery and fuel tank, and designated to be sold as a prop only. However, that didn’t stop bidders from clamoring for this creative custom. In the end, the winning bidder paid 260,000 pounds for the bike. Which just goes to prove that to this day, the Batpod remains one of the most exciting custom vehicles ever created for the movies.